What are packing cubes?
Packing cubes are lightweight, zippered pouches that help you to stay organised when you’re travelling. They help to keep clothes compact, make them easier to find, and are a great way to store groups of items, like toiletries, in one place.
Packing cubes aren’t always cube shaped though! They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are also commonly known as travel organisers, compression cubes or packing organisers.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about packing cubes, and pretty soon, you’ll wonder how you managed without them!
What do you use packing cubes for?
Packing cubes are a great way to organise your luggage. You could use packing cubes for backpacking, business trips, air-travel or even commuting. Instead of loading your clothes, underwear and accessories separately into your bag (which usually results in a big old mess after a couple of days) you can use packing cubes to keep everything neat, tidy and easy to find in your bag.
The basic principle is this:
You divide your clothes and accessories into groups (eg. Shirts & T-shirts, Underwear, Sweaters, Toilettries etc).
You put each group into its own packing cube, keeping them contained and accessible.
You pack the packing cubes into your main bag.
Sometimes, this method is known as ‘Inception Packing’ because you’re packing a bag within a bag.
How do packing cubes work?
When you pack items individually into a larger backpack or suitcase, you end up with a lot of wasted space because of awkward gaps between the contents.
Sometimes, you’ll cram more and more stuff in, which is great when you’re checking in your luggage at the airport, but not so great when you spend the next week living out of an overfilled, poorly organised bag.
By containing the contents of your bag, and breaking them down into smaller groups, packing cubes make it easier to maximise the space in your bag, while making each group of items easy to spot.
Because packing cubes hold your clothes more tightly together, they are also less susceptible to creasing in transit, and can help to make your backpack more stable.
Why should I use packing cubes?
Whether you’re a frequent flyer, holidaymaker or backpacker, there are tons of ways that packing cubes will make your life easier:
Packing cubes will save you space:
No doubt you will remember a time when you tried to cram too much stuff into too small a pack. By eliminating dead space and compressing your clothing, packing cubes will save space in your pack, meaning you can fit more in your luggage. If you travel with hand-luggage only, this is a huge benefit! For more tips on travelling with carry on, check out our article on How to Pack Hand Luggage Only
Packing cubes make packing easier:
The act of sorting your clothing into groups, and storing them in a specific travel organiser will make it easier to keep track of what you have packed already, as well as identifying what you might have forgotten! Because of the regular rectangular shape of packing cubes, they will stack easily, so it will be easier to find what you’re looking for. Plus, unpacking at the hotel or hostel will be quick and painless!
They keep your clothes organised:
If you pack similar items into one packing cube, it makes it easy to know where everything is in your bag. You might pack socks in one cube, underwear in another, then have a couple for t-shirts, shirts and trousers. How you group everything is up to you, but with a bit of practice, you’ll be packing like a pro in no time!
Packing cubes stop clothes from creasing:
Used properly, packing cubes will help to keep your clothes neat and pressed in transit. The key here is how you pack them. We find that rolling your clothes, rather than folding them, makes a big difference. More on that later.
Packing cubes come in different sizes:
You can choose packing cubes based on what you want to store in them. Don’t try and use huge packing cubes for just a few items - it is a waste of space, and will add unnecessary weight to your pack. Instead, choose packing cubes that are just the right fit. Our Foulden Packing Cubes
, for example, come in three sizes. We find that the large is best for clothing, medium works well for underwear or t-shirts, and the smallest size make a great accessory case for tech cables, cosmetics or those everyday essentials.
They have a thousand uses:
You can use packing cubes to suit your own style of packing. You could use a large packing cube as a travel laundry bag, or as a boot-bag to keep dirt contained in your pack. A packing cube full of clothes makes a great pillow when you’re camping or embarking on a long-haul flight, and smaller packing cubes are a great way of containing those miscellaneous items that can be hard to keep organised.
But are packing cubes necessary?
There are lots of ways to pack well without using packing cubes (like these awesome packing hacks) but generally, it takes more time, effort and consideration. Packing cubes make packing easy for everyone, and take out the hassle of staying organised when you are travelling.
How to use packing cubes.
Ultimately, this comes down to your personal preference. There is no right way to do it.
However, here are some helpful tips that will help:
Use a flexible system:
On a long trip, you tend to need more clothes. As a result, you’ll need more packing cubes and more organisation. On a short trip, like a long weekend, you might only need one large packing cube. On an overnight trip, a change of underwear and a spare t-shirt might be just enough, so you could pack it all into a smaller packing cube and travel with a really compact system.
Roll, don’t fold:
Most people tend to fold their clothes, but when you’re using packing cubes, it’s actually better to roll them. Start by folding them as normal, but then roll them into a sausage shape before packing them. This prevents wrinkles forming, while making each item more compact. More importantly, it’s hard to unpack a stack of folded clothes from a packing cube - you can’t see what’s at the bottom. Rolling clothes will make sure that everything is visible as soon as you unzip the cube.
So what size do I need?
To choose the perfect size packing cube, you need to have some idea of what you’ll pack.
To give you some ideas, here are some examples of how we use our Foulden Packing Cubes:
What to pack for 1 week of travelling:
3 shirts, 4 t-shirts, 1 pair of trousers.
7 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks.
iPhone charger & cable, headphones, portable battery pack, small notebook, pen.
What to pack for an overnight trip:
1 t-shirt, 1 pair of underwear, 1 pair of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, travel shampoo, soap.
How many do I need?
Again, it depends on what you are packing, but generally, less is more.
If you have too many, there’s always the temptation to over-pack. If there’s ‘extra-space’, we tend to fill it, so just remove that option!
You can buy our Foulden packing cubes individually, but we designed them to work well as a set, and we find that there aren’t many situations where we need more than 3!
What type of packing cubes do I need?
There are lots of different types of packing cubes. Some have compression straps, some can expand and contract depending on what you need. Our packing cubes are simple, waterproof and bright orange, so they can handle any kind of weather and they’re easy to find! Perfect when you’re pitching your tent in a downpour!
Alternatives to Packing Cubes
There are lots of things you could use instead of packing cubes. If you’re on a tight budget, try using ziploc bags. They aren’t as durable, and they won’t withstand ‘cramming’ but they are a good start.
Otherwise, you could try our Laggan travel pouches (which makes a great washbag) or our Gask tool roll, which is great for tools (obviously) but can also be used to organise cables or small accessories!