I never thought I’d rave about a bag. I mean, there are legions of people who rave about fashion bags and I, in my jeans-and-t-shirt-wearing, geek gal style, am not one of those. But I have a weakness for things utterly practical – my husband likes to joke that Storables is my favorite shop – and so today I’m unashamedly raving about the Modular Hauler Bag by Mountainsmith.
This bag is the ultimate road trip accessory for any traveling family.
We usually road trip in the winter, driving three to five hours to ski. Skiing is an expensive hobby so I’ve tried to keep costs down in two ways: by bargain-hunting for accommodation and by bringing everything we need with us – even to the point of bringing the fixings for a turkey dinner for eight with us when we spent Thanksgiving in Whistler last year. Similarly, when we take a weekend away in the Pacific Northwest at any time, I usually start my trip by menu planning and stopping by the grocery store.
But, packing food for four as well as all the other things you need for a weekend away is a non-trivial exercise. A standard cooler is great for keeping food cold, but it takes up a large chunk of valuable space in the trunk – much of which is wasted if you really only need to keep a small amount of meat, fish or chicken cold. Coolers are also rigid which can make them difficult to pack in a standard trunk and difficult to tuck other bags or equipment around.
The Mountainsmith Modular Hauler has some great structural features such as reinforced side-access and haul handles and a waterproof and abrasion-resistant rubber bottom. This is nice because even though the sides and top of the bag – which are quilted – are less rigid, the base of the bag is solid making it easy to pack around. But for me, this bag’s pièce de résistance is the three interior “cubes” (I don’t know why they’re called cubes because they’re distinctly non-cuboid in shape): each cube is a separate top-loading bag with internal foam padding and a full zippered top with tote-style carrying handles. So essentially you have four bags for the price of one with a whopping 5500 cubic inches of total storage.
I tested this bag on our trip to the San Juan Islands for Labor Day using a bag provided by Mountainsmith (thanks!). For a four-day trip, I used one of the interior cubes as a cold sack liberally lining it with cold packs from my freezer and then adding food. I packed dry foods in a second cube and used the third for games and toys. All neatly held together in the main compartment. My OCD-heart thrilled at such efficient organization 🙂 After we unpacked in our rental house, I was able to use one of the cube/totes as a day bag and on our way home, I folded up two of the cubes (since we had significantly less food to carry home with us) and used the main compartment for dirty clothes.
At $129, this bag is not cheap but if you road-trip frequently it’s a worthwhile investment.