Living out of a suitcase either for vacation or business needs is a surefire way to end up feeling stressed and disorganized. Do packing cubes save space as well as your time and sanity?
In this article, we’ll find out. We’ll perform a simple test, where I pack the same amount of clothes without any travel organizers, with packing cubes, and with compression cubes, and then compare the results.
Packing Cubes vs Compression Cubes
Before we talk about any space savings, you should understand the differences between packing cubes and compression cubes. Let’s start with packing cubes. Most of these come in loads of different color choices and are made of lightweight fabric. They’ll generally have a meshed type of lid and are usually square or rectangular in shape. Think of them as mini-drawers for your suitcases. You can keep everything separate and easily organized this way.
Compression cubes or sacks differ in a few ways. They also come in plenty of sizes and colors but that’s where the similarities to packing cubes end. The material used is usually much more durable than those in packing cubes. There will be a one-way valve for squeezing the air out, allowing your more bulky items to be compressed down and flattened. If you’re looking to compress things like books or other solid items, you won’t have much luck with compression cubes.
Do Packing Cubes Actually Save Space?
To test out if packing cubes really do save space, I decided to perform a test. I packed the same amount of clothes in the same carry-on without packing cubes, with regular packing cubes, and with compression cubes. Then, I compared the results to find out which results were more beneficial.
Here’s what items I packed:
- Two pairs of jeans
- One pair of long pants
- One hoodie
- Two sweaters
- Two long-sleeve shirts
- Four t-shirts
- Seven pairs of socks
- Two buttoned long-sleeve shirts
- One rain jacket
There wasn’t any reasoning as to why I chose these items specifically. I had some clothes that were laying around the house so I decided to experiment with them.
For this test, I used my Travelpro Maxlite 5 carry-on.
Step 1: Packing a Carry-On Without Using Packing Cubes
To start, I packed my carry-on without using any packing or compression cubes. I folded most of my clothes, but I rolled all the t-shirts because I think that rolling t-shits is a much more compact way of packing them. I didn’t pay much attention to how I packed everything. Basically, I packed it as any normal person would.
The suitcase was packed full of clothes, and I was able to close it easily. I guess packing a suitcase without any packing cubes is okay, but I’m not a big fan of it, because it’s hard to get items out from the bottom of the suitcase. Once you pull one piece of clothing out, your beautifully packed suitcase will become a horrible mess. With packing cubes it’s much easier and organized.
Step 2: Packing a Carry-On With Packing Cubes
After that, I packed everything inside packing cubes and put them in the same carry-on. For this test, I used one extra-large Amazonbasics packing cube, one medium eBags packing cube, and one small eBags packing cube.
Here’s how I packed everything:
- Extra-large Amazonbasics packing cube: two pairs of jeans, one pair of long pants, one hoodie, two sweaters, and a rain jacket.
- Medium eBags packing cube: two long-sleeve shirts, two buttoned long-sleeve shirts.
- Small eBags packing cube: four rolled t-shirts, seven pairs of socks.
I was expecting to see some saved space, but instead, the carry-on looked roughly the same way as it did when I packed it without any packing cubes. If it did save any space, it was no more than 5-10%, so nothing meaningful.
So I guess I can just go ahead and say that regular packing cubes don’t save any space.
Step 3: Packing a Carry-On With Compression Cubes
Lastly, I packed everything inside compression cubes, to see if I’d get a better result compared to regular packing cubes. For this test, I used one extra-large LeanTravel compression cube, one large Eagle Creek compression cube, and one small Eagle Creek compression cube.
Here’s how I packed everything:
- Extra-large LeanTravel compression cube: two pairs of jeans, one pair of long pants, one hoodie, one sweater, and a rain jacket.
- Large Eagle Creek compression cube: one sweater, two long-sleeve shirts, two buttoned long-sleeve shirts.
- Small Eagle Creek compression cube: four rolled t-shirts, seven pairs of socks.
I was actually quite amazed when I packed the compression cubes inside the carry-on. I saved around 15-20% of the total space. There was enough room for an additional pair of sneakers, another jacket or hoodie, and a few other smaller things around the sides. So if you’re looking to save some space, definitely go with compression cubes.
Conclusion: Do Packing Cubes Really Save Space?
Based on my own research, regular packing cubes save a tiny amount of space, no more than 5-10% while compression cubes save around 15-20% of the total space, compared to not using any packing organizers at all. That said, I wouldn’t just go straight for compression cubes if I were you because they’re not for everyone.
Compared to regular packing cubes, compression cubes are much harder to pack. You have to stuff everything inside pretty neatly, and then you have to spend additional time and effort into closing the compression zipper, which can be difficult if the cube is overstuffed. Also, your clothes will likely be more wrinkled in compression cubes so if you’re on a deadline for a meeting and need to pull out a nice shirt, you won’t want to use a compression cube. Another thing to consider is that they work better in backpacks because when compressed, they aren’t rectangular anymore.
If you’re just looking to save a bit of space and get more organized, I would suggest you go with regular packing cubes. They’re simple to use, much easier to pack and unpack, and they help you with being organized during your whole trip. If you don’t already own packing cubes, here’s an article where we compare the best packing cubes.
Here’s the video version of the test:
5 Reasons Why Packing Cubes Are Worth It
1. Packing Cubes Make Everything More Organized
If you’re like me, you’ve probably neatly packed up a suitcase only to totally destroy it the second that you pull something out. Your nicely folded shirts probably end up in a big ball by the end of the first day. Smaller items that you’ve packed will likely end up lost in the shuffle and impossible to find. Packing cubes will organize this chaos.
It’s so much easier to put things back where they belong if they have a home in a cube. You won’t waste time digging through the black hole that your suitcase will inevitably become. Make sure to pack your cubes full of clothes, so that they’re packed pretty tightly, too!
2. Using Packing Cubes Results in Fewer Wrinkles
If you pack your clothes the right way, they’ll come out of your packing cubes almost wrinkle-free. It’s best to fold your pants, jeans, dresses, hoodies, jackets, and shirts, and to roll your underwear, socks, scarves, and t-shirts. Most often your clothes get wrinkled from movement. For instance, when you’ve arrived at your destination, removing a few items and later packing them back in makes all of your clothes move around which can result in more wrinkles.
Doing this over and over again during the span of your trip will no doubt make your clothes become very wrinkled. The main reason why using packing cubes results in fewer wrinkles is that your clothes won’t move around inside of them. If you have to remove an item, you don’t have to re-arrange your whole suitcase, either!
3. It’s Easier to Find Specific Items in Packing Cubes
I like to use designated cubes for specific clothing and items so that I know what will be in them. Some people even go so far as to laminate and label their cubes so it’s even easier to find specific items. You won’t have to dump your suitcase on the floor to find your charger or a pair of dress socks.
You could even leave specific travel-related items packed inside of your cubes while you’re in between trips. Keeping everything separated in your cubes will definitely save you a lot of time and energy! You won’t look back once you start using them.
4. Packing/Unpacking With Packing Cubes Is Quicker
If you use your cubes correctly, you won’t spend loads of time repackaging them when your trip is over. It’s simple to fold your items and place them back into your cubes when you’re done using them. If you’re using a cube for dirty clothes, you can throw a dryer sheet in there to keep any odors at bay.
Using compression bags is great for saving space but you can’t exactly pack them quickly. Choosing cubes will cut the time you spend packing in half! You won’t have to figure out how to fit everything again because your cubes do that work for you.
5. In Light Rain, Packing Cubes Will Keep Your Clothes Dry
One great aspect of using packing cubes is the fact that many of them are water-resistant. You can leave them on the counter next to your sink without fear of water splashing on your things. If for whatever reason you find yourself in the elements without your suitcase and just your cubes, you’ll find some solace in the fact that they’ll stay dry.
I once had a zipper on my tent break while camping and woke up with dew-covered clothing. I was too lazy to spend time packing up my suitcase every night so all of my belongings were out in the open. I can promise you that it wasn’t fun to get dressed that morning!
6. Regular Packing Cubes Save a Little Bit of Space
If you’re only looking to save space in your suitcase, you’ll likely be disappointed with packing cubes. But the fact remains that they do save some space, if only just a small amount, and any amount of space you can save while packing is beneficial.
If you’re using every bit of space available inside of your cubes, you will find that they do become slightly compressed. That doesn’t mean you should overstuff your cubes, though. If you pack the right way, they’re so simple to stack and fit into every available inch of your suitcase or backpack!
How to Use Packing Cubes Efficiently
1. Decide Which Clothes Should Be Folded, and Which Ones Should Be Rolled
When it comes to using packing cubes, some of us tend to become confused about how to do it the right way. If you’ve never rolled your clothes when packing, it’s a great way to save space, but might find that your clothes are slightly more wrinkled. Personally, I roll only some items and fold the items that I don’t want wrinkled. When folding, I usually try to fold them in the same size as the packing cube, making it easy to stack all of the folded items on top of each other.
Here are the items that I usually roll in my packing cubes:
And here are the items, that I usually fold:
- Hoodies and jackets;
- Dresses (When I’m traveling with my girlfriend).
2. Place Packing Cubes Tightly to Minimize the Space Between Them
It’s almost like a mini-game of Tetris when it comes to packing your cubes into your suitcase. It comes in handy to have different sizes because it will likely be easier to fill up every space of your case this way. If you place the cubes largest to smalled inside of your bag, you will find you have more room to play with when it comes to placing smaller cubes on top. You might find that using a cube with more flexible material works better than structured ones.