Packing cubes help you pack more efficiently, save space in your suitcase or travel bag, and better organize your gear and clothing. Most travelers who use packing cubes will agree; once you start using them, it's hard to go back! If you're not convinced yet, check out our Ultimate Guide to Packing Cubes. Whether you use a single cube, a full set of compression cubes, or a stuff sack, packing cubes will make your travels smoother.
Once you’re ready for the cube life you need to decide what type of packing cubes are best for you.
Here are all the different types of packing cubes and what they’re best for.
Standard Packing Cubes
Standard packing cubes are structured bags that feature a zipper around 3 of the 4 sides to store and pack your clothes. These packing cubes can be used individually or as part of a set to organize and better pack your clothes in a suitcase or travel backpack. They’re generally made with lightweight material like ripstop nylon. These no frills packing cubes provide organization by grouping your clothing.
Mesh Packing Cubes
Mesh packing cubes feature a mesh flap opening and they are great for a number of reasons! Most notably, it's immediately clear what’s in the cube without opening it up. When you have 5 or 6 cubes in your bag that all look similar this quick visual will make it easier to find what you need and stay organized. An additional benefit is the breathability, perfect for damp, wet, or dirty clothes. Mesh cubes can also be semi-compression cubes as the mesh allows you to push the air space out of your clothing while zipping the zipper, ultimately compressing your items to fit into the cube.
Compression Packing Cubes
Compression packing cubes feature an additional zipper that runs the entire perimeter of the cube. Pack the cube as normal and then use the additional zipper to compress the contents and cube. This will squeeze the air out between your clothes resulting in a tight and compact cube. It will take up less space in your bag and be easier to pack without having to cut any clothes!
Double Sided Compression Packing Cubes
The only type of packing cube that has 3 perimeter zippers, double sided compression packing cubes provide the dual benefit of compression and separation. We’ve covered the what and the why of compression packing cubes already, so why would a traveler want a double sided cube? The most common use is to split up your clean and dirty clothes. A simple divider within the cube creates two separate compartments, with each side having a zipped opening. The second side doesn’t provide any additional volume, instead you can start with the clothes in one side and migrate them to the other side as they get dirty.
The alternate use is to separate types of clothing. For example, you can keep underwear on one side and socks on the other for added organization.
Expandable Packing Cube Set
Expandable packing cubes use the same design as compression but for the opposite purpose. You’ll start with your standard cube with an additional full perimeter zipper. If you need extra space in the cube you can expand the cube with the same principle as an expandable suitcase.
Now if the design is the same, what is the difference between an expandable and compression packing cube? There really isn’t a difference. You could start with the cube expanded and then pack it full, zip the expansion closed and get some compression. The real difference is your starting point and goal. When you start full and want to get as much into as small a space as possible you’ll use the additional zipper to compress. When you start small and need extra packable space you’ll use expansion.
At the end of the day, whether it's called expandable or compression you’ll likely be getting the same benefit.
Packing Cube and Hanging Organizer
These unique hanging organizers look like a divided packing cube at first glance but they’re designed to take your suitcase organization a step further. Once you arrive at your destination you can take the entire cube out of your bag, unfold it, and hang it in the closet with your clothes still inside it. The hanging organizer has multiple, horizontally divided sections for your clothes creating a mini alternative to a chest of drawers.
Packing Cubes for Suits
Packing a suit and arriving wrinkle free is a challenge for even veteran business travelers. A packing cube for suits, often part of a full set, can be your ticket to easier and wrinkle free packing. Calling this device a cube might be a stretch, generally it's made of the same cube material and helps you fold your suit to stash it in a suitcase. Once folded, you leave it in the cube to keep it in place and prevent the suit from wrinkling while in transit.
Clean Dirty Packing Cube
There are two types of clean dirty packing cubes. The first is a divided cube that has an opening on either side. You pack all the clothes in one side and then as you wear them and they get dirty you load them into the dirty side. By the end of the trip all the clothes will be on the opposite side of the divided cube and your clean clothes will have stayed clean the whole time.
The second type is more aptly called a laundry bag. Typically a drawstring style bag that is included in a set of packing cubes. This bag starts empty and gets used as the designated dirty clothes bag in between laundry runs.
Stuff sacks are relied on by trekkers, hikers, and backpackers to organize their backpacks. The cylindrical sacks fit nicely in backpacks and help with weight distribution and organization. They can be used for clothing, food, or camping supplies. Stuff sacks generally have compression straps on the outside and get loaded from one of the flat ends. Cinch it tight and load it in your pack before heading out for the day on the trails.
Choose the Right Type of Packing Cubes
With so many different designs, styles, and shapes it can be challenging to choose the right type of packing cubes. But rest assured, while there are plenty of different types, there is no wrong type to use and every packing cube will help save space. Every type of packing cube will offer the packing and organization benefits that make traveling smoother.
Shop our full collection of packing cubes to find the perfect type for your next trip!