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Compression cubes are great till they aren't

That extra zipper? Snagged and broke during a test packing run. Dang.

Posted by
3811 posts

I had purchased one for a test run too. The Zipper kept snagging and was a PIA to unsnag. Also, I ended up putting extra pieces in I didn’t need, just because I could fit them. To me they are a slippery slope to overpacking.

Posted by
6261 posts

I agree about the slippery slope and why I don't use compression cubes. I have very little self-discipline when it comes to packing so I need help to keep my stuff to a minimum.

Posted by
13889 posts

What brand? Do you mean the zipper caught on the fabric of the cube?

I am really worried about weight and space this trip because I am carrying on my carry on, lol, which I usually check. I've downsized my cubes to the smaller size and lighter weight from the ones I usually take so that should take care of me just packing from my packing list and not adding anything else in.

Posted by
1259 posts

Sorry: REI brand (actually "expandable" cubes which is just silly). I didn't think the brand mattered since a busted zipper is an avoidable user error anyone in a hurry can commit with any zipper on anything. Just be calmly deliberate and keep your finger ahead of the zipper to prevent irreparable snags.

My 30L carryon-only load does actually not require compression cubes. These REI thingies are the units I have on hand. The link below is to REI's current design. Mine are about five years old and quite different altho the extra zipper is the same.

REI cubes

Posted by
6261 posts

Huh. I didn't realize there were expandable packing cubes out there. I like the look of them unexpanded but again, I don't need any excuse to pack more stuff by expanding my packing cubes. I guess they'd be good if you were traveling by car or staying in one place, though. Although it still seems like it would be better just to add on more cubes rather than expand the ones you have.

Posted by
14919 posts

That's surprising about the zipper problem. REI's cubes used to be made by Lewis & Clark and were of good quality. Of course, that was before the pandemic and who knows if they still make them.

Eagle Creek's compressions cubes also suffer from snagging and they really didn't compress that much.

I now use cubes made by Bago. I had an old set and bought a new set this summer. One of the cubes had some extra threads in the mesh area. I asked for a replacement but they said they couldn't replace a single cube. However, they refunded 15% of the cost back to me.

Posted by
13889 posts

To me, brand does make a difference. There are a lot of cheap cubes for sale out there and I wanted to know if it was a reliable name brand...so yes, it is as most REI stuff is fairly well built.

Posted by
1259 posts

I am really worried about weight and space this trip because I am carrying on my carry on, lol, which I usually check. I've downsized my cubes to the smaller size and lighter weight from the ones I usually take so that should take care of me just packing from my packing list and not adding anything else in.

Not addressing you personally, just noting that one's load should not be controlled by one's cubes. Get a smaller carryon-only bag to start with and cull your items to only the necessities. It's not difficult but, yes, carryon takes a leap of faith the first time.

Posted by
1259 posts

To me, brand does make a difference. There are a lot of cheap cubes for sale out there and I wanted to know if it was a reliable name brand...so yes, it is as most REI stuff is fairly well built.

My incident had nothing to do with the quality of the build on these REI things. Totally avoidable dubmass snag caused by pulling too fastly and furiously. Could happen with almost any zipper on anything anytime. Except maybe Tom Bihn's stuff. But they don't make expandable compression cubes.

Packing is usually a calming experience for me.

Posted by
1259 posts

Huh. I didn't realize there were expandable packing cubes out there. I like the look of them unexpanded

Well, any compression cube is just an expandable cube with the zipper closed.

Posted by
1353 posts

I’m packing for a rather complicated 14 day domestic trip. I use some fairly old REI “expandable” cubes. I like the “compression” aspect of them because they hold things in place better, keeping things from sliding around inside the cube and minimizing wrinkles. I have had the 2nd zipper snag so badly on the cube that the cube’s fabric tore. A piece of duct tape and greater care solved that issue.

Posted by
2697 posts

I bought a set from Amazon because they were cute, each one a different color and pattern. One test pack and they’re headed to Goodwill. Didn’t save room, slippery and bulge in the center so don’t lay flat.
I went back to my regular packing cubes. Each actually weighs 1 1/2 oz less, so I save 4 1/2 oz, same as one shirt.

Posted by
1259 posts

That's surprising about the zipper problem.

If one is not paying attention or is in a hurry: blink of an eye, instant karma, zipper-wise.

Got me rethinking the whole cube thing. I like the flat packing organization and the Tetris-like zen required to fit them into an irregularly shaped and smaller space than they actually require. On a whim, I located my ancient Osprey Straight Jacket compression bags and found, much to my dismay, they work just fine, are much lighter, are malleable, and, best of all, work with but a single zipper. Osprey 8 liter compressor

Posted by
531 posts

I have a set of Bagail packing cubes that I've been using for years. However, they have very little structure and I'm looking for something that will keep things flat while still being lightweight. Going the backpack route for my trip next month.

What do you all recommend?

Posted by
6261 posts

Well, any compression cube is just an expandable cube with the zipper closed.

I guess that makes sense. :)

Posted by
1259 posts

However, they have very little structure and I'm looking for something that will keep things flat while still being lightweight.

Only the most expensive packing cubes have any structure but they're organization tools, they do not provide protection from anything although there are some waterproof units out there. You're looking for small cases, designed for the task of dividing up suitcase interiors, probably from the high zoot luggage makers. They are not going to be light. Or, as Trotter suggests, a garment folder? Not light, not cheap, limited functionality, but still highly functional. I have two but don't use them much these days.

Posted by
14919 posts

I have found the shirt packing folders to take up more room than a regular cube.

What you have to do with cubes is think outside the box. They work best when filled. If you put in more than you think you can, they will automatically compress somewhat.

If you have a cube for "shirts" but there is room left, fill it with sweaters, underwear, socks, etc. You'll be surprised how much room you save.

Posted by
27028 posts

I fill a partly-empty cube with anything that will fit. I start with soft items like tissues; if there's still room, I add any old thing. My USB fan currently resides in a compression cube. The fan doesn't compress, but its presence assures that the other contents of the cube do.

Posted by
985 posts

I have scores of packing cubes but rarely use them anymore. After using medium and large ziploc bags to compress clothing on a lengthy trip I liked how flat I could get the bags and my clothes be wrinkle free without rolling. I just packed the bags, laid them on the edge of the bed, sat on them and zipped closed. My backpack carryon has never been so neatly packed with no lumps and bumps and slid like ice right into airplane baggage compartment! Plus our stuff was protected if we had to carry our bags during rain.

Posted by
1259 posts

Apropos this whole thread, REI's Labor Day event is August 26 through September 05. Includes 25% off Thule packing cubes (heavy duty and pricey) and a whopping 25% off Osprey's "Porter" series travel bags. Plus there's a $20 discount at the REI Outlet.

Posted by
531 posts

Based on all the Eagle Creek mentions above, I ordered the Pack It Isolate Cube set. I didn't realize I had the old Bagail packing cubes since 2015. Was time to replace them and get something more practical! Used Rakuten for 2% cash back and free shipping.

Posted by
7220 posts

“ I am really worried about weight and space this trip because I am carrying on my carry on, lol, which I usually check.”

@Pam, sounds like you should bring your filled suitcase to the next Travel Group meeting, and we could all help you remove some “non-essentials” - LOL! Oh, I will still be in Italy. Leslie can remove two items, then. ; )

Posted by
19083 posts

Compression cubes? When I started to learn to back light, I had the opposite problem. My "load" no longer filled my bag, and everything sagged into the bottom of the bag. I had to start using a bag with cinch straps on the outside to "tighten" the load.

At one point I considered getting bubble wrap and using it to fill the empty space in my bag.

So it seems to me that the solution is not compression cubes, but taking less.

Posted by
1259 posts

Compression cubes? ... it seems to me that the solution is not compression cubes, but taking less.

Yes, "taking less." That's where all of these threads eventually arrive. It is a slow or fast descent depending on the emotional attachments of the participants to their style: check (and take lots of cool stuff) or go carryon-only (and do laundry).

Compression cubes don't really accomplish much, they're more about tidying up rather than providing any useful space by some kind of quantum mechanism. One cannot fit 48 liters of water bottles into a 30L bag using compression cubes. But one's compression zippers may be able to round off the corners of cubes full of sweaters and undies to reveal a slot that will secure a bottle of wine.

Posted by
17801 posts

If using compression cubes I was able to double what I cram in my carryon .......... well .............. I will be over the 8kg limit on many airlines.

Posted by
1259 posts

If using compression cubes I was able to increase what i can double what I cram in my carryon

I bow.
Must have impressed some serious wrinkles.

I don't use my cubes to try to add extra stuff. That would lay waste to all of my planning and efficiency goals. I'd simply plotz. My purposes for using packing cubes are organization and to calm the OCD. The sound of the final compression zipper is a satisfying sensation and provides the punctuation: I've done all I can.