We have reviewed the Hershel Novel Duffel bag to find out if their trademark design and quality shines through in this model as well.
Herschel Supply Co. is really popular for their backpacks. They have that signature striped lining that helps you identify a Herschel bag from a mile away. And they are known for using high-quality materials in their products – the Novel duffel is no exception to that.
But it does have a pretty steep price tag, especially for a mid-size duffel bag. In this review, we will talk about its features (or the absence of them), in order to see whether or not this bag really is worth your money.
So if you are thinking about getting the Novel duffel, you will find our breakdown of its features and their performance really useful!
It has the perfect mid-range capacity, but it’s definitely not going to be a great fit for everyone because there are only two mid-range sizes. A smart choice, going mid-range, but limiting for people who want something small or BIG!
You can see the specs of the two duffels right here:
11"(H) x 20.5"(W) x 9.5"(D)
11.5"(H) x 20.5"(W) x 11"(D)
With brands like North Face and Patagonia, we saw plenty of size variety in duffel bags. From extra small ones, to duffels with a capacity of 120 liters. And that ensures that they are going to sell – everyone can pick a size that fits what they need. But with the Herschel duffel, the difference between the two bags is barely existent – less than 10 liters.
If their capacities are what you are looking for, then you will love the duffel. But if they are not, then you need to look for a different bag elsewhere. And that’s a shame, especially for people who already love Herschel and who trust their quality.
The two sizes of the Novel duffel are great choices for different occasions. So, I am going to compare them to some popular backpacks, to give you a good idea of how you can use the bags.
The larger Novel Duffel is equivalent in size to Osprey’s smallest versions of the Farpoint/Fairview and Ozone backpacks. Both of these are really popular for travel, but they can only fit enough clothes for one weekend. Therefore, the bigger Novel duffel is a good choice for weekend or overnight trips.
I wouldn’t call this bag a great option for longer trips in general, and not just because of its size. It’s not the best choice for travel mostly because it lacks pockets, and you would have to throw all of your stuff in the packing compartment. Which ultimately means that you will need an additional bag for your electronics, and other stuff you might want to have handy.
And when you compare this bag with other duffels for travel, you can see just how different they are. Olympia’s rolling duffel has an abundance of pockets, comes in several different sizes and even has wheels and a wheel handle, so you don’t strain anything carrying it.
Maybe you need a gym duffel? Well, the shoe compartment is a pretty cool feature for that, since it is something that most gym duffels have. But, gym duffels in general are pretty small, and they tend to be around 25-30 liters, which is why the 33-liter Novel is the perfect choice here. Of course, its suitability for the gym also depends on the amount of gear you tend to bring with you. But in terms of size, this will fit into your locker without any issues.
Ultimately, the Herschel Novel Duffel is a decent choice for really short trips, overnight stays, and for the gym. Basically, for people who don’t need a big bag, and for any activities where you don’t really need to worry about how organized your clothes are.
The Novel Duffel comes in many different colors and designs. In most cases, the exterior of the bag is made from Polyester, but that does differ with some colors. And the material of the accents also differs from color to color – on some bags the handles are made of Polyester, while on others they are made from faux leather.
But generally, the materials used in this bag are pretty high quality. Herschel is known for using premium materials, and that’s one of the main reasons why people buy their bags, despite the not-so-affordable prices. Because they are sure that they are getting good value for their money.
The bag also has a pretty sturdy body, which allows it to stay upright even when it is completely empty. This is good because it means that the duffel will retain its shape even when you don’t fill it to the top. Squishy duffels that fall flat when they are half-empty don’t look good, and they just look cheap.
The duffel also sports Herschel’s signature striped lining, like in their backpacks. This is one feature that I am a big fan of – you don’t see too many lined duffels nowadays, especially not the more affordable ones. But this is always useful, as it helps protect the outer material of the bag and just keep it more clean. You’d rather see a rip in the lining than in the body of the bag, right?
Additionally, the Novel duffel is also equipped with a two-way waterproof zipper. It will protect the contents inside the bag in the rain, and keep them dry at all times. But, the material of the bag is not 100% waterproof, so don’t submerge this underwater for whatever reason.
The Novel duffel gives you two carrying options. There are grab handles, which are made from different materials in different colors of the bag. And there is also a shoulder strap that is pretty wide and padded. It is the more comfortable option, especially when you fill up the duffel.
Some duffel bags also come with a pair of shoulder straps, which allows you to carry them like a backpack - The North Face Base Camp duffel is the example that first comes to mind. But, this is usually the case with duffel bags that have pretty large capacities – with a bag that weighs more than 50 lbs, you really want that option. Carrying it on a single crossbody strap is going to be painful, and ultimately leave you feeling sore the next day.
But, since the capacity of this bag isn’t too large to begin with, I wouldn’t consider that a downside. It won’t get too heavy (unless you carry bricks inside it), and so there really is no need for added shoulder straps. Plus, the existing strap is pretty comfortable as is, because of all the padding.
There is a shoe compartment in this duffel bag, which is pretty useful. Especially if you plan to take this duffel to the gym – it will keep your other stuff clean, and away from the smelly shoes. The entry to this compartment is from the outside of the bag, and it features the same lining as the insides of the actual packing compartment.
But, you can use this compartment however you want to. Wet or smelly clothes perhaps? Or, you could also keep your chargers here, or even makeup – whatever you don’t want to mix with the clothes in the packing compartment. I personally used it whenever I needed to store a wet umbrella somewhere – the thick lining creates a good barrier that keeps my other clothes completely dry.
And what’s really good about this compartment is that it doesn’t really take up much space. It’s just lining, and storage-wise, it is pretty much the same as just putting your shoes in a dust bag and then inside the duffel. Plus, I can vouch for the fact that this compartment can bulge outwards a little bit, if you need to squeeze a few more things inside the bag.
A single zipper opens up the main compartment of the Novel duffel bag. It is pretty spacious, because there is not much inside to take up the space. You will see the lining that separates the shoe compartment from the rest of the bag’s interior, and a single sleeve on the side of the bag.
The sleeve is pretty small, but it can easily fit your tablet, maybe even a smaller laptop. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the only pocket you get on this entire duffel, so use it wisely.
In terms of organization, the Novel duffel really disappoints. It lacks both internal and external pockets, and you will have to put all of your clothes in the same place. But if you are fine with that, then it’s not really an issue, right? After all, that is exactly what some people are looking for - a simple duffel, without a dozen different pockets and zippers.
I will be brutally honest here – if you can barely afford the bag, then don’t get it. Especially if you could really use a bigger bag, or one with more pockets. You can find plenty of cheaper duffels on Amazon, so don’t get the Novel just because it’s a Herschel. I do think it is a little overpriced for what it is, so don’t splurge on it if you don't usually spend that much money on duffels or backpacks.
But if you have cash to spare and you think that you will use the Novel duffel a lot, then go for it. Anything Herschel makes is high-quality, and stands up to the test of time. The Novel duffel is a bag you will own and carry around for years, which is why I do think you will get your money’s worth. After all, it’s better to splurge on a duffel you’ll own for a while, than to buy a new $20 duffel every year or so.
Herschel Supply Company is a well-known and established brand. If you want to get a backpack or a duffel bag, they are a pretty safe bet. You won’t get it for cheap, but you will be getting a product that you will use for many years to come.
That being said, they are not known for putting a lot of features in their bags. And with the Novel duffel, that lack of features is obvious. The biggest downside to this bag is that it exists only in two sizes, which might not be the right fit for everyone. Additionally, it isn’t great for organization. All of your stuff will be together in the main compartment, except for the shoes – they do have their own compartment.
So, I think you should get this bag if you have been eyeing it for a while and if it is just the right size you are looking for. If you can get over the downsides that I just mentioned, then definitely go for the weekender duffel.
Head over to Amazon to check out the prices and colors of the Herschel Novel duffel bag.
But if you would prefer to have something smaller, larger, with more pockets or even with backpack-style shoulder straps, then don’t add this to your cart just yet. Check out some other options, and see if you can find something that’s a better fit to your personal needs.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!