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Fodor’s Expert Luggage Reviews: Herschel’s Small Trade Bag

Herschel’s newest hard-sided carry-on is the best deal on the market.

The Tester: Teddy Minford, Editor

The Bag: Herschel’s Trade Luggage in Small, $159.99

The Trip: 10 days in Jordan (Amman, Jerash, Feynan, Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea)



 The Bag

Herschel’s smallest hard-sided carry-on is a plastic clamshell-style suitcase. At 23 inches high, 15 inches wide, and 9 inches deep, the bag weighs seven pounds when empty and meets international carry-on size regulations.

I was apprehensive of this bag, solely because I could not understand how somebody could make a decent and durable suitcase for under $200. I made a point to really put this bag through an obstacle course of tasks, and it performed really well under pressure. I slightly overpacked, meaning that I had to sit on the bag to be able to close it and that the zipper would be strained for the duration of my 20+ hour travel day from New York to Paris to Amman.

I took public transportation to the airport. While all bags can roll smoothly on a linoleum airport floor, only some can glide on a New York City sidewalk and this bag handled the grit, bumps, and garbage of New York City like a pro.

I almost never check a bag and the way I like to travel is with a hard-sided international-sized carry-on with four wheels (aka my “carry on”) topped by a small leather weekender (aka my “personal item”). For an inexpensive bag, the wheels moved really smoothly and the telescoping handle never got stuck.

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While in Jordan, I spent the night in a different hotel almost every night, meaning that this bag was unpacked and repacked every day for a week. This trip was really more like seven trips. Using Herschel’s packing cubes made packing and re-packing a breeze, and it was an easy and convenient way to separate my dusty and dirty clothes from the work-appropriate outfits I planned to wear at the conference.

My travel companions were amazed that I was able to travel with such a small bag, and I was amazed that it held up so well.

The bag returned home in great condition (one of the benefits of never checking a bag means that your stuff generally arrives in the same condition in which you put it on the plane) despite being dragged through sand and rain and spending some very hot days in the storage compartment of a bus.

The bag feels really durable, and that’s because it’s been tested. Each Herschel Trade bag is tested to withstand multiple drops, 12.5 miles of rolling, 3,000 up-and-downs of the telescoping handle, and 500 zips and unzips.

While most bags in this price point feel like they’ll barely last through one trip, this bag feels like it will hold up for at least a year*.

*I travel in dog years so a year of travel for me is like 7 years of travel to the average person.


What I Packed

I brought the bag with me on a 10 day trip to Jordan. It was an adventure-packed trip and a travel conference, so I had to pack everything from hiking gear to business casual. The weather was HOT, but since it’s a conservative country, most of my outfits consisted of lightweight pants and t-shirts. Temperatures in the desert can be almost freezing overnight, so I also packed a wool coat, a down jacket, and a rain jacket/windbreaker in case it rained. (It rained.) Along with toiletries, swimsuits, a few dresses, hiking boots, and two pairs of sandals, it was a tight squeeze, but Herschel’s standard issue packing system is built specifically for this bag, meaning that I even had room to bring home a few souvenirs (aka 3 giant bags of Za’atar—don’t tell TSA).

Extra Credit

Stylish colors (including black, millennial pink, and army print) set this bag apart from the rest in its price category. Trust me, it definitely doesn’t look like a bag that costs $160.


The Catch

For those used to traveling with a clamshell-style bag with two separate zippered compartments, you’ll have to invest in Herschel’s packing cubes, since only one side is contained in a zippered compartment and the other side simply has an elastic strap to hold your stuff in. There are no built-in compartments to the bag. Also, the front of the bag slopes slightly, so it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom. If your “personal item” is obnoxiously big like mine, you’ll want to make sure you’re able to slip the straps of your personal item onto the telescoping handle of the suitcase, otherwise it might slip off.

Although the bag meets international size regulations for carry-ons, if you stuff it full of spices and platform sandals like I did, you won’t meet the international weight regulations. This means that even if you can get your bag through security, they reserve the right to gate-check.

The Verdict

Buy this bag. It’s stylish, it’s well-made, it meets international carry-on regulations, and it’s probably the best bag you can find for $160.

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