As a frequent traveller with a serious case of wanderlust, I spend a significant chunk of my free time searching for new places to visit and planning my next adventure. Whether it’s a weekend getaway to France or a two-month trip around Asia, I love nothing more than sitting down with a map and putting a kick-ass itinerary together. But as much as I love planning and travelling, I’ve always found packing a chore.
Consequently, over the past few years I slowly got into the habit of travelling with just a backpack or a small-ish carry-on – not only does it make my life ten times easier, but it’s cheaper, quicker, and it means less waiting time at the airport. It means less stress, no lost luggage and, more importantly, me not having to spend an eternity packing and unpacking my suitcase.
But when I was preparing for my two-month trip to Asia earlier this year (which, unfortunately, involved different climates, from boiling hot to freezing cold and rainy), taking a bigger suitcase was inevitable. And that’s when I discovered – and fell in love with – packing cubes.
So, if you’re like me and either hate the thought of packing, or are always struggling to fit everything into your suitcase, this post is for you. In today’s post, I’ll talk about my experience with packing cubes, which ones I use, and how I use them to stay organised while travelling – and how to make the process of packing easier and less stressful.
But… what are packing cubes?
Packing cubes are small, lightweight fabric bags that are used for packing clothes and making them easier to find and organise in your luggage. As with everything else, they come in different shapes and sizes – while some of them are bigger and are ideal for storing bulkier items, such as jeans or knitwear, some of them are smaller and are designed to hold smaller items of clothing – t-shirts, socks, or even underwear. There are separate cubes for shoes and accessories, and some brands even make special pouches that you can use for storing other items, like make-up or charging cables.
Packing cubes usually come in sets – these typically include one or two larger bags and a few small ones, as well as one or two pouches for other items – but depending on the brand, cubes are sometimes sold separately. The good thing about these cubes is that there is no right or wrong way of packing – you need to experiment and see what works for you the best.
What are the benefits of packing cubes?
If you’ve already heard about packing cubes but are still on the fence about whether they are for you, here’s a quick list of how they could help you organise your luggage and make travelling stress-free. In addition to helping you organise your clothes and other items, packing cubes:
- Make it easier to find particular items in your luggage without having to take everything else out
- Make packing and repacking easier
- Help you maximise your luggage space
- Protect clothes and prevent wrinkles
- Are versatile and can be used for storage purposes, not just for travel
For me personally, point #1 was the reason why I wanted to give them a try and why I’ve kept using them ever since. I’m not a massive fan of packing in general but not being able to find what I’m looking for (which then obviously turns out to be at the very bottom of the suitcase and leads to me having to take everything else out first, then put them back in) is ten times worse. With packing cubes, different types of clothing are separated into different boxes, so if I know I’m looking for a specific t-shirt, it’s enough to take my t-shirt cube out and I can leave the rest of my stuff in the suitcase. So. Much. Easier.
When to use packing cubes
As a general rule, I would say packing cubes are more suited for longer trips, as opposed to quick weekend breaks. I don’t usually take my packing cubes if I’m only away for two nights, since I don’t tend to pack as much as I would for a 7-day (or longer) holiday and separating my dozen or half a dozen items seems a bit pointless. But, packing cubes definitely come in handy when:
- You’re travelling with a bigger suitcase
- You’re trying to maximise luggage space or keep its weight to a minimum
- You’re travelling long term
- Your trip involves lots of packing or unpacking
- Your trip involves different climates
How I use packing cubes to organise my suitcase
Jeans, t-shirts and knitwear
Although different packing tricks and methods work for different people, it’s always a good idea to separate your clothes into different categories. When I’m packing, I usually use one cube for jeans and shorts (usually the biggest one), one for t-shirts, tops and jumpers, a smaller one for socks and underwear, one for shoes, and one for charging cables, travel adaptors, and other bits and bobs.
As a rule of thumb, rolling your clothes is supposed to be better than folding them, but again, I’d say experiment and see what works for you. I personally prefer to roll my jeans and shorts, as these tend to take up the most space, and I can fit more into my packing cube if I do this, rather than folding them in half.
As for t-shirts, I experimented with both rolling and folding, but found that I can fit more of them in if I simply fold them and place them on top of each other. For my trip to Asia, I packed around two weeks’ worth of tops and they easily fit into one cube. For jeans and tops, I usually use Eagle Creek’s Pack It Original Cube – these come in 4 different sizes, and I use the biggest one for both.
Socks and underwear
For socks and underwear, I used a smaller, more compact cube recently – the Clean Dirty Half Cube. This is roughly half the size of the others, and is perfect for smaller items of clothing, like bathing suits, gym clothes, or what I’m using it for – socks and underwear. As the name suggests, this one has two separate compartments for your clothes, one on each side, so it’s easy to separate clean clothes from the dirty if you don’t have a separate laundry bag (which I didn’t). With these, I tend to do a combination of folding and rolling – I stack most of the socks in a pile, fold the underwear in half, and fill the remaining space with balled up socks. Again, two weeks’ worth of underwear easily fit into one cube.
Although I do like the size of these cubes, I’m still trying to decide whether I like the clean / dirty idea or if it just takes up unnecessary space. For my next few trips, I might experiment with a normal half cube and having a separate laundry pouch for all my clothes and underwear to see if that makes any difference.
Shoes and flip-flops
In all honesty, I don’t usually travel with extra pairs of shoes unless I’m going away for a longer period of time or the weather is so unpredictable that I know for a fact my other pair is going to get soaking wet. But when I do, having a shoe sac comes in handy.
As an added bonus, these are washable and dirt resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the mud. Also, depending on your shoe size, you might be able to fit more than one pair in there – I have relatively small feet (UK size 4), and I can squeeze both a pair of trainers and my flip-flops in there. Score!
Charging cables and travel adaptors
For charging cables, travel adaptors, batteries and other electrical bits and bobs, I use these round-shaped organisers from Eagle Creek. I used to put my USB cables and chargers in plastic bags, but they always ended up being completely tangled up, so having a separate pouch just for these (where I can actually fold the cables properly) is definitely a good idea.
Medicine / first aid
For my medicine and random first aid items, I tend to use a medium pouch from the HiDay Travel kit, which seems to work perfectly. It’s super lightweight and takes up virtually no space – I literally couldn’t live without it now.
Have you tried packing cubes before or do you have any packing tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!