What’s all the fuss about packing cubes — and are they right for you?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
I used to think packing cubes — individual bags for your suitcase — were useless, a mess of nylon and zips. Then I tried them and can safely say that thanks to packing cubes, I can fit more in my suitcase and am now a more organized packer.
But before I converted to the other side, I always wondered what all the fuss over packing cubes was. They’re just zippered compartments, after all, and aren’t anything wildly innovative. And now that I use them, I often get questions from friends and family, who see my orderly suitcase and pepper me with questions like: Do they help? How do they work? Are they worth it? Should I buy some? If so, what brand?
Here’s what I tell them.
What do packing cubes actually do?
Packing cubes can help you carefully pack your suitcases and travel better in a number of ways:
- Different-sized cubes help organize and separate clothing. You can group items together by color or type of clothing (e.g., all your shirts in one, workout clothing in another).
- Putting small items, like socks or power cords, into a packing cube can help them from rolling or moving around in your bag.
- A packing cube can double as a pillow, laundry bag, shoe bag or cosmetics bag in a pinch.
- Cubes help keep your clothing wrinkle-free, regardless of whether you’re a roller or a folder.
- If any liquids spill elsewhere in your bag, your items have extra protection.
- Separating items makes it easy to pack, unpack and repack quickly and efficiently. In fact, once you have a system in place with your cubes, packing can become even quicker and easier, especially for frequent travelers or business travelers who often visit the same destinations for work.
- Compression cubes can help you fit more items into your bag if you have limited space or are traveling with just a carry-on.
- If you’re packing a backpack, cubes can help you find what you need without having to take everything out of the pack.
Further reading: How to pack like a frequent flier
How did packing cubes change my life?
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t always into packing cubes. In fact, I didn’t even really want to try them. I thought that, as a travel writer and frequent Ryanair flyer, that my packing game was completely on point — I even use the app PackPoint to ensure I never forget anything.
But when a friend repeatedly raved about them, I thought it would be fun to give them a try, mainly so I could prove to her they were a waste of money.
Now I’m a packing cube convert.
After deciding to try them, I had to find the right ones. Once I had carefully investigated several brands online like eBags, Amazon Basics, Eagle Creek, Away, Lean Travel and Gonex, I selected Eagle Creek, specifically, cubes in its Pack-It Specter line. The brand had great reviews, and I appreciated that the cubes were more malleable and less structured than some of the others so I could easily fit them in a backpack.
Further reading: 15 best shoes for travel
Reviewers said the zippers were sturdy and the nylon fabric lightweight and flexible, so I decided to purchase two different three-packs of the Specter, one with small, medium and large cubes and another with a medium dirty/clean cube, a medium structured compression cube and a toiletries cube. I didn’t mind then that they weren’t transparent, but I’d like to eventually get another set that has a mesh or transparent section so I can see what’s in each cube.
Fast-forward a couple of years. I’ve used the cubes for over 100 trips. I don’t always use all of them — it very much depends on the season, length of my trip, whether or not it’s a business trip and if I plan to check a bag or use a backpack — but I find the compression cube, as well as the different-sized cubes, are the ones I consistently use the most. I particularly love using the cubes for items like undergarments, swimsuits and to keep fitness or casual clothes separate from dressier or business items. I also use the smallest cube for cords or miscellaneous items like adapters.
I’m really happy with Eagle Creek, as the cubes are showing no signs of wear and tear just yet, but I could have also been just as happy with another brand. In the future, I plan to order more structured cubes to use in larger trolley suitcases and transparent cubes so I can confirm the contents of the cube without having to unzip it.
Further reading: 8 tips for doing laundry while traveling
Are packing cubes right for you?
Whether you’re an expert traveler or packer or someone who rarely goes on vacation, packing cubes can benefit everyone. But they can be especially helpful if:
- You’re a backpack traveler. Backpackers can use softer packing cubes to separate items when filling up a backpack. This can help organize within a small space and make items much easier to find, especially as you can’t open a backpack extra wide like you can a suitcase.
- You want your suitcase to be organized. Cubes help separate items so each has its own place and your suitcase looks (and actually is) much neater.
- You have to hit the ground running upon arrival. Business travelers who have immediate meetings may not have time to unpack, settle in and iron their outfits. Packing cubes can separate a change of clothes, keeping it wrinkle-free and ready for you to quickly find and change into upon arrival before an important meeting or event.
- You want to fit as much as possible in a carry-on. Using compression cubes when traveling on low-cost carriers with size limits means you can put in all your clothes then zip the compression cube, which will shrink it into a more manageable size, allowing you to fit more in.
- You need a bag within a bag. I already mentioned that packing cubes can double as a pillow, laundry bag or shoe bag. But they can also be helpful to store items in when doing other activities. I’ve used packing cubes to store my wallet, phone and valuables within a beach bag, toiletries inside a gym bag and necessities inside my daypack when hiking. Having a bag you can zip is always useful. They can even hold snacks or children’s items within a purse or stroller.
I highly recommend you give packing cubes a shot, even if you’re not a believer. If you still aren’t convinced, now is the time to point out that packing cubes are pretty affordable. Amazon has plenty of options varying in quality, style and color, starting at just $22 for a five-pack of Gonex cubes. If you’re unsure they’ll work for you, start with a lower-priced set. You can always upgrade once you decide which ones you like best and what features work or don’t work for you.
Featured image by FG-Trade/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees