Whether you’re taking a long vacation or going on a weekend getaway, the CHESTER Minima suitcase is the perfect travel companion. It’s lightweight, durable, surprisingly roomy and, best of all, stylish. This CHESTER luggage review you’ll find out just why it’s the best carry on luggage on the market.
Hey there – this post likely contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them. This helps me earn a few dollars to run this website. For more info, check out my terms here. The suitcase reviewed in this post was provided for free from CHESTER.
I had my first luggage set for over a decade. Not because it held up well; in fact, there were plenty of rips and scuffs and broken parts, and not because I particularly liked the set. It’s just what I had. It was garishly pink, and over the years (and several plan rides), it started to fall apart. But the worst part was that it was just so heavy.
Years ago, I actually stopped using my suitcase (the last trip it went on was to Greece in 2013). I switched over to backpack-style luggage and since 2013, I’ve been packing that way ever since.
But there’s been some drawbacks to the backpack. One, it’s not as professional. When travelling around for conferences, showing up with my well-loved PacSafe makes me feel less business savvy. Two, it’s a bit too big for quick weekend getaways. Three, it’s not as durable as a hard-sided suitcase.
For the last three months, I’ve been testing out a new suitcase, thanks to CHESTER. They sent me their CHESTER Minima to test out and boy, I’ve been impressed.
In my testing phase, I took it on every trip, short and long. From my weekend getaway to Muskoka to my 10-day trip back home for Christmas. I’ve stuffed as much as I could in it and put the durable construction to the test to find out if its the best carry on luggage on the market.
CHESTER Minima features
The CHESTER Minima is a 38L carry on suitcase that measures 21.8” x 13.7” x 9”, so it’s well within most airlines’ cabin baggage allowances. It’s incredibly light at only 7 lbs, leaving so much wiggle room for all your stuff.
CHESTER Minima hard shell
The hard shell is made from polycarbonate construction, so it’s flexible enough not to crack or break, but sturdy enough to stand up to what airline baggage handlers could throw at it (or more likely throw it at haha.) It also means that the shell is water-resistant. So you don’t have to worry about your belongings getting wet if you’re stuck in the rain. Plus the zipper is durable! It has stood up to me overstuffing the bag just to see if it would still close.
I just want to take a moment to talk about the colours that CHESTER suitcases come in. It’s so trivial, but I love the fact the CHESTER has taken the time to produce the same luggage in eight (that right, eight) different colours. I’m a huge fan of the pastel and bright neutral colour options!
CHESTER Minima external features
There are three other features located on the outside of the suitcase that I want to mention. The first is the wheels. CHESTER Minima has four hefty spinner wheels. These individually-moving wheels mean that you can spin it around 360 degrees (which means entertainment for you when you wait to board your flight).
The wheels are also pretty well-built. They’ve handled concrete, pavement, tile and light snow well. They are also attached to the base of the suitcase with five screws so these babies are not coming off. The wheels also sit tight to the suitcase bottom. It means that you sacrifice a little bit of space on the inside so that it fits within the baggage allowances.
The next feature is the handle. I have no idea why, but after the zipper, handles are the first to break in a suitcase. It’s probably because they have moving parts and they’re ~handled~ often. (Haha. Get it. Handled.) I found the CHESTER Minima handle to be pretty sturdy. It wasn’t the most durable handle I’ve seen, but it’s well-built, and I could see it lasting for far longer than a cheaper carry on suitcase.
Lastly, the TSA combination zipper lock. This is probably the coolest external feature. Gone are the days where you needed an extra luggage lock, instead most good suitcases have them built-in! The CHESTER Minima is no exception. It took me a few minutes to figure out how it worked and how to reset it to my own code, but the three-digit combination lock has been a cool feature. Plus it’s TSA-approved, so they won’t break into your bag if they need to inspect it further.
CHESTER Minima internal features
Once you open up the carry on suitcase, you’ll be able to see the craftsmanship that’s gone into making this bag. It’s a clam style bag, so it has room on both sides. Each side has a zippered compartment made out of nylon, allowing you to keep your clothes and accessories neat and tidy while packing and unpacking. Plus, there are no compression straps to deal with, so that’s nice.
On one side, you also have two zippered mesh sleeves and, on the other side, one long zippered sleeve. Inside, you’ll also find a laundry bag that packs away when not in use.
When I first got it, I was worried that the stitching would rip if it were too full, but after three months of heavy use (and overstuffing), it’s held up well. The zipper shuts nicely and hasn’t even given the slightest hint of ripping.
It’s pretty roomy inside. It’s 38L, so it would compare pretty closely with a decent sized backpack. As a comparison, my go-to pack, the PacSafe VentureSafe, is 45L. I was able to fit quite a bit in there for my trip home for Christmas and winter weekend adventures. (Side note: why are sweaters so bulky?!)
Everything is pretty easy to clean too. If you spill something or get a scruff, you should be able to clean it up with water and soap. For scruffs on the outside, CHESTER recommends using a magic eraser!
What the CHESTER Minima lacks
My biggest beef with the bag is that shipping to Canada is non-existent. With this globalized economy and the ideal of world travel, I’m surprised it doesn’t ship here. That being said, many Canadians know a couple of workarounds, but it is a huge hassle.
Sixty per cent of Canadians own a passport – compared to 42 per cent of Americans. Travel is something we spend a lot of money on. Statistics Canada says Canadian residents took 316 million trips in Canada and abroad, spending $83.8 billion in 2018.
So I hope that international shipping is available in the future.
While other popular carry on luggage brands have charging ports, CHESTER does not. And I actually think that is a good thing. Most of the time, you’re required to have lithium batteries on you and not in your luggage, so why have it in your carry on suitcase if you’re only going to have to take it out anyway.
Plus, you can get inexpensive battery power banks anyway. Sure it’s a cool feature to be able to plug in your phone to your suitcase, but practically, it doesn’t make sense.
I’d also like to see an expandable external zipper so you can use it for compression when you have a little too much stuff in your suitcase.
Lastly, what I think CHESTER needs are more accessories. I’d love to see some packing cubes that are formed to fit into their suitcases perfectly. Sure they’ve got the zippered compartments, but I still like to use packing cubes to maximize my space and stay organized.
Price and Warranty
A CHESTER Minima currently costs $225 USD (they’ve got some sales on right now), and it ranges up to $725 USD for a three-piece set. At that price, it feels like a luxury item. But what I like about them is that you are buying straight from them, there’s no middleman.
Anyone who is trying to be budget-conscious might think twice about purchasing the carry on suitcase. But if you can afford it, it’s well worth the money. You can tell by the quality of it that it is well-made. Plus it has a great warranty and trial period.
CHESTER has a 100-day trial period, where when you buy directly from them, and you feel that the carry on luggage isn’t for you, then you can return it for a full refund. (If you end up buying from Amazon, they have their own 30-day return policy.)
They also have a 10 year warranty. So if the shell cracks, the wheels or handles break or if the zippers can’t be used anymore, it’s covered by the warranty. (Obviously, there are conditions, which you can read here, but that’s still a great warranty.)
Despite the cost, these two guarantees set the CHESTER minima apart as the best carry on luggage on the market.
Verdict: Is CHESTER the best carry on luggage?
For weekend (or long weekend) trips – this is a great case. It’s durable and well-made, and you won’t have to worry about it falling apart. If you’re a light packer, you could even get away with using it for a longer 10+ day trip.
It is a carry on suitcase, so you’ll have to think of the destination you want to go to and see if it will work. For example, if you’re more of an adventure traveller, then you might want to go with a backpack. But if you are heading out on a cruise or going on a city adventure, the CHESTER Minima is a perfect travel companion.
If you’re looking for more space, CHESTER also has the Regula and Maxima as well as sets.
I give this bag a 4.5 out of 5 for having great quality durability and colour choice. It’s only docked points because it’s missing out on accessories for savvy travellers and because of its lack of international shipping to Canada. It definitely lives in the best carry on luggage category.