Best Packing Cubes for Travel

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Why Use Packing Cubes?

Let’s start with a personal story for why I think packing cubes are important. The year was 2017 and I was traveling abroad to conduct business for the first time. I walked into my local airport with my luggage (a backpack and a large roller bag) in tow. I planned to check the roller bag with the airline and carry my backpack with me as a carry-on.

My flight itinerary had me leaving CLT late in the evening to arrive at JFK for a short 1.5 hour layover. This would give me enough time to make it through security before finally departing for the long-haul flight to Dubai just after midnight. Unfortunately for us our flight to JFK was delayed by about 1.5 hours which meant we no longer had a layover. This was really problematic because at JFK you have to gather your belongs and recheck with the departing airline and then go back through security (a process that usually takes 20-30 minutes).

When you hand off checked luggage from one airline to another (especially in the final minutes prior to departure) there isn’t a guarantee the bags will make it to your plane. You just have to hope that they make it to your final destination. I was lucky this time, my checked luggage arrived – but I would be lying if I told you I didn’t totally agonize over the possibility of not finding my luggage in Dubai the entire 13 hour flight.

My first international trip taught me a few things: first, make sure your layover is sufficient; second, always pack spare clothes in your carry-on if you check luggage; and third, pack modestly and efficiently to avoid checking luggage. Queue packing cubes! These little bags are essential tools to the seasoned traveler allowing us all to pack more efficiently.

What to Look for in Packing Cubes

Weight: A good packing cube will organize your luggage without adding unnecessary weight. This is especially important for those who travel with only one bag and carry everything on their back. Some packing cubes fall into an ‘Ultralight’ category and are made to be as light as possible.

Structure: Packing cubes may or may not have a lot of internal structure. Structure is good to protect valuables but typically adds bulk and weight.

Capacity: The size of a cube dictates how much you can squeeze inside of it but is also an indication of how much space it requires in your luggage. Make a special note of whether the size adjustable.

Materials: Packing cubes come in all sorts of materials. The material should fit what’s important to you – whether that be durability, weatherproofing, or weight optimization – and last a long time.

Additional Features: Does it come with compression straps or zippers? Is it made with high visibility materials making it easy to distinguish in a tightly packed bag? Does it have multiple compartments?

Our Top Picks

Best Ultralight Packing Cubes

Ultralight packing cubes are designed to cut out excess materials and save your back from pain. Cubes in this category are often made from nylon and mesh materials which are strong but very light weight.

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes

These are constructed of ultra-lightweight 30D Silnylon Ripstop which is very durable with the added bonus of being opaque to allow you see the inner contents. The cubes are water-repellant, washable, and come with a lifetime warranty from a reputable company. Eagle Creek’s Specter Cubes all have grab handles and good YKK zips.

Something to consider: These cubes only have a single top zipper so you so you’ll be stuffing these from bottom to top. Thus, items at the bottom of each cube will be difficult to access easily.

Dimensions / Capacity:

  • Medium: 14” x 10” x 3” / 10.5L
  • Small: 10” x 7” x 3” in / 5L
  • Extra-Small: 7.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 in / 1.2L

eBags Hyper-Lite Packing Cubes (Set of 5)

These are constructed of ultra-lightweight 30D Silnylon Ripstop which is very durable with the added bonus of being opaque to allow you see the inner contents. The cubes are water-repellant, washable, and come with a lifetime warranty from a reputable company. Eagle Creek’s Specter Cubes all have grab handles and good YKK zips.

Something to consider: These cubes only have a single top zipper so you so you’ll be stuffing these from bottom to top. Thus, items at the bottom of each cube will be difficult to access easily.

Dimensions / Capacity:

  • Medium: 14” x 10” x 3” / 10.5L
  • Small: 10” x 7” x 3” in / 5L
  • Extra-Small: 7.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 in / 1.2L

Best Compression Packing Cubes

Compression packing cubes shine when space is limited. These are can be light weight but often aren’t since compression forces apply stress on seams and outer materials. Cubes in this category almost always utilize full length compression zippers to compress contents. High-quality zippers (such as YKK) are critical for a good experience with these cubes. Bab zippers will be the first point of failure and will be really difficult to close.

Peak Design Packing Cube

Peak Design makes a bunch of really well designed travel gear and their packing cubes are no different. These cubes are constructed of self-healing 70D nylon/poly blend materials which are weatherproof, lightweight, and durable. The zippers for the all the compartments and compression are YKK zips (there really isn’t anything better).

Additionally, these cubes have an internal divider which can be used to separate clean and dirty clothes. The main compartment also opens up clamshell style for easy access and filling.

Bonus: If you’re looking for a pouch to organize your travel gear, we highly recommend their Tech Pouch which we reviewed here.

Dimensions / Capacity:

  • Small:
    • Min: 12.6″ x 6.7″ x 3.1″ / 4.5L 
    • Max: 12.6″ x 6.7″ x 6.7″ / 9L
  • Medium:
    • Min: 12.6″ x 12.6″ x 3.1″ / 8L
    • Max: 12.6″ x 12.6″ x 6.7″ / 18L

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes

Eagle Creek makes another appearance on this list because of their use of ultralight-but-durable 30D Silnylon material. The zippers on their cube are set back a little more than with Peak Design’s offering which make them compress more tightly. Though, we didn’t find that this increased the forced needed to compress the cubes. These cubes don’t open up clamshell style, but rather 60% of the perimeter. Thus, it isn’t as easy to access as Peak Design’s cubes but not that difficult either.

Dimensions / Capacity:

  • Half Cube:
    • Min: 10” x 7” x 1” / 3L
    • Max: 10” x 7” x 4” / 6L
  • Cube:
    • Min: 14” x 10” x 1” / 7.5L
    • Max: 14” x 10” x 5” / 13.5L

Best Budget-Friendly Packing Cubes

Tight on a budget or looking for something more disposable? These cubes will cover you when you’re short of cash or just looking for a great deal. They won’t last as long as the other products mentioned previously in this article, but they’ll get the job done.

AmazonBasics Packing Cubes

The AmazonBasics packing cube set is the most budget friendly option on this list. They are made with cheaper materials and components but will certainly still get the job done. The zippers aren’t YKK brand but they do work and we haven’t seen any of ours fail. Pick these up if your in a pinch for time and money and replace once they wear out and fail.

Dimensions / Capacity:

  • Medium: 13.75″ x 9.75″ x 3″
  • Large: 17.5″ x 12.75″ x 3.25″

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