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Travel hack: how to use packing cubes

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Some people don’t mind a little clutter. But if you’re anything like us, you prefer to be organised and neat whenever possible. It’s natural to crave organisation in your life because it can help you feel more relaxed, in control and happier. 

In fact, you might say there’s a contemporary obsession with organisation. Think of the popularity of Japanese organisation consultant Marie Kondo. Her books are bestsellers and her TV shows stir up a ton of interest.

This desire to keep our items tidy extends to when we travel, too. After all, we don’t want to have to rifle through a jumbled mess to find the clothing and accessories that we need for a business meeting. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this issue: namely, packing cubes.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use packing cubes so you can be less stressed and more organised while traveling, then you’ve come to the right place.

Set of four packing cubes

What are packing cubes?

It’s possible that you’ve never heard of travel packing cubes before. In essence, packing cubes are simply rectangular pouches made of fabric that are used to arrange the contents of one’s luggage.

If you picture your open suitcase, packing cubes will fit into it like Tetris pieces. So rather than a random heap of clothing in your travel bag, items are placed into various packing cubes that are neatly arranged to utilise all of the available space in your bag. These organisational tools can save significant space in your suitcase and promote easy packing.

When should you use packing cubes?

There are many situations when using packing cubes can be beneficial. Business trips immediately come to mind; a situation when you can’t forget to pack anything important because you need to be fully prepared for the meetings or conference you’re planning to attend.

Luggage packing cubes not only create more space for you in your luggage — so you have room to pack everything you need — but they keep items in better condition during travel (less wrinkled, dry, and clean), so there’s less stress while you’re getting ready to conquer the world.

Packing cubes are also helpful when you’re going on holiday with your family, creating more room for your clothing and accessories (and negating the effects of family members who tend to overpack). Or even when you’re bringing gymwear to the office. Anytime you need to transport items in your luggage, packing cubes will provide organisation that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Carry-on suitcase and brown leather briefcase

What types of packing cubes are there?

Suitcase packing cubes come in varying shapes and can be made of different materials. Let’s walk through some different options.

Consider our set of four packing cubes. They are produced from recycled materials and have a transparent mesh fabric top. While most packing cubes are rectangular in shape like these are, sometimes they can be square or even tube-like. They also vary in size.

The materials used to construct packing cubes are varied, too. Although packing cubes are frequently made of nylon (or nylon twill or a nylon/wool blend), more exotic materials like upcycled plastic water bottles are sometimes used, as well.

Some are made of waterproof or water-resistant fabric; if this is important to you because you tend to pack liquids (or shove wet swimsuits into your suitcase on your way home from a holiday), look for this type of construction. Others contain antimicrobial materials which help keep germs at bay.

What are the common features of packing cubes?

When it comes to how packing cubes work, they seem pretty straightforward, right? But, in actuality, they can come with a lot of different features that you should be aware of before making a purchase. For example, many have mesh or transparent tops that allow for easy visibility (so you can see what is inside without having to needlessly unpack anything) but not all do, so keep an eye out for that.

Other packing cubes offer a space-saving two-zipper compression system to help you maximise the space you have in your luggage. So if you’re wondering, ‘do packing cubes save room?’, they do. You simply pull the first zipper shut to enclose your items and then the second to compress the cube. When you’re trying to fit everything you need for your trip in your suitcase (especially bulkier items), this can mean the difference between getting everything in or having to leave some items behind.

Meanwhile, some luggage packing cubes are split in two. This is helpful for separating dirty clothes from clean ones while you’re traveling. This kind of organisation makes it easier when you get home too — simply unzip the one side and throw all your dirty Cuban shirts and linen trousers into the washing machine.

One last feature that we should mention here is colour. Packing cubes are naturally available in multiple colours, which can be useful for organisation. For instance, you might assign each person in your family their own colour so everyone can easily identify their items, or you might colour-code your own items when packing.

Set of four packing cubes inside carry-on suitcase

What can you put in packing cubes?

All of the regular items that you would pack when going on holiday or a business trip can be put in packing cubes. This includes trousers, shirts, socks, and sleeping attire.

Compression packing cubes in particular are intended for bulkier items and can also be used for dirty clothes. Meanwhile, smaller packing cubes are frequently used for electronic chargers, cords, and other accessories, while waterproof cubes are great for swimwear and dirty shoes.

What are the benefits of using packing cubes?

When it comes to the benefits of using packing cubes, there are many. Below is a list of reasons why you should consider embracing packing cubes the next time you travel:

  1. Preventing creases. Nobody wants to hit the beach club on holiday looking like they just rolled out of bed fully dressed. Because packing cubes eliminate a lot of the shifting that can otherwise occur in a suitcase, they prevent wrinkles and creases from forming during transport.
  2. Organisation. Packing cubes — especially colour-coded ones — allow you to separate your clothes by type (e.g. beach items in one cube and business wear in another) so you know where everything is, which makes packing, unpacking, and repacking quicker and easier. For frequent travellers, this can save you significant time and aggravation. Check out our take on how to pack a suitcase efficiently and what to pack in a carry-on for more information.
  3. Space optimisation. Sometimes it’s challenging to fit everything you need into your suitcase. The compression and Tetris-like aspects of packing cubes can help with this. This is more important than ever with the limitations airlines now place on luggage size. Plus, packing cubes are lightweight and add little additional weight to your bags.
  4. Efficiency. When you know where everything is packed in your bag you’ll become quicker at both packing and unpacking.
  5. Versatility. Given that suitcase packing cubes come in so many different sizes, shapes, materials, and colours, there’s bound to be one (or more) that fit your needs. Need a small cube for your accessories or a large one to fit all of your shoes? You will be able to find whatever you need.
  6. Cleanliness. For all the germaphobes out there, there are packing cubes made of antimicrobial material and ones that allow for a convenient separation of dirty clothing from clean. Packing cubes also help protect clothing from any toiletry spills that might occur during travel.

Neatly folded travel accessories inside carry-on suitcase

How to use packing cubes

There are several ways in which you can proceed to pack when utilising packing cubes. Here are our recommended steps:

Start by deciding how you are going to organise your packing cubes. Some common approaches include categorising your cubes by activity, by day, or by drawer.

Decide whether you are going to fold or roll your clothes (both methods work fine) and do so as you put them in the packing cubes. Put the optimum amount of items in each cube. If you under or overpack you’ll be more likely to get creases in your clothing during transport.

Arrange the packing cubes neatly into your luggage. Do this strategically so that you can properly optimise all the space in your bags.

Carl Friedrik packing cubes

Carl Friedrik offers a set of four high-quality packing cubes, all of varying sizes. They are perfect for transporting socks, ties, shoes, and shirts, among other items.

The packing cubes are made of recycled PET from plastic bottles and feature nylon zippers and mesh tops. They are designed to pair well with our range of polycarbonate suitcases, which includes The Carry-on, The Carry-on Pro, and The Check-in.

Luggage set, brown briefcase and wooden chair

Travel packing cube alternatives

There are some other options out there that can be used instead of packing cubes, like plastic bags, toiletry kits (these are in fact similar to packing cubes but only hold small items and don’t generally have room for clothes), boxes or containers and vacuum space-saving bags.

Most of these are less expensive to buy (maybe even ‘free’ if you already have them at home). However, in most cases they won’t promote organisation and stop creases like packing cubes will.

Takeaway

So are packing cubes worth it? While they might not always be top of mind — or maybe even something that you were aware existed until reading this article — there are a lot of benefits to using packing cubes, especially if you’re a frequent traveller.

If you’re the type of person who likes your things to be tidy and organised, including your suitcase when you’re on holiday or traveling for business, packing cubes will definitely help you to achieve this goal.


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  • Do packing cubes save room?

    Without a doubt. Especially if you choose to go with a compression packing cube.

  • What can you put in packing cubes?

    Really anything you want as long as the items fit. But, in most cases, people put clothing, accessories (including ties), shoes and small electronics in them.

  • How many packing cubes do I need?

    This is dependent on how much you need to pack. In many instances, four packing cubes of varying sizes work well within a suitcase, but, again, this depends on how many items you’re packing and how large they are.

  • What to use instead of packing cubes?

    While packing cubes tend to be the most efficient, fashionable and organised way to pack, you also have the option of using plastic bags, small boxes and vacuum space-saving bags.