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Roll clothing?

We are going on a three week trip to Europe next week. My wife was asking if rolling clothing is the best way to pack? If so, roll everything or just some items? Do the clothes stay looking pressed or not? Is rolling more efficient than folding?

TIA, Joe

Posted by
1259 posts

There is no simple answer. You can hit youtube and search for “rolling vs folding” and see many shootouts. Some items benefit from rolling in order to minimize wrinkling but, if you watch demos of ranger rolling, you’ll see the process requires a tremendous amount of effort. The solution for me is to outfit myself with travel-specific and carefully curated clothing that sheds wrinkles.

Here are only three of the dozens of clips you can find with a bit of time and effort:

If you’re trying to maximize space, consider that when you put clothing in a suitcase, much of the volume is air. So compression allows more items to be stored in a given volume but at the expense of difficult to manage wrinkles. Rolling clothing, which may or may not reduce wrinkling (I find the evidence inconclusive), forms cylinders which are inefficient at filling rectangular and cubic space. If you squish the rolled items into tight cubes to make better use of the available volume, you’re introducing those wrinkles again.

There are many ways to pack clothing and they each have their enthusiastic proponents (and they can all be seen in practice on the intertubes):
Rolling, ranger rolling, folding, stacking, bundling, garment folders, packing cubes, compression cubes, compression sacks, compression bags, vacuum bags, and (my personal favorite) totally random combination of all of the above.

For instance, sleepwear, underwear, and socks can get shoved into a cube or bag. My wrinkle-free shirts, pants, and shorts get rolled loosely and placed into a cube with any folded item on top. Rain gear and outer layers get stuffed into compression sacks. If I’m taking a blazer, it must either be folded carefully or ironed before wearing.

Posted by
84 posts

Hello. I prefer rolling and then put into packing cubes. Hubby just uses the cubes. Neither of us perceive that clothes still look pressed, but several minutes after donning them we can’t really tell. I recommend that you do a test roll with your favorite pieces by leaving them rolled a full 24 hours. Then you can see what your garment looks like and if you don’t mind so much. Happy travels.

Posted by
8201 posts

joseph, nothing is perfect if you're trying to prevent wrinkles. But rolling seemed to work better for me, when I traveled for business. For vacation travel, I still roll, but I'm not worried about wrinkles. I think many people prefer rolling for the space efficiency, not appearance. Look into packing cubes as mentioned. Many people here are more interested in packing light, smaller bags, carryon only, so packing is all about space.

My tip for keeping a fresh appearance is to starch your shirts. A heavy starching will help keep a shirt looking OK for multiple wearings. Some people dont like the initial stiffness, and young people don't even know what starch (or an iron) is, so its not for everybody.

Posted by
5258 posts

I like rolling. I feel like I can get more in a cube and its better organized. Its easier to see what I want when there is a neat row of rolled clothes rather than flipping thru a stack.

Posted by
1662 posts

Hi joseph,

If you're planning to carry on a bag compared to also taking a checked bag, then it can be challenging.

Regardless of where I travel, I take a carry on and check a bag, although neither are very heavy. But, I stay in one place, so that makes it easier and is a game changer compared to those who are on tour or are moving from city to city/country to country independently.

I pack my carry on for a few days while my checked luggage gets the bulk. It varies of course depending on length of trip.

Upon return, the carry on has my souvenirs and important stuff. Of course, if you have souvenirs that go over the 3-1-1 rule, then you must accommodate those in your checked. Bring bubble wrap sheets, weightless. Of course you can wrap your clothes around a jar or bottle, I do too, but, I just add that extra layer of protection (and maybe leakage - never happened though.)

Back to rolling: Since you're going in warmer weather, it will be easier since you really won't have bulky clothes. Roll underthings/socks etc. and put in (wire-free) pack cubes such as American Tourister - sold at Walmart for under $9. They have different sizes and two colors to choose from - black and turquoise - for color coding.

Or, buy larger zip lock type bags and put smaller items, Tee's and under things in there, flatten out the air. The only downside is that they are "slippery" of course when trying to pack them in luggage - 'know from experience.'

I roll jersey knit tops or similar but fold pants into 'thirds.' I don't take jeans on trips. My last two trips to Italy have been in colder weather, so I took lightweight, shorter, tunic-style sweaters (packed two) - one I wore on the plane (one in carry on) - had jersey knit camisoles (I rolled) for warmth, plus my coat/scarf/gloves of course. So, my sweaters were the heaviest.

I rolled my bed clothes but the thin, knit robe I took had to be folded in thirds, so to speak. My clothes were not wrinkled really. But, the clothes I take, if they have a teeny blip, it comes right out when wearing. And, people won't notice, unless you're going to a fancy restaurant or if you look like you just rolled out of bed, lol.

Some things rolled can be more bulkier than folding. You may have to trial and error a couple of times. Plus whatever else you'll be packing - an extra pair of shoes/sneakers? - your toiletries that don't fit in your 3-1-1? Things like that.

You probably know that formulating a mix and match, a monochromatic, or a tonal look will help in wardrobe choices.

Have fun!

Posted by
577 posts

I saw a video on YOUTUBE that compared all the ways of packing and they concluded that you can pack more into your luggage by rolling your cloth. Bundling will give you less wrinkles. I lay 2 pairs of pants at the bottom of my backpack luggage and then roll everything else. I was able to pack clothes for 10 days for a 23 day trip. It was almost 22 lbs which got heavy at times when it was on my back but at least I had free hand to check where I was going. Most places you will stay will have an iron and board. Have fun.

Posted by
25567 posts

I basically agree with bogiesan, though I travel with a tiny squirt bottle I can use to spritz individual wrinkles, then hang the garment to dry--which happens pretty fast since I'm not wetting the whole thing.

I use compression cubes, but mainly for undergarments, sleepwear, tissues, etc. I don't compress outer clothing for fear of introducing more wrinkles. However, there may be some fabrics that come out of a compression cube looking great. Nylon and rayon are possibilities. If you think you may have garments that will stand up to being compressed, test them by rolling them or folding them and putting some heavy books on top for 24 hours.

One situation in which I think rolling has a clear advantage is when you're making a lot of short stops and don't want to unpack all your clothes at each hotel. If you roll your outer garments, it will be easier to reach into the bag and pull out just one change of clothing.

Posted by
3134 posts

Everything in my bureau at home (and actually drawers around the house) is rolled, so, of course, I roll most clothes going into my suitcase. Basically, clothes in my bureau are conducive to rolling: Tee shirts, blouses/camies of man made material, knit pants, unders, pj's, etc. The items that hang in my closet: cotton/silk blouses, slacks, jackets are folded. I roll my clothes into packing cubes and the folded blouse(s) would be on top of the rolled items in the cubes. I think rolling in cubes preserves space. I like to be able to look into a drawer or packing cube and see what my options are. I hate to have to dig under other items to see what I have. So I think rolling is efficient for space and expediency. YMMV

Posted by
884 posts

I've been a bit on the fence wrt rolling. Wrinkle wise it works fine for things like knits but most pants, shirts, etc I prefer to fold. I recently watched a video on the Konmari folding method and it does solve the "putting a round thing in a square hole issue" . Basically it's folding everything into a rectangle then stacking in your suitcase or cube.

Watching YouTube videos are definitely worth the time. I've learned lots of great packing and travel tips that way.

Edit - stacking re Konmari is on edge so you can see each item separately.

Posted by
432 posts

I roll too - you can fit more in and things don't get wrinkled. I can also see my clothes better. When you fold and stack, it's difficult to see what's on the bottom half. When you roll, everything's in front of you. I also use cubes for most of my clothes.

Posted by
6471 posts

I have tried rolling just my tops in a packing cube and placing pants and dresses in flat folds in a larger packing cube. Usually after I washed the tops during the trip, I would just fold them flat in that packing cube - quicker and didn’t need them rolled. Wray makes a good point that you can see your options when clothing is rolled, but I just bring four outfits for a two or three week trip (wash in the sink), so I’m usually only looking at two or three clean outfits when I open my suitcase.

Posted by
3500 posts

I'm a roller.

Not the "ranger roller" type, that takes way too much effort. But every piece of clothing in my carry on is rolled neatly, excluding coats or suits if I happen to have any of those with me. It does appear to result in being able to put more stuff into a smaller bag. I remove items as needed from my bag, never unpacking completely while on my trip, and hang my clothes for tomorrow out the night before wearing and most wrinkles disappear well enough.

It does depend on the type of clothing you have when it comes to wrinkles. I avoid anything that calls itself "travel clothes" and tend to have golf shirts and khaki pants. The shirts are made from a polyester cotton mix and don't wrinkle much and any wrinkles in them tend to work themselves out as I wear the shirt. I have never needed to iron anything packed like I do.

Posted by
7895 posts

I roll my clothes around packing cubes. And my khaki pants and jeans are heavily starched at the laundry before leaving. I can wear them a week apiece if I can keep them from getting dirt on them. I carry 7 golf shirts and rotate to a new shirt daily--until doing a second rotation of the same shirts. (We don't go during the hottest months.)
And remember: You'll never see those people again.

Posted by
2444 posts

I started this trip rolling my leggings in a small cube, folding blouses in a large cube, rolling undies/laying socks flat in a small cube. Only thing that’s changed in the past 2 weeks is that leggings squish better when folded.
And I bought way too many souvenirs, but they fit in the nooks and crannies. I’m checking my now heavier suitcase on the way home.

Posted by
2548 posts

I also roll into packing cubes. I feel like it keeps things at least a little smaller and WAY more organized.

Posted by
14144 posts

It really depends on the piece of clothing. I mostly fold since I have polo shirts and button down shirts. I put these into packing cubes. I carry a 50ml spray bottle and that helps get rid of wrinkles.

I tried rolling, it didn't seem to save me any space.

Posted by
1194 posts

I bundle. That seems to keep the wrinkles out.

Bundling only works if you take 12 or less pieces of clothing (in general). Otherwise it becomes a pain.

You’ll hear people complain that it’s a hassle or takes too long. Usually this is due to a couple of reasons:

  • too many items of clothing
  • inexperience at bundle packing (it takes a while to learn efficient techniques).

I say this because several people will say “I tried it once but it didn’t work”. That’s because they did it wrong or under the wrong circumstances.

But bundling does let you store a lot of clothing in a small space. It’s great for smaller packs and personal item travel.

Posted by
979 posts

My wife was asking if rolling clothing is the best way to pack? If so, roll everything or just some items? Do the clothes stay looking pressed or not? Is rolling more efficient than folding?

Since you asked about looking "pressed" I'll assume you are planning on dressing up nicer than most for a trip. Here is what I do when I travel for work: I bundle pack my dress shirts, slacks and sport coat using my under shirts as a core. I roll everything else (socks, underwear, casual clothes, workout clothes). On personal trips I roll almost everything.

I'll also add that I have wrinkle free and/or travel specific clothes so nothing I use is pressed. I travel enough it made sense for me to invest in things I don't have to iron when I arrive.

The real key is not over packing IMO. Squishing your clothes so tight they get compressed will cause wrinkles no matter how you pack.


Posted by
4429 posts

At home, I hang my clothes - even my jeans and T-shirts - so I am a folder when traveling. I will roll some stretchy knits, but I prefer to fold into packing cubes and use them to compress the garments and keep the folds that I make, rather than unplanned wrinkles. If I had kids, I would most likely ranger roll - to the extent of including all clothing for the day.

I did do some rolling and putting into packing cubes last week, but thought there was valuable space left in the cube. I have been thinking about trying bundling next trip with rolling and placing right into the suitcase, and fewer packing cubes ( except for keeping intimates out of sight when they invariably check my carry on for something questionable).
I actually did a test when I got home and took everything out of my cubes and placed the stuff directly into the suitcase. I couldn't see any reduction on space taken up without using cubes, so not ready to give that up yet.
Ultimately 2 things define what is 'best'. The fabric content and your tolerance for wrinkles and creases.

Posted by
1194 posts

The real key is not over packing IMO. Squishing your clothes so tight they get compressed will cause wrinkles no matter how you pack.

This is a core truth!

Posted by
3972 posts

Whether I'm away for a weekend or longer, I roll clothes tightly and put them in packing cubes. No ironing needed when unpacking.

Posted by
13225 posts

If you are using packing cubes then I think it depends on the cube. I used to use Eagle Creek compression cubes and I trialed both rolling and folding. I felt my shirts worked better with a flat fold in those cubes otherwise they kind of humped up in the middle. Now I have a different kind of cube that sits upright in my 21" rollaboard and what works best with them is folding to the length of the cube then folding in 1/4ths so they sit upright.

I'd suggest you guys do a trial pack to see what works better. If you can do it tonight or tomorrow then leave things packed overnight to see what you get wrinkle-wise. I did get a good tip from a packing workshop I went to one time at my local AAA. She advised that if you are rolling to tug on the outside of the roll to smooth out the wrinkles. I do that with the quarter fold and things aren't too bad.

I also travel with a small empty spritzer bottle that I can fill with water and spritz out any creases. This works better if I plan ahead and do it the night before.

BTW, I often completely pack a full day or two before I leave so my clothes may have been packed for up to 72 hours by the time I get to my hotel. Shake and go....

Posted by
6471 posts

As you're selecting a method, also consider what will work best if your suitcase is selected for inspection at the airport. I was the "lucky winner" at both the Malpensa airport and Taiwan airport last year to have my carry-on suitcase inspected. On both trips, I had three packing cubes- (lingerie/nightgown), (tops & dress), (capri & dress), a toiletry bag, a sweater and electronics.

When they searched my suitcase, the three packing cubes weren't even opened because they could see all of the contents inside (thank you, Rick Steves for your open mesh cubes!) I was able to repack quickly (they want the table emptied immediately for the next person) while I saw others' suitcase contents being scattered as they searched through all of their clothes.

Edit: the suitcase search in both instances happened as we were in the boarding area and in line to get on the plane. Neither was due to x-ray/TSA suspicious contents.

Posted by
1194 posts

@cj-traveler - that video doesn’t really show bundle packing. It’s a deviation from the norm. She’s also overpacked like crazy!

Here is a more accurate video:

It takes less than 5 minutes to bundle wrap. The video is 4 minutes long and shows almost all of the process (and he’s doing it slowly as he’s instructing) I can fit all of my clothes into a medium size packing cube. Undies, socks, and bras are the core.

Here’s more info from

The bundle only has clothes in it so never arouses suspicion of airport security. It looks fairly translucent under the X-ray.

Posted by
503 posts

I roll everything that can be rolled and pack the rolls in packing cubes which were a game changer for me and wouldn't travel without them now. I tried the bundling method but found it annoying because you have to unbundle to get to your clothes. Rolling is easier and you can still see everything.

Posted by
37 posts

Is it just me that switches between the two? It depends on my mood, but to be honest, I don't see that much of a different between the two. I just hate rolling when it involves clothings like these, those huge paraks, coats and jackets that are total space-eaters. I know you can just carry them to avoid the hassle of trying to squeeze them into suitcases... but I usually carry more than one of those. I still prefer folding them and then of course, sitting on top of the suitcase when closing it. LOL

Posted by
5697 posts

I roll t-shirts/tops and put them in a packing case. Underwear/socks in a small packing case. Fold bottoms flat and put them in a larger packing case. Squish down jacket into a 2.5 gallon Ziploc, close it most of the way, sit on it and close completely. This goes in the suitcase last. I do not take anything that requires ironing. (I try not to buy anything that requires ironing.)

Posted by
884 posts

Thanx cindyh, I guess we need a "packing techniques glossary" . Maybe someone will (has?) do a video....

I can see the point of the bundle technique but wouldn't use it if actually living out of a suitcase. Fine for something like a cruise when you can hang everything up on arrival. Maybe mini-bundles with 1-2 days clothes in each...

Posted by
1194 posts

I guess we need a "packing techniques glossary"

Onebag has a few listed. The one in your video is called “interfolding”.

I can see the point of the bundle technique but wouldn't use it if actually living out of a suitcase. Fine for something like a cruise when you can hang everything up on arrival.

I hang things up even for one night stays. It keeps the clothes fresh. It takes maybe 1-2 minutes to hang clothes on arrival and 3-4 minutes to pack the next day. On early departure days I put on my PJs and lay out the next days clothes. Then I pack up everything else that night. In the morning I pack the PJs into an available corner.

For those wondering, I usually do laundry on arrival at my room. I then go out for the evening activities. My laundry is dry by bedtime so I can pack it up.

It’s realy not as burdensome as some would have you think.

Hanging clothes allows me to see all my options so I actually create more varied outfits.

In the mean time I have a very small pack of clothing that stores in my 16 Liter bag.

Posted by
1 posts

Of course, everyone has a way, but here’s what I do for multiple-hotel trips: something like a reverse bundle. Start by filling any channels at the bottom of my roller bag with undies, socks, umbrella some shoes and other small stuff, whatever makes the bottom flat-ish. Then lay jeans or other heavy pants and jackets, and silky tops that would wrinkle if rolled, with the waistband or collar just inside the bag, sleeves folded in and the legs hanging out, but all in the same direction (not back and forth like bundling). Then roll tee shirts, sweaters, etc. and lay them over the pants, with the fattest thing at the end that will get folded. Include other miscellany, such as scarves or belts and toiletry bag here. Finally, fold all the pants over the whole thing. At the hotel, just fold back the pants, and everything is visible.

Posted by
7 posts

There’s really no right answer. I don’t find that rolling saves me space or keeps wrinkles as bay. I fold into packing cubes using the Marie Kondo method and it works really well for me. It really is personal preference, I think.

Posted by
12154 posts

I've tried lots of different techniques and settled on rolling. I like that my clothes take up little space and that I can reach in the bag and pull out one garment without messing up other clothes. It's also easy to compare two items to see which takes up the most space in your bag.

I don't think my clothes look perfectly pressed after being rolled but I pack only travel friendly clothes. After they're on for a short while they look fine.