Tuesday 20 July 2010

Hamster Buggy Bags

When your baby is in a pram or one of the big bulky pushchairs converted from a pram, it takes up a lot of room in the car boot but it's really handy when you're out and about to have all the storage for shopping bags underneath. When you switch over to one of the lightweight folding buggies, you suddenly get your car boot back but storage becomes a problem. The common solution is putting your shopping bags over the handles of the buggy as you walk along. This has two downsides. Firstly, if you've got things in your bags with sharp angular corners like big books or shoes in boxes, you'll keep whacking your legs against the painful edges as you walk. Secondly, and more dangerously, if you're not careful the weight of the bags can make your pushchair tip over backwards which will be enough to frighten the life out of your little one, as well as risk causing him an injury (not to mention making yourself look silly and earning the disapproving glares of other shoppers).

On our pushchair, we have a really old (and I mean REALLY old !) string bag that my mother-in-law gave me when Sophie was a baby 9 years ago - it turns out that it was hers for her daughter, who is now in her late twenties ! It's really handy but it's extremely moth-eaten now and is fraying at the edges so I was looking for a replacement and couldn't find anything suitable. I suddenly understood why people had stopped me at the bus-stop to ask me where I'd bought it ! The disadvantages of the string bag have always been that small items (usually the children's most treasured possessions !) have a tendency to slip through the holes and also the folding mechanism gets all tangled up in the holes, always at the wrong moment when you're trying to get on or off the bus !

Well, I've found the answer to my prayers, in the unlikely named Hamster Bags ! They clip easily on to the side of your fold-up pushchair (there is a whole list of compatible pushchairs on their facebook page but ours is a dirt-cheap unbranded pushchair from a French supermarket and it works absolutely fine on there). Because all the weight goes on the sides of the buggy, it makes it much more stable than when you pile it all on the back - and you also no longer need to pinch your husband's shin-guards to go shopping pain-free !

What amazed me is how much they hold - they must use the same technology as Dr Who's Tardis ! When I looked at the small, really light pouches holding the stored away Hamster bags, I was dubious about how much they would hold. Well, I managed to totally empty my huge changing bag and the string bag into the Hamster bags and they're not even half full. I have three kids so I've stashed away sunhats for all three, total change of clothing plus coat for baby, nappies, big pack of wipes, bottle of water, sun cream, nappy cream, sunglasses, snacks for all three, my keys and phone, three small baby toys, dummy, folded up changing mat, a book, a small ball, a skipping rope ... I'm sure there's more but that's all I can remember ! We were headed off to the park so I didn't bother making space for purchases but I could have easily packed all that into one bag and left the other one empty for shopping. As it is so quick and easy to clip the bags on and off, you can simply pull the bag off once you get home and carry it to the kitchen to put your shopping away, unlike the usual juggling of all the loose items (plus baby !) that I have to unpack from my usual string bag. Very handy in this day and age when many shops no longer give free plastic bags and also much better for the environment.

But as well as the comfort, stability and ease-of-use, the Hamster bags also have other hidden benefits. They remind me of clever little rucksacks with pockets all over the place, inside and out, ideal for storing those small essentials that you need quickly (sometimes VERY quickly) like baby's dummy, your keys and phone, a snack (to prevent a tantrum !), a bib or wipe (because baby has just been sick in the middle of a crowded shop !) - at those moments, you can guarantee that whatever you're desperately trying to find has dropped right to the bottom of your changing bag and you won't be able to find it until you've unceremoniously emptied the whole of your bag's contents on the floor !

Also, the rucksack-look goes down really well with men. Give them a few pockets with zips and they're in testosterone-fuelled heaven ! Even the colours are totally ungirly (green/grey or blue/grey). One lone dad in the park looked enviously at my Hamster bags and I couldn't help but stifle a giggle as I saw him self-consciously put his very feminine pink-trimmed changing bag over his shoulder !

They are also shower-proof (I'll test them out in more serious wet-weather later in the year but they look pretty waterproof to me) which is brilliant - I won't tell you the number of times the kids' drawings from school have been spoilt on a rainy walk home from school because the string bag offered no protection. They can be easily wiped clean with a wet wipe or a quick spritz of hand santizer, if you've had particularly grubby mitts all over them. Although they aren't designed as cool bags, they also offer some degree of protection from the sun so Pierre's yoghurt stayed cool until it was time for his snack in the park an hour later.

As they are on the side of the pushchair, I wasn't sure if Pierre would be constantly trying to get into them but he doesn't even seem to have noticed they're there.

I kept thinking to myself how well they were designed and how parent-friendly they are, then it suddenly dawned on me when I looked at their facebook page - www.philippelara.co.uk isn't the name of a PR company, it's another fabulous baby/child product designed by real parents, Phil and Lara ! I've said it so many times but real parents always create the best, most functional products because they know exactly what's needed. The Hamster bags have proved it yet again.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £29 (introductory price so get in quick !)

for more information and to buy online : http://www.philippelara.co.uk/

Other reviews of parent-friendly products you might be interested in :

Tidy Trays Sanitary High Chair Tray Covers
Sock Ons
Rockin Hood

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