The Tests

  • Measure true capacity when sealed with cups of water

  • Store two ¼-pound hamburgers in freezer for one month

  • Store strawberries and bananas in freezer for one month

  • Hold tuna sandwich in refrigerator for two days; wash and evaluate for odors

  • Hold halved, macerated strawberries in refrigerator for two days; wash and evaluate for odors/staining

  • Hold fully loaded, 2-inch-tall sandwich

  • Hold 3 cups snack mix

  • Place enclosed snacks and sandwich in full backpack and skip around park to evaluate ability to protect fragile/malleable contents

  • Fill with water and shake, upside down, over sink 10 times

  • Fill with water and drop from counter height

  • Open and close 100 times, then fill with water and shake again

  • Wash 10 times

Plastic sandwich bags are handy for storing and transporting sandwiches, snacks, and other foods, but they’re recommended for one-time use. In the last few years, a number of sandwich-size reusable storage bags have appeared on the market, claiming to be more durable, environmentally friendly alternatives to the disposable versions. Curious how these bags performed, we bought five 3- to 4-cup bags priced from $2.32 to $11.99 each and put them through their paces.

All the bags did a serviceable job of holding sandwiches and snacks and were simple to clean; none retained odors or stains. And they were indeed tough: After we opened and closed each bag 100 times to simulate extended use, most models retained their structural integrity, working just as well as before.

But the similarities ended there. The bags were made from either silicone or vinyl, and the material proved critical. We liked that the two bags made of silicone were dishwasher- and microwave-safe. And the silicone’s thickness and flexibility made these bags ultradurable—at the conclusion of testing, they still looked brand-new. In one case, the thick material also did a great job of protecting hamburger patties and fresh fruit from freezer burn. But that same thickness and floppiness made these bags clumsy and awkward to fill; they couldn’t be propped up on the counter easily. Even more problematic, the silicone bags were hard to seal tightly. When we filled them with water, turned them upside down, and shook them, one bag broke open on the first bounce. The other never stood a chance: Its toggle-and-hole closure had large gaps through which water flowed freely. The gaps also encouraged freezer burn and didn’t contain dry snacks well.

All of the reusable storage bags we tested were adequate for dry foods, but securing liquids proved to be another thing entirely.

We preferred the three vinyl bags, which sealed much more securely and did a far better job of keeping water and food in and air out. They were also great at protecting food from freezer burn. And because vinyl is relatively stiff, these bags were generally easier than the silicone models to prop open and fill. The only downside? Because they’re stiff, the vinyl bags showed more wear after extended use, though they remained fully functional.

Material aside, we liked roomy bags that held at least 3½ cups of food, and we preferred those that had openings of at least 6¾ inches—the best were 8¾ inches wide. The two silicone bags looked big enough but had relatively wide side seams that narrowed the opening of each bag to about 6 inches and limited the actual usable space, making it harder to squeeze in a 2-inch-thick sandwich. We also appreciated gussets, which allowed some of the better bags to expand to accommodate large snacks and also gave the bags flat bottoms, so they sat more securely on the counter and were easier to fill.

To shake things up, we loaded a backpack with each of the reusable storage bags filled with sandwiches and snacks, headed to a nearby park, and did some quick laps to see how well the bags kept their contents secure.

If the idea of reusing your sandwich bag is appealing, these bags are worth considering. High-volume users might especially want to take note: Disposable bags cost about $0.10 each, so in just ninety days, our favorite model, the BlueAvocado (re)Zip Stand-Up 4 Cup/32 oz ($8.99), will recoup its value. We like it because it has a wide opening and bottom gussets that help it sit on the counter for easy filling; it’s also roomier than its name suggests, holding about 6 cups. While its vinyl wrinkled a bit over time, the bag itself worked just fine. Best of all, it was one of the more leak-resistant models in our testing, releasing water only when dropped.

Winning Traits

  • Vinyl material

  • Large capacity

  • Wide opening of at least 6¾ inches

  • Gussets

  • Flat bottom

  • Protects food from freezer burn

  • Leak-resistant