Luggage space is often at a premium, especially when traveling to colder climates or with a mixture of business and leisure clothes. While some luggage comes with compression straps on the inside, outside or both, they don’t reduce space all that much and only seem to work as a last-ditch effort to get an overstuffed bag to close.
Fortunately there are inexpensive ways to deal with each of these problems, as well as some innovative options that sort out both at once.
Available in all manner of colors and sizes, packing cubes are made from a semi-soft, lightweight fabric. They have a zipped, often meshed lid, and are designed to keep various items together in your luggage. For example, you might keep shirts or blouses in one cube, underwear and socks in another, and miscellaneous items like books and chargers in another.
Being square or rectangular, they’re ideal in suitcases. They’re not always as useful inside a backpack, but depending on its shape, can still work relatively well.
The main aim with packing cubes is keep your luggage organised, letting you quickly lay your hands on an item without having to dump everything else on the floor to find it. Opting for different colors and/or sizes for each cube is a useful identification technique, or resort to masking tape and a marker pen.
Unless you have square luggage and use up all of the available space in each cube, you’ll often end up with less usable room. You can see how packing cubes won’t give you extra space in your bag and several other things. Most packing cubes are vented and therefore won’t protect your clothes from toiletry leaks in your bag or rain. They won’t keep your stinky clothes separated — phew! And, since most are not clear, you still have to open them to see what you have. The benefit of packing cubes are that generally clothes are easier to remove quickly, you will find it easier to pack and unpack compared to the throw it all in method, and they may last longer than the alternative: compression bags.
Our Favorite Packing Cubes:
Maybe you’ve seen those vacuum-sealed bags on infomercials, where you suck the air out of a bag full of sweaters, blankets, and jackets, BUT you may not have considered using them to pack your luggage! Compression bags generally resemble a heavy-duty plastic bag, with a zipper for loading and unloading, and a one-way valve for squeezing air out. The idea is to fold bulky items like sweatshirts and jackets into the compression bag, then seal the bag to end up with a flatter, smaller – and often waterproof — package.
We encourage you to view this video with our advice for the best way to use compression bags for your next adventure!
Like packing cubes, compression bags come in different sizes and colors but we prefer the clear ones so we can see what we have and how our clothes have compressed. Their effectiveness depends largely on what you’re trying to compress. Solid items like books won’t compress at all, while thick t-shirts, sweaters and the like will squash down to as little as a quarter of their original bulk.
They can also be used to keep things organized, and one of the only downsides compared to packing cubes are that they aren’t as convenient if you need something in a hurry.
Don’t forget: while compression bags can provide plenty of extra luggage space, they don’t reduce the weight. That’s important if you’re trying to avoid checking your bag and you can’t carry much, or flying an airline with weight limits.
Our favorite compression bags are shown below. If you are not sure how you plan to use your compression bags – by either rolling or folding or both, then the Ziploc brand gives you a variety of sizes to work with! Please watch our video that describes how we use compression bags and why these are the smartest travel gear you haven’t considered!
I am a travel maniac! Because I travel so much around the world, I look for solutions to make my travel easier. I get asked all the time about the travel gadgets I use or my recommended items. It makes me happy to share these things with you to make healthy and meaningful travel happen!