If you don’t like packing cubes, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Packing cubes are a divisive subject among travelers. Some can’t get enough and some can’t get it right. Luckily, if you’re one of those who can’t work it out, there’s hope for you yet.
The key problem with packing cubes? It doesn’t lie with the cube itself. It lies with how you use them. When used correctly, they’ll revolutionize your packing. When used incorrectly, they’re an annoying waste of space.
Typically, those who don’t like packing cubes are the ones who aren’t using them right. So if you want to get your luggage organized and want to see what the hype’s about, this is how to use packing cubes.
What are they?
First up, we’ve got to cover what packing cubes are. They come in many forms and can be sorted into two main groups – compression packing cubes and regular packing cubes. Regardless of which they are, packing cubes are small fabric bags that fit into your suitcase or backpack. Each packing cube can be filled with different items or outfits that are then neatly stacked for easy access and organization. They effectively turn your luggage into a portable dresser.
The difference between regular and compression packing cubes is what you’d expect. Compression cubes allow you to further compress the packing cube after it’s been filled, giving you much more space to work with than with regular cubes.
How to use packing cubes
Buying the right packing cubes
Packing cubes come in a range of shapes and sizes. From the very small to the massive, there’s a packing cube for almost anything you can imagine.
“When used correctly, they’ll revolutionize your packing. When used incorrectly, they’re an annoying waste of space.”
Knowing the dimensions of your luggage is important to ensure you don’t buy ones that won’t fit. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than perfectly filling your bag with wonderfully neat cubes. If you’re using a suitcase, this is easy. If you’ve got a backpack, you might have to eyeball it.
Depending on your luggage, you might get lucky and find branded packing cubes that are designed to perfectly fit the dimensions of your case (like these). This doesn’t happen very often though, so don’t count on it.
A good rule of thumb is to get a range of small and medium cubes with one or two larger ones. Keeping the sections small gives you more freedom and will stop the dreaded clothes pile that always happens when rummaging through big sections.
Packing cubes also come in a range of styles. This comes down to personal preference, but as the point of packing cubes is to minimize frantic rummaging, getting cubes with a transparent or mesh window is easiest. Why? You can see what’s in each bag without opening them.
Then there’s color. It might seem unimportant, but fellow organization nerds know the secret: color-coding. Going on a holiday to the beach, then off to the mountains? Easy. Beach clothes go in the blue packing cubes, mountain gear goes in the green. It’s simple, easy, and makes so much sense.
Where do most people go wrong when using packing cubes? Err… packing them. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you’re packing your packing cubes wrong, you’ve got no hope.
Although there is a right and a wrong way to pack your cubes, the right way isn’t difficult. You just need a tiny bit of pre-planning and a good folding method. Bonus points if you’re good at Tetris.
The best thing about using packing cubes is that they compartmentalize your luggage into smaller, manageable lots. To make the most of this, sort your clothes into logical categories before packing the cubes.
There are a few ways to do this. Some choose to put complete outfits in cubes on their own. Some rather categorize based on the article of clothing: shirts in one, pants in another, etc. You can also break it into activity: hiking gear in one, beachwear in another, everyday attire in the next.
Another important part of the packing process is how you fold your clothes. To make the most of your handy transparent bag, try file folding or rolling your clothes. By doing this, you can see everything in the packing cube without having to unpack the top layers.
The whole point of these things is to make your life easier on the road. File folding or rolling your clothes is how you do it!
Once your bags are packed and your adventure has begun, the hard part is over. All you need to do now is keep the packing cubes in order and your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones. Luckily, with packing cubes, the last step is incredibly easy.
Some cubes have dedicated sections for dirty clothes, but that isn’t necessary. If you pack a few empty cubes in your suitcase, as you wear your clothes fold your dirties into the spare cubes. That’ll keep them separate from your clean clothes and make coming home and unpacking a breeze.
So there you have it: the definitive guide on how to properly use packing cubes. It will take trial and error until you find what works for you, but it’s well worth it.
Effortless, stress-free travel is possible. You just have to be willing to try new things.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
- Jet setters’ best travel hacks | Living 101
Travel smarter with these travel hacks.
- Traveling abroad: Make sure you’ve checked these things off your pack list | Living 101
Not sure what to put in your packing cubes? Check this out.