Why all the buzz about packing cubes? Are they worth the money? Do they save space?
We will answer all those questions here…
In my opinion, Packing Cubes are the single best way to stay organized while on the road. Period. There is no question about it!
However, I must admit, as someone who has spent the better part of his life traveling for both business and leisure, I only recently “saw the light” and jumped on the packing cube bandwagon … Better late than never, but I was definitely late on this one…
To keep you from being the “packing cube laggard” I was, we put together this guide to help you understand what they are, why they are so useful and how to pick the best packing cube for your travel style.
Sound good? O.K. Then let’s go….
What are packing cubes? Do Packing Cubes Work?
Let’s start with the most basic question first. What exactly are packing cubes?
On the surface, there’s really not much too them. Small fabric and mesh packing containers, typically in a square or rectangular shape, that zip shut to allow you to organize your clothing within a backpack, carry-on bag or larger suitcase.
At the highest level, that’s it… It’s a case where their beauty is in their simplicity. However, as we dig into this a little deeper you will see that there are several things that separate one cube type from another.
Are Packing Cubes Worth it?
Yes. Packing cubes are definitely worth the price.
They typically run between $20 and $30 for a set up three or four. How many you actually need will depend on how many people are traveling with you (are you a solo traveler or traveling with your family), how long you are traveling for and if you are a “minimalist” or someone who likes to pack for every scenario you may come across on your trip.
How much you spend will depend on if you want to buy a higher quality, longer lasting brand or one that cost less, but may not last very long due to the lower quality materials and construction. One is not right and the other wrong, it’s really more about your personal preferences.
Advantages of Packing Cubes
While many people travel extensively without ever using packing cubes, there are some very nice advantages to using them in terms of efficiency, organization and luggage optimization.
Here are my top 5 reasons for using packing cubes:
- Packing and Unpacking with cubes is much more organized and efficient:
- Packing becomes a breeze when you know how many cubes fit in your luggage and exactly what is in each cube.
- Since they are typically sold in sets, you will have different sized cubes for Day-packs, Backpacks, Carry-on, etc.
- You can categorize each cube by clothing type – one for jeans and T-Shirts, one for socks and underwear, one for shorts and bathing suits, etc.…
- You can even color code the cubes and have certain items go in the red cubes, others in blue, etc…
- It’s easier to find your stuff:
- The cubes act like a series of drawers within your luggage dresser. You know exactly what is in each one so when you need a particular item, just go to its cube and pull it out.
- All you have to do is pull out a cube, which keeps everything intact, rather than rummaging through your suitcase and leaving a mess of winkled, disorganized clothes behind
- You can separate your clean and dirty clothes:
- Instead of having a suitcase mixed with clean and dirty clothes, you can have a separate cube for dirty clothes. Some cube sets even come with a dirty laundry bag making this separation really easy!
- Less Wrinkles:
- While wrinkles cannot be totally eliminated, they are greatly reduced when you fill the cubes to capacity with tightly rolled or neatly folder items.
- Added privacy during those dreaded TSA screens:
- No one likes a random search going through security. What’s even worse is when they open your suitcase and your underwear is laying right there for the world to see.
- With packing cubes, your clothes are packed away and concealed, yet visible through the mesh screen so the TSA agents won’t have to rifle through your clothes to perform their check.
Do Packing Cubes save space?
As a general statement, if you are efficient with your packing technique, I would not say that packing cubes save a ton of space. Naturally there is additional material you are adding to your bag so they will not typically save space in and of themselves. However, they could help you pack less which would save space. Their real value is more in terms of efficiency and organization rather than space savings.
That said, if you are looking to save space, compression packing cubes are your best bet. They will compress your clothes in the cube and reduce the total amount of space they take up in your bag.
How to pick the best packing cubes
Remember… Not all packing cubes are created equal…
There are four key things you want to look for when choosing a packing cube set:
- Fabric Quality:
Low end cubes are typically made of thin vinyl, plastic or some other low-cost material. Higher end packing cubes are typically made out of polyester or nylon – generally you will want at least a 250 Denier fabric.
“Denier” is textile industry term used a measure of strength and durability – the higher the number, the higher the strength fabric. For an item like a packing cube anything above 250 is good, 300D is probably the highest quality you will find.
If you are looking for a light weight packing cube, look for one made with a Ripstop fabric. Cubes made of Ripstop nylon are very light weight cube and also resistant to tearing and ripping. Ripstop Nylon is one of the highest quality, light weight fabrics on the market.
The construction pertains to the tendency for a cube to rip – the most common areas that will rip are where the fabric meets the zipper and where the fabric meets the mesh. References to “double stitched” construction will ensure these failure points have been adequately reinforced.
- Zipper Quality:
Jammed zippers will render a packing cube useless, so make sure your packing cubes have high quality zippers. YKK zippers have been around forever and are considered the gold standard in zippers. If your cubes are made with YKK zippers, you can rest assured they are high quality zippers. If the zippers have pull cords on them, that will make then even easier to open and close.
- Overall Value:
As with anything, it is important to consider the value you are getting for your cubes. For example, Tumi makes great packing cubes, but the price is way too high and not worth the money. Eagle Creek is another high-end packing cube but is still on the higher priced side. The good news is you can buy cubes with all the quality and construction of Eagle Creek at a more favorable price point.
Packing Cubes vs. Packing Folders
Packing cubes and packing folders are actually a nice complement to each other. Packing cubes are perfect for rolled items like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, undergarments, etc… Packing Folders are great for items that you want to keep wrinkle-free and fold, rather than roll. Things like dress shirts, golf shirts, skirts and pants.
Packing Cubes vs. Compression Cubes
Packing Cubes and Compression Cubes are fairly similar, but compression cubes are typically made of very light material and have an extra zipper to really compress the clothes and maximize space.
Packing cubes are the most common and are great for anyone trying to better organize their luggage or carry-on. Compression cubes are for the “power packers” that are really trying to get the most out of the space they have. Members of the “one bag” movement and backpackers are big fans of compression cubes, as they allow you to get the most out of a single bag.
The primary thing to keep with compression cubes is that you are essentially “jamming” the clothes in the bag by compressing it, so you want to make sure not to include things that can wrinkle easy. They are great for items like jeans, sweatshirts, underwear, or even your dirty clothes, but not good for shirts, skirts, or any items that can wrinkle.
That’s it… You now know everything you need to buy the right packing cubes and be the King or Queen of Organization on your next trip.
If you are planning on buying some packing cubes, folding cubes or compression cubes, below are some favorites that can be bought on Amazon.
Good luck and Happy Travels!