Usually when I pack I use my trusty plastic zip lock bags to keep my clothes organized. This year, I thought I’d class things up a bit and try out packing cubes. After a bit of time on google, and checking out the ones Alex in Wanderland uses, I decided to order 3 different sets from Amazon with the aim being to return the ones that didn’t suit me as well. I’ve tried out a few different cubes so you don’t have to!
WHAT I ORDERED:
I ordered this in white because it looks to be the most translucent, and the goal is to be able to see what is inside the packing cube. For only 2 cubes it’s a bit pricey, at $38.03, but I justified it by saying that I would be able to use them for ages, and that the sooner I bought them and starting using them, the sooner I’d be getting my money’s worth.
I ordered a three-pack of these in green because they claimed that the thin material rendered them translucent, so there wouldn’t be an issue seeing the contents. At $36.03 for a three-pack, these were also what I deem expensive.
This set differed because instead of the thing material enclosing the whole cube, they have a mesh top to reveal the contents. They’re made out of a canvass material that’s a bit thicker, so I thought they might be sturdy and last a long time. The cost for these is $26 for three.
PACKING WITH CUBES
I was massively excited when my fresh beautiful cubes arrived, and I was already laughing at my pre-cube self for looking like a travel noob with my lame bags. I quickly emptied by backpack and tossed the plastic bags aside. I laid out all of my cubes and started to game plan what would go where.
It was immediately apparent that the large compression cube was just too big for what I was doing. I was borrowing Laine’s backpack for this trip, and while it’s significantly bigger than my backpack, it’s rather small compared to the backpacks most long term travelers use. As I’m not a long term traveler (sigh) this made sense, but also meant that this cube just didn’t fit well in the backpack, taking up almost the entire bottom, and leaving awkward spaces that can’t be filled my anything else. I set it aside.
The next obstacle I faced was the black mesh/canvas cubes (item 3). The first thing that struck me was how incredibly thick they are – like massively thick and rigid. This is again probably fine if you’re packing up a massive bag, but I’m working with a moderately sized backpack and I’m trying to make the most of my space. I filled one with all of my toiletries, and I liked how they fit in. I didn’t like that I couldn’t see anything inside the bag. I don’t care if it’s mesh, I couldn’t tell what was in the bag at all, and that’s a major problem. I don’t want to have to open every cube to look inside. I just couldn’t justify these, and if they had been cheap I might have kept them just to use randomly (most likely never), but instead I put them in the return pile. The fabric itself was too cumbersome.
After messing about with clothes in different cubes for about an hour, I ended up with my clothes in the 3 green cubes, the small compression cube, and my pants laid out at the bottom of the bag.
None of the cubes are great at this. I could get rough ideas of what was inside, but I found myself continually opening and sifting through the cubes, making my bag messy and wasting time. Even the white cubes were not really clear enough to see through. Plastic bags easily display everything inside.
Both the baggies and the cubes keep clothes organized, which is ultimately what I’m trying to achieve by using both. I don’t want to open a backpack and have everything jumbled together. The cubes achieve this, so do the bags, no real bonus here. But again, not being able to see inside made this harder.
PROTECT YOUR CLOTHES
Like most people, I’ve experienced the dreaded shampoo-in-bag explosion. With all of your clothes safely in plastic bags they are protected from this sort of tragedy, as well as when you’re caught in the rain with your backpack, or any number of liquid related kerfuffles. The cubes are not water proof, and don’t offer the same level of protection. Again, I was left feeling like my trusty though shabby plastic bags were really more useful.
Sadly, again, I was left feeling like the cubes paled in comparison to the bags. The compression cube would be the only one that really had any sort of bonus, as they do have a second zipper to compress your items. You know what also compresses? A PLASTIC BAG. When I pack my things in baggies I use my knee to get all of the air out and then seal it – this makes like a little vacuum and squishes everything flat. The compression cube did this as well, but the difference was that the cube was then very rigid, whereas the plastic bags are very pliable, making them easy to wizard into your bag cram things in.
This is where the cubes shine. Plastic bags are meant to be disposable, the cubes are meant to last – and this is the category that changes things. If you’re planning on traveling for a year, you’re not going to make it with plastic baggies. Public embarrassment aside, the bags just aren’t going to last, the cubes will. If you travel in shorter trips that are around 3-4 weeks at a time, you should just use baggies, it’s cheap, easy, and they’ll get you through your trip. If you travel for months on end, the cubes will be your best bet for keeping things organized until the very end.
So, are they worth it?
If you travel long term – absolutely – for a few weeks at a time I just don’t see any benefit other than looking much less like a peasant, and as I’m rarely parading the inside of my backpack to strangers, it doesn’t really help me out.
In the end, I returned all of the cubes. Between the high expense and little short term benefit they just didn’t really suite my style of travel, despite me wanting them to.
If I see the compression cubes on a decent sale I might get 1 or 2 to have on hand, but for now I’ll be sticking with my lame but practical bags. It’s also like $3 for 30 of them, so go nuts.