Please sign in to post.

Compression vs packing cubes

I took the leap from relying on an 82L suitcase and bought the Fairview 40L carryon. I think the key (aside form limiting what and how much I pack) is going to be either using packing cubes, compression cubes or both. I have used packing cubes from Winners for years and love them for organizing and storing my things while travelling, but I'm thinking that compression would be a needed added benefit this time around since I am literally halving the amount of things I will be bringing. From what I have read so far, most of the compression type require you to bring along some kind of a pump, which sounds like it defeats the purpose of limiting items in a bag. Hoping people here can recommend a compression packing cube that doesn't need one. Thanks!

Posted by
205 posts

On our last trip we purchased a set of Air Canada compression bags from Walmart. They have a clip at the top that is used to seal the bags and a seamless vent at the bottom for air to escape from. You fill the bags to the fill line, seal and then roll from the top. The pressure from rolling expels the air from the bottom and they stayed vacuum sealed until we opened them again.
Worked perfectly! I'm sure you can find something similar.

Posted by
424 posts

I have tried those rolling compression bags. But I actually prefer using 2 gallon zip lock bags. I buy them at Target. You just press or lay on them and zip up. Some packing videos I have watched use the zip kind like these: https://a.co/d/ec0HlPP

Posted by
15571 posts

Those are not compression cubes. They are compression sacs/bags. Compression cubes look like your regular packing cube with an extra zipper to help compress what you put in there a little.

If you use the compression sacs, there are some that just require rolliing to get the air out. Rick Steves sells them on this site (Go to Shop Online.) However, be aware, everything inside will get wrinkled. You will be able to pack more but your bag will be much heavier. They are good for bulky items like jackets, some sweaters,dirty laundry, etc. I used them many years ago and they now sit in storage. Or I may have gotten rid of them during my last declutter.

I used compression cubes in the past but found they didn't compress that much and I just found better cubes to use.

You really need to just cut down on what you are taking and your current packing cubes will work fine. Sometimes you have to rethink how you pack your cubes and what you put in them. In the past, you might have put shirts in one cube. But you might also be able to put socks or underwear or a sweater in that same cube. Maximize space. Zipping up a full cube will add some compression on its own.

You then get to play Tetris to figure out how to best pack the cubes to utilize the allotted space in the bag itself.

Posted by
359 posts

Like another poster, I also used compression bags one time and then ditched them. They do horribly wrinkle the clothes. Also, every time you re-pack to change locations or head home, those same clothes now have to be stored back into the compression bags to fit into your suitcase. That was a major pain. The final deal breaker for me was that although the clothes took up less space, they still weighed the same. I ended up with a moderately sized suitcase that felt like it was full of lead weights! Yes, I had a lot of clothes, but midway through the trip I was ready to ditch half of them at the hotel. Better investment is a few tops and pants/skirts that are easy to wash and dry overnight in the hotel sink. I would only use compression for a single item like a down coat, if at all.

Posted by
229 posts

If you’re flying on an airline that weighs carryons (such as the European discount airlines), be careful when using compression bags. The compression bags may allow you to fit a lot more in your bag, but these extra items would still have weight, even though they’re squished up. Besides making your bag heavy, as mentioned above, you will be forced to check it if it’s over the carryon weight limit, possibly at the last minute for an expensive fee. So just keep weight in mind, along with size.

Posted by
1259 posts

Those huge compression bags are a tremendous PITA hassle but they're cheap so you should try them to see if they help in your case.

You can spend a few hours watching several packing systems compared on the yootoobs: rolling, folding, KonMari, and various cubes. The results are interesting: in most cases, when done properly, no method actually provides any significant additional space by any magical means. Squeezing all the air out of some clothing items has downsides like wrinkles and creases.

The tangible benefits of any packing system are organization and efficiently using every cubic centimeter of available space. As others have pointed out, the purpose of having a 40L bag is to force you to carry only what you actually need to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. You need less, you will do laundry more often, and you may need to obtain some items that travel well (probably not), and you need to practice. The upside? It's easy to pack lightly.

Cramming 45-60L of stuff into a 40L bag is both difficult and unwise.

Posted by
381 posts

I generally use both the compression cubes and the regular packing cubes when I travel. They are both great for organizing. I'll still have odds and ends tucked away in the spaces the cubes don't settle into. And I get to smile so sweetly when something alerts the scanner-watchers (or I'm randomly selected) and they ask me to open my bag for inspection. Wrinkles aren't an issue for me with the type of items I typically compress but I don't mind a shower steaming or a touch up ironing if needed. My recent travels spanned two seasons and it really helped to compress a few items that were taken for "what if" weather. But we typically stay in one place for at least a week; hubs unpacks his cubes but I only unpack items I want to hang. If I was hotel-hopping, there'd be no need to unpack if you have things nicely organized. I always pack a compression cube in my under-the-seat backpack with a complete change of clothes. And I don't check a bag but I like having replacement items handy if a quick change is required. I've had to make a mid-flight shirt change before, thanks to a turbulence-sloshed drink.

To each his own. Just be aware of the ability to overpack when using the compression cubes. I'd take only what fits in an uncompressed manner but pack in compression cubes and then you have extra space in your bag for potential purchases along the way.

Posted by
888 posts

I take a compression bag with me, but only use it when packing to get on the plane to come home so I can fit more in my bag. Or, I use it for dirty laundry along the way.

Posted by
160 posts

I bought BAGAIL Compression Packing Cubes and they are nice and sturdy. They don't rely on a pump. They have a second zipper that squashes the cube flat. You do have to struggle, force the bag to flatten, a little to get that second zipper to zip. Overall they work great and do give you more room.

I decided not to use them because when I did, I packed more stuff and went over the weight limit!

Posted by
27362 posts

I take one or two compression cubes on each trip. I don't compress slacks or blouses because they're likely to wrinkle. I do compress underwear, sleepwear, long johns, a puffer jacket, facial tissues, toilet paper, my packable backpack and anything else that will be significantly less bulky compressed. If one of the compression bags isn't full, I add other items just so the space is fully used.

Posted by
14167 posts

I agree with comments upthread on the compression bags...I've successfully used them with a polar fleece or puffy jacket or vest but other than that they are not helpful.

I do like the Eagle Creek compression cubes which have the extra zipper. If I carefully fold then roll my shirts, smoothing as I go they don't get too wrinkled. Underwear/socks/pjs don't matter wrinkle wise so are good in the compression cube. I have the sil-nylon ones which are very lightweight although not as lightweight as the plain sil-nylon cubes due to the extra zipper.

If you go with cubes or bags, I do recommend you do some practice packs with them to see how they work best. And yes, you still need to be very cognizant of the weight of the packed bag!

PS. I pack a small empty spray bottle so I can take out a clean shirt at night, spritz it with water, shake and hang out the wrinkles if there are any.

Posted by
2866 posts

I bought these compression cubes because they were pretty and I hoped they would save room. Nope. My test pack reminded me that the Sharper Image packing cubes I bought at TJMaxx work better than most and actually pack smaller than the compression cubes. The compression cubes lack structure, hump in the middle so don't lay flat and are slippery.

Posted by
126 posts

I used the Compass Rose packing cubes in my 36L Osprey rolling backpack and they worked great. I packed them vertically rather than horizontally (as they recommend) and the backpack’s internal compression straps held it all nice and snug.

Posted by
3961 posts

I’ve always had great success with a couple packing cubes. We pack light, do sink washing along the way. We tend to travel in the fall. I can only recall using a laundromat and or hotel laundry service a few times for my husbands jeans. I have used a 2 gallon zip lock bag compressed once or twice for an item on the bottom of my suitcase. Other than that I use a 1 gallon zip lock bag compressed for lingerie and place it in the outside zipper of my TravelPro suitcase. I learned this trick at a RS packing class many years ago. To Pam’s suggestion- spraying some water on a garment & hanging it over night works well to eliminate wrinkles. I tend to wear light weight wrinkle resistant clothing anyway! ;)

Posted by
33 posts

I love this thread; I’m learning new packing tips. :)

I use compression cubes only when traveling domestically for 1-2 nights and I want to fit everything in my laptop bag. I think compression cubes tend to wrinkle my clothes more.

When taking longer trips, 17 days is my longest trip so far, I pack my 42L Cotopaxi backpack with 1 large Tom Bihn packing cube for my clothes, 1 compass rose cube for my PJs, socks, undergarments, and rain jacket. And, if I need to take a puffer jacket – I pack that in a reusable compression bag. FYI: I typically travel at 18-lb. or less.

Posted by
11355 posts

I have used packing cubes for many years and only use a compression bag to put dirty laundry in when flying home. The packing cubes make like easier as I always know exactly where certain things are in my luggage and my suitcases stays orderly.

Posted by
808 posts

I had compression bags once.
I would place them under the mattress and sit down on top to get the air out of them. The seal was accessible when they were under the mattress. If you have the kind that you would roll to compress, this method may work for you.

Posted by
1259 posts

One more thing: Streamlining one's travel inventory to only absolutely necessary and multi-functional items has the remarkable benefit of changing the formerly complex and tedious chores of unpacking and packing into quick and mindless tasks. There are fewer items to keep track of or to lose and they fit into fewer cubes.

Posted by
2866 posts

Since several people said they use compression cubes for laundry, I thought I'd add that my laundry bag is a nylon string backpack. It was free as advertising and holds a few days dirty clothes until I get the sink washing done.

As for regular packing cubes, I tried the RS ones but they aren't durable and got holes in the lightweight mesh. Then I found the Sharper Image ones but they're discontinued. Fortunately I bought two sets. Either way, since I started using packing cubes, I can't imagine not using them. They keep clothes neat and organized. Plus I organize supplies and sundries in a bunch of nylon bags, mesh bags and/or ziplock bags.

Posted by
160 posts

I used compression bags one time (a brand that did not require a pump) and never again. First, your luggage gets too heavy as you have way more clothes packed in it. Secondly, it is a mess each time you unpack and have to decompress the clothes again to pack. Perhaps okay if you were going to stay in one place for the whole vacation, but if you will be changing lodging every day or two, a royal pain, at least to me.

Posted by
14167 posts

I've also got the Compass Rose packing cubes mentioned above and have used them successfully for years. The reason I'm going back to the Eagle Creek compression cubes is they weigh SO much less. I'm on a mission to carry on my carry on this trip to avoid luggage going missing and have an Air France leg. They have a 12 kilo weight limit for the carry on and personal item so I want to be well under that and will save some by switching back to the EC cubes.

And yes....sigh....I weighed and spreadsheeted ALL my packing cubes, pouches, etc. Nuts, I tell you, nuts.

Posted by
354 posts

Thank you everyone for sharing your opinions and suggestions.

I am going to get a single compression bag for bulky items and dirty laundry and invest in a few slim packing cubes but plan to ranger roll everything. Wish Compass Rose cubes were still available. They look perfect.

Now to read up about how to create a capsule wardrobe.....

Posted by
739 posts

My one nightmare "SSSS" experience would have been made much worse had I used compression cubes. Everything was thoroughly emptied from my carry on for inspection and they even insisted on dumping the contents of my camera bag. Everything was thoroughly dissected and deconstructed. There's such pressure to reload your luggage quickly. I simply couldn't get it completed fast enough and was pushed off the edge of their table, I can't imagine compression chores added to that stress.

Posted by
1259 posts

I am going to get a single compression bag for bulky items and dirty laundry and invest in a few slim packing cubes but plan to ranger roll everything. Wish Compass Rose cubes were still available. They look perfect.

Seems reasonable.
Practice.
Give yourself time to reconsider these acquisitions and make changes to your procedures if you need to.
For instance, there might be a reason no one enthusiastically suggested ranger rolling in this thread.

Posted by
14167 posts

Have you fallen down the rabbit hole of www.theviviennefiles.com ? Her color combinations are so wonderful! I am not a skirt person but her post yesterday made me want to go for a print skirt and black tee, lol!!

Posted by
1432 posts

Oh dear, Pam. Rabbitt hole indeed! I don't know whether to bless or curse you. Will I get anything done today now? It's too hot so maybe it doesn't matter. I do have one complaint about the Viviennefiles's capsule wardrobe. Too many shoes. 4 pairs for a long weekend. Really? That many shoes would be a problem for a carry-on only international trip.

Posted by
3241 posts

I assume ranger rolling is the military rolling technique. I do this for all clothes including socks and unders. Clothes are much neater and I think smaller than just regular rolling. IMO

I recommend taking less, not compressing more. I like a light bag.

Posted by
128 posts

My worst packing fail was being all too clever in filling every single nook and cranny of every space in my bag. To make things worse, I followed the advice of wearing/bringing heavy bulky items with me on the plane. It was such an aggravation with each stop to try to repack my luggage. Now I always start off with a bag that is only 3/4 full, and on some hurried mornings it still seems my "stuff" has magically expanded. :)

I'll echo what @Wray said, "I recommend taking less, not compressing more."

Posted by
354 posts

Pam, travelfashiongirl is the rabbit hole I’ve fallen into. She’s the creator of the compass rose packing cubes. Between that site and this one I am looking forward to downsizing.

Will check out your suggestion as well. Thanks!

Posted by
354 posts

Wray, sounds like sage advice. Thank you.

Yes, ranger rolling is a military inspired travel packing technique. Supposed to economize space and minimize wrinkles.

Posted by
27362 posts

Yes, compression means a smaller bag in some cases, and a smaller bag weighs less. There is no reason to pack more just because you use compression cubes.

Posted by
14167 posts

travelfashiongirl is the rabbit hole I’ve fallen into.

Oh yes. I HAD to have the white shirt from Eddie Bauer she goes on and on about. I needed it so badly I made my SIL go with me to the EB Outlet 30 miles away. I wound up having to order it and then wound up not taking it on my spring trip because it just was one too many shirts, lol.

I actually ordered the Compass Rose cubes from the trial run she offered before they went public. I’m not sure why she stopped making them because I do love the way you file the into your suitcase.

And I agree about the # of shoes Janice includes in her capsules! Seriously? Well I couldn’t walk in 2/3 of them anyway!

Posted by
12172 posts

I'm going to try compression cubes on my next trip. I tried regular packing cubes and really didn't find them useful. I can use any small bag (or other methods) to segregate my bag contents.

Posted by
354 posts

Thanks very much for sourcing those Frank II. They would be perfect but they don’t ship to Canada :(

Posted by
531 posts

I have packing cubes, but they have no structure, so I'm looking to buy the pack flat bags from Rick Steves to help bring the bulk/air down. Will bring the same amount of clothes, but I'm hoping it helps my backpack stick out a little bit less.

I haven't purchased the bags yet. Does anyone know if you can still roll your clothes and put them in these pack flat style bags?

Posted by
1259 posts

I have packing cubes, but they have no structure, so I'm looking to buy the pack flat bags from Rick Steves to help bring the bulk/air down. Will bring the same amount of clothes, but I'm hoping it helps my backpack stick out a little bit less. I haven't purchased the bags yet. Does anyone know if you can still roll your clothes and put them in these pack flat style bags?

Compression bags can squeeze out some air but they don't make your load any easier to manage. One issue with compression bags is they turn your compressible items into bricks that no longer conform easily to the inside of your bag. If you roll your clothing, you get cylinders that may compress, but not efficiently; lots of wasted space between the round ends and wrinkles galore from the compression. Might as well fold and stack or just cram/stuff.

Get the bags and take some time to practice packing.

Posted by
124 posts

Compression cubes can be dangerous, they make your bag weigh more.

Posted by
125 posts

I took a 5 week trip to Europe in April and with the talk of luggage challenges at Heathrow, decided to do carry-on only for the trip. With a wide range of tempatures and events, I wondered how I would be able to fit everything I "needed" into my carry-on roller bag. I got Eagle Creek Compression Cubes and the Specter Cubes in a range of sizes as well as the "Pack-It Sleeves" in Medium and Small. OMG-they were a game changer and I love them and will never travel without them again. Depending on what I was packing and volume, I compressed some cubes and left others as is. With my long-sleeve tops, it was easy to compress six them and still have flexibility in the cube. I used the plastic sheet from the pack-it sleeve to fold my clothes so they fit the cubes. It kept them from wrinkling. For other clothing items, the flexibiity of not compressing worked better for fitting in my suitcase. What I really liked about the cubes besides being able to pack what I needed, was how organized the cubes kept me so that I could pack quickly and I knew where everything was.

When I returned from my trip, I created a packing list since there were some things I took that I did not wear and noted what went in each cube. I bought some clothes from the store "Chico's" that were made of a fabric that packed and washed really well which I think helped with the compression cubes. I treated the cubes like Legos in my suitcase and put the same cube in its spot every trip. I also bought as many Eagle Cubes and I could since they are hard to get because Eagle Creek was sold. My family is getting them as gifts. Being able to do only carry-on was freeing on my trip as I saw so many struggles with checked bags and now I use my cubes on all my trips even domestic. It just saved a trip last week when a connection was late and I was able to make my plane because luggage was not an issues.

Posted by
160 posts

Itsv, I like the idea of leaving some cubes uncompressed. I may do that on my upcoming trip. Then if I really need the room because I have bought stuff, I can use the compression zipper and get more room in my bag.

Posted by
354 posts

Frank II, I am so appreciative of your efforts! Still outta luck though. Amazon.com is giving me a message that “this item doesn’t ship to your location”. Seems these slim cubes are out of reach for me. I’ll have to improvise.

Posted by
772 posts

I, too, am a devotee of packing cubes. I've been using them since ebags came out with them 200 years ago, and since then have upgraded to their lightweight line. Definite improvement; don't buy the older styles, even if they are on sale. The newer ones are also sized to fit better into carry-ons. (I also love their lay-flat toiletries bag. Probably too big for minimalists, but great for those packing for two.) Compression bags are great for the puffy coat, sweats, and similar stuff, but they leave the rest a wrinkled mess.

What I don't see here mentioned here too often is the wear-one-wash-one school of underwear management. True, underwear don't take up a lot of space, but lighter is lighter, no? Use the wring-roll-and stomp method and they're dry in the morning. In the summer, they are dry in a couple of hours. I especially love the camisole top for fall/winter travel. Double-duty layering piece and underwear. Tip: if you are larger than a B cup, though, it might not be enough support for you. I'd skip the bralette style. It's completely non-supportive. (TMI?) I especially like their T shifts and socks for my son and husband. They've gone 3 weeks without washing shirts using these (and no, not eeww, you wouldn't believe they've been worn that long, especially if you ignore the ketchup stains). Their stuff is on the pricey side, but they have sales and I've been wearing mine for several months a year for 10 years with no appreciable wear. Don't buy the knock-off brands. They are less comfortable, and don't dry nearly as quickly.

Posted by
1259 posts

What I don't see here mentioned here too often is the wear-one-wash-one school of underwear management.

Hygiene and laundry are topics on their own, encouraging endless discussion. Since you brought it up here, trick I learned while bicycle touring is to shower wearing your cycling kit or skin layer. By the time I've washed hair and scrubbed the nasty bits, my t-shirt, undies, and sox are clean. TMI, indeed!

Posted by
3204 posts

"Frank II, I am so appreciative of your efforts! Still outta luck though. Amazon.com is giving me a message that “this item doesn’t ship to your location”. Seems these slim cubes are out of reach."

No ...I bought cubes the same shape and size on Amazon.ca, and they are just fine!
You'll find some if you look.
I think mine were the Bagail brand.
They fit really well into a carryon roller.

Edit: just had a look and can't find any at first look!

Posted by
14167 posts

@Wanderlust, I think you are referring to a specific brand but I don't see it mentioned? I am assuming it is some kind of Merino Wool since you went 3 weeks without washing. I went for 6 days during a Paris heat wave and only washed the shirt because the thought was grossing me out. Unfortunately I concluded that yes, even though these are Merino, they make me itch. I tried to talk myself out of it but...not!