Which Packing Cubes Best Prepare You For Travel and Save Space?

Posted By Jeremy in Planning


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I recently got the opportunity to acquire a handy travel accessory that I would not have purchased under normal circumstances- compression packing cubes. These packing cubes were advertised to increase packing efficiency and available space in your luggage, and naturally I was a bit suspect.

The product always seemed like a bit of a wash to me, as it sounds somewhat unreasonable that a zippered packing cube best organizes my luggage and saves space. And prior to receiving them, they were not something that I would ever want to spend $20 per set for.

But after receiving them I have to say, I was impressed. Now I never leave home without them.

Packing Cubes Review – Do They Work?

Packing Cubes Review

One thing that is alluring to me about how to use packing cubes is the ability to compartmentalize clothing as you see fit. 

My least favorite thing when it comes to living out of a backpack for more than a few days at a time is having to rummage for a pair of socks or a clean t-shirt, because they always seem to make their way to the most inaccessible corner of my bag. 

Not only that, clothes somehow seem to expand in volume over time when packed in a bag – even more so after they've been worn a few times without washing. 

As weird as it is, I've never once been able to pack a bag nearly as tight as I did prior to leaving home, and compression packing cubes may be a solution to this bizarre problem. 

The set I acquired came with four different sized packing cubes to allow for any number of combination of clothing arrangements, making finding the right article of clothing much quick and easier, and was apparent immediately after seeing the cubes. 

But one question still lingered, do they save any space?

To put them to the test, I devised a challenge to myself.  Having documented my packing list for my three-week trip to Egypt and Jordan, I recreated my packing load as closely as possible in two scenarios:  without packing cubes and with packing cubes.  The usual methods of space saving were employed, with my favorite being rolling of shirts to maximize space.

Items Tested in the Packing Cubes

8 T-Shirts, 4 Button Up Shirts, 3 Shorts, 2 Long Pants, 1 Track Pants, 3 Boxer Shorts, 8 Socks, 1 Zip-Up Jacket, and 1 Swimsuit

Large Packing Cube #1

Packing Cubes to the Rescue
Packing Cubes to the Rescue

The first large packing cube was able to fit all 8 t-shirt plus the 3 boxer shorts in an even layer without being significantly over filled.  An extra layer of light clothing could likely have been spread over the top for the ultimate pack rat, but I opted to only fill the cube with complete sets of items where ever possible.

Large Packing Cube #2 

Packing Cubes to the Rescue

The second large packing cube was able to fit both long pair of pants and the 3 pair of shorts.  In this case layering was done in order to fit more items in vertically since heavy pants cannot be rolled as easily as shirts can. 

The zipper on the cube plays a great role in compressing the thick clothes down to fit into the confined space of the compression packing cube, as is apparent in the pictures above. 

The only difficulties with this method of over packing is repacking and removing items on a daily basis may be difficult to achieve the same level of conformity time and time again.

Small Packing Cubes

How to Use Packing Cubes Easily
Packing Cubes Rock

Only one small packing cube was used for the purposes of clothing, as I will likely use the smaller ones for electronics packing and other non-clothing item. 

In this case I was able to fit all 8 pair of socks in one tiny packing cube with only minor overflow and compression required.

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Are Packing Cubes Best for Your Luggage?

Got a Lot Out of Our Packing Cubes
Packing Cubes to the Rescue

After playing around with the packing cubes, there is definitely a benefit when it comes to organization and isolating clothing in neat little compartments.  Whether that translates into space savings while packed in a bag is a different story. 

As I was unable to fit all items of clothing in the packing cubes I have, the rest of the items were packed on one side of the bag and left the same for both situations shown in the pictures above. 

The left hand picture shows the three packing cubes stacked on top of each other next to the remaining clothes. The clothes were then removed from the packing cubes and packed tightly into the bag, shown in the picture on the right. 

From visual inspection of the two packing scenarios, it does appear that packing cubes do yield slightly more space while inside a bag compared to standard packing of clothing, although not by much.

The real benefit of packing cubes comes down to the compression ability of the zippered housing. The magical expansion effect of clothing over time while on the road is easily addressed by one little piece of plastic. 

This little product will be coming with me on many travels from now on.

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11 Comments

  1. Last year I bought a set of packing cubes and looking back, I don’t know how I traveled without them. Makes life so much easier. One thing I would recommend is buying a set of packing cubes that have 2 compartments so you can keep your clean and dirty clothes separate. On longer trip, I’ve found this is really useful so you aren’t wearing dirty clothes haha.

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  2. I do like large zip lock bags. Do you find that they might break easily though from daily use?

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  3. Large zip lock bags also do the trick for organization.

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  4. Do it! I was always cautious on these, but when I got my sample set I was blown away on how good they are.

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  5. I am definitely going to have to check these out. I’m always looking for ways to keep my bag down to carry-on size and clothes organized.

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  6. I think compression sacks are on my list of items to review if I can get my hands on them. I think that is the feature of packing cubes that I enjoy most is the compression aspect. One of my friends just told me that using the zippered containers that sheets and bedding come in act as makeshift packing cubes/compression sacks as well. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to share!

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  7. I like the organization it provides, but I’m think I get more mileage out of compression sacks for my clothes. Would be great for some of my little stuff, and electronics.

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  8. Thanks for the comments everyone! Glad to hear there are others who think they are useful too.

    @Gillian – I think you hit my feelings straight on. From my first go through they seem to save a minor amount of space, but I am really digging the organization aspect of it.

    @Megan – Yes, you will definitely benefit more than those who use duffel style backpacks. I can imagine being organized in a top loading pack is horrendously bad. I can’t say for sure though because I opted against them for my own use.

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  9. We used a version of packing cubes and I totally love the system. I’m pretty sure they save space but what I really loved was the organization. I could just pull out the ‘underwear’ bag or ‘bottoms’ bag and easily find what I was looking for!

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  10. Thanks for the review! I’ve already purchased a set of packing cubes for my upcoming trip around Europe. I think they will be extremely helpful as I have a top loading hiking backpack.

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  11. I have used packing cubes from day one and they totally increase the packing space the pack.

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