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 I recently discovered that there’s a better way: packing cubes, those space savers that function like mini-luggage inside your luggage so that you can separate your charging cords from your socks and your socks from pants. There’s a reason why travelers worldwide swear by them. Once you try packing cubes, you’ll be hard-pressed to go back.

Frequent traveler Lauren de Wet is a packing cube devotee. The New Hampshire resident and her South African husband have traveled to seven countries this year, including Ecuador, France, Dubai, Germany, England, and South Africa, all with packing cubes in tow.

“I have a packing cube for everything, including small ones for cords and a camera,” says de Wet. “I also have a special one that I take on the plane with me that fits in the front pocket of the plane seat for storing headphones, gum, and glasses so that I can free up leg room on long flights by not having my bag in front of me.”

Packing cube systems vary in quality, price, and style. At their most basic, they feature a nylon or polyester body with mesh zippered top so that 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 eco-friendly option of the bunch.

For frequent travelers, it is certainly worth investing a bit more if they want their packing cubes to last. Here are five packing cube systems to consider for every budget.

Flight001’s Spacepak sets come with three or four sizes of packs.

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Flight001’s Spacepak

New York–based retailer Flight001 created a packing compression system called Spacepak, with individual cubes made from high-quality denier nylon. You can fit up to a dozen items, including shirts and pants, inside one single compressed cube. The system consists of a series of packing “briefcases,” with a zippered section for clean clothing and a separate zippered section opposite for laundry, which is a great feature. Each compartment is labeled with bold, screen-printed indicators to keep the system straight. In addition, the Spacepak has side vents that allow you to compress the cube and force out most of the air. De Wet says she uses the Spacepak for all her travels. “It separates out dirty and clean clothes, which is a must when you’re on a two- to three-week trip,” she notes. The Spacepak comes in several colorful patterns and styles for the design-minded packer. Durable materials and premium zippers make this a great packing cube system.

Buy It: $98, amazon.com

The Eagle Creek starter set comes with three packs and includes a folder.

Eagle Creek Pack-It

California-based Eagle Creek makes a very popular packing cube system. It 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 garment folder and guide, a hard-backed cube, and a half-size 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.” Paul Ronto, a frequent adventure traveler and Fort Collins, Colorado, resident, swears by the Eagle Creek “Specter” series. “They make a ton of packing cube sizes,” he says. “They are affordable, and . . . they help me stay hyper-organized. I couldn’t confidently travel as easily without them.” The Specter series is made with super-lightweight silnylon ripstop material, which will keep any additional weight to a bare minimum. Added bonus: Eagle Creek products are PVC free, incorporate recycled materials, and are designed to have minimal negative environmental impact.

Buy It: $46, amazon.com

The Shacke Pak comes with a small storage bag.

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Shacke Pak

The Shacke Pak sets feature zippers made by the recognizable YKK brand, and the materials are nylon with a mesh cover. 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.

Buy It: $25, amazon.com

These lightweight luggage organizers comes in a variety of shapes and colors.

Pro Packing Cubes

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.

Buy It: $19, amazon.com

 

The IKEA Förfina set is a good option for more budget-conscious travelers.

IKEA Förfina

IKEA is well known for its home decor, but less so for travel products. However, among its line of travel gear is a packing cube product called Förfina, a set of six travel bags in different sizes for only $10 plus shipping. (Be aware that the shipping can cost as much as the bags, so you may want to consider buying this as part of a larger online purchase, or finding out if these are available in your local IKEA store.) The bags themselves are thinner and are transparent with a mesh cover. For those who want a no-frills packing cube solution, the Förfina will likely fit the bill.

Buy It: $10, Ikea.com

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