Packing is not the most enjoyable part of traveling. In fact, it can sometimes be a real hassle. Especially as a carry-on only traveler, I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with packing. One of the tools I use to help me do that is packing cubes. I wasn’t always a packing cube user, and I still don’t use them for every trip. Like most things, they have their pros and cons. If you are thinking about trying packing cubes, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages I’ve found with using them.
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What Are Packing Cubes?
Packing cubes are very lightweight zippered bags. You pack your clothes in them and then place the packing cubes within your main suitcase. They come in various sizes. You can often buy a set of different sizes that fit together well in a standard suitcase.
Are Compression Packing Cubes Different?
Yes! Normal packing cubes contain your clothes. Compression packing cubes contain and compress your clothes. Often, this takes the form of a second zipper. You open the main zipper, place your clothes in the packing cube, and close the main zipper. Then, you press down on the packing cube while zipping the compression zipper. This tightens your clothes together, taking out a lot of the air between the layers. Compression packing cubes help the same items take up about ⅔ of the space they would without compression.
Why are packing cubes helpful?
Fit More In Smaller Suitcase
With compression packing cubes, you can fit more items in a smaller space. This allows you to pack more without bringing a larger bag. Or, you can pack without compressing when you leave and with compressing when you return so that you have more space for souvenirs and items acquired on your travels.
This is a big one for efficient packing. Packing cubes help you organize your belongings. I like to pack shirts in one packing cube, pants and skirts in another, socks and underwear in another. Then all these items are organized and easy to find when I need them. Another method would be to pack outfits together. Pack a pair of pants, top, underwear, and socks you would wear together in one packing cube. Then you only have to open one cube to get dressed each day.
Neat & Tidy
I’m sure many travelers have experienced the phenomenon of the exploding suitcase. You pack neatly and efficiently when you leave but somehow by the end of your trip you can’t find anything and you have to sit on your messy suitcase to close it. This is a natural byproduct of taking things out and putting them back in. Especially if you are packing and repacking often, rather than unpacking once when you arrive, packing cubes can really help keep your suitcase tidy. You only need to open one cube at a time and they are smaller spaces to rearrange neatly when you remove something than your whole suitcase.
Along with organizing your belongings, packing cubes can also help keep dirty items from infecting clean items. Designate one packing cube to be “dirty laundry”. Once you’re done wearing something, repack it in that cube, rather than the one you took it out of. This way clean clothes will stay clean and you can also just empty the dirty packing cube into the washer when you get home!
If you acquire a whole bunch of stuff on your trip and you don’t have room in your suitcase anymore, your packing cubes can act as extra bags. Many come with handles, so you can easily carry them outside your suitcase, too. They can be instant extra space without packing anything additional.
Packing cubes aren’t for everyone. Here are some reasons why you might not want to use them.
Remember how I said fitting more items into a smaller suitcase was a pro of packing cubes? Well, it can also be a con. More items in the same space mean your suitcase will be heavier than it would be without compression packing cubes. This can be a pain for carrying it around, especially if you don’t have a rolling bag. However, I find it most inconvenient when I want to travel carry-on only and there is a weight limit for carry-on bags. My bag always fits within the size parameters but, especially if I’ve jammed more in with compression packing cubes, it’s often over the weight limit. Although, I do have a few tricks to avoid checked bag fees… 😉
Packing cubes are basically bags within a bag. It’s one more zipper to undo to get to your stuff. You might not remember which packing cube the item you want is in, so you end up opening them all and making a mess. It can be a bit of a hassle.
Potential Wasted Space
If your particular set of packing cubes does not fit like a winning game of Tetris within your chosen suitcase, there is the potential for a bunch of wasted space. This would negate any space saved with compression packing cubes. Of course, you can always strategically fill in that space with other items, such as shoes and toiletries, so it’s not always a problem.
So, depending on your travel style, suitcase, chosen packing cubes, neatness, and desired level of organization, packing cubes can be extremely useful or a bit of a bother. Personally, I use them most of the time I travel but not every time. It depends on the trip. I love myGonex Compression Packing Cubes. For camping, hiking, or water-based trips, compression dry bags are a cool option that will do everything packing cubes do, plus keep your stuff dry! You can even try the Scrubba, which is designed to be used to do laundry as well 🙂
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