Take your travels to another level with packing cubes! One of the easiest ways to make your travels smoother and more organized is with packing cubes. At first glance these simple cube shaped bags might not appear to make a huge difference but it's rare to find someone who started using packing cubes and didn’t get hooked. They have quickly become a staple packing accessory for casual, frequent, short, and long term travelers! Here's everything you need to know about packing cubes including what they are, the benefits, and how to use them.
What Are Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are small individual bags that compartmentalize your pack by organizing and separating gear & clothes. Packing cubes divide up the space in your bag rather than all your gear piling into one large bucket compartment.
Individual or as part of a set, packing cubes can be used to stay organized on trips of any length. Cubed or cylindrical in shape, packing cubes are made from lightweight materials that zip closed. Use them to hold your clothing and other travel gear to organize a suitcase or travel backpack.
Standard packing cubes are rectangular and available in a range of sizes with a ¾ zip and clamshell opening. Some feature a mesh lid to see the contents, and most have a grab handle to easily pull it from your pack. Check out Peregrine Ultralight Mesh Top Packing Cubes.
Compression packing cubes are the same as above but include an additional expansion style zipper that runs the entire perimeter of the bag. Once loaded and closed you can use this zipper to compress the contents for extra space saving. Check out Tripped Travel Compression Packing Cubes.
Stuff sacks are cylindrical and top loaded. They typically include compression straps and come in a range of sizes as well. Check out Peregrine Ultralight Compression Sack.
Benefits of Using Packing Cubes
There’s no shortage of reasons why so many travelers rely on packing cubes. Adding them into your travel gear will easily provide better organization and make packing and unpacking a whole lot easier.
Organization: The greatest benefit of using packing cubes is an organized suitcase or backpack. Grouping items together makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. We’ve all been searching for that specific item, inconveniently at the bottom of the suitcase, carefully trying to lift the top layer of clothes out of the way, grab what you need, and replace it the way it was. This almost never works well. With packing cubes you’ll find exactly what you need.
Faster packing & unpacking: This will pay off even more when you're moving between multiple destinations. Your packing and unpacking time will be cut down dramatically because you don't need to think about where everything goes.
Separate dirty from clean: Having a dedicated cube for dirty clothes or simply leaving dirty items outside of their cube helps your clean stuff stay clean. Plus, it makes it considerably easier to tell when you need to do laundry.
Compress bulky items: Whether your cubes are compression or not they will help compress bulky items like sweaters. This will save space, make you more organized, and help with the next point.
Weight distribution: An often overlooked benefit of using packing cubes is the ease in evenly distributing the weight in your bag. This might not be as significant for roller bags but those using a travel backpack will get an immediate benefit. Using cubes makes it much easier to position and split up your clothes so that one side of your bag isn't overweight.
Master single bag carry-on travel: There are countless benefits to single bag carry-on travel and more and more travelers are adopting this minimalist mindset on the road. All the benefits above get amplified when you have one bag, typically a travel backpack, for all your gear. Organization becomes extra important with single bag travel, especially when you need to get non-clothing items like a laptop from the same bag.
Are Packing Cubes Worth It?
Here’s what our team and members of our network have to say about packing cubes:
“I first used a set of packing cubes on a 7 month trip in Southeast Asia and it was a game changer. We were packing and moving every week and the cubes made it so much easier. In no time we were packing our entire gear in 10 minutes flat. These are a MUST for long term travelers.” - Jason, Flashpacker Co
“Packing cubes have changed the way I pack completely. Now I use smaller packs and generally only travel with one bag. Plus I have everything organized and don’t have to dump my bag once we get to our destination.” - Stephen, Flashpacker Co
“I started using packing cubes when I went to Europe in 2015. They were great in helping me pack for my trip and staying organized on the road when visiting multiple countries. I know for future trips I will definitely use them again." - Sean, @Carryonsean
How to Use Packing Cubes
First decide how you want to organize your clothes. You can group shirts together, pants/ shorts, underwear/ socks, and small miscellaneous items. Whether you’re using a full set of cubes or just one or two individually you’ll find a benefit in grouping like clothing. You could also group clothing based on when it’s going to be used. For example, put everything you’ll need for an overnight layover in one cube when you know you won’t want to be unpacking your entire bag.
Cubes can be used individually or as part of a set. It's entirely up to you and your travel style! Here are some ways we’ve used packing cubes for specific types of trips.
How to pack with packing cubes for long term backpackers:
When you’re traveling long term as a backpacker packing cubes will feel like a lifesaver thanks to speedier packing and easier laundry tracking. Frequent packing and unpacking when you’re constantly moving between destinations is 10 times easier with a dedicated set of cubes.
One way to pack for long term travel is to separate the cubes based on what type of clothing are in each. For example, one cube for shirts, one for shorts, one for socks/ underwear, one for small miscellaneous items like cables & chargers, and one for dirty clothes. When you’re moving onto a destination you only have 5 items to fit into your backpack and because items are always going in the same place you’ll never be unorganized. This also helps keep your clean clothes separate from dirty in between laundry runs.
How to pack with packing cubes for road trips:
When you're driving between destinations it can be easier to prep the items you’ll need for overnights on the journey. That way you don't need to unpack (or even open) your entire bag for an overnight stop on the drive. Pack one small cube with things you’ll need for the overnight or weekend journey to your destination, and then pack your larger cubes with items you’ll need once you get there.
How to pack with packing cubes for living out of a suitcase on vacation:
You’re not alone if you don't like using the drawers in a hotel, but we all know how quickly a suitcase turns into a heaping mess half way through vacation. Even though you won't be constantly packing and unpacking, the cubes will keep your suitcase neat and organized. Organize similar clothing in their own cube so you can easily live out of a suitcase for a week or two, without it turning into an unrecognizable pile of clothes.
The Best Packing Cubes
Once you begin using packing cubes it's hard to imagine traveling without them. Whether you want to start with just one or a full set you can find the best packing cubes in our packing accessories collection.