This is what I would consider a larger capacity cooler, in the same category as the Strong Bags Canadian Ice cooler. The purpose for these coolers is to suit the needs of crew members who are serious about packing all of their food for their respective trips. Due to their size, they suit the purpose of commuting with some flexibility on their storage. Seated in the cabin with other passengers, they all can cumbersome to fit under the typical passenger seat of a regional jet (CRJ/ERJ) or narrow body mainline jet cabin (B737/A320). However, commute after commute, I manage to squeeze them in for takeoff, then rearrange them behind my feet, opening up space under the seat in front of me to stretch my legs out.
Packed full for a 5 day block of reserve, I was able to partially squeeze it in the upright position under the seat enough to comply with clearing the aisle. With this particular model, the attached computer bag needed to be placed in the overhead compartment. When seated in the jump seat for my commute, everything was able to go up front, no problem.
In order to get a complete fit under the passenger seat, the bag needs to be laid on its side. This means all of your food items need to be solid and in leak proof containers to prevent a soppy surprise when you finish the flight. However, I never found this necessary as the with the partial fit, I was able to appease the cabin crew and keep the area clear enough.
Roller Board Compatibility
The handles on the crew cooler were a nice touch. The rigid plastic handle design allowed the bag to slip in and out of the J-hook attachment easily, especially when heavy at the beginning of a trip. This was a large improvement over bags lacking this feature. This also made grabbing the bag much easier, as the handles were conveniently locked together. The attached laptop bag slipped over the telescopic handle with ease, including the padded grip. With having the bags split, it balanced the weight over the roller bag nicely so you did not have to physically support the weight while walking long distances through the airport or even longer walks to the crash pad.
I tried attaching the cooler to the roller bag with the computer bag connected as one unit. The design did not seem to support this. Excessive pressure was placed on the computer bag by being sandwiched in between the food bag and the roller bag. Additionally, I had to separate the plastic handles and only hang the unit by the rear handle to allow the bag to hand level and not tip the roller bag over.
The other option of keeping the two bags attached and slipping them both over the telescopic handle of the roller bag also felt rather heavy and unbalanced, unless you had a heavy Jepp Case to counter balance this.
My testing is limited to the course of commuting to a standard 4-5 day trip. As such, I cannot attest to the long term durability of the product. What I can pass along is what I have observed in overall craftsmanship, attention to detail, general durability of materials used.
The feature I really liked about the bag design is there are non-skid wear pads sewn to the bottom of the bag. This is a great feature to keep the bottom dry as you set the bag down outside on a damp ramp when swapping aircraft or waiting for public transportation to the crash pad or overnight hotel. The rip stop nylon appears to have the quality built in to last the life of the bag. As with the other bags on the market, there is no water proof coating. Aerocoast found the perfect balance using quality zippers that operate smoothly, provide a water resistant closure without being overbuilt and difficult to pull open or closed.
The two main food compartments are lined with a non absorbing, easy to clean insulated liner that appears to have the quality to last the life of the bag. When packed full, there did not appear to be any areas of pressure or pull on the exterior seams. This is partly due to the construction itself in having a semi-rigid structure, allowing items to be packed inside efficiently, using all available room inside the bag. The larger, main interior food compartment is all one piece to provide a semi waterproof lining, free of seems eliminating any future failing points.
I did not place any liquid or ice in the main food compartment to test for complete water proofing. I find this practice of placing free floating ice that melts in the main compartment to be inefficient and impractical. There are plenty of ice packs available on the market to provide cooling without soaking your food. The waterproofness is a last resort in case something leaks which is a rare occurrence. Otherwise, the bag seems capable of containing any condensation and keeping your valuables (passport?) in the outer pockets dry.
There are four exterior pockets for organization which were really nice! The two side pockets fit extras like a phone charger and other accessories. This design differs from other bags in that the pockets are not expandable to fit items like water bottles (Kleen Kantean) or insulated drink containers for coffee or tea. The two pockets in the front extend from the bag to fit extras like a collapsable bowl and utensils, seasoning packets, etc. with added interior organization dividers.
This was one of my favorite features of the bag. I wear prescription sunglasses, so I always find myself switching between those and regular glasses. This pocket sits right on top of the bag and usable with only one hand making it very easy to switch eye glasses from your seat in the flight deck. The pocket is padded to provide protection.
Top Food Pocket
Perfect sized for snacks, bars. Insulated to prevent excessive heat for items that don’t need to be refrigerated. Also comes with a stretchy mesh pocket that is further divided for organization. I use the Clarity Aloft headsets and they fit in this top compartment without displacing any snacks. I also tried to squeeze an older pair of Lightspeed headsets that fold flat which unfortunately took up most of the compartment.
Large Main Food Compartment
Larger compartment has one large space for food containers and other perishables with a zippered top pocket on the top of the lid.
This ended up being the perfect trip to bring my electronics! The reason for this is I brought my laptop (13” MacBook) and iPad. When I finished my trip, the company issued my EFB Surface tablet as well. So I was able to really put the electronics bag to the test. It had no problem carrying all three devices. The padding was great and the bag provided plenty of room for a full travel office. The case will fit up to a 15” laptop. I also packed my sun shade/skin cancer screens in the bag as well with a bluetooth keyboard for use with the iPad.
If you plan to bring a full sized laptop on your trips, this bag is a much more preferable method of caring them. It keeps your items protected even if you have to check your roller bag. Also, it conveniently uses clips and velcro to secure itself to the food cooler, combining into “one” bag for TSA carry on requirements; a major bonus!
***Editors Note: I try to avoid bringing my laptop at all costs and use my iPad in lieu of my computer to reduce the bulk. When I did bring my laptop, I placed it inside the padded compartment on my roller bag. This was problematic because it usually made my suitcase too large to fit in the overhead bin on regional jets. This was irritating on multi leg days with multiple plane swaps. Also, when I am commuting, I am always in the jump seat, meaning my roller bag gets checked sometimes. This leaves me having to remove the laptop and awkwardly carry it around trying not to damage it in the process (hopefully I backed it up before I left home). I always thought carrying a third laptop bag would be intrusive. However this bag changed my viewpoint and I much prefer this method over storing the computer in my roller bag. This is the way to go!
The main compartment was efficient at keeping food at a safe temperature using a reusable ice pack. The added bonus is the smaller top compartment is also lined and insulated keeping your snacks from overheating or melting. This is a great addition that is not found on the other bags currently on the market.
The design elements that are incorporated into this bag are impressive. It is by far the easiest bag to operate from a seated position in the flight deck. The semi-rigid structure from the insulation allows the bag to maintain its shape operate the zippers one handed. Other bags collapse on themselves and require two hands to open or close them.
The bonus feature of the sunglass pocket on top of the bag was my favorite addition. Smart placement of the carrying straps avoid going over the pocket, preventing any stressing of the pocket or the glasses; a great design feature
The added wear pads on the bottom prevent damp pavement from soaking the bottom.
Originally I was worried about the lack of expandable side pockets for carrying my water bottle and insulated coffee cup. I created an alternate way of clipping my water bottle to my roller bag and just carried my coffee cup, which was in my hand 90% of the time anyway. At the end of the trip, I actually preferred the use of the side pockets for additional storage and organization. Also, these traditional expandable side pockets on conventional food coolers are the achilles heal of the design. They typically utilize a stretchy mesh material along the bottom that makes constant contact with the pavement, wearing through over time, rendering the pocket useless long before the bag itself wears out. The Aerocoast crew coolers eliminated this design flaw which will actually increase the overall life of the bag adding value to the product.