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Hands-on Gear Review

Juno Blu Esalen Review

The Juno Blu Esalen.
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $185.00 List
Pros:  Elegant design with classic handbag look, quality materials, feature-loaded
Cons:  Expensive, heavy
Bottom line:  Beautiful and versatile bag perfect for professional moms with extended functionality
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Juno Blu

The Skinny

The Juno Blu Esalen exudes style while at the same time providing virtually every feature a working mama could want, which is why we awarded it our highest honor, the Editors' Choice award, in the breast pump bag category. Its many compartments make keeping your pumping and work supplies separate and organized a breeze. Made with high quality materials and emulating classic style, we think moms will want to use this bag long after they stop pumping. The only setback is its high price point, which we think will end up being a bargain in the long run, if moms choose it to replace a diaper bag and/or purse as well.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Breast Pump Bag

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Score Product Price Our Take
80
$185
Editors' Choice Award
Beautiful and versatile bag perfect for professional moms with extended functionality
71
$180
A favorite among our team, multi-functional, stylish, and easy use as a breast pump bag
68
$145
Best Value Award
Great bag for pumping mom on a budget
68
$269
This is a great bag for taking on weekend trips, but we think it is just too imposing to be useful.
62
$129
Great value and spacous, fits Medela Pump in Style like a glove
56
$100
Iconic breast pump bag, but there are better out there now!
46
$145
Not a great option as a bag to carry your breast pump, but definitely a great diaper bag.

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Natalie Hale
Review Editor
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 11, 2014

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The Juno Blu Esalen won our Editors' Choice award after receiving very high-ranking scores for ease of use, quality, features and style. It can easily accommodate any breast pump and its accessories, plus the contents of a purse. Its many compartments and discreet exterior pockets make it easy to keep your breast pump and pumped milk separate from the rest of the bag without sacrificing style. Made with a Vegan Leatherette stamped in a lizard skin pattern on the outside, and a durable nylon lining on the inside, we found the Esalen to be the best breast pump bag in the BabyGearLab testing line up.

Performance Comparison


The Juno Blu Esalen comes close to Mary Poppin's bag of tricks. This sleek bag holds a lot while looking good all the time.
The Juno Blu Esalen comes close to Mary Poppin's bag of tricks. This sleek bag holds a lot while looking good all the time.

Ease of Use


Using this bag is a simple and quick process which is why we awarded it a very high score, a 9 of 10 for this category. The pump you choose to carry will determine whether you utilize the exterior front pocket, which is meant to hold a breast pump and keep it separate from the rest of the bag. Both the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and Medela Harmony Manual pumps fit without any problems. We did have trouble fitting the larger Spectra USA S1 Hospital Grade pump into the exterior pocket but it could be placed without issue in the main area of the bag. We found that when using the outer storage pocket, the time it took to set up and clean up for pumping was greatly reduced. Keeping the pump separate from the rest of the bag is a handy feature, as it eliminates any worry of crumbs or other messes from corrupting the machine. We think users of the Medela Pump in Style will really like this bag because it was built with that pump in mind.

When it comes to carrying the Esalen, moms have two choices. The two attached handles are easy to carry with one hand or can be worn on the shoulder. As an added bonus, there is a long shoulder strap so the bag can be worn across the body like a messenger bag. We think these two options are very helpful, as we encountered situations where one mode of carrying was easier than another and the switch between the two was quick and painless.

Outfitted with the Medela Harmony Manual pump  accessories and personal effects. The smaller pump allowed for us to throw in a cooler for pumped milk  which we thought might be helpful for moms who worry that the built in cooler might not be as reliable.
Outfitted with the Medela Harmony Manual pump, accessories and personal effects. The smaller pump allowed for us to throw in a cooler for pumped milk, which we thought might be helpful for moms who worry that the built in cooler might not be as reliable.
The Esalen features a number of interior pockets, the details of which we will delve into below in the features section, but we thought it was important to mention that they contribute significantly to how easy it is to use the bag while pumping. The varied sizes of open pockets, key clip and two zippered pockets made keeping the bag organized a breeze. This is a vital quality when time is of the essence and we think moms will appreciate just how easily this bag can simplify the process of keeping their things orderly. Other moms who have used this bag and posted reviews online have had similar comments. They like the fact that the bag can store so much stuff and still look professional.

Quality


This bag is made with quality materials that can take quite a beating which is why we awarded it a score of 8 of 10 in this category. We were skeptical if a bag made from a material called "Vegan Leatherette" could withstand such heavy use and still look nice. Fortunately, we were very impressed with how well the bag showed wear, resisting scuff marks that often plague real leather purses and snags that are all too common on bags covered with fabric exteriors. After more careful research into what exactly vegan leatherette is, we discovered it is an artificial leather, often made of plastic. The interior tag on the Esalen said it is made with 100% man-made products but is not specific beyond that. We would love to see further explanation from the company as to what that means.
Lizard skin stamped pattern on the Juno Blu.
Lizard skin stamped pattern on the Juno Blu.

We were really impressed with the stitching on the bag- it held up well and did not need any trimming as occasionally happens with sewn bags. We found the tall metal feet to be an excellent deterrent to the bag ever touching the ground, thus preserving the base of the bag and keeping it germ free. We loved the soft-gold metal hardware and matching zippers, which held up well with extensive use (you open and close a bag carrying a breast pump a surprising number of times each day!).
Juno Blu Esalen's handle is well-stitched.
Juno Blu Esalen's handle is well-stitched.

What really stood out to us in terms of quality was how easy it was to keep the Esalen clean. The exterior fabric only needs to be wiped down because the leatherette does not absorb liquids easily and resists staining. The polyester interior is spot treat only, but we think moms will really appreciate the fact that the entire lining of the bag can be turned inside-out, making it easy to get even the smallest of crumbs out of the bottom of the bag.
We exposed the Esalen to water and then wiped it off with a soft cloth. As you can see from the photo above  it did not have any lasting effects on vegan leatherette exterior.
We loved how easy it was to turn the inside out to allow for thorough cleaning.
 

Weight/Bulk


Where the Esalen fell behind most of the competition was in the weight/bulk category. While not the heaviest bag we tested, at 2 lbs. 7.6 oz this bag was heavier than most of the competition, which is why we only awarded it a score of 6 of 10 in this category.

But do not let this slightly lower score in the weight category scare you away. Quality materials tend to be heavier and are a general indication of how long a bag might last. We think moms will barely notice the weight of the bag against the rest of the items they will be carrying and that they appearance and quality of the bag more than make up for its weight.

In terms of bulkiness, the Esalen falls in the middle of the pack. Where the Ness Mamie was the widest of the bags we carried around, this bag was only 2.5 inches smaller in terms of width. We found that around 15 inches wide seems to be the sweet spot for larger bags, going any wider than that makes it difficult to navigate tight spaces. One thing to be aware of- while the Ness Mamie looked disproportionately large when carried by petite moms, the Juno Blu did not. We think this can be attributed to a number of factors; the fact that the bag is black, which makes it stand out less, and its height to to width ratio is balanced.

Features


Peek-a-boo! We loved the hidden breast milk cooler compartment on the Juno Blu. So clever.
Peek-a-boo! We loved the hidden breast milk cooler compartment on the Juno Blu. So clever.
This bag is loaded with features that enhance both its ease of use and the quality of the bag which is why we awarded it such a high score in this category, an 8 of 10. Initially we were turned off by the fact that it is made with 100% man made materials, but as we used the bag more and more, it became apparent that this feature kept the bag looking nice despite the heavy use. When other bags would have stained from a juice spill, the vegan leatherette simply wiped clean with a damp towel. The zip-close, insulated pump pocket on the exterior of the bag made for quick and easy set up and clean up during pumping sessions and we really liked the additional thermo-insulated pocket on the side of the bag and 2 included cooler packs, which can keep mom's breast milk cool for up to 4 hours (depending on the external temperature). Nonetheless, we found this pocket to be more useful for storing other items like our wallet and a snack.

The interior of the purse has just as many features as the exterior. The lining has two zipper pockets on either side of the bag: three smaller pockets and two larger ones to store other essentials. While the key clip is not long enough to keep your keys attached while unlocking a door, it easily releases your keys so you can use them, preventing them from getting lost in this very large bag. Also included with the bag is an independent zipper-closed pouch that matches the lining to hold dirty pumping parts or bottles, keeping the rest of the bag free from any possible mess. We would recommend cleaning this bag frequently, as it could have the tendency to smell (and get gross) as a result of any spills that it might contain from the rest of the bag.

Style


This bag exudes style. The classic black textured exterior with soft gold hardware looks smart and professional. Its bright interior lining follows the recent trend of hiding bold colors beneath a relatively plain exterior. No one we encountered would believe this bag was built with carrying a breast pump in mind- they all assumed it was a handbag, which is why we awarded it the highest score we gave out for style, a near perfect 9 of 10.
Quality hardware of the Esalen.
Quality hardware of the Esalen.

The one area of improvement that we would have welcomed when it came to style would be the use of metal hardware to attach the handles to the bag, rather than sewing them directly onto the bag itself. While we are seeing more handbag makers attach their handles directly to the bag, we think the addition of metal hardware would only enhance the look of the bag.

Best Applications


We think this bag is perfect for the professional working mom who needs the ability to carry her pump and everything else she might require and wants to do so with discretion. What makes the Esalen stand out from its competitors is the fact that it can be taken from the grocery store to a professional meeting without looking out of place. Because of its high style and quality materials, we think it could definitely be used as a diaper bag/purse when mom is done pumping, thus extending the time the bag is used. We could even foresee moms liking it so much that they end up using it beyond the period of needing a diaper bag as well, as it offers a lot of space and convenient packing and organizing options.
This bag doing what it was meant to do. The side compartment fit the electric Medela pump perfectly and made for an easy set up when it came time to pump. There was even enough space to fit both the tubes and power cord.
This bag doing what it was meant to do. The side compartment fit the electric Medela pump perfectly and made for an easy set up when it came time to pump. There was even enough space to fit both the tubes and power cord.

Value


While it was not among the least expensive of the bags we tested, we think the Eslaen is a bargain for how heavily moms will use it and for its high quality. Considering most mid-level purses on the market range between $75-$150, we think moms will see the extra money spent on this bag as an investment.

Conclusion


We think working moms will gravitate toward this bag as it offers style, quality and utility at a fair price. A breast pump is a significant investment and we think you deserve a bag that can preserve this equipment while making the process of pumping easier.

Other Versions and Accessories


This bag is offered in three colors:



Video


This video interview with one of Juno Blu's two mom founders gives basic highlights on the entire line of their Breast Pump Bag offerings.
Natalie Hale

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BabyGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 11, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
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5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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The lineup of bags we tested. From left to right  front to back they are: the Juno Blue Esalen  Medela On the Go Tote  Sarah Wells Maddy  Ness Mamie  OiOi Hobo  Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy  and the Nurse Purse.
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