If you’re like me, packing a roller bag for a trip often consists of making sure you’ve packed your passport, charging cables, socks, and underwear. Everything else is dumped into the bag (or rolled up if there’s time). But there’s a better way to pack a suitcase: with packing cubes. There’s a reason why travelers worldwide swear by this travel accessory. Once you try packing cubes, you’ll be hard-pressed to go back.
Pack-It Packing Cubes by Eagle Creek
Best overall packing cube system
- Buy now: $55 for three, eaglecreek.com
- Pros: Covered by Eagle Creek’s Lifetime Warranty, made with recycled materials, easy to mix and match for a variety of types of travel
- Cons: None, really, but it might be hard to choose from all the different options offered
Completely redesigned in January 2021, Eagle Creek’s popular Pack-It packing cube system comes in a myriad of colors and is frequently cited by travelers as their go-to choice for packing cubes. The starter set comes complete with a large garment folder and guide, a medium-size cube, and a small cube, making it a rather good deal. The folder helps to get shirts and pants to fit right into the cubes.
The new Pack-It series comes in three different styles: Pack-It Reveal cubes are made with recycled poly material and feature see-through mesh so you can easily see your belongings. Pack-It Isolate cubes are made with an ultra-lightweight ripstop material with anti-microbial odor control properties, making them ideal for dirty laundry or shoes. Pack-It Gear cubes are the most durable and water-resistant option in the Eagle Creek line for those who are going camping or bringing lots of tech along that needs some more protection.
Added bonus: Eagle Creek products are PVC free, are covered by a lifetime warranty, and are designed to have minimal negative environmental impact.
Compression Packing Cubes by Thule
Best compression packing cubes
- Buy now: $20–$25 for one, thule.com; $45 for set of two, rei.com
- Pros: Durable, water repellent, and made with materials that meet the highest safety standards for people and the environment
- Cons: Expensive
Starting at $20 for one small cube, these Thule compression cubes are one of the priciest options on this list. But after using them for a few months, Lyndsey Matthews, AFAR’s senior commerce editor, can already tell they’re durable enough to withstand years of use.
Made with bluesign-approved ripstop nylon, these packing cubes are semitransparent, water repellent, and manufactured with minimal impact on the environment. Like other compression cubes, these feature a double set of zippers—one that closes the cube and another that zips it even tighter to eliminate extra air and reduce bulk.
“I’ve had the zippers on other compression cubes snag on the fabric or bust open on me when overpacked,” Matthews said. “But the YKK zippers on the Thule cubes are ultra durable and slide closed so easily—even when I packed three bulky sweaters in the medium-size one.”
You can buy them individually or in a set of two with one medium and one small cube. A standard-size carry on can fit either one medium and two small cubes, or four small cubes on each side.
Zoid Cubes by Mystery Ranch
Best extra-durable packing cubes
- Buy now: from $24 for one; $69 for three, mysteryranch.com
- Pros: Durable, water repellent, and made with lots of handles for easy portability
- Cons: The 14.5-liter large Zoid cube is almost too large to be useful in a standard carry-on suitcase.
Sold individually and in sets of small, medium, and large sizes, Mystery Ranch’s Zoid packing cubes are made with durable YKK zippers and 210D Hitra Robic nylon that is more tear- and abrasion-resistant than regular nylon. In addition to being virtually indestructible, this lightweight yet thick nylon is sturdy enough to stand up on its own, making it easier to pack clothes in it without fighting floppy sides. (That said, the material is soft enough you can squish the cube into the nooks and crannies of a duffel once you’ve filled it with clothes.) These cubes also come with handles on both sides and the top lid for easy portability.
Though we haven’t tested these cubes in heavy-duty camping situations, rest assured they can withstand anything you throw at them. One reviewer on backcountry.com wrote, “I woke up in the middle of the night to some scratching inside my tent vestibule, then heard something slowly being drug away from my tent. I then heard what can only be described as a cacophony of squealing as two raccoons fought over my food-filled Zoid cube. After the victor began to investigate his spoils I slowly emerged from my tent and found a raccoon mauling the lid to my Zoid. In the end, the raccoon got none of my food and minimal damage was done to my cube.”
Just don’t store food in your tent, OK?
Cubos Travel Cubes – Del Dia by Cotopaxi
Best sustainable packing cubes
- Buy now: $50 for three, cotopaxi.com
- Pros: Variety of sizes, made with repurposed materials, bright and colorful, handles, and see-through mesh siding
- Cons: They lack compression technology and only have one zipper. (Two zippers are useful when closing an over-stuffed cube, but it’s not a deal breaker.)
We’ve long been fans of Cotopaxi’s Del Dia collection, which makes use of repurposed materials and ethical labor practices, and its Cubos Travel Cubes are a welcome addition to the line. The Del Dia set comes with three packing cubes—large (10 liters), medium (3 liters), and small (2 liters). Each includes a side handle to easily lift the cube out of your bag and mesh siding for peering inside.
While no two sets are exactly alike in design—they are, after all, made from leftover fabric—they’re always bright and colorful, making them one of the most playful options on this list. “Surprisingly, though, the cubes’ sizes are what I loved the most about them,” said Jessie Beck, AFAR’s senior manager, Video, Growth, & SEO. “The medium is 6 x 11.5 inches, which is a tad longer than the 9 x 6 inch cubes I had been traveling with, making it a far better shape for rolled-up pants. The 7 x 8–inch small is also the perfect size for a week’s worth of underwear or four or five small T-shirts and tank tops.”
The Insider Packing Cubes by Away
Best stylish packing cubes
- Buy now: from $45 for four, awaytravel.com
- Pros: Fun colors, see-through top, designed to fit popular Away luggage
- Cons: Not compressible
Sometimes the best travel accessories are the ones designed for the luggage you already own. Case in point: Away’s Insider Packing Cubes are sized to fit specifically in its Bigger Carry-On luggage. Sold as a set of four, these lightweight cubes are made with water-resistant nylon to protect your belongings and have a mesh panel on top so you can see what you’re looking for in your bag. Each set includes a small wide cube, as well as a medium wide, medium slim, and large wide cube to keep your socks organized and separated from bulkier items like sweaters. Just like its suitcases, Away sells its packing cubes in a variety of colors, including limited-edition seasonal patterns as well.
Own Away’s checked luggage? The brand also sells packing cubes in sets of six to fit in its large and medium-sized suitcases.
“BluffCube Pro” Compression Packing Cubes by Bluffworks
Best packing cubes for business travelers
- Buy now: $26–$32 for one, bluffworks.com
- Pros: Machine-washable, lightweight, adjustable size
- Cons: Most expensive option on this list
Founded in 2012, Bluffworks has gathered a cult following for its travel-friendly pants, blazers, and dresses made from wrinkle resistant, moisture wicking, and machine washable materials. Now the travel clothing company also makes “BluffCube” compression packing cubes.
In addition to a side-access zipper, these packing cubes can be packed from the elastic top access opening and compressed with a strap that has an adjustable buckle. The “Pro” fabric is a slightly structured brushed ripstop nylon designed with business travelers in mind. (There’s also a “Sport” option made with an ultra-light ripstop nylon.) Each type comes in two sizes—large (10.5 liters) and small (3.9 liters). The small is ideal for shorter trips, with room to fit one T-shirt, two pairs of shorts, three pairs of underwear, and two pairs of socks. The large can fit up to six shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, three sets of underwear, and two pairs of socks.
PackStacks by Hillsound
Best packing cubes for backpackers
- Buy now: $20–$23 for one, hillsound.com; amazon.com
- Pros: Designed for top-loading backpacks, handles, weatherproof
- Cons: “Tall” packing cube is too large
While most packing cubes come in a square shape designed for suitcases, the PackStack by the Canadian gear company Hillsound stands apart for its semi-circle shape that fits perfectly in a traditional outdoors backpack. A top handle makes the cube easy to pull out from top-loading packs, while the weatherproof fabric keeps what’s inside safe from any weather you might encounter. Although we’ve yet to test them more long-term, these cubes have remained sturdy and intact after several trips—from camping in California to backpacking in Borneo—making them an ideal option for packing up your rucksack.
The PackStack system comes in four different sizes, with short and tall versions designed specifically for 60L and 40L backpacks. The 40L short PackStack has room for 5.6 liters worth of stuff, while the 40L tall is 9.8 liters. The 60L short is 6.4 liters and 60L tall is 11.1 liters.
“I tested the 40L tall, but I would have really preferred two 40L shorts—the tall is quite spacious and I was actually able to pack all my clothes for Asia (which, admittedly, is abnormally minimalist) and had extra space leftover,” said Beck.
Packing Cubes by Shacke Pak
Best value packing cubes
- Buy now: $22 for four (plus laundry bag), amazon.com
- Pros: Affordable, bonus laundry bag, over 16,000 five-star reviews on Amazon
- Cons: Hand-wash only, not made from sustainable materials
The Shacke Pak set comes with four packing cubes that feature zippers made by the recognizable YKK brand, and the materials are nylon with a mesh cover. (A laundry bag is also included.) The product itself is simple, but it definitely gets the job done, according to travel blogger Sophie Anderson, who said that Shacke is her preferred brand of packing cube. “Having a designated cube for my shirts, pants, undergarments, and miscellaneous items seriously simplifies the packing process. I mean, who wants to have to take out everything when looking for one shirt or one pair of socks?” said Anderson.
Pro Packing Cubes
Best packing cubes for people who always travel with checked luggage
- Buy now: $37 for six, amazon.com
- Pros: Affordable, durable, water resistant
- Cons: Not made from sustainable materials
Most packing cube are sold individually or in sets of four designed for carry-on luggage, but the six-piece Pro Packing Cube set is best for those who always travel with a large checked bag. The set comes with three medium-size packing cubes ideal for shirts and shorts, one large packing cube for pants or sweaters, plus two small packing cubes for organizing your undergarments or toiletries.
These are similar to the Shacke Pak packing cubes, but they are made from a more durable ripstop nylon (versus regular nylon), which is designed to prevent ripping and tears. They also have a mesh cover and YKK zippers. Pro Packing Cubes’ use of ripstop nylon will appeal to travelers who need to cram more stuff into their bags with the hope that they won’t burst open.
What are packing cubes?
Packing cubes are small bags that function like mini-luggage inside your luggage so that you can separate your charging cords from your socks and your socks from pants. Packing cube systems vary in quality, price, and style. At their most basic, they feature a nylon or polyester body with a mesh zippered top so you can see inside. At the higher end, the systems are made with more durable materials and quality zippers and feature more compartments.
For the very budget-minded, there’s always Ziploc bags, including the larger Ziploc storage bags, and the brand’s travel “Space Bags,” which are a compression version space saver. These budget substitutes may be perfectly acceptable to some, but given the very short life span of a Ziploc bag compared with proper packing cube systems, this is not only the least durable option but also by far the least ecofriendly option of the bunch.
How to use packing cubes
There are no set rules on how to use packing cube, but here are some tips on using them to organize and pack your luggage:
- Find packing cubes that fit in your luggage. Optimize the space your cubes take up by buying ones that fit the dimensions of your suitcase or backpack. For example, Tortuga Backpacks sells packing cubes designed to fit perfectly within the main compartment of its backpacks.
- Use cubes to sort your clothes or group similar items together. Underwear in one cube, hiking clothes in another.
- Roll your clothes before you place them in the cube. This will make it easier to see everything that’s in a single packing cube without rummaging through it.
- Layer flat items, like jeans, on top. Some items are hard to roll. That’s OK. Fold them and place them on top of your smaller, rolled T-shirts and dresses, before you zip your packing cube shut.
Are packing cubes worth it?
Packing cubes are absolutely worth using to keep your luggage organized, separate dirty and clean clothes, or corral small items—like electronics and cords—in one place. Generally speaking, packing cubes won’t save you space (unless you previously packed with the “shove all my clean laundry in a suitcase” method). However, a compression cube, which is like an expandable suitcase in cube form, can squish bulky items like sweaters and jackets into more manageable parcels.
For frequent travelers, it’s certainly worth investing a bit more if you want your packing cubes to last. Here are nine of the best packing cubes to buy.
Lyndsey Matthews and Jessie Beck contributed additional reporting to this story.
This article originally appeared online in 2018; it was updated on April 3, 2023, to include current information.