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I used to be an awful packer so much so I dreaded packing but as I began to travel more frequently I knew I had to get better at it and banish the fear. Everything I read offered different tips but there was always one thing in common – packing cubes. These simple material bags being hailed as heroes to revolutionise my packing life. I started looking online, there were 100s of options from as little as just £4.00 to some as much as £173! But are packing cubes really worth it?
Can packing cubes really reform your packing misery?
Are packing cubes really worth it?
What are packing cubes?
Packing cubes or bags as they are also known, are small mesh bags, usually rectangular in shape, which are used to separate your clothes. They have zip to close and are small enough that you can fit several into carry-on baggage, suitcase, or backpack.
They have been created to help organise your packing as well as help to save space.
The pros and cons of packing cubes
The pros of packing cubes:
- Organise clothing. Packing cubes help you pack like items together. Have one cube for your dresses, one for tops, another for underwear, etc. You can either back it down further to organising by colour, or like me when I am volunteering, I organise by work clothes and evening clothes.
- Keep clothes neat and minimize wrinkles. It’s unavoidable to have a few wrinkles, even when rolling clothing. By filling packing cubes to capacity with tightly rolled or neatly folded clothing, the items are kept in place and wrinkles are reduced during movement.
- Maximize space. Packing cubes can keep your clothes a bit more compressed, meaning you can fit more into your backpack or case. Also due to the building-block shape of the cubes – they’re easy to stack and fit neatly into every available inch of your case. The Eagle Creek Compression Cubes are the best I have found so far in terms of space-saving.
- Keeping clothes clean. I have one packing cube I just use to put my shoes in, this prevents any dirt on the soles coming into contact with my clothes. I have also seen people use shower caps for the same purpose.When I am away, I also start to switch my cubes up, I start to dedicate one for dirty laundry, one for clothes I can wear again and one for clothes which have not been worn yet. This then helps when I get home, as all my dirty clothes are in one place to go straight into the laundry bag.
- Double up as pillows. This one may not be as great for the wrinkled clothes, but say you are in a hotel with minimal pillows or on an overnight sleeper train – pull out a packed packing cube and you got yourself a makeshift pillow.
- Use them at home. When I am not away I store my packing bags inside my case, to ensure I do not lose them, but I do keep one for storing my dedicated travel gadgets, such as travel adaptors, to ensure these do not get lost either.
- Packing cubes are designed to save you time and stress. No one likes raiding through a messy case to find one particular top, with packing cubes you will easily know where to look.
The cons of packing cubes
- The cost. You have to buy the packing cubes to start using them, therefore you will have the initial outlay. If you are travelling frequently, the cost per use will quickly become worth it, however, if you are not a frequent traveller then you may not want to invest.
- Additional weight. The majority of packing cubes weigh hardly anything and I doubt you will notice the extra weight. However, with growing popularity, I have now seen you can get eco-leather packing cubes, these will be a lot more durable but be aware they will be additional weight in your case or backpack.
- Choice. There are so many packing cubes available now meaning it is easy to get confused on which to choose. Below you I have listed the best packing cubes taking the price of them into consideration.
The best packing cubes (for the price!)
Value packing cubes (pack of six): These were the first packing cubes I invested in and I do still use a few of them to this day. The pack includes 3 packing cubes and 3 pouches which come in a variety of colours. They are all durable with strong zips and have served me well over the past 4 years.
However, be aware only 3 of this pack are actual packing cubes. The other 3 pouches will not hold clothes (only underwear) and are more useful for holding gadgets or beauty items. If you are wanting cubes for a big trip, these packings cubes probably not worth it.
Get these packing cubes for organising your cabin bag or if you want a low-cost set to see if packing cubes are worth it for you.
Ikea packing cubes (pack of 6): Ikea packing bags are great – if you can find them. The Ikea packing cubes are sold in a pack of six from the ‘Forfina’ range and at priced at £6. At £1 per bag, they are the cheapest and best quality for the price I have found so far. I have used these ones for the past 2 years and they still seem to be holding strong.
The main reason I prefer the packing cubes from Ikea is that they are all different sizes and they also have mesh tops, meaning you can quickly see which is in each one, it also makes it breathable to prevent odour inside the cubes.
Annoyingly you cannot always purchase them online and often have to find them in-store in the ‘home organisation‘ section.
G4Free Packing Cubes for Travel (Pack of 6): If I need any additional packing cubes in the future, these are the ones I will be trying next as they have fantastic Amazon reviews. It is a complete set of 6 pack cubes opposed to some being pouches and again, they come in a variety of colours.
The zips look strong, come in a good range of sizes and they also have meshing to make them breathable and to allow you to quickly see what is in each cube.
How to best use packing cubes
There is no right or wrong way to use packing cubes – do what works for you!
I choose to organise my packing cubes by clothing type, for example, all my t-shirts are in one and all my underwear will be in another, etc. Gradually throughout the trip, I will have one which just contains dirty clothes.
You can choose to roll clothes inside the packing cubes or lay them flat. I personally find laying flat prevents creasing the most, especially when using compression packing cubes.
When placing the packed cubes into your case play around with the layout to maximise space. Imagine it as a real-life 3D Tetris. If you are using a top-loading backpack, be sure to put your most frequently used items in last as opposed to at the bottom of your backpack.
So, are packing cubes worth it?
If you are a frequent traveller, personally, I think they are.
If you enjoy or have a need for things to be organised, then 100% yes they are.
However, if you do not travel frequently or are unphased by things being unorganised then you may not see the benefit of packing cubes. It really depends on the type of person you are.
If you are unsure, invest in the value packing cubes from Amazon and see how they work for you. If they do not work you at least you will not have laid-out too much money and if they do, they will last you a good while.
My further travel tips and tricks for smart packing:
Smart packing for hold luggage:
First of all, you need to decide whether you are going to use a suitcase or a backpack. My general rule is if I am staying in one place, it is a suitcase, over the past year I have been using my colourful American Tourister Bon Air. However, if I am moving between locations it will be a backpack, purely because it is so much easier just to chuck it on my back.
Up until a few years ago, I was using a top-loading backpack, which I now do not recommend, it is hard to see what you need quickly. Always go for a front-loading backpack. I also recommend making your bag stand out by purchasing a distinctive luggage tag.
If you are looking for a practical cabin case, I personally recommend the Travel Hack Pro Cabin Case by Cabin Max. A practical and spacious cabin bag with in-built handbag compartment.
Pack what you think you need then reduce it by half. As I previously mentioned, I used to be awful with overpacking. I would lug half my wardrobe abroad and only end up wearing a quarter of the clothes I had actually packed. It is so easy to get carried away, however now I place out everything I think I want to take away with them, then the next day I will go back and start to pull things out which I have just placed in their impulsively.
If you want to take it to the next level, then keep colour coordination in mind. If you are only packing the items of clothing you will need, you need to ensure they are interchangeable between outfits, therefore the colours need to coordinate. Pack neutral colour clothes and brighten up outfits with accessories.If you are going backpacking, I can guarantee after a few weeks you will have swapped the bright coloured dresses or shirt for more comfier travelling clothes.
If you have come to the conclusion that packing cubes are not for you, then pack your clothes vertically to the rim of your suitcase. This is another great way of saving space, it also means it will be a lot easier to find the item you want at a quick glance.
I found this ‘KonMari’ way of packing on YouTube and you can see it in the video below.
Make use of the inside of shoes, shoes can easily be stuffed with items to further conserve on space. If they are particularly sturdy shoes, such as boots, then use this space for more fragile items such as sunglasses to keep them from getting squashed or broken. Again, as I mentioned before, ensure shoe soles are covered, either in a packing cube or with a shower cap.
Now you have your clothes organised and compact, the next thing is your toiletries. Again I am going to rave about Ikea and recommend their Forfina 10 piece travel set. This set includes 10 travel size bottles for £3, the set also includes a funnel for decanting the liquids as well as a carry case which they all slot into, further helping with compact packing and to prevent any spillage disasters. The bottle sizes are all under 100mls, meaning they are also suitable to be used in carry-on luggage.
It goes without saying this is a lot more practical than taking full-size bottles, although for longer trips I will tend to just buy toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel when I reach a destination to save on case space. Another alternative for this would be to invest in a Lush Shampoo Bar, these shampoo bars are perfect for travel, as they are compact, last a long time and also plastic-free.
Roll up one or two spare tote bags they are handy to have on you just in case, for storing dirty laundry or protecting souvenirs. They weigh nothing and can be stuffed into small spaces as it will not matter if they get creased.
I always travel with multiple charging wires and SD Cards. I keep these stored together inside a sturdy case, an old sunglasses case works great for this as it just the right size to not allow movement, meaning the wires will not get tangled like they do in a bag. Any bigger electrical items such as my cameras will stay with me in my cabin bag, this may be an obvious thing but I never used to do this until I lost my bag travelling to Atlanta at the start of the year. I was reunited with my case after a few days but I spent the whole time worrying that my GoPro had been stolen.
I always read while I am away but I will only take a Kindle with me, it is not unusual for me to go through 3-4 books on a two-week break, carrying physical books would be a waste of valuable space and not smart packing at all. Carrying a Kindle means I can also purchase a new book quickly if I get through all of my allocated ones. If you are interested, you can find all my other technology packing essentials.
If you are planning on taking a towel with you, I would urge you to opt for a microfibre towel over a standard beach towel, especially if you are travelling with a backpack. It is compact and dries quickly, I also find the quality holds for longer than a beach towel. If you do want to take your favourite beach towel, it will need to be the last thing which goes in your case. Lay it over the top of all your items and it will also work as a protective layer.
If you are big on souvenirs, ensure you think about this when you are packing! I know many people who fill their case to the brim, but when it comes to packing to go home they have no room for any of the souvenirs they have bought. If you are only taking a small handbag for your cabin bag, you can combat this but using one of the spare tote bags for additional space on the way home.
Personally, I do not tend to buy as many souvenirs these days, the only things I will collect from each country is a patch and a pin badge which take up no room at all. Then when I get home I will print off my photos as my souvenirs, for photo printing I use Truprint. I use Truprint is the process of uploading is really simple and they are currently the most cost-effective I have found.
Lastly, I always like to ensure my case smells fresh, even if it is a weekend break or a bigger trip, I like my clothes and my case to smell nice. A really simple trick to ensure this is to use dryer sheets or a lavender bag. The dryer sheets are my preferred choice as they can be used to line the bottom of your packing bags and the clothes placed on top.
Many people get really overwhelmed back the thought of packing, especially for larger trips. I used to as well but my ultimate tip for smart packing is to not leave it to the last minute, starting packing at least three days in advance. This way you can go away, think and then take out things which were just put in through impulse and panic.
Hopefully, you have now also decided if packing cubes are worth it for you and you can invest in some for your next trip.