Luggage Review: Herschel Supply Co. Trade Carry-On

Mar 31, 2018

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Don’t pay attention to what your Tinder tells you — size does matter.

At least it does when it comes to luggage, where an extra inch can throw you into the gate-check ghetto. So I wanted to see what it was like to fly small — really small.

Herschel Supply Co. is best known for backpacks and apparel, but also has a nice-looking line of luggage in four sizes. I took the baby of the bunch — the Trade Carry-On — for a spin. Here’s how it fared.

The Specs

The Trade Carry-on is definitely on the tinier end of the carry-on market, coming in at 21.5” tall x 14” wide x 9” deep with a 34 liter capacity. (The next size up, the Trade Luggage Small, is 1 1/2 inches taller and an inch wider, making it just out of bounds for most overhead bin requirements, but if you feel daring, go ahead and try to slip it past the flight attendants.)

The exterior is molded polycarbonate, and it has four multi-directional wheels and a Travel Sentry Approved TSA combination lock. But the best feature is its delicate weight — only weighs 5.9 pounds; for a hard-side bag, that’s practically nothing. The interior features the brand’s signature blue-and-white striped fabric, and a zipped mesh compartment locks down your goods on half of the split-shell case. The bag retails for $149.99.

The Look

Think less flashy and more utilitarian. The exterior is a durable matte black and is, the best way I can describe it, slightly pebbled and textured, making it less likely for scratches to stick. The horizontal ribbing and subtle rubber logo makes it easily identifiable without making a huge statement. The carry-on comes in eight colors: black, grey, white, navy, dark shadow, iceberg green, woodland camo and the very millennial-friendly ash rose.

One nice detail: When the retractable handle is fully extended, it reveals a saying stamped in cursive: “Welcome to Herschel. Enjoy your stay.” There’s a reason Herschel has a huge Instagram following — its gear looks good.

The Road Test

Alright, Herschy, let’s hit the road. I took the carry-on on a four-night trip, which I was slightly worried about, given the bag’s size. But once I started packing, it seemed to Mary Poppins itself — more and more of my stuff fit into the crevices, eventually carrying a pair of running shoes and running gear (shirts, leggings, a light jacket), a handful of tank tops and underwear, a pair of jeans, plus four shirts/sweaters, a flat iron, giant barrel brush and assorted other bits and baubles. (My Eagle Creek packing cubes organized everything.) I didn’t even have to sit to zip it closed.

My two favorite details? The super-comfortable top neoprene handle, which helped me easily hoist the bag up and down stairs (it’s so light you’ll feel like a lazy fool taking the escalator).

The lock was also convenient. Even though I didn’t set my own password (whoops), it felt secure and I liked having the bag’s zippers corralled and locked into one place — no going on a scavenger hunt for wherever they’re hiding when you want to quickly open your bag.

As mentioned, the interior is small — the two compartments are not evenly sized (this is a good thing) and the half with the mesh zippered compartment was ideal for separating lay-flat sweaters and toiletries. Two garment straps cinch the other half — they looked pointless but also did a nice job corralling clothes. Every time I opened the bag, not a single item had moved. Honestly, it was weird.

The wheels are perfect. Because it’s so small, I found myself spinning the bag in circles while I was waiting around at the airport. (Yes, I looked silly, but it was strangely calming!) If you value a streamlined airport experience, this thing is feather-light and easily maneuverable. The retractable handle felt slightly loose, but didn’t bother me while running through the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport during a 30-minute layover (that’s including boarding time).

After being (wo)manhandled during two trips on the LIRR train, two trips on New York’s AirTrain, three flights to and from California, and three car rides, there wasn’t a single noticeable scratch. I think it’s invincible? Plus, it was so small there was still room in the overhead compartment for me to shove my winter coat up there.

Working with such a small bag made me carefully consider everything I was packing — and unlike most trips, I didn’t return with two extra outfits I never wore.

The Details

Herschel Supply products come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty covering material and manufacturing defects, valid for the duration of the original purchaser’s lifetime. (So basically, I can be buried with this bag.)

Standard shipping via Herschel’s site is free; products can be returned for a full refund within 30 days (minus the shipping costs).

The Takeaway

If you live in a tiny house, you’ll probably like this tiny bag. While it doesn’t have a huge amount of bells and whistles, it feels like it was designed by people who actually travel. Great workhorse for practical minimalists who also appreciate a smooth ride.

Images courtesy of Herschel.

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