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Hands-on Gear Review
Skip Hop Chelsea Review
Price: $100.00 List | $99.00 at Amazon
Pros: Nice style, easy to clean, roomy, inexpensive
Cons: Few accessories, cheap zipper pulls, shoulder strap harsh on bare skin
Bottom line: Great storage and ease of use, good value and style
We were not too certain how we felt about the Skip Hop Chelsea when we initially pulled it out of the box. The white faux leather against the goldish nylon seemed strange at first. But after weeks of testing and using it on the road, we were convinced, the Chelsea definitely deserved our coveted Editors' Choice Award. It represents the ideal union between all of our rating metrics. From the metal hardware, faux leather handles, clip-on stroller straps, metal feet, easy spot-treat cleaning, accessories, size, weight, down to the affordable price, the Chelsea is a great bag for those looking for just a little bit more.
We were even more pleased when we (unfortunately) had to utilize the warranty when a zipper pull was lost. Skip Hop's representatives responded to our email within 48 hours and offered us a voucher valued at $98 for a new bag. Kudos to Skip Hop!
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Diaper Bags Shoot-out Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Skip Hop Chelsea is a versatile bag that is disguised well and has a lot to offer in terms of features and style. The larger capacity, included accessories, and sturdy design are exactly what we were looking for, and it all came in at a price that did not break the budget.
Storage and Ease of Use
We awarded the Chelsea a score of 8 of 10 in storage and ease of use. It is the third largest bag we tested with the by the BEABA Stockholm and LeSportsac Ryan bigger. Boasting twelve pockets, eight external and four internal, it generally has room for everything for a day's supply with baby in tow.
The light-colored interior facilitates keeping all items organized and tidy. A word of caution: much like the Storksak Bobby and Timi and Leslie Marie Antoinette, due to it's large size, if you do not consciously make an effort to maintain your carefully prepared organization, it will end up a jumbled mess in the large, open main compartment of the bag. This would tend to occur particularly in a rush, so this is something to consider of all bags with really large main compartments. For this reason, special props go to the Skip Hop Forma, Best Value, which utilizes great interior packing boxes that allow for further organization. The Chelsea is simply missing this great element.
The Chelsea's main compartment zips closed which was great at keeping the contents of the bag where they needed to be (inside!) and the external pockets are largely open to the elements. Despite the small square of velcro on the included changing pad, the rest of the bag was velcro-free. The faux-leather handles endured a lot of abuse during our testing and are surprisingly sturdy. For the most part, the metal hardware including key clip and stroller clips functioned throughout problem-free.
Cleaning the Chelsea is pretty easy as most spills and stains are easily removed with a damp cloth. We ran into a few more challenging stains (Odwalla's green juice) which came out spot treating with a gentle detergent. The faux leather is easier to wipe clean than the polyester, although it shows wear more quickly.
While the Chelsea lacks some perks, the ones it does include are done right. The adjustable shoulder strap, metal stroller strap clips, polyester changing pad, metal feet, and accessories pocket are praised by reviewers online. One thing we really missed was an insulated pocket or compartment for keeping bottles warm or cold, and it did lose points for that.
The handles on the Chelsea are easy to carry. The faux-leather has a nice soft feel on the hands. These handles were large enough to carry over the shoulder as well, unlike the Timi and Leslie Marie Antoinette. We did have a few hang ups with the nylon shoulder strap as it left any exposed skin with red marks. We definitely recommend wearing a shirt with a higher collar when sporting the bag over your shoulder.
For the most part, the Chelsea is a well-made bag and was awarded a 7 of 10 in Quality. Overall, the metal hardware is durable. However, we did discover an unfortunate issue during travel where we really put it through the ringer. That is, main pocket's zipper pull detached and disappeared into the ether. As well, a second external zipper pull was beginning to look like it suffer a similar fate. Seems that the metal d-rings attaching the zipper pulls just don't have the strength to withstand the pressure when subjected to a very stuffed bag and subsequently, could use improvement. So, we had the opportunity to put Skip Hop's customer service and warranty program to the test and were extremely pleased with both a quick response and turn around time. We emailed the company a photo of our issue with the bag (without disclosing that we were testing the bag for reviewing purposes), requesting warranty information. Within a 48 hour time period, a customer service representative emailed us, made a review of our complaint, and provided us a gift voucher for a replacement bag.
Where we spent the most time on our debate about the Chelsea's quality was with the fabrics that were used. Overall, the faux leather looks nice and holds up well, particularly its handles. Our experience including those relayed via user reviews note a hang up is with the polyester. The shiny, constantly crinkled champagne-colored fabric looks strange juxtaposed against the creamy white leather. Users complained that it just "looks cheap", and quite frankly, we agree. To Skip Hop's credit, however, the polyester used in the Chelsea has a strong, well made weave that stands up to abuse. In addition, the nylon shoulder strap is well made and secures well to the bag itself.
In keeping with the general trend toward multi-purpose bags, the Chelsea received a 9 of 10 for style. Both our experience with and research on this bag make it clear that moms love it and that it is a favorite among women looking to disguise their diaper bag. While its purpose does peek through at times, it certainly passes as a purse for mom.
Nonetheless, we really dig the faux leather handles on this bag as this upgrade changes the entire look for the better. In fact, we'd like to see the Skip Hop Forma which won Best Value in this review with faux leather handles. We think it would instantly make this bag appear more professional. And, despite general grumblings regarding discontent between heavy duty polyester juxtaposed with faux cream leather in the lighter Champagne version, this seems to be less of an issue with the Chelsea in Black.
The Skip Hop Chelsea is great for anyone looking for a functional bag that hides its true intentions well. From the day to day errand running and daycare routine, to a visit to a high-end shopping mall or a "hike" while on vacation, we never felt out of place carrying it and really appreciated its versatility.
While not the least expensive of the bags tested in our review, with a price point under $100, the Chelsea is definitely more affordable than many of its lower-performing competitors like the LeSportsac Ryan or the Timi and Leslie Marie Antoinette. While it lacks a few perk accessories such as storage pods and insulated compartments, we think its style, quality, and great customer service lend it to be a very worthwhile investment.
What set the Chelsea apart from all of the bags we tested was not that it performed outstandingly in one particular are, but rather that it was simply consistent across the board. Where some bags had peaks and valleys in their scoring, the Chelsea remained dependable throughout. We already know other users love the bag, and after testing it for months ourselves, we feel confident we can agree. This is an excellent product that moms will enjoy using, and that's why we awarded it our highest honor, the Editors' Choice Award.
Other Versions and Accessories
Other popular styles of Skip Hop diaper bags include:
Extra accessories that can come in handy include:
— Natalie Hale
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