OK, we admit it. We're a bit obsessed. Not with the latest pack or tent, but with reusable shopping bags. They go on all our shopping expeditions from the grocery store to the farmer's market, and even come in handy for car camping and traveling. We hate accumulating plastic and paper bags that clutter cupboards and end up in the trash or recycling bin – even when tramping or traveling in foreign countries. A new addition to our arsenal is Sea to Summit's Ultra-Sil Shopping Bag, a rather high-end bag that's proved to be quite handy.
Honestly, it puts to shame the 99-cent reusable bags you can now pick up at most grocery stores. The Ultra-Sil is made of Cordura fabric with silicone, a slick feeling material that makes it light (under 2 ounces) and bomber. This is the same stuff Sea to Summit uses in its pack covers and stuff sacks. It has bar tack reinforced stitching on stress points, such the handles, allowing it to manage heavy loads. Don't worry when the checkout clerk starts piling the canned goods in this bag -- we've found it won't rip under pressure – including watermelons and multiple half-gallons of beverages. We've had to retire other bags because the handles or seams have ripped from one too many heavy items being loaded into them.
One tester found it practical to toss the bag into a suitcase and use it while traveling. Once she reached her destination, she used it while touring around town, and then the bag doubled as an extra carry-on if needed on the way home. At only 2 ounces, it’s a featherweight luxury on a trip.
The bag is 19 inches wide and about 16 inches high with a volume of 6.5 gallons, making it bigger than supermarket paper bags but not gargantuan. Plus, its handles are positioned so that it fits on a typical stand for plastic bags, which allows grocery clerks to easily pack it.
A favorite feature of the bag is that folds into its own mini-stuff pouch, which is sewn close to the outer edge of the bag. (By the way, the pouch can be used to stash a small item like a hair clip or key once you’ve unfurled it.) One tester found that the slippery fabric makes it easier to get the bag into the pouch, although another found it was a bit of a battle since it sometimes slipped back out again as you stuffed it, partly because it’s made to pack pretty tightly to keep it small. But practice made perfect, and we loved it enough to find that was a small issue (although anybody with arthritis or other hand problems or an older or younger person may have trouble managing it).
Once packed in, it has a snug drawstring and toggle so it won't spill back out. When stuffed, it’s about 3 inches by 2 inches, so you can throw it in a purse, coat pocket, etc., for when you need it. There is also a snap closure so it can be attached to a key ring, purse, belt or another bag. The key ring didn’t work for one tester because the bag was still a bit too bulky when packed down. But another tester snapped it to the zipper pull on her purse and, although she was concerned it would come off with jostling, it never went AWOL. She did however find that the snap closure wouldn’t fit on the slightly beefier ring of another purse. We’d like to see just a smidge more room in that.
Sure, the Ultra-Sil bag may be on the spendy side -- about $18 -- but you're paying for high-tech materials that will stand up to the rigors of urban life and will last for a long time.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $17.95