I’ve been using packing cubes for several years now, and I’ve been impressed by the results. They’re often listed under “Packing organizers”, and they’re there for a reason: They help you with being organized. Not only that, but many people state that packing cubes actually save space as well which got me thinking: Do packing cubes really save space?
My gut told me that not really, so I did what any curious person would do. I tried packing the same amount of clothes with and without luggage cubes, to see whether packing cubes really do save space or not. Also, lately I had been hearing some good things about IKEA packing cubes, so I bought them, thinking that this could be an excellent opportunity to test them out. Anyway, here are the results that I got.
A quick summary
Do packing cubes really save space?
In conclusion, packing cubes don’t save that much space. Although I did manage to save around 5% of the total area in my 30-litre carry-on, the amount was insignificant. Between the cube organizers, I could have squeezed a few chargers, socks or a notebook, but nothing much.
However, I still do believe that they’re must-have items for regular travellers. I’ve been using them for a few years now. Not only do they help you with being more organized, but once you develop a pattern of “What goes in where”, packing and unpacking becomes much quicker.
What items I used for the test
To test out if they really do save space, I selected a few items that I would usually pack for a two-week vacation. Here’s what I packed:
- A pair of shoes;
- A pair of flip-flops;
- A bag of toiletries;
- Headphones, and a few chargers;
- Two pairs of jeans;
- Two pairs of shorts;
- Two hoodies;
- A shirt;
- Seven t-shirts;
- Seven pairs of underwear;
- Eleven pairs of socks.
Packing without packing cubes
After selecting the items, I had to start packing. I folded and rolled everything the same way as I did in packing organizers, to make the test better-comparable. I folded the pants, shorts, hoodies, shirts and rolled the underwear and t-shirts. Also, I packed the shoes in a regular tote bag.
Basically, I didn’t follow a pattern or anything. I tried to pack a way that a regular, unexperienced traveller would.
As you can see in the picture, the carry-on was packed full. I could close it only with pushing the top-part down while closing the zippers. This is how I used to pack before I was using packing cubes. To be frank, packing the case wasn’t that complex or lengthy, but the problems start once you have to unpack and pack the following days again. Everything becomes wrinkled and meshed together.
Packing with packing cubes
For this test, I bought the FORFINA set of 6 packing cubes from IKEA, as I had heard many good things about them. They cost just 9,99$. By the way, most packing cube sets from Amazon cost starting at 20$, so the ones from IKEA come cheap.
When packing the carry-on I used only four cubes, but I could have squeezed in five if I really wanted. I used one large packing cube (13.4 x 10 x 3.5 inches), two medium packing cubes (10 x 6 x 3.5 inches) and one small packing cube (10 x 3 x 3.5 inches). The size of the carry-on that I packed was 21 x 14 x 9 inches, which is common for international flights.
Here’s how I packed everything in the cubes:
- Large packing cube: two pairs of jeans, two pairs of shorts, a shirt, and a hoodie;
- First medium packing cube: A hoodie and seven pairs of underwear;
- Second medium packing cube: Seven t-shirts;
- Small packing cube: Eleven pairs of socks.
I managed to fit everything in nicely, easier than without using packing bags. I usually sort similar items each in their own cube, similar to what I did now. Also, I packed them really full, so nothing moves and no free air is left in the cube.
As for the IKEA cubes, I’m not that amazed by them. Yes, they did the job, but they’re made from a really thin polyester fabric, which makes the cube stretch out when fully packed. This resulted in some unnecessary spaces left between the blocks.
Conclusion: Do packing cubes really save space?
After concluding the test, I did manage to save a bit of space but nothing significant. If the total volume of the carry-on was about thirty litres, I saved up around one litre, which is less than five per cent. I could squeeze in a few more items between the cubes, like some souvenirs or packs of sweets.
In reality, you’re not buying packing cubes to save space. If you’re looking to save space, compression bags or vacuum bags are better choices, but they tend to wrinkle clothes and are harder to pack/unpack.
However, packing cubes help you with being much more organized. Before I started using them, I was a bit sceptical at first, but they turned out to be one of those items that I use on my every trip. Once you get the hang of it, you develop a system for what goes in where and packing for your trips becomes much faster.
To conclude, here are the main takeaways:
- Packing cubes don’t save that much space;
- Without cubes, my clothes usually get much more wrinkles when packing/unpacking at hotels;
- It’s much easier and faster to pack using packing cubes;
Do packing cubes wrinkle clothes?
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 the destination, removing a few items and later packing them back in makes all of the clothes move and results in more wrinkles. If you do this several times, your clean clothes for the last days will be really wrinkled.
The main reason why using packing cubes results in fewer wrinkles is that nothing moves in there. If you have to remove an item, you don’t have to re-arrange your whole suitcase. Make sure to pack your cubes full of clothes, so that they’re packed pretty tight.
Packing cubes: Roll or fold?
When it comes to packing their packing cubes, people usually are confused on how to do it. If you’ve never rolled your clothes when packing, it’s a great way to save space, but results in slightly more wrinkles. (For proper rolling, go to youtube and type: “How to roll clothes”, there are many excellent video guides.)
Personally, I roll only some items and fold the rest because rolled pieces result in more wrinkles. 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 travelling with my girlfriend).
If you still don’t have any packing cubes, here are the ones that I recommend checking out. They’re not that expensive and will make your packing a lot quicker and easier.