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Compression Packing Cubes: Worth It or Not?

Hello!

Our family of 4 (kids aged 13 & 10) are prepping for a 2 week trip to Europe at the end of March/April and are hoping to make do with a single carry-on each. Everything I've read says that packing cubes are a lifesaver when trying to pack light and keep a single bag organized. What seems to be less clear is how effective compression packing cubes are. Some folks swear by them and others say they don't work as advertised. Wondering what everyone's thoughts/experiences are with these? If you've found them effective, are there particular brands you prefer? Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!!

Posted by
2857 posts

I bought compression cubes from Amazon but was not impressed when I did a test pack. They lumped in the middle so wouldn’t lay flat in the suitcase and the nylon was slippery which also made suitcase packing more difficult.

I ended up using regular packing cubes that I’ve used before, Sharper Image from TJMaxx and RS cubes. I can’t image not using packing cubes to keep clothes organized. Small cube for undies, another small for pants (I wear leggings that don’t take much room) and a large cube for shirts & misc. The few times my hubby traveled anywhere, I packed shirts in a small cube and pants in large. Packing this way fits in the RS Rolling Carry-on.

Posted by
2480 posts

The main issue is that weight is important, too, and you'll end up packing more stuff.
Some items don't really compress that much, anyway, and they are more finicky to zip. I don't use them anymore, although I do have a few that I use uncompressed.

Posted by
15552 posts

They don't save as much space as people hope. Mostly around the edges but not in the center.

Posted by
4290 posts

I actually like mine a lot (and I now use both). Although, yes, they can get bulkier in the middle than the edges, I don’t put absolutely everything in a packing cube, so I can make that work and not lose space. And I am never worried about weight, either - I manage that with size of suitcase.

Posted by
8590 posts

It's just a bag. Before they became popular, I used plastic shopping bags and rubber bands to organize and compress stuff, and they worked too. I just finished packing for an upcoming domestic trip, and they sure helped the process of packing, even if all my stuff would have fit anyway. During a trip, I leave everything in the cubes, not unpacking. That helps me keep worn clothes from clean clothes.

Dont work as advertised? Well they don't really promise much, do they? It's just a way to help organize, but wont solve chronic over-packing or reduce bag size and weight if you just cram more stuff in them, because the space is reduced.

I have some from multiple brands, and I don't think there's significant difference between them. Some have stronger fabric, but that also means more weight. Without thinking about it, Eagle Creek is one brand I trust, off the shelf.

Posted by
1426 posts

I use REI "compression" packing cubes which are unfortunately no longer available. I can't imagine not using packing cubes, but it's mostly as an organizational tool as Stan mentioned. And as others have said, it's weight that you need to manage. Your kids are young so you probably don't expect them to lift their own bag into the overhead bin. Are you able to help lift 4 bags of undetermined weight? How about getting on and off trains, climbing stairs, etc.? The real lifesaver for me was to get out the kitchen scale and weigh everything and keep the total weight under 20 lbs. My 60+ year old, 5'3" body can manage that into the bins, but not a bag weighing much more.

Posted by
273 posts

I got my cubes on ebags.com - their private label brand, and the zippers have held up very well (not the case with some cheap, flimsy ones). I find that they are great for keeping organized, especially when changing hotel rooms every couple of days. They also work well to compress bulky items like sweaters so they take up less space in the suitcase. Or you can use the ones that are like big plastic baggies that force the air out of bulky items like sweaters. But you do have to be aware that use of them will increase the weight of your bag since they fit more into less space.

Posted by
23428 posts

What is critical for us is the folding envelopes that compress your folded items -- shirts, pants, etc. We use one per bag. We also using packing cubes for the bulky items but not the compression style. We also use a lot of 1 and 2 gal zip lock bags. With the exception of shoes, everything in our bag is in another bag. Makes it easy to pack and unpack.

Posted by
8206 posts

If someone's going to travel with us, they're going to make it with one 21" rolling carry on bag that weighs less than 22 lbs. total. And they're going to handle their own luggage--including getting on and off trains.

We use packing cubes to keep like things together--for organization--bought at Walmart. And we also have zipper type plastic bags for toiletries, etc. We live by a modified Rick Steves Packing List, and we can travel indefinitely with the one suitcase.
The trick is not carrying any clothes that you're not going to wear. For 2 weeks, my suitcase will have two pairs of heavily starched pants--jeans and khaki. I'll be wearing another. I carry enough golf shirts that I rotate daily--three times. That means I have the shirt I'm wearing and 4 others rotating them daily. I carry one pair of shoes--on me--and none other. Ladies I recognize will need another pair of shoes.
We've also discovered that if we can book an apartment with a washer/dryer halfway through our trip, we can even get by on fewer clothes.
My wife carries a smartphone and I carry a small tablet that works better if I need to change reservations as I go along. That's it for electronics. (No big, heavy laptops.) Keeping things simple certainly helps.

Posted by
2354 posts

When my kids were younger, I packed their clothes in gallon size ziplocks, with one outfit (shirt, shorts/pants, socks, undies) per bag. This made it super easy for the kids. Grab a bag and get dressed. You can press all the air out of the ziplock to save space. You’ll be amazed how little space this uses. Plenty of room for a second pair of shoes and jacket in the carry on.

We use 2 gallon size bags for adults and they work just as well. We each pack 5-6 outfits. There’s no way you’re packing 14 outfits in a carryon bag.

Posted by
23 posts

Packing cubes are definitely worth it, they make repacking so easy! I roll my clothes and then tightly pack them into a cube. Like others have said, shirts/tops in one, pants in another. I have never used compression cubes, I just fill a cube tight and then zip it. When packing shoes, remember to stuff the shoes with socks! 20 pounds is a great rule. A small pack (like your kids use for school) is great for day trips, just don't overpack them! Everyone needs to be able to carry their own stuff, including any "treasures" that they purchase. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
27352 posts

I primarily use compression cubes for things like underwear, sleepwear and a packable down jacket--though now that I mostly travel with nylon slacks, those might be OK, too. My fleece jacket is something I'm often wearing; otherwise, it would go in a cube. My tops would get more wrinkled in a compression cube, I think; I either just fold and stack them or wrap them around the underwear cube. If I have a cube that's not full (so not really compressing), I add other things like packets of tissues.

I have a fixed number of garments I take with me; using compression cubes doesn't tempt me to take more.

Posted by
14159 posts

I'm with AMann...I use the Eagle Creek sil-nylon compression cubes. I also have some Eagle Creek lightweight non-compression cubes. I feel they help with controlling space and I can control the weight by using my lighter cubes.

I will also add that part of it is if you ONLY have that small space for shirts then you have a set limit on what you can take...if that makes sense.

I'd switched over to a kind of packing cube I really liked but last Fall when I was on a mission to pack as lightly as possible I went back to the Eagle Creek cubes because they are so lightweight. That was a huge factor for me. IF you buy them, make sure to check the weight of the cube and get the lightest possible with good zippers. I have no complaints about the Eagle Creek cubes. The smaller size compression cube weighs 1 3/8 oz. The smaller size sil nylon non-compression cube weighs 5/8 oz. I have them in white and purple and oddly the purple ones are slightly heavier but only by 1/8 oz.

I do recommend doing some trial packs with the cubes. They don't pack the same as just putting stuff in the suitcase...it's more "tetris-based" packing, hahaha!

Posted by
1259 posts

Some folks swear by them and others say they don't work as advertised. Wondering what everyone's thoughts/experiences are with these? If you've found them effective, are there particular brands you prefer?

There are dozens of great yootoobs on "packing cubes". Have a look.

Compression cubes are all marketing; they do not solve an actual problem. You can't take more stuff using compression cubes. All they do is remove air and you can easily squeeze the air out of your clothing several other ways.

Compression cubes are great, until they aren't. If the extra zipper fails due to unrealistic expectations and enthusiastic overstuffing, all you've got is a tall packing cube.

Your group's younger members might enjoy having their own color-coded cubes but that scheme won't last; they'll want to mix things up after a few days. Get the least expensive sets you can find for the children and better sets for the adults. You might wish to pack a few spares for loss and damage.

If it hasn't been mentioned already, a practice trip with young one-bagger newbies might not be a bad idea. Pack up and head to a nearby attraction. Practice unpacking and keeping track of stuff. Have everyone do one or wto pieces of laundry in the shower or sink. Do these kids like to prank each other? That could be truly inconvenient if they think there is fun to had in hiding each other's critical travel items. Rather up to the adults to make sure everyone's things are properly inventoried and packed away before moving on to the next B&B or hotel.

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
269 posts

I'm a packing cube convert. I used to think they were a waste of space and added more weight. But after using them, I am a convert. I even use them in my "personal item" bag to keep things organized. Haven't had a TSA agent paw through my bag since I started using them, but I can see that having them would make it easier to get everything back where it belongs should it happen.

Compression cubes? Haven't tried them, but am considering getting a small one for packing a pair of sweats. I like coming home and changing into my sweats or lounge pants. In a hotel it's either keep what you have on or put on your pjs. A large ziploc bag may work, but they tend to fill back with air pretty quickly.

Posted by
82 posts

I use them and like them as they do help keep my things organized. I have a set of Eagle Creek compression cubes and they do not add any weight. I also have some regular Eagle Creek packing cubes and find them useful as well for other items that may not need compression. If you like to be organized, then definitely get some compression cubes. It may help for the large clothes items. For things like undies and socks, regular small cubes may be more beneficial.

Posted by
95 posts

I honestly wouldn’t travel without packing cubes anymore. Great invention! I have many brands, including Eagle Creek, RS, and some cheaper ones from Amazon. They’re wonderful for organizing. Undies and sleepwear in one, tops in one, pants/skirts in another. I’ll even have one for dirty clothes. I like organization when I travel, and even if I’m changing locations often I still feel ‘in control’ of my belongings. It just makes it way easier.

Posted by
105 posts

I always use standard packing cubes and find them helpful for staying organized. If I do need a compression bag for something that is bulky, but not necessary heavy, I use a 2-gallon ziplock. For example, I used them on bulky sweatpants that a family member likes to travel with. It compresses what I need really well. But I wouldn't use it for everything since if I packed the suitcase full with compressed clothes, it would be too heavy.

Posted by
7395 posts

The compression cubes work well with items with a higher degree of puffiness to remove the air from lightweight items, I.e. a puffy down vest.

My normal packing is a small Rick Steves mesh cube for underwear & nightie, and a large mesh cube for clothes. (Sometimes I use two Eagle Creek shoe bags for my clothes, instead.) A pair of lightweight flats or sandals go in an Eagle Creek shoe bag.

The packing cubes don’t help you pack light; the clothes you pack weigh the same inside or outside a packing cube. But, they’re great for keeping the suitcase organized.

Try to rent one or two apartments during your trip to run your clothes through a washer to simplify everything.

Have a great time!

Posted by
115 posts

Love my compression packing cubes. Even my spouse who doesn’t like packing cubes got on board with these. Mine are really fantastic, the only negative — is my suitcase is a bit heavier!

Posted by
332 posts

Worth it! I’ve been using compression cubes for years and I love them. Even when I don’t need to compress the contents, they still work great for organizing. I was very happy with my Lewis and Clark cubes - light and flexible nylon with a mesh front and sturdy zippers. The only thing I didn’t like was the dull, dark colors that weren’t easy to tell apart from each other in the dark interior of my 21” carryon suitcase.

Looking for some color, I recently bought a very affordable set of Gonex Compression Packing Cubes from Amazon. The set of 6 included 5 cubes in a variety of sizes, plus a shoe/small laundry bag. I chose a bright floral pattern, but the sets also come in solid colors and lots of prints. They have my preferred mesh fronts and surprisingly sturdy/heavy zippers for the bargain price. I didn’t end up using the largest cube (it was too big for my carryon) but managed to use the other sizes on our three week trip to Germany this past fall.

Posted by
796 posts

People interchange compression cubes and packing cubes quite readily. It they are surely different.

If you are using a compression cube and it gets a hole in it or the closing device becomes faulty, then what?
Will you be able to pack still? Then the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and you are bulked up.

Posted by
1251 posts

I finally converted to packing cubes on most recent trip.

I did not bother with compression cubes (small added cost, weight, extra zippers and extra time to compress individual cubes). It seems to me you can easily compress a regular packing cube by using the built in compression straps of the backpack or luggage. Just zipping up the pack or luggage will compress down the packing cubes. If they do not compress down enough to close the bag, chances are you are overpacking and exceeding the weight limit.

Posted by
15552 posts

Treemoss.....compression cubes are nothing more than packing cubes with an extra zipper to slightly lessen the thickness of the cube. It's not like a vacuum. If you get a hole nothing happens. More important if the zipper breaks. You can still use the packing cube. There won't be that much of a difference.

Posted by
22 posts

I have a challenging packing situation coming up and I considered not using packing cubes. Then I did a test pack and realized I NEED them. I'll have one standard and one compression.

My bag, like many, has webbing straps I can tighten - all good if I fold my clothes in a tidy pile. But I don't like folding anymore - when you pull one item out from the middle, it pulls on the adjacent items and makes wrinkles or otherwise unsettles the pile in some way - creating small dead spaces. So I do a modified fold & roll inside a packing cube so that every item is visible when I unzip the cube. I could do the same fold/roll thing without the cube, but most of my items wouldn't be captured by the compression strap. A standard packing cube is fine for corralling all my items.

I have a couple warmer items - very compressible fleece and knit items. I also have a challenging 8" deep requirement for my carryon bag. I will use my compressible cube for those compressible items, then position the center bulge under one of the suitcase compression straps.

Another reason to have compression cubes - souvenirs. Pack your outbound bag uncompressed. This keeps you from overpacking. Then, when you buy souvenirs, you can compress your cubes and add a few inches of space.

That's just for flying though. Once I'm at my destination, I won't compress the 2nd cube until it's time to head home.

Posted by
121 posts

The compression cubes work well with items with a higher degree of puffiness to remove the air from lightweight items, I.e. a puffy down vest.

This 100%. I have about a dozen packing cubes of various shapes/sizes (only a couple are compression) and never take a trip without them. Compression cubes come in very handy when you have fluffy things that take up a lot of space that can really pack down. This comes in handy if you are carry on only. The other nice thing about them is that you can use them like a normal packing cube, you don't have to pack them out full and compress them down. Just pack them normally with the compression zipper closed. Then you have a more versatile cube when you need it.

Posted by
26 posts

I find packing cubes very helpful for sorting and planning my packing. As for compression cubes, I think the important thing to consider is space versus weight. Since compression bags will give you more space, will you add more weight? When I used compression bags (technically two gallon Hefty bags which I laid upon to compress), I had more space in my luggage, so I added more, and, eventually, my bag became heavier than I wanted.

Do you have a need to take more than will generally fit in your suitcase? Do you have to worry about weight limits? If you don’t have to worry about weight limits and you want to pack a bit more in your suitcase, compression bags might work for you.

Posted by
195 posts

I take them on almost every trip. I can get most of my clothes into two of them, one for tops, one for bottoms. The larger items like a windbreaker or jacket I wear on the plane. The cubes hold more than I thought they would and the rectangular ones are the most space efficient for a 21 inch bag.