Packing cubes are definitely news at the moment. The chart below shows worldwide Google searches for the term 'packing cubes'. You can see that it has risen 5-fold in the last five years, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. As you would expect searches are a bit seasonal, with peaks in the summer months and troughs in the winter, but overall, packing cubes are on a roll at the moment.
Source: Google Trends
However, just because everyone is searching for (and, we assume, buying) packing cubes, doesn't mean that they are actually useful or necessary.
We are going to take a look at packing cubes and dig into what all the fuss is about. We'll look at the typical cost, the disadvantages, and the alternatives you can use in their place that will do a similar job.
Packing cubes, if you haven't heard of them yet, will revolutionize the way you pack. No, I'm not just saying that to make some bold statement and catch your attention. I mean it.
Packing cubes are a great solution for messy packers like myself. Not only do they help you store your things in an orderly manner, they also help you fit more things, which is always of interest to me.
Packing cubes are luggage organisers that allow you to pack your clothes and other items separately when you travel. They are usually rectangular, made of cloth, and come in sets of various sizes. They can also be made of mesh to reduce weight and allow the content to be seen. Some compression cubes have an additional zip around the side which allows you to reduce the size of your clothes by compressing them once you've filled each cube.
Prices cover a wide range. At the premium end there are beauties like LeanTravel Compression Packing Cubes Luggage Organizers at £45 ($54) and Eagle Creek Pack It Starter Set at around £40 ($48), both pictured below. These products are both stylish and well made, but this quality is not only expensive, it is also heavy - both sets weight in at around 500g and this adds to the overall weight of your luggage.
LeanTravel Compression Packing Cubes Luggage Organizers
Eagle Creek Pack It Starter Set
The main reasons not to buy packing cubes are:
Don't use anything to separate your packing. Since the jet age began, travellers have managed quite well without sophisticated packing cubes, just by making the effort to pack and unpack their luggage carefully. Perhaps it took a little time, but in a slower age nobody seemed to mind.
These come in a vast range of sizes and quantities, and compared to packing cubes are very cheap. They are strong, long-lasting and very light. They are also waterproof, in case your luggage isn't. As an added bonus, they are transparent, so that you can see what you've packed. Here is someone who prefers them.
Laundry bags are very handy for packing smaller items, like underwear and socks. Compared to packing cubes, these are cheap and very light.
Why not just pack your clothes in pillow cases? Everyone has as few old ones in the back of the laundry cupboard that are perfect for upcycling. They're light, easy to wash, won't damage clothes and are about the right size for most packing.
Packing cubes make for neat, styling, convenient packing, and the compression versions will help to reduce the size of your luggage (although not the weight!). But there are distinct disadvantages, including cost, weight, practicality and ecological concerns. If the former outweigh the latter, then go for it and buy a set. If not, then hopefully there are a few alternatives here that you can consider.