Courtesy of Paravel
Courtesy of Paravel
Packing cubes could (and probably should) change the way you travel.
Do you fold your clothes, roll them, or just throw everything into your suitcase? Whatever your method, there’s a better way to pack and sort your travel belongings.
If you’re like me, packing a roller bag for a trip often consists of making sure you’ve packed your passport, charging cables, socks, and underwear. Everything else is dumped into the bag (or rolled up if there’s time). But there’s a better way to pack a suitcase: with packing cubes. There’s a reason why travelers worldwide swear by this travel accessory. Once you try packing cubes, you’ll be hard-pressed to go back.
Packing cubes are small bags that function like mini-luggage inside your luggage so that you can separate your charging cords from your socks and your socks from pants. Packing cube systems vary in quality, price, and style. At their most basic, they feature a nylon or polyester body with a mesh zippered top so you can see inside. At the higher end, the systems are made with more durable materials and quality zippers and feature more compartments.
For the very budget-minded, there’s always Ziploc bags, including the larger Ziploc storage bags, and the brand’s travel “Space Bags,” which are a compression version space saver. These budget substitutes may be perfectly acceptable to some, but given the very short life span of a Ziploc bag compared with proper packing cube systems, this is not only the least durable option, but also by far the least ecofriendly option of the bunch.
There are no set rules on how to use packing cube, but here are some tips on using them to organize and pack your luggage:
Packing cubes are absolutely worth using to keep your luggage organized, separate dirty and clean clothes, or corral small items—like electronics and cords—in one place. Generally speaking, packing cubes won’t save you space (unless you previously packed with the “shove all my clean laundry in a suitcase” method). However, a compression cube, which is like an expandable suitcase in cube form, can squish bulky items like sweaters and jackets into more manageable parcels.
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For frequent travelers, it’s certainly worth investing a bit more if you want your packing cubes to last. Here are five of the best packing cubes to buy.
Using a dual-zipper design, these compressive packing cubes save up to three vertical inches of suitcase space when zipped down. Each set of two is made with nylon constructed from 10 recycled plastic water bottles. Available in six different colors, they can be embroidered with your initials so you never get things mixed up with your travel partner’s things. Paravel also makes noncompressive packing cubes in sets of three and four as well as shoe cube duos for those who like to keep everything separated in their luggage.
Completely redesigned in January 2021, Eagle Creek’s popular Pack-It packing cube system comes in a myriad of colors and is frequently cited by travelers as their go-to choice for packing cubes. The starter set comes complete with a large garment folder and guide, a medium-size cube, and a small cube, making it a rather good deal. The folder helps to get shirts and pants to fit right into the cubes. According to a spokesperson for Eagle Creek, the sets “keep nicer clothes compact and clean but also relatively wrinkle-free.”
The new Pack-It series comes in three different styles: Pack-It Reveal cubes are made with recycled poly material and feature see-through mesh so you can easily see your belongings. Pack-It Isolate cubes are made with an ultra-lightweight ripstop material with anti-microbial odor control properties, making them ideal for dirty laundry or shoes. Pack-It Gear cubes are the most durable and water-resistant option in the Eagle Creek line for those who are going camping or bringing lots of tech along that needs some more protection.
Added bonus: Eagle Creek products are PVC free, are covered by a lifetime warranty, and are designed to have minimal negative environmental impact.
Founded in 2012, Bluffworks has gathered a cult following for its travel-friendly pants, blazers, and dresses made from wrinkle resistant, moisture wicking, and machine washable materials. Now the travel clothing company is branching out into the world of travel gear with its new line of “BluffCube” compression packing cubes.
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In addition to a side-access zipper, these packing cubes can be packed from the elastic top access opening and compressed with a strap that has an adjustable buckle. Available in two different fabrics, the “Sport” is an ultra-light ripstop nylon, while the “Pro” is made from a slightly more structured brushed ripstop nylon designed with business travelers in mind. Each type comes in two sizes—large and small. The small is ideal for shorter trips, with room to fit one T-shirt, two pairs of shorts, three pairs of underwear, and two pairs of socks. The large can fit up to six shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, three sets of underwear, and two pairs of socks.
The Shacke Pak set comes with four packing cubes that feature zippers made by the recognizable YKK brand, and the materials are nylon with a mesh cover. (A laundry bag is also included.) The product itself is simple, but it definitely gets the job done, according to travel blogger Sophie Anderson, who says that Shacke is her preferred brand of packing cube. “Having a designated cube for my shirts, pants, undergarments, and miscellaneous items seriously simplifies the packing process. I mean, who wants to have to take out everything when looking for one shirt or one pair of socks?” says Anderson.
Pro Packing Cubes are similar to the Shacke Pak, but they are made from ripstop nylon (versus regular nylon), which is designed to prevent ripping and tears. They also have a mesh cover and YKK zippers. Pro Packing Cubes’ use of ripstop nylon will appeal to travelers who need to cram more stuff into their bags with the hope that they won’t burst open. The six-piece Pro Packing Cube set comes with three medium-size packing cubes ideal for shirts and shorts, one large packing cube for pants or sweaters, plus two small packing cubes for organizing your undergarments or toiletries.
Lyndsey Matthews and Jessie Beck contributed additional reporting to this story.
This article originally appeared online on December 3, 2018; it was updated on May 13, 2021, to include current information.
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