Are you the sort of traveler who still willy-nilly stuffs a suitcase with “free-range” clothes, underwear, socks, books, and sundry other belongings, at best trying to keep toiletries and small gadgets organized in their own zippered pockets? Well, there happens to be a better way to go about packing for your trip, whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a few months of overseas globetrotting.
Packing cubes—lightweight, standalone fabric containers designed to fit inside your luggage—can revolutionize your on-the-go system. They allow you to store nicely folded or rolled clothing and accessories in a tight, secure compartment that minimizes wrinkles and damage. And their geometric packability means you can take advantage of your luggage volume to the full without sacrificing clear and logical organization.
From square-edged rectangles to softer-contoured zippered bags, from the small and slim to the large and capacious, packing cubes come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, styles, and designs. Many people find it most advantageous to use the mix-and-match approach when it comes to packing-cube volume, and indeed brands typically offer multi-size sets. But how should you go about deciding whether packing cubes are right for you—and, if so, which ones? Let’s take a look at some of your options, starting with our personal selection of the best on the market right now.
Best Packing Cubes
1. Flight 001 Spacepak Set Plus Camo
Snazzy and practical: That’s the appeal of Flight 001’s Spacepak system, which comprises three sizes of durable nylon packing cubes—labeled Mini Toiletry, Underwear, and Clothes—for maximum versatility. Inner, zippered compartments allow you to keep clean and dirty garments separate—a major plus, to say the least—while grab handles make it easy to tote the cubes as carryon or on-the-go bags. The flashy, multicolored camouflage pattern means you’re traveling with a bit of flair, too.
- No. of Cubes: 3
- Smallest: 9.5 x 5 x 3 in.
- Largest: 11.25 x 15.5 x 5.25 in.
2. Eagle Creek Pack-It Original Compression Cube Set
Eagle Creek offers a variety of well-made packing cubes, among the most tried-and-true of which is this exceptionally packable setup. The Pack-It Original Compression Cube Set includes a half-size and full-size cube that, courtesy of a two-way zipper, can be tightly compressed for maximum use of your luggage capacity. Other fine features include the breathable mesh top and convenient grab handles. Constructed with 300D poly micro-weave and 150D poly, these Eagle Creek compression cubes come in a variety of colors and patterns, so there’s a good chance there’s a look to match your personal style.
- No. of Cubes: 2
- Smallest: 10 x 7 x 1.5 in. (expanded: 10 x 7 x 4 in.)
- Largest: 14 x 10 x 1.25 in. (expanded: 14 x 10 x 4.5 in.)
3. eBags Packing Cubes – 6pc Value Set
This eBags set gives you a lot to play around with: one small, medium, and large cube, plus three “slim” compartments only 2.8 inches wide. Made from Techlite poly, these eBags packing cubes sport mesh panels on top that keep your clothes well ventilated (and give you a quick and easy view of a given cube’s contents), and the corded zipper pulls are designed to withstand a lot of heavy use.
- No. of Cubes: 6
- Smallest: 11 x 6.75 x 3 in.
- Largest: 17.5 x 12.75 x 3.25 in.
4. AmazonBasics 4-Piece Packing Cube Set
These polyester packing cubes from AmazonBasics make a great choice if you’re unwilling to shell out for top-quality material—perhaps because you’re not a frequent-enough traveler to warrant the most deluxe models. The four-piece sets include a few different options, including four-of-a-kind small, medium, large, and slim cubes, but for all-around flexibility you can’t beat the combo package with one of each size. Mesh top panels and a webbing handle are among the nice features, not to mention the notable spectrum of available colors.
- No. of Cubes: 4
- Smallest: 11 x 5 x 2.8 in.
- Largest: 17.5 x 12.75 x 3.25 in.
5. TravelWise Packing Cube System
No more hectic searching for misplaced items! These packing cubes feature a breathable mesh design to more easily locate items in your suitcase, while 2 way easy-pull zippers provide reliably fast opening and closing, which means faster packing. This 3 piece travel organizer set compartmentalizes similar size items in their own “small drawers” to streamline packing and more efficiently utilize interior luggage space. Lightweight and durable nylon stands the test of time, keeping items secure without adding weight to your luggage.
- No. of Cubes: 3
- Smallest: 10 x 4.1 x 8.25 in.
- Largest: 13 x 4.1 x 10 in.
Advantages Of Using Packing Cubes
Packing cubes serve as both a practical means of storage as well as an important tool for organizing your travel belongings. Utilizing a few different sizes of cubes potentially gets you thinking more strategically about how to pack garments and other items in order to maximize each cube’s capacity and that of your baggage. Particularly if your traditional approach to travel sees a rather impulsive shoving of clothes into the main compartment of your roller bag—opening yourself to the risk of forgotten socks, or running out of clean duds—the use of packing cubes can dramatically improve how you prep for travel.
Even if you’re an experienced traveler and self-declared expert packer, you can use packing cubes to challenge yourself to greater efficiency and perhaps pared-down luggage. Try to fit everything you truly need into one set of small, medium, and large cubes, for example. Even if you like hauling along everything and the kitchen sink on a trip, compartmentalizing (literally) with packing cubes can get you thinking more closely about how and what you bring; more likely than not, this greater awareness may identify some extraneous supplies better left at home.
This greater organization available with the use of packing cubes can also mean cost savings, too, given you may end up traveling with less (and lighter) luggage.
The different sizes of packing cubes allow you to segregate clothing by size, type, and use, eliminating the perennial travel annoyance of rummaging around in luggage to cobble together a wardrobe. Many people opt to put undergarments in one, shirts and pants in another, coats and other outerwear in a third. Perhaps you’d prefer a few cubes of the same size with which to separately pack each day’s outfit. Another awesome strategy is to keep clothes and accessories you’ll likely only use on actual travel days—say, flights there and back—in a dedicated packing cube, so they’re out of the way during your stay at your main destination.
If the packing cubes you choose don’t contain sub-compartments inside, you could also designate one specifically for dirty laundry. (Having clean and dirty clothes intermingling in your suitcase: another less-than-desirable element of many a “traditional” luggage system.)
You might decide to use smaller packing cubes for storing electronics, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items.
Whether they’re specially designed for extra compression (such as the Eagle Creek set we spotlighted above) or not, packing cubes can also cut back on clothing wrinkles. Filling them with well-folded or tight-rolled garments will likely keep your travelwear looking nicer and crisper even after days or weeks on the road.
If you’re keeping your luggage lean and mean by eschewing backpacks or the like, packing cubes can also recommend themselves as standalone bags: perhaps for a day trip out of the hotel or resort, or even—using those of the largest capacity—a full weekend getaway within your larger vacation.
This detailed look at packing cubes over at Her Packing List also suggests another secondary benefit of these bags: They can also serve as readymade pillows on a long flight or train journey.
Disadvantages Of Packing Cubes
We talked before about how packing cubes, when effectively and thoughtfully used, can foster a more efficient and targeted way of organizing your luggage—quite possibly a lighter load, too. But it’s also possible to overpack with packing cubes: Perhaps you’ve purchased a set with too many or excessively voluminous cubes for your needs, and now feel compelled to fill them all to capacity. Overpacking can translate to greater travel expenses on your part, not to mention the risk of injury to you or any baggage handlers; there’s also an environmental cost, and the potential for excessive strain on fabric panels and zippers. So remember to be realistic when thinking through the size and quantity of packing cubes you’re bringing, and don’t interpret their topnotch packability as full license to haul along your entire wardrobe.
All things considered, packing cubes are best designed for clothes, though of course you can fit all kinds of other items inside if you so choose. That said, they’re usually not the very best choice for laptops and chargers, books, potentially leakable toiletries, and other smaller or more rigid belongings, unless you scheme out a really efficient way to tightly snug everything together.
Underfilling packing cubes can detract from their performance, as it’s more likely your garments will get jostled around, squeezed, and therefore wrinkled.
How To Choose The Best Packing Cube For You
We’ve touched on many of them already, but let’s take a more focused look at some of the main factors you’ll want to consider when choosing the best packing cube for the job.
Size & Quantity
You might be immediately tempted by sets of packing cubes containing a complete lineup from small to large, maybe with some slim options thrown in as well. Such sets are indeed excellent options for frequent travelers, for example, who may need a variety of luggage to choose from for trips of different lengths and types, as well as those taking extended journeys on the order of weeks or months.
But you may not necessarily need the very biggest packing cubes if you don’t take long trips, and having the complete set of packing-cube sizes—or multiple cubes of several different sizes—may similarly be excessive if you’re not a regular traveler.
The nice thing about packing cubes, of course, is that you can always add on to your collection if you’re reaching capacity. So start with just a few cubes, and favor medium and small sizes at first to see whether more and larger cubes are warranted.
Construction, Durability, & Design
As with anything, you’re likely to get what you pay for when it comes to packing cubes. Those made from waterproof nylon or high-denier polyester may cost more, but they’re likely to last longer, withstanding the elements as well as the all-around wear and tear of repeated trips better than cubes of cheaper construction. If you’re an infrequent traveler, this may be less of a dealbreaker.
As far as design goes, you may be fine with a very simple packing cube simply offering a zippered compartment, or perhaps you’d appreciate more features, such as the double-sided models allowing you to separate clean and dirty clothing, or advanced compression cubes for fitting all the more into a given space. Mesh panels, as many of our top selections include, increase airflow—not an insignificant feature when it comes to storing garments—and make it simpler to keep track of what’s inside your cubes. Some packing cubes come with handles, others don’t: a non-issue, perhaps, if you’re exclusively treating them as sub-compartments of a large luggage bag or case, but the handles may come in “handy” (forgive us) if you want the option of using a smaller cube as a carry-on, or a large one as an overnight bag.
Drab, muted gray or loud leopard print? (Actually, we’re not sure leopard-print packing cubes are available—but we imagine there’s a good chance.) When it comes to color and pattern, it naturally comes down to your own personal preference.
Structured vs. Flexible Packing Cubes
Depending on the material and design, some packing cubes are fairly rigid, while others are softer and more malleable. You may appreciate the more rigid forms for protecting the contents, or conversely the greater compression offered by flexible packing cubes.
Brand-name vs. Generic Packing Cubes
Whether you choose a packing cube from a high-profile company such as TravelWise or Eagle Creek or opt for the more generic options at a big-box store mainly relates to the above points on the kind of material used in cube construction and various design features. Again, if you’re not a frequent traveler, you may be satisfied with cheap generic-brand cubes, but if you’re finding yourself replacing them regularly it may be time for an upgrade.
Value For The Money
All of the aforementioned considerations flow into this one. If you’re a regular traveler, or you’ve got a particularly big trip ahead of you, it may well be worth it to spend a little extra on a higher-quality set of packing cubes. If not, perhaps a single packing cube sold for relative pennies at the local department store will suffice.
Up Your Travel Game With Packing Cubes
All things considered, packing cubes are a fantastic choice to make traveling more efficient, organized, and across-the-board enjoyable. As you take steps in that direction, don’t forget to browse our top-quality, fine-tuned luggage here at CHESTER!