Monkey Bed 'Blanket Bag'

A unique option in the category of messenger bags, Monkey Bed is a company that makes messenger-style bags with zip-out fleece blankets inside. Indeed, the picnic-ready Esplanade model, $135, is made for recreational outings to the park or lake, and its integrated blanket meaures 58” x 68” with a fleece top and a water-resistant bottom.

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Lounging on the Monkey Bed bag’s fleece-top blanket

For the last few months, I’ve tested the Esplanade on family outings. While any bag can carry food and small items, Monkey Bed adds beverage bottle holders, a neoprene laptop sleeve, and multiple pockets.

At first, I thought the idea of this bag was a bit gimmicky. A built-in blanket? But, I gave it a try and found a few things: The removable blanket is a great addition if you are truly seeking relaxation outdoors — I soon found myself in a horizontal position each time I brought this bag along.

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The built-in blanket unfolded

The built-in bottle holders keep heavy bottles from clanging and gathering on the same side to cause the dreaded “bag-slide” of your wine, soda or beer. The blanket folds out easily and makes a nice picnic spot. It is machine-washable for messy eaters (I’m looking at my kids here).

On bicycle commutes, which tend to be more like training rides for me, I found myself wishing for a stability strap (also called a third-leg strap) across the chest to keep the bag from sliding off of my back. But for slower-paced rides, this was not an issue.

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Monkey Bed’s Esplanade bag

Monkey Bed builds these bags very sturdy, with burly zippers and materials, but as such they are a little heavy. Also, my test sample had an overly long strap, riding below where I thought was comfortable, and it also caused a cinching buckle to ride on my collarbone. I’m told that this issue has been addressed and the bags are now being shipped with shorter straps.

While it’s not the “one bag for everything” you may need, the Esplanade is great for quick summer escapes on a bike. This summer, swinging the Monkey Bed bag over my shoulder has come to symbolize the beginning of a relaxing outing — a Pavlovian type of thing for me now.

—T.C. Worley

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