Travel Tips

Packing Cubes: Do They Actually Help, or Just a Gimmick?

Updated on:  
July 25, 2021
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Miriam Jaffe
Miriam Jaffe
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Let's face it... There's always somethings that goes wrong when travelling. For some, it may be due to bad travel planning (psst ... if this is you, we have just the app to solve all your headache!). For others, it may be due to unavoidable circumstances that just brings down the day, such as sudden weather changes or losing valuable items.

But for most, the biggest things that could go wrong stems from poor organization when it comes to packing for the trip. For me personally, even when meticulously plan and pack everything beforehand, there's almost always something I leave behind.

Imagine this. You've carefully planned out your perfect itinerary, which includes the cheapest flights and the most exciting destinations and attractions. While you get yourself hyped up for the trip, you have a stark realization that the biggest nightmare is yet to come. Packing for the trip. YIKES.

Even if you make out a perfect list and are super organized about it, it can still feel anxious and stressful to pack everything into your suitcases. The dread of wondering if everything is going to fit or if your bag is going to be too big is real. While clothes are always going to take up a certain amount of room in your suitcases, there is a handy way to minimize that space by using packing cubes. After all, you'd want clothes to be the least of your worries when traveling, am I right?

Editors Note: For all you aspiring digital nomads out there trying to do some research on how to more efficiently pack, why not read more about what we've found in becoming a digital nomad? Read up on Hostels, the go-to accommodation for digital nomads, as well as guides to follow for maintaining good hostel etiquette. Spoiler Alert: Being well organized is an important skill to being a great bunkmate!

Organizing and packing shirts and pants for travel
Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

What is a packing cube set?

And this is where the packing cube enters the conversation as the superhero and saves everyone's day. Or so they say... But first, what is it?

Packing cubes aren’t actually always cubes! They can come in multiple shapes and sizes, but their end goal is always the same, to reduce the amount of space your clothes take up in your suitcase. Depending on the size suitcase you’re using (the main difference being if you’re checking the bag or bringing it carry on), you can opt for larger or smaller packing cubes. 

While you can purchase packing cubes individually, many come in sets (some even come when you purchase a new suitcase), which will give you a variety of size options.

With packing cubes, you can organize your suitcase and know exactly how much space a cube is going to take up before you’ve even packed it. Typically packing cubes use zippers to close, which means that anything you put in them will be easily contained, and there’s no risk of them opening during travel. You can fit loads of clothes, or anything really into a packing cube, zip it up, and have it slot easily into your suitcase. This is especially handy when flying airlines that have strict luggage size restrictions. Even better than that? They can double as laundry bags or something to put your valuables in during a day trip. 

Do packing cubes really help?

Absolutely! Packing cubes are a great help in multiple ways during the packing and traveling process. Firstly, they help contain your clothes into a more compact space. Since all your clothes are zipped up into the cube, you can easily move them around while packing and have them fit neatly into your suitcase. 

They’re also a great organizational tool. When you use a packing cube, you don’t need to remember where you packed your favorite yellow shirt, or your fancy socks, since you’ll know exactly what cube you used, and be able to locate everything quickly. It’s much less of a hassle to find one item this way, rather than having to disrupt your entire packing structure because you want something that’s on the bottom of your suitcase. 

Packing cubes can also be super useful for packing cords and other things that can easily get tangled. By putting them in a cube, you can ensure that they stay in one place, and minimize the detangling you need to do when you arrive at your destination. 

Organized suitcases with folded clothes shoes and sunglasses
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Packing cubes vs compression bags

While packing cubes are a great way to save space and organize your packing, they’re not always the most space-saving packing option. If you’re looking to take up as minimal space as possible in your suitcase, compression bags might be a good option for you. 

Compression bags are specifically designed to be squished down to remove all the air in them prior to packing so that they take up very little space. Due to this, compression bags are typically plastic, almost bigger versions of Ziploc bags, with either a vacuum hole or a sealed close. Compression bags are a great way to reduce the amount of space big things take up, like coats or bulky clothing items. They are especially useful if you’re moving somewhere for a long time, or if you have a lot of items you need to fit in a few suitcases.

One big difference between the two is the amount of effort it takes to pack them. With packing cubes, you only need to fold or roll your clothes and zip them shut. Compression bags, on the other hand, require slightly more attention. You have to be strategic when you pack the compression bags as once you remove the air, you don’t want to be left with an unwieldy bag that has an awkward shape. Since you have to remove the air from the compression bags, this is an additional step that you don’t have to take with packing cubes. You’ll either have to vacuum out the excess air, roll it tightly to remove the air, or in extreme circumstances (when neither of the other two options works well), sit on the bag until you’ve removed all the extra air. 

This isn’t necessarily a massively time-consuming process (although it can be), but is something to keep in mind if you opt for compression bags instead of packing cubes. It’s also important to think about where you’re going since you don’t want to use compression bags that require vacuums only to discover you don’t have access to one when you’re packing to leave. 

What are the best packing cubes? 

If you’re wanting to try out packing cubes, you might be wondering which ones are the best to use. There are so many brands out there, and while many packing cube sets are similar, here are a few brands you can check out as you start your research! 

  • Eagle Creek: These packing cubes come with a handle so you can easily carry them or use them for more than just packing in your suitcase. This set comes with a small and medium cube.
  • Ebags: These lightweight packing cubes are a great way to optimize space without adding any extra weight to your suitcase. This highly-rated set comes with five packing cubes, designed to stand up when empty so you can easily pack. They also are designed to neatly fit together, no matter the set you buy so your packing will be organized and efficient.
  •  Bagail: This six-piece set offers packing cubes in three separate sizes to give you multiple options for your packing. Complete with handles, you can grab and go with these packing cubes anywhere. If you don’t fill one up completely, they’re designed to squish down to remove excess air so the cube takes up even less space!
  • Away: If you’re a fan of the Away brand for suitcases, you’ll be pleased to know they also make packing cubes! Even if you don’t own an Away suitcase, these water-resistant packing cubes would be a great addition to any traveler's suitcase.
  • Rick Steve: The world’s most reliable travel guide (some say) also has his own packing cubes. This set of three, easily collapsible packing cubes, are perfect for packing everything you need for your next adventure. With all sides made of mesh, you’ll easily know what’s in each cube as well!
  • CalPak: This five-piece set comes in a variety of colors so you can travel in style. The cubes include a water resistant envelope pouch, as well as an organizing label so you can keep it on top of what’s in each cube. 
Away packing cubes full of various piece of clothing
Image Courtesy: Away Travel

So, Is It Worth the Purchase?

So now you've gotten all these new information about packing cubes, we've circled back the most important question: Is it a gimmick, or is it actually worth the purchase?

While it can be debated if packing cubes ultimately save a lot of space, the organization you get out of them can be worthwhile for many travelers. That means that for some travelers, it may be worth it to be organized, especially if you're a digital nomad where traveling is your lifestyle.

Packing cubes are a fantastic way to keep your suitcase organized, and to neatly fit in everything before you zip up your suitcase and head out on your travel adventure. Once you’ve decided about your packing cubes, make sure you also head over to Pilot for itinerary planning, budgeting tips, recommendations on places to stay, and more! 

Additional fun fact before we go. We've actually covered packing cubes on our cool travel newsletter: FlightDeck! If you'd like to keep up with the latest traveling tips and tricks, as well as learn more about some crazy travel stories or breaking travel news, sign up now!

Originally published on:  
June 7, 2021

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