Monday, September 9, 2013

PlanetBox Lunch Box review - the Launch series

If you’re at all interested in eating better to go along with all those hours you swim, bike and run, then you have probably realized the pain and anguish that goes into meal preparation and transportation. You can eat out and eat somewhat healthy, but that will come at a price and most people don’t have the bankroll to fund an operation like that. What’s left? Buying affordable ingredients and make it yourself.

That’s all good for breakfast and dinner for most people, but what about those that eat on the run? Some head out the door for the AM workout and scarf breakfast on the way to work, while dropping off kids or at their desk. A lot of triathletes on the go will eat lunch at work at their desk or cafeteria as well and lets not get started on those PM workouts, kid activities and PTO meetings that get in the way of dinner.

Just how in the world do you juggle all that and get your 3 meals and 3 snacks in a day to fuel your workouts and keep your waistline trim?

It’s all about transportation.

We recently pestered PlanetBox to check out their Launch Lunchbox option to investigate how it could support the portable needs of your average age group triathlete on the job and on the go.


Read on to find out what we thought.

Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing


There are a few brick and mortar stores that carry PlanetBox, but for the most part, you will be at their site to check them out and order their lunch boxes.

The site is what one would call clean and crisp. Their images are appealing and well choreographed in the layout. Their logo is catchy and their theme with Planet Box is appealing to adult and regular kids alike. If you might get embarrassed by a lunch box with magnet decor, then just ditch the magnets. But, lets get real Mr and Mrs Triathlete, you change clothes in public like it’s taking out the trash. Embarrassment issues are not your problem.

They have a Facebook page with around 27k likes and they keep the content fresh and updated.

They are reaching out on all media possible and supporting the local bloggers with products for review. From all accounts, they are handling their marketing.

The actual lunch box comes in a sealed clear plastic bag with instructions printed on 8.5x11 paper. That’s a small difference from your big box stores. The instructions are not your typical glossy index cards or fold out pamphlets, but wouldn’t you rather have a quality product that fluff glitz and glamor. If it keeps the price down and quality up, we can live with inkjet printed instructions.

Form / Construction


Our demo package came with a carry bag, lunchbox, glass storage container and a small condiment container. When all assembled, the satchel type carry bag can be slung over the shoulder and carried inconspicuously to and from wherever you are going. That being said, we have dropped ours, kicked it and sat on it several times and to date, no damage to report.

The hinge that secures the closing of the box has withstood being pulled, twisted and torqued from transporting and loading. The bag is sturdy cloth and had not snagged or unraveled after weeks of use.

Overall construction of the Launch and carry bag is solid. It’s been in play for over two months and there were no real issues to report with defective parts or unexplainable inadvertent damage.

Fashion / Appearance


Here's where you can get funky with your box. What? Yeah.

PlantBox is all about fun and having options. You can order specific magnet sets to customize your box (although we have had issues with magnets sliding off and having to hunt for them). We ended up with the Star Map set for our demo box. There are no triathlete magnets, but you could probably go find some magnets of your own or order the blank set to draw you own logos on. “Ironman Finisher”. “Triathlon Nerd”. Whatever you want.

The actual lunchbox is not a funky shape that’s impractical to carry and transport. It’s around 2 inches tall and rectangular, which can be easily slid into a desk drawer or in a mini fridge. Nothing is worse than trying to cram your lunch into the work fridge around Debbie’s week old birthday cake, but with Planet Box, the slim and compact shape fits in a lot of different places.

Even the bags come in different options. Depending on how much of a statement you want to make, you can go big or go home. You can go with sleeves or messenger bag styles.

The options go well with a professional setting or can be fun for the big kids tri training groups. Some people like to make statements with whatever they do, and PlanetBox acknowledges that.

Fit / Function


So how does it really work for someone looking for a realistic option to transport their healthy meal plan for a long day away from home?

It’s complicated.



From the pictures, you can see that from the Launch box, the largest box, it may not support a full day of 3 meals and 3 snacks for a full grown triathlete in Ironman training. It will house your items that need to be with ice packs, but we had to stuff the pockets of the travel bag full of non-fridge items.

We did have better luck when we needed half day support from the PlanetBox. You can purchase freezer packs that work with the kid, but we were able to use our existing supply of freezable ice bags to lay flat in with the lunchbox in the messenger bag.

We used the Launch for over two months for work and for play, and in a pinch, it worked. At times we had to be creative how we packaged and transported everything, but we fit everything into the lunchbox and messenger bag and even had room in the pockets for file folders and other work items to avoid extra luggage to the office.

Now, if you eat like a horse, one PlanetBox may not support you. First, make sure you’re not overeating, then second, analyze what your food transportation needs are before going with PlanetBox.

The containers with lids were great. You could not place semi-liquid items in without a container, since when in the messenger bag, the box would be on its side. The compartments are not sealed aside from the containers and lids and that would allow anything to slide around or leak. Think nuts, carrots and condiment packets for loose items. Avoid greek yogurt, cottage cheese or peeled boiled eggs in the box, but outside of the sealed containers. We tried and it got messy.

After extensive use, we could get by with PlanetBox, but we stretched it to the limits. To give PB credit where they fit, for a child, these would be great. It would provide ample space for a child lunch which what is the target audience. It would work great for our 5 year old for all day kindergarten and with the durability it has shown, it should easily last a school year.

For a 170 pound triathlete training for an Ironman, Planet Box may not be the best fit, but they can work.

Cost


From $35 to $75 with all the thrills (containers, bags, etc) from smallest to largest box, they are right there to compete with all other professional grade lunch boxes.

You can get your Popples or Transformers lunch box for cheaper, but those plastic relics will give out way before Planet Box will break a sweat.

Final thoughts


We loved our Launch PlanetBox, but just wanted a little more than it was able to handle. We pushed the box and the bag to the limits of what we needed to get through a long day.

It’s durability is no issue, but the literal volume it could carry was the only real limiter.

For it’s prime target audience, it would be a GREAT addition. It would provide secure transportation for a child’s lunch and a bag to carry it in that would not be a hindrance by allowing it to be carried by a shoulder strap, or even placed in a backpack.

You know you’ve seen that poor first grader carrying a book bag, art project and an awkward lunch box. Planet Box would be a great solution to get the kiddos through a solid day of home cooked healthy food.

But, if you are looking for a half day or meal or there solution, also consider PlanetBox. Not all of us are away from the homefront for 8 to 9 hours a pop. Disclaimer

* Writer's note - PlanetBox provided the products for this review at no cost and did not influence this review.
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