Chester Minima Carry-On Review

I was approached by Chester to review their Minima carry-on case.  

Let’s start with I love it.

Full disclosure though, I didn’t like the color to start with since I ordered an Ocean Blue and got Sky Blue instead. I stared at it for days trying to decide what to do. Send it back to get the Ocean Blue or keep it. It was a blue after all.

Sky blue Chester Minima in front of a bed
Chester at Hotel Indigo in Madison, Wisconsin

I was sitting on the floor with freshly painted toenails, wiggling them like I do in the hopes it somehow makes them dry faster. Spoiler: it doesn’t. Then I saw it. The color I had painted my toes, the color I always paint my toes, was the exact same shade of sky blue. So how could I dislike the color on the suitcase that much?

Once I decided it was “my color” all along, it was time to start playing around with packing it.

How much could I fit in the bag? Would it be enough to hold everything I needed for a two (plus) week trip since I travel carry-on only? Would I have to make the hard choice of picking and choosing which items to take and which to leave out?

There was only one way to find out.

I pulled all my travel staples from the closet, unzipped the bag, and began packing weeks prior to my next trip.

Interior

One of the features that you notice right away is the zippered pouches on each side. Another thing that immediately stands out is that both sides can be fully zipped in. I love that because I can’t be tempted to overpack to the point where I have to sit on the case to get it to zip.

I might have packed it that full anyway…

Don’t do what I did.

Hi, my name is Niki and I overpack. Every. Single. Time. I. Travel.

Embroidered Chester logo inside the bag
Interior of Chester Minima

Like usual when packing a hard-sided case, I picked one side to be my clothes side (it was the one with the built-in laundry bag – such a nice added feature!) and used the other for shoes, toiletries, and more tech that wouldn’t fit in my camera bag.

I was a little disappointed in how many shirts I was able to fit when I rolled them. There was no way I would be able to pack them in layers like normal or as many as I wanted.

It worked out though, as I really don’t like rolling my clothes anyway. I was able to fit a bunch more and feel like I had tons of excess space when I folded everything flat.

On the other side, I had one pair of flip flops (these are seriously the best pair of flip flops you will ever own!), my toiletry bag, makeup bag, Bluetooth speaker, and a few other miscellaneous items that didn’t fit on the clothes side.

Interior pocket stuffed with stuff
Don’t put large, not flat items in the pockets!

I did save a few items to try out the zippered pouches and this is where I went wrong.

The zippered pouches are designed to fit small, flat items. Certainly not a jewelry box, a bottle of pills, a bar of soap, and whatever else I crammed in there. It was a lot.

I think part of my problem with getting the small zippered pouches to work was I had my laptop in the space between the two sides of the bag. I haven’t had a chance to pack it full and try it without the laptop yet.

Exterior

The exterior is made of a durable polycarbonate hard shell. As a recent convert to the hard shell cases, they are far superior to the soft side bags. They don’t budge or rip, making it easier to stuff full and cram into the cramped overhead space on the planes.

The bottom of the bag has four double spinner wheels making hauling your bag in between flights a breeze.

Sky Blue Chester bag in front of a chair
Chester Minima

One thing I don’t like about it that falls in the exterior category is the handle. I’m tall. Like 6’1″ tall and the handle just isn’t the height I’m used to. With that being said, it is definitely still an acceptable height and something I could and will get used to. So don’t let that deter you from purchasing a Chester Minima.

Extra Features

TSA Approved Zipper Lock

There has only been a handful of times I wished my bag had a lock on it. I remember the first time I wished it I had one. I was sleeping on a bench in the Fort Lauderdale airport on my first solo trip and I was sound asleep.

Since then, every other time I have wished for one is when I needed to find some corner to curl up in a ball in. While people generally aren’t sucky in an airport, I don’t trust them to not steal my stuff.

TSA combo lock and luggage tag
Chester had a combo lock and a luggage tag

Lack of removable battery

While it’s nifty that some bags have a built-in battery pack to charge your phone, they aren’t practical. Have you ever been at the boarding gate listening to the announcements when the gate agents say smart bags are prohibited onboard? I’ve heard stories of people not being able to board because of the battery in their bag. This is, of course, the nonremovable ones, but it just seems to create that much more hassle while traveling.

If you truly need a battery pack traveling like I do (my phone is usually dead around midday every day while on the go), I fully recommend this battery pack by Anker.

Luggage Tag

I have been hunting for a luggage tag that’s “me” for a long time. I did finally find one, but if you can’t find one or simply don’t want to go through the hassle of looking for one, Chester has you covered with the included tag.

Lack of expandability

Remember I’m a chronic over-packer? Every single one of my carry-on bags up until the Minima has had a zipper to expand the interior space. I made use of it and frequently my bag no longer fit in the overhead bins. So the fact they chose not to include this common feature is fantastic for over-packers!

Personalization

I’m all about customizing and personalizing things. Stickers being preferred. The exterior is perfect for covering in stickers! I’ve started with my first one, the logo for Chasing Departures. And the next one is going to be Minnesota United FC’s loon logo.

And best of all it comes in seven fun colors: black, charcoal grey, aluminum grey, ocean blue, sky blue, pink, and sand.

Sky Blue Chester Minima in front of chair
Sky Blue Chester Minima

Chester Minima Overall

All in all, I think Chester Minima is a great suitcase and a well made, excellent product. The features are right up there with some of the more common luggage brands, and nothing is really disappointing about it.

I will definitely be taking the Chester Minima with me for years to come!

Many thanks to Chester for providing me with a Minima bag for me to use and review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Do you prefer hard or soft-sided luggage? Share in the comments below!

Don’t forget to save this to your travel board and share it with a friend that might need a new bag!


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