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Friday, June 28, 2019

The Best Way to Pack Luggage, Fit More in Your Bag and Stay Organized with Compression Storage Bags or Cubes

While some travelers go for the 'throw it all in and hope for the best' packing method, we prefer to be a bit more organized in our luggage or backpacks. Internal compartments can be useful for separating clean clothes from dirty, but that's about as far as it goes.

Luggage space is often at a premium, especially when traveling to colder climates or with a mixture of business and leisure clothes. While some luggage comes with compression straps on the inside, outside or both, they don't reduce space all that much and only seem to work as a last-ditch effort to get an overstuffed bag to close.

Fortunately there are inexpensive ways to deal with each of these problems, as well as some innovative options that sort out both at once.  We prefer compression bags but let's give you what the options are to be complete!

Packing Cubes

Available in all manner of colors and sizes, packing cubes are made from a semi-soft, lightweight fabric. They have a zipped, often meshed lid, and are designed to keep various items together in your luggage. For example, you might keep shirts or blouses in one cube, underwear and socks in another, and miscellaneous items like books and chargers in another.

Being square or rectangular, they're ideal in suitcases. They're not always as useful inside a backpack, but depending on its shape, can still work relatively well.

The main aim with packing cubes is keep your luggage organised, letting you quickly lay your hands on an item without having to dump everything else on the floor to find it. Opting for different colors and/or sizes for each cube is a useful identification technique, or resort to masking tape and a marker pen.

Unless you have square luggage and use up all of the available space in each cube, you'll often end up with less usable room. You can see how packing cubes won't give you extra space in your bag and several other things.  Most packing cubes are vented and therefore won't protect your clothes from toiletry leaks in your bag or rain. They won't keep your stinky clothes separated -- phew!  And, since most are not clear, you still have to open them to see what you have.  The benefit of packing cubes are that generally clothes are easier to remove quickly, you will find it easier to pack and unpack compared to the throw it all in method, and they may last longer than the alternative: compression bags.

Our Favorite Packing Cubes:


Compression Bags

Maybe you've seen those vacuum-sealed bags on infomercials, where you suck the air out of a bag full of sweaters, blankets, and jackets,  BUT you may not have considered using them to pack your luggage!  Compression bags generally resemble a heavy-duty plastic bag, with a zipper for loading and unloading, and a one-way valve for squeezing air out. The idea is to fold bulky items like sweatshirts and jackets into the compression bag, then seal the bag to end up with a flatter, smaller – and often waterproof -- package.

We PREFER compression bags for several reasons:

  • keep your clothes organized 
  • keep your clothes folded as you wish -- flat or rolled -- so even if the compression bag moves in your luggage the clothes stay as placed in the bag and don't fall all over your luggage or backpack
  • clothes stay clean and dry 
  • separate dirty clothing
  • fit more
  • see what is in your bag which you can't do with cubes because they are opaque usually
We prefer to fold our good clothes flat, roll our clothes that don't matter if they get a little wrinkled or are wrinkle free fabric and then compress as you can see in this video below.

Bags that you compress with a vacuum work very well to fit more since they will compress more than you can manually, but let's face it, you won't generally have a vacuum at your destination so be aware that you may not fit everything if you can't compress as much at your destination.  This is why we prefer to manually compress everything before we leave.

We encourage you to view this video with our advice for the best way to use compression bags for your next adventure!

Like packing cubes, compression bags come in different sizes and colors but we prefer the clear ones so we can see what we have and how our clothes have compressed. Their effectiveness depends largely on what you're trying to compress.  Solid items like books won't compress at all, while thick t-shirts, sweaters and the like will squash down to as little as a quarter of their original bulk.

While they can be used to keep things organized, one of the only downsides compared to packing cubes are that they aren't as convenient if you need something in a hurry.

Don't forget: while compression bags can provide plenty of extra luggage space, they don't reduce the weight. That's important if you're trying to avoid checking your bag and you can't carry much, or flying an airline with weight limits.

Our favorite compression bags are shown below.  If you are not sure how you plan to use your compression bags - by either rolling or folding or both, then the Ziploc brand gives you a variety of sizes to work with!  Please watch our video that describes how we use compression bags and why these are the smartest travel gear you haven't considered!



Out of the backpacking universe have come combination compression and organizational bags that can be useful to divide types of clothing or days of clothing.  After loading the bag, straps or ties are used to compress items further.  Most of these are not clear, so seeing what you have packed is not easy but some may prefer this option.  They tend to fit best in backpacks compared to luggage. Hobo Roll SegSac is the classic type.  


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