Packing cubes are small bags with zippers that help you organize your clothes and other items in your luggage. Their primary purpose is to help you separate the items in your luggage to keep them within easy reach. Many travelers swear by packing cubes, while others argue that it’s just another item that adds needless weight without providing any significant purpose.
This article will talk about the pros and cons of packing cubes, so you can decide whether it’s for you or not. We will also give a rundown of our favorite packing cubes and how to pick a set that fits your needs.
Why Some Travelers Swear By Packing Cubes
1. Packing Cubes Allow You to Be More Organized
By using a set of 2-4 packing cubes, you can separate all of your clothing into several different compartments. For example, you can pack your underwear and socks into the smallest cube, your sports and casual clothing in another, and your fancier clothing in the last one. This will let you quickly find specific items from your luggage without having to reorganize the whole bag.
Plus, when you arrive at a hotel, you can just take out all of your packing cubes, and lay them out on the floor or in the closet, giving you easy access to all of your stuff. And when you need to pack everything back inside, it’s very easy to do so because everything is packed inside neat, stackable cubes.
2. Compression Cubes Actually Do Save 15-25% Of space
We did some testing on our own, and we found out that regular packing cubes with only one zipper don’t really save any space, at least nothing significant. But compression zippers, on the other hand, do save about 15-25% of the total space.
Compression cubes have an additional zipper next to the regular one, which is meant for compressing everything inside the cube. They work by first packing everything into them as you would in a regular packing cube, closing the main zipper, and only then closing the compression zipper, which pulls the fabric together in a tight, compressed shape.
So if you want to save some space, then compression cubes are definitely the way to go. The only downside to them is that they result in more wrinkles, due to all the compression happening. They also aren’t square-shaped in a compressed state, which means that they don’t really fit perfectly into square-shaped suitcases – they’re much better for backpacks, duffels, and totes.
3. Packing Cubes Are Affordable, and Even Cheap Ones Will Last a Very Long Time
Packing cubes aren’t really that expensive – a 3-5 piece set usually ranges between 20-50$. And this set typically lasts a very long time, usually over a decade. That’s because they serve a simple purpose, and usually, they aren’t put through a lot of stress. One thing that might break on them is the zippers, or a seam might come loose, but if you’re using regular packing cubes and you aren’t overpacking them, the chances of that happening are very slim. So in all honesty, we don’t think that going with cheap packing cubes is a bad idea – they’ll still last a very long time.
With compression cubes, the story is slightly different though. They’re put under much more stress because you’re constantly stretching the fabric, seams, and zippers, so they break much more quickly. If you’re buying a set of compression cubes, then it definitely is worth it to invest in a set that’s made by a reliable brand, like the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter compression cubes.
4. You Can Use Packing Cubes for Isolating Dirty Shoes and Laundry
If you don’t want your dirty items to be mixed up with the clean ones, packing cubes always come to the rescue. Once you’re about to travel back home from your trip, you can pack all your dirty items in one packing cube, saving your clean clothes from getting smelly.
Some packing cube sets, like the Shacke Pak 5-piece packing cube set, also come with a dedicated laundry bag, which is even better at isolating smelly clothes because it’s made from an odor and water-resistant fabric.
5. By Using Packing Cubes, Your Clothes Will Have Fewer Wrinkles
Luggage handling can get rough, and without packing cubes, your clothes are likely to move around in your suitcase, unless it’s stuffed full. Once you pack your stuff into packing cubes, it stays there, which results in much fewer wrinkles.
Plus, when you arrive at a hotel and you want to get something out of your suitcase, without packing cubes, you’re usually moving the rest of your clothing to access something underneath. This also results in wrinkles, and with packing cubes, you could just take out the cube, access something from the bottom, and put everything back inside like it was before. So by using packing cubes, you’ll get fewer wrinkles on your favorite travel clothing.
Why Some People Think Packing Cubes Are Overrated
1. Packing Cubes Add About 5-16 Oz (150-450 g) Of Weight on Average
If you’re trying to save up on luggage weight, packing cubes can be your enemy because better quality, sturdier cubes weigh a lot. Packing 3-4 of these cubes in one luggage means losing about 300-500 grams (10 – 18 oz) of your luggage allowance. It isn’t a big deal when you’re using them in checked luggage, where the weight restrictions are much looser. But it is when packed in hand luggage, especially when flying with budget airlines with strict weight restrictions. If weight is an important factor for you, consider getting a lightweight set of packing cubes, which usually weigh between 150-250 grams (5-9 oz).
2. If Your Packing Cubes Aren’t Ideally Sized for Your Suitcase, They’re Inefficient
The problem with packing cubes is that if they aren’t perfectly sized for your suitcase, they’ll leave some gaps on the sides or between the cubes. That’s why it’s important to measure the interior of your luggage first, and only then buy a set of packing cubes. Ideally, you want to layer your packing cubes in two layers – the first one consisting of a single, large packing cube, and the second one of two or three smaller ones.
3. Regular Packing Cubes (Without a Compression Zipper) Don’t Really Save Any Space
If your packing cubes don’t come with compression zippers, they won’t be able to compress your clothes. So essentially, you’ll just pack your clothing into multiple fabric bags and it won’t save any space.
The only benefit you’ll have from such cubes is keeping your items organized. So if you’re trying to save space in your bag, you should purchase compression cubes instead. They come with an additional zipper, which essentially pulls the fabric together, and compresses everything inside, saving about 15-25% of the total space.
4. Packing Cubes Make Sense Only if Your Suitcase Has a Single, Large Main Compartment
Most modern hardside suitcases are split into two equal parts – each one separated with a fabric divider. This doesn’t really leave much room for packing cubes, except for maybe two or three smaller ones, which you can use for packing all of your smaller clothing items. Having two large dividers is usually enough to separate most of your clothing.
But if you’ll be going with a fabric suitcase, then it most likely will have a single, large main compartment. Packing everything in there while still being organized is very difficult unless you’re using 3-4 packing cubes to separate everything. Es essentially, packing cubes make sense only for softside luggage, unless you’re using very small packing cubes with hardside luggage.
So Should You Use Packing Cubes?
This depends on what kind of luggage you’re using, how much you value staying organized, and whether you’re looking to save some weight or space in your luggage.
If you’re mostly flying with budget airlines that have strict weight limits and you have hardside luggage that already offers enough compartments for organizing most of your stuff, then you probably don’t need packing cubes, because they’ll just needlessly add weight.
If you want to save some space, then using compression cubes will be your best option. Our testing revealed that on average, compression cubes save about 15-25% of total space. It’s especially useful when packing in backpacks and duffel bags since they offer less space, and packing your clothing in there usually is somewhat messy and unorganized.
And finally, if you just want to stay organized during your whole trip, and have fewer wrinkles on your clothing, then getting a 3-5 piece typical luggage set is the way to go. You don’t even need to invest in an expensive set, since the affordable ones usually still last a very long time. Just make sure to measure your luggage first and make sure that the packing cubes will fit and don’t leave too many gaps on the sides.
3 Best Packing Cube Sets
Down below, we gathered a list of the 3 best TSA-approved packing cube sets to get you started on becoming a more organized traveler.
Best Affordable Packing Cubes: Shacke Pak 5-Piece Set
|- 4 pieces & laundry bag|
|- 19 oz (500 g)|
|- Editors rating: 4.3|
The Shacke packing cubes are the best all-rounders in the packing cube game. These packing cubes are sturdy yet affordable and can last years if you take good care of them. The set has four cubes and can fit up to 14 days’ worth of clothing, so they’re perfect if you are packing for a long vacation or a family trip.
The bags are made from water-resistant nylon, and the top part of the packing cubes is made of mesh material, so you can easily see the content of each cube without having to open it.
You can use the smaller cube to pack your underwear and socks, and the second smallest one for packing your t-shirts. The two larger ones are best used for packing all of your bulkier items, like your hoodies, jackets, and so on. This set also comes with a separate bag for your dirty clothes to keep them separate from your clean items when returning.
Best Compression Cubes: Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter 2-Piece Set
|- 1 large & 1 small piece|
|- 3.9 oz (110 g)|
|- 30D Ripstop Silnylon|
|- Editors rating: 4.6|
The Eagle Creek compression cubes are ideal for travelers who want to fit as many clothing items as possible in their luggage. This is because they come with compression zippers, which let you pack everything inside the cubes, and then compress it all together in a neatly packed cube. They’re best used for packing in backpacks, duffel bags, and other soft bags because when they’re compressed, they aren’t perfectly rectangularly shaped, so there are some gaps in the corners.
The water-resistant fabric will keep your items safe in case your liquids leak in your luggage. It also comes with a lifetime, no questions asked warranty, which is great for compression cubes specifically because the compression zippers put a lot of stress on the seams and the fabric.
The set is a bit pricier than other bags though, especially considering that you only get two bags (many brands sell 3-5 bags). But in return, you get premium quality compression cubes, that will last for decades. It’s also worth noting that this set is considerably much more lightweight than other, typical, packing cubes.
Best for Minimizing Wrinkles: Eagle Creek Pack-It Garment Folder
|- 17.7 x 11.8 x 0.2 in (45 x 30 x 0.5 cm)|
|- 15 oz (425 g)|
|- Editors rating: 4.4|
The Eagle creek garment folder is a solid choice for minimalist packers. It’s small enough to fit in a carry-on or even a backpack. This folder can fit and compress up to 12 clothes and secure them with durable velcro straps. This keeps your clothes secure and prevents them from getting wrinkled. If you’re traveling with suits or dresses, then this garment folder really is meant for you.
The only downside is that you can’t use it to pack accessories or toiletries, so you would need a separate packing cube or makeup bag for your smaller items. The Eagle Creek folder comes with a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty, so you can get it replaced or repaired if it gets damaged at any point.