The Only Bag You Need for Your Next Weekend Trip

Why our travel editor Hannah Hayes is still in love with her Herschel bag.

Like swimsuit or washing machine shopping, buying luggage can seem a vortex of expensive, confusing options that blur into an amalgam of despair after two hours. That carry-on bag looks TSA-approved now, but once you fill it with that second pair of shoes, will it scream “gate-check”? Do you really need a wheelie bag with a phone charger in the handle or will this feature sooner than later seem as useful as a floppy disc?

These are tough questions (but for the record: probably and yes). Most often, I’m asked what bag works best for a weekend trip when checking a bag doesn’t make sense or a road trip is involved. If I could channel Flannery O’Connor for a moment, a good duffle is hard to find.

In the world of bloggers to Instagram influencers, it would seem all you need do is throw a pair of sunglasses, a pullover, a good book, your phone, and some lip balm in a tote bag, and you’re ready to head to the beach for over 24 hours. If you want to bring a bottle of shampoo, another pair of jeans, or, oh say, underpants, that doesn’t fit into this filtered reality where issues like hygiene solve themselves.

For the realistic, practical traveler, may I present to you the Herschel Novel Duffle. I just celebrated two years with mine, and it’s still the one (cue dad rock soundtrack). In fact, I find it so efficient, that I often bring it on longer trips that involve air travel. Without wheels, it rarely peaks the attention of bag check-happy airport employees, but easily fits as much as a carry on. The strap is also padded enough that even when filled to capacity, I can carry it comfortably. Seriously, I once jogged back and forth between Concourse A and E in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport in 30 minutes with it slung across my shoulders.

And while most mobile bags have a rigid parallelogram for fitting clothes, shoes, toiletries, a laptop, or maybe even a hairdryer into it, the Novel conforms to the shape of what I put in it.

For instance, I typically lay what I want to bring out on my bed and layer each item on top of the other. Once I have a stack of what I want to bring (say two dresses, a jumpsuit, three tops, and a skirt), I roll them into a loose burrito. I nestle that on top of my laptop, shoes, and toiletries in the bottom of the duffle, and when I arrive at my destination, I unroll it into a relatively unwrinkled, organized stack again.

But I haven’t even got to the best part of the Novel Duffle. It also has a pocket where you can put a pair (or two) of shoes that you don’t want to rub all over your clothes. Personally I find it functions well as a place to stash dirty laundry that I don’t want ruining any remaining freshness in the main compartment.

As for my closing arguments: while leather luggage looks great in that whole Darjeeling Limited sort of way, I love that after years of abuse, even once using it as a seat on the floor of LaGuardia’s chair-less baggage claim for an hour, it remains undamaged and still gets compliments from strangers and Uber drivers. I have the navy-and-red version, but it comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including a Golden Girls-inspired palm print if you’re so inclined.

While spending $70 to $90 on a duffle might make you feel three sandwiches short of a picnic, when there’s so many cheaper options out there, in the realm of luggage, and swimsuits and washing machines, you often do get what you pay for.

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