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thermalstrike suitcaseWhen I arrived at my hotel on a recent trip to Toronto, I did my usual bed check, pulling back the duvet and casting a careful eye over the mattress and box spring. Fortunately, I saw no telltale reddish brown spots, so there didn’t seem to be any bed bugs lurking between my sheets. But if there had been, I had a line of defense: a 20-inch carry-on suitcase from ThermalStrike.

The suitcase (also available in a 24-inch size) uses infrared technology to heat its contents to a temperature of 140 degrees — hot enough to kill bed bugs and their eggs. To start the heating process, you must load both sides of the suitcase evenly, stand it up, raise the telescoping handle and plug the bag into the wall. The heating process shuts off automatically once the treatment is over. (The company’s Web site offers an estimate of 2.5 hours for the “fatal temperature” to be reached, but in two different tests my carry-on shut itself off within 45 to 60 minutes.)

The suitcase gets hot to the touch during the process, but not to the point of danger; kids or pets touching the case by accident shouldn’t be harmed. Of course, you’ll want to take out anything that might be damaged by heat, such as cosmetics, sensitive electronics and that chocolate bar you’re bringing home for Mom.

Read on for a few of my favorite and least favorite things about the suitcase — and to see how to win it for yourself.

The Good
Bed bug concerns aside, the ThermalStrike is a solid carry-on bag. The materials are sturdy and high-quality (with the possible exception of the telescoping handle, which felt a tad flimsy), and it’s an attractive bag inside and out. A built-in TSA-approved lock allows for a little extra security, and the spinner wheels were an upgrade over the rolling upright I’ve been traveling with for the last decade.

Though I don’t believe I was in any danger from bed bugs on this particular trip, treating my clothes and other belongings with the suitcase gave me a little extra peace of mind.

How to Find a Clean Hotel Room

The Bad
I’m used to traveling with a soft-sided carry-on, which has a couple of external pockets where I can stow things like my quart-size bag of liquids and gels for easy access at security. The hard-sided ThermalStrike carry-on was less convenient on that front; to get my toiletry bag out, I had to lay the suitcase on its side and unzip the main compartment to get to the “quick-access pocket” inside — not ideal in a crowded security line.

The pivoting wheels occasionally seemed to get a little stuck when I tried to turn the suitcase, both in the airport and on a few uneven sidewalks in Toronto.

To run the heating process in countries outside of North America, you’ll need both an adapter for the plug and a converter with a voltage of at least 300 watts. (See Electricity Overseas for more info on this topic.)

At $349 for the carry-on and $399 for the 24-inch suitcase, the price may be beyond the reach of many travelers.

33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel

The Verdict
If you can afford the price tag, the peace of mind may be worth it, especially for an otherwise sturdy bag.

Editor’s Note: For those who are asking, the 20-inch carry-on weighs eight pounds, according to the product specs on Amazon.com. The 24-inch suitcase weighs 10.5 pounds.

Want to try it out for yourself? We’re giving away our (gently used) suitcase! Just leave us a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 11, 2013. We’ll pick one winner at random to win the ThermalStrike carry-on. This giveaway is open only to residents of the lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner of the suitcase is Susan Dalpe. Congratulations, Susan!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

182 Responses to “The Suitcase That Beats Bed Bugs”

  1. Sinyee says:

    Wow! Neat invention. But will my belts and shoe melt at that temp??

  2. Cindy Kahle says:

    I have a BIG trip planned to Tuscany and Greece this fall. Sure could us a reliable suitcase and not have to worry about the bedbug epidemic with the many hotels we will be staying!!! My fingers are crossed that I will be notified as a winner!!! Thank you!!!

  3. Mark says:

    If you are a traveler, I find it difficult to believe that $350 to $400 is “a lot” for luggage. I suppose if you traveling on your last dime, which is foolish, then it would be.

  4. Jan Balzer says:

    one less thing to worry about while you’re away

  5. Amy Conger says:

    If you suspect your hotel sheets may have bedbugs, are you supposed to take them off the bed and put them in your suitcase and fry them and then remake your bed???? I might just ask for another room.

  6. Would give great peace of mind. Always a concern. Would love it.

  7. Suzanne says:

    I travel fairly frequently on business and would appreciate the opportunity to win one of these suitcases. Thanks very much!

  8. Leslie Walden says:

    Nifty! I’m at the planning stage for my next trip and this would be great. My friends would be so envious, and have a great laugh at me when I plug it in. Probably just another cord to keep track of, too.

  9. JulieHuizenga says:

    This would come in very handy on our Canadian Rockies trip… would it kill ticks as well?

  10. Kurt Barbuscio says:


  11. Mal says:

    WOW! This is an awesome invention! I once stayed up almost 72 hours upon returning home from a vacation because I was convinced I’d seen a bedbug on my wall. It freaked me out to the point of insanity. I paid for the dogs to come in and sniff, but luckily I didn’t have them. Nevertheless, I have been paranoid and freaked out ever since! This would resolve a lot!

  12. I m always concerned that we’ll bring bedbugs home and then infect our house and have to throw away all our furniture etc. I guess it would be a way of fast downsizing!
    I’ve also heard that you should put everything in a black plastic trash bag and put it in the trunk of your car or on the driveway – well if you live in the south and it’s summer! The temps inside the plastic bag will easily reach 150 degrees.

  13. Dorene S says:

    Wow. What an invention. Sure beats coming home and leaving suitcase outside the house until everything is put through the clothes drier. :)This is what my daughter does and I would love to give her this suitcase for her birthday.

  14. Please, please, I need this bug-killing valise!!!!

  15. Nancy Steptoe says:

    Really helpful especially if using budget grade hotels.

  16. Ruthie B says:

    Love this…someone should have thought of this sooner!

  17. Mitch Stobie says:

    Nice to be able to treat the sheets too! Just be sure to be packed and ready to go before brekky, plug it in, switch it on and zap the bugs before you leave the hotel! (Toiletries will have to go in another bag though, not messing around packing and unpacking!)

  18. Natalie Mugavero says:

    What an interesting concept! Soon the luggage will be toting itself… if only!

  19. Gary Zell says:

    Just what the Bed Bug Doctor ordered!! This should ease my only real fear of traveling. That is, bringing those nasty critters home with me..

  20. Clay Winowiecki says:

    That’s awesome! That is the first time hearing of anything like that. I could put it to good use on my upcoming overseas trip!

  21. James R says:

    I am in the midst of planning a summer trip and needed to purchase another suitcase. This would sure come in handy!

  22. Berne says:

    Great idea! Is it heavy?

  23. sue d says:

    I always freak out if I see any bug in any hotel room. Then of course one wonders if we would bring any home in our suitcase. This awesome invention would solve and ease any concern I may have about bugs and would assume if would kill any bug that entered the suitcase. I would love to win this for our next trip this September from Massachusetts to Israel.

  24. Norma-Jean says:

    Wow…that is really neat! I’m pretty careful about packing things up and making sure I wash my stuff or put it in a hot drier right away when I get home. Sometimes I travel with just a carry-on so it would work quite well for me.

  25. Rita Ways says:

    I’m paranoid about bed bugs but I love to travel. I think I’d love a suitcase like this!

  26. Anne Eriole says:

    This is fabulous I have many clients that have concerns and I am traveling soon would love to see how it works I hope to win

  27. Cheryl W says:

    I am so freaked out by this bed bug epidemic…What piece of mind this would bring!

  28. Barbara says:

    Ingenious! Bedbugs, be gone!

  29. Julie says:

    Why are those of us in Canada not included? Darn, I would love it.

  30. Lucille G. says:

    That suitcase would be great for my cats when not in use traveling. It would be cozy and warm when mommy comes home.

  31. Joann Floyd says:

    Need this! I just finished the horrid experience of cleaning and treating a house for bedbugs after lending a suitcase to a high school exchange student for a school trip.

    Seriously, this invention/idea is going to become the gold standard for anyone who has concerns about or has experienced bedbugs.

  32. Kathy M says:

    Sounds like a great solution to a difficult problem for frequent travelers!

  33. Pamela Ard says:

    With a refusal to quit travel and a still sluggish economy, I have lowered my standard of hotel rooms to a level not seen since my very early 20′s. I am still indulging my love of adventure and new places, but am back to staying in inexpensive accomodation and taking my chances at bringing home nasty little creatures… This suitcase is a find! I would think of it as an interesting form of “travel insurance”!

  34. shek b says:

    Holy toledo batman! What will they think of next…

  35. Susan SM says:

    What WILL they think of next? Hopefully, it will be something to kill bedbugs at the source that won’t kill us in the process. I am glad our entrepreneurs are still diligent in their efforts to keep the economy going, so to speak. Sounds like an interesting way to tease out the reluctant travelers (think my mother) who have stopped traveling because of their fear of bedbugs.

  36. Pearl Feder says:

    Fry those blood suckers

  37. Mike Ryan says:

    OK – So short of the suitcase-what do you do to protect yourself from the bugs???

  38. susan says:

    This is such a creative invention! I travel on a budget and would love to win this fabulous suitcase!

  39. Lynne Wallace says:

    Very cool! I would love to win this! As someone who has a little OCD I am paranoid abt these creatures and never get a restful sleep in a different bed other than my own!!!

  40. AJ says:

    Nifty. Kills bugs and bake cupcakes at the same time.

  41. Pat Wade says:

    Awesome for peace of mind and not to worry about those buggers!

  42. Joanne Wickson says:

    This bag sounds awesome! I would love to have one! Last year I came home from a trip to FL and developed a rash a week later. I thought for sure it was bed bugs. Turned out to be psoriasis but I was freaking out about bed bugs. Called an exterminator to check it out. I hope to hear from you on June 12! Thank you so much!

  43. Michelle Ault says:

    Oooh! What a neat invention! This would give me peace of mind when travelling!

  44. Ann Fierimonte says:

    Be on the alert
    The bedbugs are hiding
    under the mattress
    and in the dirt.

    If you get a surprise
    Be ready for Plan B
    get Thermal strike
    and those bugs will fry

  45. CL Hart says:

    Love this idea. Like the suggestion of a side pocket that would be easier to access.

  46. Judy says:

    I’ve been woken up by bites from bed bugs…. it’s not something you’d ever want to experience! In a 4 star hotel where I found them took a shower while freaking out….took those clothes off shower again new clothes everything including pocket book/shoes gone….I take little chances anymore as I don’t place my bags on the floor but on a stand not near the bed, I will check the bed no matter what Star hotel it is…and I do leave my bags inside my car or outside if possible; if not wash everything ASAP. I had a friend in NYC that had them in her entire apartment as the building was infested — so I travel and would like to alleviate this craziness by simply plugging in a suitcase! My system is already compromised due to lupus so I don’t need the potential for bugs eating me too…so pick me… as this hard shell case would make me pack less; which is better for my arthritis and neck, plus most of us bring too much anyway! So — I’d be happy with squishing my stuff into a mini luggage bugowave.

  47. I would love to win this suitcase! What a terrific idea! It will take some worry out of travel!

  48. Dawn W says:

    Id be willing to try it. So far I’ve lucked out, but that won’t last forever.

  49. Barbara Fricks says:

    I was thinking how it would be nice to warm clothes and towels…I’m a bit chilly right now. ;-) I have a half dozen black canvas suitcases with rips and tears and am ready for a new one for our cruise in November. Good luck to us all.

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