Compression Packing Cubes for Backpack Travellers

Compression Packing Cubes - Everything You Need To Know. Are Compression Packing Cubes Worth It?

If you are like me, you are probably hesitant on buying compression packing cubes or packing cubes in general. If you look at them, it may seem like they don't do much. It wasn't until I bought my first set of compression packing cubes that I realized the hype and the benefits they provide. Now I never travel without them; no matter what type of trip I am going on. There are a lot questions, tips, and tricks about compression packing cubes that I would love to provide some insight on.

In short, the TOP REASONS to invest in compression packing cubes are because they

1. Optimize Backpack Space
2. Maintain Organization
3. Reduce Wrinkles
4. Mitigate Movement Of Items While Traveling
5. Add An Odor & Water Resistant Layer To Packed Clothes
6. Make For Easier Packing & Unpacking

Now for those who want more insight, continue reading...

Are Compression Packing Cubes Worth It?

The worth of compression packing cubes ultimately depends on your packing style and preferences. For Travel Backpackers or those seeking to optimize baggage space, compression packing cubes can be incredibly valuable. They help maximize space, keep items organized, and reduce wrinkles in clothing. Additionally, compression cubes can make unpacking and repacking a breeze, saving time and hassle during your travels.

Compression packing cubes are absolutely worth it!

The space saving aspect is amazing but for me, the organization aspect is everything. Like most Travel Backpackers, I like to separate my clothing. I usually backpack with 4 compression packing cubes (with my 40L backpack) and separate my 4 cubes like this:

1. Tops (T-shirts, Tank Tops, Long Sleeve Shirts)
2. Bottoms (Shorts & Pants)
3. Outerwear (Sweatshirts & Rain Coat)
4. Misc. (Socks, Underwear, Bathing Suit, Neck Gaiter etc.)

Another thing that I like to do is get two different colored packing cubes. So 2 in one color and 2 in another color. Why? After some days, you'll want to start separating your clean vs your dirty clothes. And two different colors makes it easy to tell them apart.

If there is one travel accessory that I would tell all backpackers to get, it is compression packing cubes. Without them, your clothes would be a mess. Your clothes would fall to the bottom of your backpack and be totally wrinkled. Your backpack would be completely unorganized and you wouldn't be able to tell what is clean and what is dirty.

How To Compress Packing Cubes? How To Use Compression Packing Cubes?

1. Simply pack your clothes into the packing cube.
2. Zip the packing cube closed.
3. Tighten the compression straps or zippers to compress the contents.

TIP: With compression packing cubes, you are taking extra fabric and condensing it (it's not a vacuum). So if your packing cube isn't completely full or the clothes inside aren't spaced evenly, the compression zipper could get caught on the extra fabric (this is normal). Simply use your middle finger to guide the extra fabric inward while you zip-up the compression zipper with your thumb and index finger (a backpacker secret - see photos below). This reason specifically is why I added extra grip onto the zipper pulls.

  

Why I Created My Own Compression Packing Cube

When I was on my 5-month travel backpacking trip from Egypt to England, I brought around two different types of compression packing cubes. One set of two from Eagle Creek (white with yellow accent set) and another set of two from The Container Store (black set). When I was in Albania, one of the packing cubes from The Container Store ripped. Where the hell was I going to get a replacement compression packing cube in the middle of Albania?

When I reflected on the two types of compression packing cubes, I obviously preferred the ones from Eagle Creek.

What I LIKE about the Eagle Creek compression packing cubes:
1. Ripstop material
2. Tight stitching
3. Extra stitching at handles
4. Placement of normal vs inverted zippers
5. How top & bottom walls connect to extra compression fabric
6. Appearance
7. Zipper pulls

What I DO NOT LIKE about the Eagle Creek compression packing cubes:
1. Made of polyester instead of nylon
2. Pricing
3. Main Compartment Opening

I hated that anytime I take out a t-shirt out of the opening of Eagle Creek packing cube, everything gets unfolded. The easy suitcase style opening was much better on the packing cubes from The Container Store. I also was not a fan that ONE packing cube from Eagle Creek is $25 USD so TWO packing cubes are $50 USD. They sell sets but the two packing cubes in the set are not the same size. Also, polyester is a much cheaper material than nylon.

When I continued to backpack travel with my ripped packing cube, I picked the brains of other backpackers and we came up to what we believe is the best set of compression packing cubes. There wasn't any on the market the ticked off all the boxes so we had to make our own.

(These packing cubes went through a lot of testing. The larger one of the black from The Container Store didn't even make it through the testing; hence the smaller version.)

Do Compression Packing Cubes Work? How Do Compression Packing Cubes Work?

Yes, compression packing cubes do work, and they work by using a combination of compression straps or zippers to compress the contents inside. When you pack your clothes into the cube, you zip it closed and then tighten the second compression strap or zipper, which squeeze out excess air, compressing the contents. This process helps to minimize the volume of your packed items, allowing you to fit more into your backpack. It also keeps your items compact together so it mitigates movement or damage.

Not a common benefit, but compression packing cubes are usually made from nylon or polyester. Even though nylon is stronger and better than polyester, both materials can be water resistant. Meaning if something spills in your toiletry bag or its raining outside, liquids won't get all over your clothes.

If keeping your items dry is a concern for you, definitely look into getting a waterproof bag coverwater resistant toiletry bag, and of course a microfibre travel towel. All three made specifically for backpackers.

Which Compression Packing Cubes? Where To Buy Compression Packing Cubes?

There are numerous brands and styles of compression packing cubes available on the market for Travel Backpackers. One of the most popular brands is Eagle Creek. You can find compression packing cubes at various retailers, including outdoor stores, luggage stores, and online marketplaces such as Amazon and REI.

As somebody who has sold on Amazon before, I would suggest to be careful when finding your compression packing cubes on Amazon. Why? For it to be worth selling on Amazon, there needs to be good margins for the Seller since Amazon takes a large cut. So Amazon in inundated with crappy packing cubes. You can see some in the photos below.

TIP: If you find packing cubes on Amazon you are interested in, Google to see if the company has a website. If they don't have a website, I would skip over them and find a more reputable brand. The last thing that you want is your packing cubes to rip mid-trip.

     

(Amazon reviews of cheap compression packing cubes)

 

What Do Compression Packing Cubes Do?

Compression packing cubes serve multiple purposes. Primarily, they compress clothing to save space in your backpack or bag. By squeezing out excess air, these cubes allow you to pack more. Additionally, they help keep your belongings organized, separating different types of items to prevent clutter and make unpacking easier.

What is also cool about compression packing cubes is that you don't have to compress them. Just because the extra compression zipper is there, doesn't mean you have to use it but it is good to have that option. By squeezing out that extra air and limiting the movement of your clothes, your clothes stay in place and don't wrinkle much.

Do Compression Packing Cubes Wrinkle Your Clothes?

One of the advantages of compression packing cubes is that they can help reduce wrinkles in your clothes. By compressing your clothing tightly and keeping it in place, the cubes minimize shifting during travel, which can lead to fewer wrinkles compared to traditional packing methods. Think about it, if you didn't use a compression packing cube, your clothes would fall to the bottom of your backpack as you walk around. With all the weight of other stuff in your backpack falling on top of your clothes.

How Many Compression Packing Cubes Do I Need?

There is a general rule of thumb for Travel Backpackers to follow. You'll need one larger (the standard size) compression packing packing cube per every 10L in your backpack. For example, if you are traveling with a 40L backpack, you'll need 4 large compression packing cubes. A large compression packing cube (the standard size) is 14" x 10" or (35.5 cm x 25.5 cm).

If you are traveling with a 50L backpack, you'll probably want 5 large packing cubes etc. This is not to say that 10L of clothes is going to fit in 1 standard packing cube. This take into consideration that you still need space for your toiletry bag and any other accessories you are bringing with you.

TIP: A trick that I learned is to get all your compression cubes the same size! Why? Because if you have a set that is all different sizes, it causes gaps in your backpack. Gaps in a backpack are prime real estate!

(Different sized packing cubes make gaps and waste space in a backpack)

Do Compression Packing Cubes Make Luggage Heavier?

Compression packing cubes themselves do not add significant weight to your luggage. Each compression packing cube probably weighs roughly 3 oz or 90g. However, by allowing you to pack more efficiently and fit more items into your suitcase, they may tempt you to pack additional items, which could potentially increase the overall weight of your baggage. It's also essential to be mindful of weight restrictions imposed by airlines to avoid excess baggage fees.

To Recap: Top Benefits Of Compression Packing Cubes

1. Optimize Backpack Space
2. Maintain Organization
3. Reduce Wrinkles
4. Mitigate Movement Of Items While Traveling
5. Add An Odor & Water Resistant Layer To Packed Clothes
6. Make For Easier Packing & Unpacking

Don't forget to check out what we believe is the best compression packing cube.

 

WRITTEN BY

MARK CIPOLLINA

I’m Mark, the Founder of Generation Nomad, Avid Travel Backpacker & Digital Nomad. I am passionate about helping others discover the world through my experiences. I solo backpacked for months at a time, lived abroad, and even speak two foreign languages. Besides collaborating on the best lightweight travel accessories for Travel Backpackers, I also love sharing my travel photography.
Favorite Trips: Spain, Egypt & Vietnam 
Favorite Cuisines: Italian, Peruvian & Japanese
Quote: “Be a circle and just roll with it” 
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