Real life one bag travel: packing cubes reviewed

Hi Frugalistas!  I’ll be the first to admit, I was always dubious about packing cubes.  I saw them on websites, I saw them in luggage shops, but I always thought they were a bit of a gimmick.  Another way to spend more money on travel accessories I didn’t need.  Then I asked my blogger colleagues for their favorite packing tips.  Travel blogger after travel blogger raved about packing cubes.  I was curious, and decided I really needed to make up my own mind.

Two tangerine Kathmandu packing cubes

Two packing cubes and a toilet bag fit perfectly in my tiny carry on bag

Choosing packing cubes

There are almost as many packing cubes out there as there are suitcases and backpacks.  Compression packing cubes, packing cubes with rigid sides, packing cubes with soft sides.  I ended up buying soft sided packing cubes, largely because they were on sale.  I figured if I didn’t like them at least I wouldn’t have wasted much money.

I chose bright orange deliberately because they clashed brilliantly with my plum coloured suitcase – I was never going to leave them behind by accident!

Tangerine Kathmandu packing cube filled with clothes

Virtually all my clothes in one packing cube

Next thing to consider when you choose your cubes is size.   Make sure the size of the cubes you are buying will fit snuggly into your suitcase or backpack.  If your suitcase/backpack brand also sells packing cubes, there’s a good chance they will fit – but still check your measurements.  I bought three cubes that would fit together perfectly into my case – one large one and two small.

Using your packing cubes

I packed my “big” items into the larger of my cubes.  I was amazed as more and more of my clothes went into that single cube.  In fact, I managed to get all my pants, skirts, tops and knits into one cube.  My underwear, guidebook and other odds and ends went into one of the smaller cubes.  I ended up not using my second smaller cube.  With my toilet bag packed, there was no room, and I actually didn’t need my third cube.  My normal packing list seemed to fit even more easily into my bag with my packing cubes. My second pair of shoes and my electrical cords packed around the bags.

Tangerine Kathmandu packing cube

I packed my suitcase with the bigger and heavier of my cubes so that it was at the bottom of the bag when my bag was standing up.  While I love my suitcase, I’ve found that it does tend to tip over when I have a lot of gear in its front pockets.  I was amazed that this problem disappeared when I used my packing cases.

What I think of packing cubes

I loved my packing cubes, and they are now a “must pack” for me.  By measuring before I purchased, they fitted perfectly into my suitcase.  I was amazed at how much clothing fitted into a single cube.  I loved how wrinkle-free my clothes remained.  Having my underwear in a single small cube made it easy to find and keep track of my smalls.

For Australian and New Zealand readers, I bought my packing cubes on special at Kathmandu.  Regardless of where you live I thoroughly recommend packing cubes as part of your one carry on bag packing strategy.  I’m sold!



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32 Comments on “Real life one bag travel: packing cubes reviewed”

  1. Ian Melbourne 09/06/2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Good one Jo

    I will check out Kathmandu next time I am in there

  2. Samam 09/06/2014 at 5:48 pm #

    This is definitely the way to pack. My partner has a couple of these, and he’s always so much more able to unpack and repack easily and in a much more organised way than I am with everything just stuff into whatever little space it’ll fit!

  3. Lynne in NC 09/06/2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Great posting, thanks. We have a set of packing cubes from IKEA — bright pink! I agree, they keep our items organized; can’t miss the bright color when packing up for home.

  4. Tam Gamble 09/06/2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Think we need to look into these, especially for our city break trips when hand luggage only is sometimes a requirement! I hate it when you open your case and it looks like an explosion has taken place even though you packed it nicely something has clearly happened in transit!

  5. She Dreams of Travel 09/06/2014 at 11:44 pm #

    Do you think the cubes are more effective than rolling your clothes to save space? Or are the cubes more useful just for the organization factor? Now that I’ve been doing more traveling around Europe, I am subject to ridiculous carry on restriction *cough* Ryanair…

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/06/2014 at 6:20 am #

      IMO yes, I think they do save space. There’s no reason why you can’t roll and use the cubes. Thanks for dropping by

      • She Dreams of Travel 10/06/2014 at 6:33 am #

        Thanks for the advice! I will definitely look into trying out some packing cubes for my next trip!

  6. Geek Goddess 10/06/2014 at 2:56 am #

    I’ve been using the packing cubes for about 10 years. When I took my (then teenaged) boys to Europe for a 10 day trip, each one of us had our own color-coded cube to stuff socks and underwear. We each had one of the Packing Envelopes as well, which I use for my business clothes that don’t roll up well – suits, crisp linen or cotton blouses and the like. I’ve even packed silk formals into them.

    I have cube I keep packed with phone, computer, Kindle, and iPod chargers, that I leave in my primary suitcase. I travel a lot of overnight trips for business trips, and can toss this in my backpack, briefcase, or suitcase as needed.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/06/2014 at 6:22 am #

      Great idea for helping keep kids organised Naomi. I also love the idea of keeping all your travel cords etc packed and ready to go – what a time saver!

  7. Janice & George (@SandInSuitcase) 10/06/2014 at 4:40 am #

    Packing cubes or packages are great for keeping organized. We like see-through ones, though, so we can easily see what each bag contains, e.g., pants, T-shirts, shoes, etc. We’ve recycled all the clear plastic zippered bags that contained sheets and duvets we bought at home stores. (It’s probably cheaper to buy a new set of sheets from Winners and use the bag from that as a packing cube, than to buy some of the cubes we’ve seen at luggage stores.)

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/06/2014 at 6:24 am #

      I love this idea as well! Mine did have a mesh insert, but I couldn’t see everything. Love the idea of using the plastic sleeves from sheets etc – another great budget option!

  8. Molly Sears-Piccavey 10/06/2014 at 5:49 pm #

    I bought 3 packing cubes about 5 months ago after reading Travel bloggers reviews. they weren´t cheap but they are very useful. i realiased that I no longer needed different sizes of suitcases. Almost all my trips could be done with my carry on suitcase. I now use them for every single trip. They are sooo useful.
    I can look mininmalist every though I have lots of clothes in my case.

    I have a Eagle Creek Pack-I Specter Folder for large items (jackets, dresses etc) a cube and a half cube.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/06/2014 at 6:38 pm #

      That’s the thing – you seem to be able to put far more into your case – no matter what size bag you take

  9. rosemarykneipp 11/06/2014 at 6:14 pm #

    I’d never heard of packing cubes! I’m definitely going to look into them.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 11/06/2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Get them Rosemary! Your life will never be the same 🙂

    • Jane Jocumsen 17/06/2014 at 5:57 pm #

      Yes Rosemary, I have been using these cubes for undies and also for the cords – my cubes are bright orange and aqua and I like the mesh see through – I waited till I found them at Katmandu in Melbourne at the outlets on sale because they are a bit pricey otherwise. And I always go looking for more because for the past few years I have used them for school bundles and business papers etc.Cheers Jane(aka Butcherbird)

      • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/06/2014 at 7:15 pm #

        Kathmandu sell them very cheaply on sale – full price I personally think they’re overpriced

  10. Tamara Elliott 12/06/2014 at 10:47 am #

    Packing cubes are my favourite travel accessory EVER. I don’t know what I did before buying them!

  11. Vanessa 16/06/2014 at 11:47 pm #

    I’m on the hunt for packing cubes that also compress! That would be the ultimate! I do have to say that while I love cubes for traditional suitcases, I’m not such a fan for backpacks or soft sided travel bags. The square cubes make the best use of space in a square sided suitcase – in a curved backpack you get weird little gaps where the cube doesn’t meet the bag’s walls – a good nook, in theory, to stuff little things but that kinda defeats the purpose of being organized! So I use stuff sacks for my backpack travels.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/06/2014 at 6:13 am #

      Great info for backpacking readers, although others did comment that they are usable with a backpack. Maybe you need to look at the backpack/packing cube combo when you are making your purchase

  12. frugaleurope 17/06/2014 at 11:48 am #

    I have some from both Rick Steves and Ebags! Love, love, love them!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/06/2014 at 7:13 pm #

      The Rick Steves ones look quite good, but the postage for me makes them pretty expensive I’m buying some other goodies with them

  13. Mara 26/08/2014 at 4:24 am #

    A travel essential eversince I learned about them a few months ago! I’m using Dot&Dot from Amazon and was able to buy them while they were on sale; which made them very affordable 🙂 It made packing and organizing easier and it saved space in my luggage! I also use their packing folders to pack my business clothes to prevent wrinkles. Will never travel without them again!

  14. jonsen 26/08/2014 at 1:21 pm #

    At first I thought these are ridiculous. But when I tried them, I never travel without them! It is so amazing how much I can put in one cube. I think I was able to put in 6 shirts on my small cube!

    For business meetings, I use packing folders together with the packing cubes. They are pretty much the same concept as packing cubes but with a folding board so your shirts are folded nicely and have less wrinkles.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 26/08/2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Yes, I thought they were a gimmick too. A few people have written about the sleeves so they certainly seem to be a good option for business travellers who need to keep shirts crisp

  15. Lady Light Travel 29/08/2014 at 9:21 am #

    I use cubes when I have to carry extensive paperwork that interferes with the internal tie-downs in my bag. It’s important to note that some cubes are significantly heavier than others. It’s best to spend the money for the ones made out of sil-nylon. Stronger, lighter, water resistant.

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