How To Use Packing Cubes
Over the last decade or so a new phenomena in travel accessories has arisen. That is the phenomena of travel packing cubes. It was something I was at first a little sceptical about but now I know how to use packing cubes I’m won over. To such an extent I actually use them on every trip abroad and I even bought more of them! I use them not only in my check-in luggage but my carry on too. So are they really worth all the hype and what makes them so special?
What are packing cubes for travel?
So first of all we need to address the question as to “What are packing cubes?” They are typically very lightweight material packing bags. They usually have a zip seal and one side is of a mesh netting so you can see the contents inside.
The most common term used for them is packing cubes although you might hear them being referred to as packing cells, travel cubes, organizing cubes, mesh packing cubes or just simply as packing bags for luggage.
There are a wide range of packing cubes for travel in sizes, shapes and brands to buy. They come in an array of colours and some are even waterproof too. Some are so large they may be wider than your chosen suitcase whilst some are so small you may wonder what possible use could there be for such a small travel bag.
How to use packing cubes
As I’ve learnt, the key thing to know on using packing cubes is that you can organise your packing by compartmentalising everything. You can keep large size items together, keep similar type items such as underwear in one cube and skirts in another.
The key thing is to split your packing items into manageable chunks. There is a cube for almost every item you could pack; to such an extent that when you unpack you could lift out 3-4 cubes then your suitcase is empty.
When I pack my suitcase I first sort out my clothing on the bed/floor into different items.
I have my large items which I really want to keep neat and tidy, such as work shirts and trousers. These go into my largest packing cube and are placed nice and flat in the bottom of my suitcase. I have noticed after numerous uses that this method reduces the number of creases I get in my shirts from packing. This is a real bonus since when I arrive at my destination I don’t want to be re-ironing my shirts.
To take this to the nth degree you could invest in some packing folders which are designed to stop your clothes from creasing.
I then sort out my leisure wear, such as t-shirts, shorts and any sporting clothing (such as if I’m going to be running or exercising on my trip). These go into my next size down packing cell.
I then come to my underwear cube where I’ll place all my boxer shorts, handkerchiefs, socks and so on.
Then if I have any medication to bring with me I’ll put those into a small compartment cube.
Toiletries are already covered by my wash bag/toiletries bag. In fact if you think about it the wash bag was the first ever packing cube and has been around for decades.
Then I am ready to go. I have up to four separate packing cubes in my suitcase. Since they are all of a nice square or rectangle shape I can utilise the space effectively in my suitcase. Plus if I create 2 layers, they are flatly laid on top of each other so it is easy to zip my suitcase closed.
Once I arrive at my destination unpacking is really easy. I know what is in each cube, so if I’m looking for something I know where to find it and fast.
Plus, if I’m in transit, say making an overnight stay at an airport hotel on my journey I am covered too. I just place the clothes I need for the one night turn around in their own separate cube at the top layer inside my suitcase. Then there is no rummaging around when I’m at the airport hotel. I don’t have to unpack and repack everything, just one cube for the night.
Another bonus as well is that as I’m travelling over time I can use a large cube to place my dirty laundry in. It is easy then to carry them down to the hotel laundry room or organise my packing for the journey home.
Using packing cubes for carry on luggage
As I mentioned above, packing cubes for travel come in all shapes and sizes. It is because of this that you can use them for carry on luggage too.
In my early years of airline travel I experienced the downsides of check in luggage, that is valuable items such as cameras and computers etc can easily be stolen from your luggage when it is out of your sight. As a result I keep all my valuable electronics in my carry on bag, which also has combination code lock.
The only issue with this is that it can be a pain going through airline security, all those cables for computer power cables, chargers and computer mice. Without any way to organise them they become tangled and are a real mess inside your bag.
To counter this at first I used to place them all in a carrier bag inside my carry on bag. This made it easier to take the cables out in one go on request at airport security. The problem was that the carrier bag didn’t keep it’s shape very well and was easily torn.
Then I came across the idea of how to use packing cubes for electronic items. I began to use them as cable tidy bags. Yes, I put all my chargers, mice etc into one quick zip up bag. The mesh netting as well made it easy to see inside too. As a result I find it easier to keep the inside of my bag tidy, without things all over the place. Plus I can pull all the cables (via the packing cube) in and out of the bag to go through security.
Can you use packing cubes with backpacks?
Technically you could but it is probably not a good idea. Packing cubes tend to be square or rectangle shapes which are more suited to suitcases. Backpacks would not have their interior space maximised by the use of packing cubes. It would be better to use travel compression bags. These are cylinder shaped bags which allow you to fit them more easily into the space inside your backpack. You can use them in the same way as cubes, rolling up bulky items such as jumpers/sweaters to go into larger compression sacks. Then smalls and such like can go into the smaller sized sacks.
Should I use packing cubes for my footwear?
Again, this is possible but probably not a good idea. To keep the multi-use options of packing cubes I wouldn’t want the inside of them to get dirty. If I have dirty trainers or shoes to pack I would rather place them in a carrier bag before packing. Alternatively use a free shower cap you might find in a hotel bathroom.
Where to buy packing cubes?
If you are looking where to buy packing cubes then you are now really spoilt for choice. Many big name travel, camping and department stores will sell them as well as plenty of options online. To date I’ve bought packing cells in 2 different places. The first 3 I bought was in the travel store called Kathmandu in Australia. Then more recently whilst in the US I picked some extra ones at a Marshall’s store. Ikea is also known to stock these popular packing cells.
There are some popular name cubes such as E-Bags or Eagle Creek. But really which ones are the best packing cubes? To be honest I don’t know. I don’t have any of the big name brands but mine have been working fine for up to 2 years now. If you consider that I am using mine every month for maybe 10-11 months a year then I’ve probably used them more than most readers of this article will use them in a lifetime.
Do packing cubes really save space?
This is a real puzzler for me. Scientifically the answer should always be no. Simple really, packing cubes whilst extremely thin and light are adding to the amount of material that you are packing, so they are taking up space. On that basis alone you shouldn’t really be able to pack any more items than without packing cubes.
Yet on my personal experience, the extra organisation and easy, flat packing spaces means that I am a more efficient packer. So whilst the space is basically the same, I’ve found that by packing smarter I am able to pack more items in. It is also easier for me to zip up my cases.
The only problem is, I pack more so my case weighs more! Look out for those overweight luggage charges.
So with all that said what are the overall –
Pros and cons of using packing cubes
– packing is more organised
– everything is kept in its place
– it is easier to find things in your suitcase
– they help reduce any chance of creases in shirts and blouses
– if you stack the cubes correctly then you are more evenly packed, making it easier to close your case
– I actually find it easier to pack and unpack
– packing cubes can be used to keep things such as toiletries, curlers/hair straighteners and so on together in your case
– a full packing cube can used as a makeshift pillow in an emergency
– clothes can still be rolled up to be placed in packing cubes to use the space more tightly
– if you are travelling as a couple you can reduce the risk of luggage being lost by packing half of your items in each other’s cases. With packing cubes it is easier to do this and keep things separate
– handy for packing away gifts which you want to find easily
– they are great packing cable tidies
– the range of sizes give you more variety and options
– you can have your own mini game of Tetris as you stack your cubes in your case
– they can become handy laundry bags
– lots of bags to zip and unzip which could slow you down
– packing cubes might lead you to over pack and incur excess luggage weight charges
– bags are in set shapes which may not be the right size to use space in your case properly
– due to their shape packing cubes are not ideal for backpacks or duffel bags
Are packing cubes worth it?
In my experience, packing with cubes has been a real game changer when it comes to travel packing. I’m a lot more organised and things are easier to manage. I’m able to access things easy without disturbing all my packed items on in transit stays.
By stacking the cubes smartly in my case I’m able use the space available more efficiently and leave less gaps between funny shaped items.