I started using packing cubes around 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. I now can’t imagine setting off on a trip without them.
So What are Packing Cubes
Contrary to popular belief, packing cubes aren’t actually cube shaped. Rather they most commonly are rectangular. These “cubes” are made out of a lightweight fabric and zip shut. You’ll find them in a variety of sizes from tiny up to around a4 size.
But what do I actually use them for??
Well first, think about how a suitcase is regularly packed. You might fold (or roll if you’re clever 😉 ) your clothes and just push everything into your bag. But when you pack using Packing Cubes, instead of shoving everything into the one bag, you first pack clothes into the different cubes and then pack the cubes into your bag.
This might sound like just a lot more work, but in reality it’s just as quick (if not faster) to pack using this method. But it’s really when you’re on the road that the true benefits in using packing cubes come to light.
Know exactly where everything is packed:
You no longer need to go rummaging through your suitcase looking for that one sweater you packed. You just need to pull out the cube which contains what you’re looking for. This makes unpacking and repacking super fast and you don’t need to worry about things not fitting back in.
Don’t mess up your bag:
When pulling an item out, the worst thing that will happen is an individual cube will get messed up. But i’ve found that because there are only a few items in each cube, everything just seems to stay neat and tidy throughout a trip.
I like to roll my tshirts and then put them into a cube. With shirts and trousers, I lay them flat and put them in larger cubes. Amazingly this really cuts down on the wrinkles. I haven’t needed to iron a shirt while travelling for years! packing cubes stop your clothes moving around in your bag and therefore reduce wrinklage.
They compress clothes slightly
Each cube, will slightly compress your clothes. You may think that packing everything into cubes will create less space in your bag. And this is the most common reason I hear from people who are against cubes. But this is complete BS. I’m amazed at how much fits in a little cube, just because they keep all your clothes tightly squeezed together. I’ve often joked to my friends I could travel the world with just two cubes and no suitcase! Packing cubes create more space in your bag.
Although different brands differ in the exact sizes, here is a rough guide. A full cube is around the size of an A4 piece of paper. A half cube is half that size (and is my favorite size). You can then mini cubes which are again about half the size. Cubes come in different heights but I try to avoid the really tall ones as I don’t think they work as well in a suitcase.
How to travel with Packing Cubes
I travel with one large A4 sized cube and either one or two smaller “half cubes”. My longer round the world trips involve all three but on short trips I use just the two.
In the full cube I’ll pack all my shirts and trousers. I can fit around 5 shirts and three pairs of trousers in a full cube with lots of space left over. I fold the trousers and shirts so they are as flat as possible and fill the length and width of the cube. If there is room left in the top I throw in light sweaters or underwear.
In the half cubes I roll up my tshirts and pack them in nice and tight. I fit 6 tshirts in a half cube and if I don’t need to take that many I just fill the space with underwear and socks.
I find bulky jumpers and coats don’t fit that well in cubes. So I just lay them in the top of my bag (which is handy for quickly grabbing when the weather turns) or if I’m on a longer trip I’ll use a compression bag.
You can also use a packing cube to fit all the other odds and ends in like toiletries, chargers etc.
I’ve found that one large cube and two small cubes easily fit in pretty much every carry on sized bag.
Where to buy / What to buy
I use eagle creek packing cubes. I haven’t had the opportunity to test out any other brands because I’m still using the same bags I bought 5+ years ago. They have been on dozens and dozens of trips and they are still working perfectly. I should also note that I’m pretty brutal with these, squishing a lot into each cube. I’m genuinely amazed at them and in my opinion are the toughest travel product I have ever bought. You can find packing cubes on Amazon.