Packing Cubes

Okay, this may be a dumb question, but what's with packing cubes? Never used them because they seem like they'd just take up precious room. Can you pack more when you use them or do they just organize your stuff? Hate to spend the money on them if they aren't worth having but I seem to see them everywehre :)

Posted by Denise
Lake Forest, CA, USA
1489 posts

Barb, as with previous posters, I invested in some cubes last year and really liked how it organized the undergarments, socks and shirts. I bought several different sizes of cubes. The larger cube for rolled up T-shirts, smaller for undergarments, etc. I have some cubes that are a mesh material on top. This way I can see what it contains (from Target). I also use some waterproof make-up bags (those that I get for free as a gift with purchase) and put things I don't want to leak in there or for a first-aid type kit (I check luggage). Don't forget to take zip-lock bags. They come in handy for dirty clothes, etc.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12906 posts

My preference is for using the packing envelopes with allow for compression of pants and shirts. For underwear, socks, and other rollable items I use the gal and 2.5 gal zip lock bags. I like the ability to write on the bag what is in the bag. Helpful when packing up to make sure everything is back in the bags, And the clear plastic makes it easy to see what is in the bag.

Posted by Liz
Seattle, WA
1311 posts

I used packing cubes for the first time on my trip to Rome last Dec and they were great! Generally the advice for maximizing your space is to roll your clothes, which I've done, but things were always getting lost or partially unrolling as I tried to stuff them into the suitcase.

The packing cubes "contain" things and keep them where you want them. Plus, you can organize by types of items and instead of digging through your entire suitcase and knocking everything out of place to find that darn toothbrush, you just grab the cube, unzip it, and voila!

So, at least in my case, I'd say the answer to your question is both. They are also especially useful for odd-shaped luggage, such as load-in-from-the-top backpacks.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21731 posts

Barb, I don't think any question here is considered "a dumb question". We try to help!

I use Eagle Creek Packing Cubes and Pack-It Sacks extensively for travel. The Cubes are great for keeping similar items together, especially small items that might tend to "float" around the Backpack. That makes it easy to find things in a hurry, instead of searching for them.

The Pack-It Sacks are good too. I use these both in my carry-on and in checked luggage. For example, I always pack several of my most important battery chargers (Cell phone, Camera, etc.) and several plug adapters in my carry-on, in case my main bag gets "misplaced" by the airline. The Pack-It Sack keeps them all together in a neat package.

I find that both products really help to keep my packing organized.


Posted by Barb
Brier, WA, USA
34 posts

Thanks, Liz & Ken. Appreciate your help! I always seem to have small bags to keep small items organized, but now I'm thinking the cubes may be easier to pack/stack. I leave for Italy in Sept and think I may try them this time. Thanks!

Posted by Kristy
Simi Valley, CA, US
83 posts

Hi Barb, When we were on our trip, we were on the move quite a bit- staying 1-3 nights in each place. In this case, we did not want to have to fully repack our stuffed luggage each time. With the packing cubes, everything stays organized so that you are basically always packed as things don't fall out and get messed up, you just have to zip up your suitcase! Depending on what size and type of luggage, and your packing style, this may or may not be as helpful to you, but that is what the great thing about them is.

Posted by Skip
Dallas, Texas, USA
82 posts

I've reduced the number of cubes I use, and have started using more packing sacs from Eagle Creek for a lot of stuff. They're packing "envelopes", they come in different sizes. I've gone to having "kits", one for toiletries, one for a laundry kit, one for a first aid kit, etc. They are easier to fit into my bag and give me a lot of packing flexibility. They also make great cores if I use a clothing bundle. I bought mine in different colors and it makes it really easy to find what I want, quickly. (ie: the blue one is my laundry kit.)

Posted by Corinna
Krems, Wachau, Austria
386 posts

Just a thought:

I have used Ziplock bags in varying sizes for many years, long before there was such a thing as packing cubes.
A few years back, I received a set of packing cubes as a gift from friends, they were pretty cool, but the zippers with the vacuum in, vacuum out, broke easily,
and I found that they were not THAT much better than the ziplock baggies.
If they afforded me a few more inches, I must have missed it.

Personally, I think that the packing cubes are a marketing ploy ;-))

Happy travels!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7927 posts

I don't use cubes. I roll my stuff and put a rubber band or two (in case one breaks en route) around each item. For small items that aren't worth rolling, I put them in a zip lock bag, squeeze the extra air out (usually by sitting on them) and seal. I find this helps shrink my load and keep things organized.

Posted by Barb
Brier, WA, USA
34 posts

Love it - thanks! All great suggestions. I've never quite understood rolling - doesn't that make things wrinkle more? I have a small steamer I take along but hate taking time to use it!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12906 posts

If you are very careful, rolling does prevent some winkles but not all. For me the packing envelopes are the best for preventing wrinkles. The clothing will be creased, like folded shirts from the laundry, but absolutely wrinkle free -- closer to being ironed. The packing cubes that I am familiar with are not a vacuum system. The one way valves and vacuum systems do not do anything that a book, a knee, and zip lock bag can achieve at a quarter of the price or less.

Posted by Michelle
Anaheim, CA, USA
1427 posts

I think packing cubes are better than ziplock type bags. First of all, when you condense the zip lock bags, you may be giving yourself more room, you are also giving yourself more weight... because you'll allow yourself to pack more.

The cubes keeps things organized, and, if used properly you will not over pack for your trip.

I started out using Rick's because they configured perfectly in my 20 inch suitcase. When the TSA opens my suitcase, you can see immediately the organized suitcase, and content.

In my trip last week, though I switched from Rick's cubes to the ones on They were a little more narrow which allowed me to pack my bag in a 19inch rollie suitcase... and I still had room to bring home pate, Disney pins, and a few other souvenirs.

To me, its worth being organized and neat.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8404 posts

I'm with the ziploc crowd. I have used them for years, also. My packing list never varies much, so I don't tend to overpack just because I'm using the bags. They come in lots of sizes. You can compress things with them if you want, or just use them to organize. Everything is visible and easily gone through if the TSA inspects my suitcase. They're great for sealing in things like a damp swimsuit, or dirty laundry that you don't want smelling up the rest of your clothes. And I've even used one as a pillow while overnighting in an airport. I just puffed it full of air, sealed it, and was completely comfortable (well, as comfortable as you can be on an airport bench, anyway). You can't do that with a packing cube! And a whole box of the 2 gallon size ones is less than $3.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12906 posts

You only allow yourself to pack more if you do not use a list or lack discipline. The advantage to us that is it allows use to reduce the volume in the bag which means that the bag can be cinch down and made to look smaller. While the bag is often over the carryon weight limit of the airline, we have never been asked to weigh the bag because it looks small and light.

Posted by Linda
Ridgeland, Mississipp, USA
34 posts

I use the mesh packing cubes from Rick's travel store and love them. I think I can pack more with the cubes and if you put tissue paper in between each item they will not wrinkle.

Posted by Julie
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
446 posts

I use Rick's packing cubes as well, but I use them to make sure I don't pack too much. They help me limit what I take. I also take one of the small ones empty to fill up with ticket stubs, brochures, postcards and other small items I collect along the way. I don't let myself take home more than I can easily get in one small cube.

I also use them on business trips. When I don't want to live out of the suitcase, I just toss the cubes into the dresser drawers.

I tried the Eagle Creek cubes but they seemed much heavier and bulkier. I like that Rick's are really lightweight.

Posted by Audrey
Keizer, Oregon, USA
578 posts

After reading all these comments, I think (imho) there is some confusion. There are packing cubes (Eagle Creek, RS), folding board cube used to pack items that eliminates some wrinking, vaccuum packing cubes, and the ziplock bag. I love the RS & EC packing cubes (net with zippers) and I have five. I bought one just to try and was very impressed. My clothes are more organized, less wrinkled. I have a fold it board but haven't used it. I don't like the vacuum bags because my clothes really get wrinkled and they are heavy. I think they are a commercial ripoff. You are always having to repack them. The seals break easily. I use Ziplock bags for a lot of things and in different sizes. Since you have to put your liquids in the Ziplock bag & your medications, just separate them all your "ditty bag" stuff into separate ziplock bags.

This doesn't work for me but it works for a friend. She puts a day's outfit into each bag (whichever one you decide on). Then she just pulls out the bag for that day. She will have 5-6 bags for daily wear.

Good luck!

Posted by Bob
Lakeland, Florida, USA
93 posts

My wife bought the packing cubes (mesh with zipper), and I found them to be great for keeping adapters, cables, and stuff like that organized (they're also great for the small stuff). They don't really take up any room, but they did serve to keep those "little pieces" from wandering around in my luggage (and becoming hard to find).

I used the cheap ziplock-like bags for eliminating excess bulk with my clothes (in essence vacuum-packing them), and those worked well.

I found the packing cubes to be especially handy at keeping stuff organized while I was in Sicily.

Posted by George
655 posts

For those who organize their trips into central stops of several days in one location a further advantage is that the cubes will slip right into a drawer or on a shelf without unpacking/repacking. This saves a lot of time.

Also, for couples, they come in colors. Black for Dad, Red for Mom, etc.

That said, Ziplock bags are an essential travel accessory. We always take them along.

Posted by Bea
1157 posts


Yes packing cubes will take up a lot of room in your bag. They are used mainly to keep your clothes in place and unwrinkled .
I personally don't like them I use vacum bags or compression sacks. Vacum bags will flatten your clothes a lot but they might wrinkle a bit. IMO compression sacks are much better. You can put much more in them and they are more durable.I like the brand called Sea to summit. These sacks compress 2 ways and keep your stuff dry.
Take a look at :

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7927 posts

I fight wrinkles by packing clothes that don't wrinkle easily and lose wrinkles quickly when they are unrolled and shaken out or hung. Once I wear them for a little while they are fine.

My clothes are casual so a few wrinkles isn't the end of the world.

The only time I iron is when I travel on business. I'm usually staying in one place for longer on business, so I hang everything up the first night and then decide what needs to be ironed before wearing. Business hotels almost always have an iron and board or you can call for one. I really like the British pants presses, someday I want to install one in my closet.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
982 posts

I don't understand how packing cubes take up space in one's bags, at least if you use the soft mesh bags. They simply keep the items you are packing in one place. Actually, I think that is one of their prime advantages--they keep heavier things from shifting to the bottom of your backpack. That problem is one of the downsides of using a frameless backpack like the Rick Steves one--because you don't have a frame to distribute the weight, having everything slump to the bottom of the pack makes the pack wearying to wear. But the packing cubes keep stuff from moving around, allowing the pack to remain more balanced. For that reason, it is worth it to get the packing cubes that are designed specifically for your bag, if possible. Otherwise the bags themselves can shift downward, negating this advantage.

Posted by Jackie
San Antonio, Texas, USA
11 posts

We used them for our 14 day Rick Steves Best of Europe tour in June. We loved the convenience and ease that they offered as opposed to just stuffing things in a suit case. My DH didn't think he would use them and ended up telling everyone about them when we got back :) We used a combo of Eagle Creek and Rick Steves cubes.

Posted by Pat
Wodonga, Australia
440 posts

I use those zip up mesh bags designed for washing panyhose or whatever. Weightless, and in various sizes. I can co-ordinate what is in each bag (undies, t-shirts, skirts), and even use one for the power plugs for charging cameras.

Posted by Jaclyn
San Diego, CA, USA
36 posts

I loved the cubes for my trip. It was nice to be organized. I had one for pants, one for shirts and one for undies etc. I does beat digging in your bag for one thing. I also felt it helped my packing.

Posted by Bette
Northport, NY, USA
8 posts

Use Rick Steves cubes in your Rick Steves carry-on. Very helpful for when you go through security line, especially at JFK where the staff aren't always careful with the contents of your luggage. And they help you stay more organized when you're on the trip.

Posted by Hille
253 posts

I love the packing cubes because they keep things from shifting around in my bag. Ziplock bags work for some things, but they slide around (and to the bottom of the bag) too much. Also, I like to know where everything is at all times, and the mesh cubes let me see what's in them. As for wrinkles in clothing.... instead of taking a steamer, buy a small spray bottle (travel size) and fill it with that wrinkle-release spray (can't think of the name of it right now). It works pretty well, or in a pinch, just spray the crease or wrinkle with water and stretch the fabric with your hands and let it dry.

Posted by Betty
Villa Rica, Georgia, US
28 posts

I used both packing envelopes and packing cubes on our recent trip to the Mediterranean and liked them. The only thing I would do differently next time is label each cube.

Posted by Tami
Boulder, CO, USA
780 posts

I always save and use the zip-up plastic packages that curtains, sheets and tablecloths come in. They are always various sizes and are very light, and stack wonderfully in a backpack/duffle/suitcase.