Since the sun is finally starting to show itself, today I thought I’d think a little on cooling.
Cooling is important with bento in the hotter months, especially with things like meat, dairy and rice packed inside.
They help to prevent spoilage, or even worse, food poisoning, as your lunch sits for a few hours by keeping the bacteria in your food asleep, rather than letting it multiply in temperatures ideal for breeding.
One way to make sure your food stays cool is with ice packs but they can be heavy, bulky and not stay cold for very long.
As of late though I have been seeing “Gel” cooling packs which claim to be better than the average ice pack.
This is where these Sistema Picnic Coolers To Go come in!
Lets have a look and see if they’re any good shall we?
The packaging has thought of pretty much every reason why you might want these over a usual ice pack but thought it claims these stay frozen longer than ice it doesn’t say how much longer or how long in all.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that these aren’t made of anything toxic.
With a strange gel type solution you can guess that all manner of strange chemicals go into them which might not be safe for the environment.
Elsewhere on the packaging it does say not to pierce them so they might not be filled with all sweetness and light.
With that it seems cutting them into smaller ice packs is out of the question unfortunately.
It’s a shame as it might have been convenient for those who just wanted an ice pack for inside their lunch box.
Suitable to cool your car, old people, picnic tables, teepees and caravans though I have a feeling you’d have to buy quite a few packs to do most of those.
Yes, they can be taken just about anywhere, except the dishwasher and microwave which lets face it, you’d have to be pretty lacking in brain capacity to do.
They are freezer safe though, who would have thought it?
Here they are in all their highly reflective glory.
They feel quite heavy actually, even though the package says they are lightweight.
I guess in comparison to usual ice packs they are but they will add a bit of extra weight to your picnic cooler.
You get two in a pack, each is a large rectangle with 12 smaller rectangles inside.
The way the rectangles are sectioned off with the gaps between each it’s really easy to wrap a bento box in all the way around or fit into the bottom of a bag.
From my experiments, you will need one for a small cooler bag and both for a large bag so you might want to buy two packs for rotation.
This brings me on to price.
For this pack of two, the RRP is £7.99.
I’m not sure about you but for me that’s a bit steep, even if they work as they claim.
Maybe I’m just a skanky sod but it’s a bit of a rich price for my blood, I can’t say the idea of one of these costing £4 is too appealing.
So, lets see if they’re actually worth the price tag, on to the freezing!
Once frozen, which takes a few hours or can be left overnight, they are of course a lot less flexible but still able to wrap around and fold with the best of them.
If you leave these in an awkward position in the freezer however, you may find they have frozen in the same twisted manner in which you left them and won’t be much good for wrapping until you unfreeze and refreeze it again.
So, to the moment of truth, do they actually keep things cold?
One small thermal lunch bag that truth be told I have no idea where it came from.
One pack of picnic coolers, which fits with two rectangles on either side and two in the middle for even cooling all over.
In with a trusty bento that fits oh so snuggly!
….and the results are in!
With the help of a trusty thermometer we found that the cooler started off at -10oc and 6 hours later came up to 5oc.
5 degrees is about the temperature of a fridge so for a whole 6 hours anything inside would have stayed nice and safe from bacteria.
In fact, these work very well as a temporary fridge, as long as you’ll be eating on the same day.
So, do they work?
We placed them in a thermal bag in a cool place for our results so they may last less time in the blasting sun but I would recommend them if you will be taking bento or picnics out this year.
Though the pricing is a bit high for my spending habits they work very well and can be reused over and over.
Their convenient shape and size make them really good for wrapping around most boxes without taking up too much room and they keep lunches in a safe temperature for hours.
On the down side they can’t be separated so it’s all or nothing, either find room for a whole sheet in a bag or do without.
That isn’t much of an inconvenience though if you will be using them with a cool bag, as they fit in very nicely with standard sizes.
All in all, these do the job very well and are very convenient but for the price you may be able to shop around and find others with the same functionality.