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Hands-on Gear Review
Juno Blu Esalen Review
Price: $185 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
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: Our complete review of breast pump bag
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Most recent user review: November 11, 2014
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