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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. If this were April 1, I would think this is a joke. Plugging in a suitcase? What will we electrify next – our pets? I would love to try this out if only for it’s conversation value!

  2. CL says:

    What a neat idea! Would love to win it!

  3. Esther Rousso says:

    Although I am aware bed bugs can be found in very expensive hotels, this ag would be a blessing for me as I will be traveling to several third world countries in August and September. Just the air ares alone have taken a big chunk of my travel budget.

    Would love to win this.

    Esther Rousso

  4. Maureen says:

    This is so cool; would love to win. Be one less worry.

  5. Janet Bedell says:

    Always ready to try something new and always willing to give a brief review,

  6. What an ingenious invention, and so useful! This must be our next purchase. Thanks for the tip.

  7. Susan says:

    Very clever solution

  8. Michael S. says:

    At last, a reason to own a good piece of luggage. My last good one was destroyed by an airline. This luggage is something I would faithfully use. True, I’ll still inspect the bed for bed bugs, but I’ll also relax when I come home about “what’s in the bag”!

  9. Marcia says:

    Hmmmm! Interesting solution. My worst hotel fear!

  10. Catherine says:

    it would be reassuring to be able to treat your clothes before unpacking – I always worry I missed them during my inspection – can’t imagine the hell of removing them from my house!

  11. Helen Schmedeman says:

    I love travelling, but the thought of bedbugs is off-putting. This suitcase is certainly an interesting idea that is worth trying out. I travel with just one carry-on bag. The 20-inch bag sounds like just the right size. I’m game to try something new!

  12. Terri says:

    Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! What a great way to come home rested from vacation!

  13. Pat U says:

    Have an upcoming trip that we would love to try it out on!

  14. Bill U says:

    Love that it is a carry-on!

  15. Debbie says:

    I hear the horror stories in the news, but have yet to experience “bed bugs”. How many of your readers have found them in their hotels, I wonder? A plug-in suitcase sounds crazy, but well worth it.

  16. Dianne Johnson says:

    It would be so nice to come home, and know for sure you weren’t bringing in extra critters.

  17. This is a great invention. Hopefully someone will come out with a less expensive version.

  18. S A Ogburn says:

    Sounds like a great suitcase to own.
    Keep those “buggies” out of my home!

  19. Frank Adams says:

    This is a great idea. I have stayed in some “flea-bag” hotels and motels, and the added security of this bag would help my peace of mind. And also my wife’s peace of mind.

  20. Karen Pittelli says:

    I don’t think I could spend that much money on a suitcase, but I like the security of not bringing bedbugs home. Eliminating them from your huse is a total nightmare.
    Karen

  21. lora compton says:

    An interesting idea. Sure don’t want to sleep with bedbugs and/or bring them home!

  22. This sounds like great idea. Now I also know to check for red/brown spots on the matress seams.

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