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On a recent trip, I test-drove a set of packing cubes for the first time — and discovered that despite all the raves I’ve read about them, they’ll never make it into my “must-pack” pile. To paraphrase an old break-up cliche, the problem wasn’t the packing cubes. It was me.

Packing cubes are lightweight fabric bags that you can use to separate your suitcase into manageable sections. The ones I tried were an attractive green three-piece set from eBags, with cubes ranging in size from 17.5 by 12.75 by 3.25 inches to 11 by 6.75 by 3 inches.The set normally retails for $29.99 (though the site is currently offering a 20 percent discount).

ebags packing cubes

One of the main advantages of these packing cubes is their versatility. You can put pants in the large one, tops in the medium and socks/undies in the small. The Baby Bear-sized bag could also make a good home for a pair of shoes or some toiletries; meanwhile, Papa Bear can hold a decent-sized pile of dirty duds. For the organized traveler, the possibilities are endless.

Trouble is, I’m not a particularly organized traveler. Or, to be more precise, keeping things organized is less important to me than maximizing every inch of suitcase space. I typically roll my clothes into compact bundles that can be wedged neatly into gaps between other items, a strategy that’s allowed me to travel solely with a carry-on even on trips as long as two weeks. With the packing cubes, I found myself trying to work around three bulky rectangular shapes that, yes, kept things compartmentalized — but also left me with lots of wasted space.

And frankly, I didn’t really need a special organizer for my dirty laundry. Instead, I used what I always use: a plastic bag from the grocery store. (Cost: free.)

Four Signs You Have a Packing Problem

That said, here are a few examples of travelers who might benefit from using packing cubes:

-Partners who share a suitcase: Stow your clothes in blue bags and your hubby’s clothes in red ones so you can easily tell whose stuff is whose.

-Travelers who will be moving a lot from one hotel to another: Sort your outfits accordingly and you’ll only pull out what you need in each place, rather than turning your whole suitcase inside out.

For those travelers and more, I’m offering up my gently used packing cubes to help improve your next trip. If you’d like to receive my three-piece set of packing cubes, leave a comment below by Sunday, February 19, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. ET. We’ll pick one person at random to win the cubes. Be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can notify you if you win.

11 Multi-Purpose Travel Essentials

– written by Sarah Schlichter

144 Responses to “The Unorganized Traveler: Why Packing Cubes Aren’t for Me”

  1. AFter many trips abroad I am still searching for the best way to pack…..
    These cubes look perfect for underwear, bras, etc. you do not want luggage
    handlers to handle if your bag is opened. They wouod be great for personnel itms you do not want touched if your bag is searched. Would love to try them please and thank you!

  2. Joanne says:

    Think your cubes would be better than my ziplock bags!

  3. These actually sound quite useful. I am an uber organizer and was looking at these for our next trip to Rome, Florence & Paris. Since we are not staying at one hotel AND we do pack together the comment about using the different colors is great. I usually use the dry clean bags from the hotels closets to store the dirty clothes but these seem like a better idea. Thanks.

  4. Sarah,
    I travel a lot for work and personal. I am always looking for more ways to be organized and save money. I currently use plastic containers that curtains come in for my travel that I have purchased at thrift stores, one because they are see-through, the other because they are a little thicker and do not tear as easily. I would love to be considered in your random drawing.

    I always love reading the independent traveler, it is better than any magazine!


  5. John says:

    I do not travel much, but my bride does and this is something that I would like for her to have. At this time I can not afford to purchase a set.

  6. jean schwartz says:


  7. Ellen Harpin says:

    I will be flying from Florida to California with my seven year old grandson. These would help organize our items in our shared suitcases.

  8. Lori Malone says:

    After watching my husband pack for business, I know he would utilize the packing cubes to their fullest extent. We would both put them to good use on our next vacation to Alaska.

  9. Nancy James says:

    They are perfect for so many reasons. They help you to organize your pre-pack items so you can easily see if you have forgotten something. Then, upon your arrival, you can even leave items (socks, for example) in their cube which helps organize and keep things straight & clean in their new/temporary drawer. Organization is key in travel!

  10. Barbara Brown says:

    I’ve used these in the past and have given many away to other travelers – therefore I’m ‘down’ to only 1 unit.

    I love these cubes as I put them directly into the drawer(s) in the hotel, cruise ship, etc. and don’t have to worry about my clothes being ‘picked’ by rough drawers, or better yet – clothes are kept clean by not being placed directly into a dirty drawer!

  11. Benita says:

    These are great for organizing your packing!

  12. Sheri says:

    They look like a great product to have in my bag. segregate items nicely, easy to find and grab.

  13. Kristy McCoy says:

    Packing is quite difficult…especially with the limited room we have today. These might prove to be very useful.

  14. Marty Harvey says:

    I love to travel!!! Anything to help me with organization is greatly appreciated. These cubes would be awesome to use on our next trip coming up in May.

  15. Ric Adams says:

    Packing has always been a problem. Maybe these would make it easier. Might be worth a try.

  16. Nancy Tucker says:

    I love packing cubes and know they would be perfect for my son who travels on business a lot. I would love to help him be more organized. Thanks for a chance to win them.

  17. michelle moreno says:

    I have used something similar….and it worked wayy better then space bags……wouldn’t mine trying them…might make for easier packing…

  18. Kathy says:

    I travel to visit reletives on both coasts, and variable weather requires many clothes. I would absolutley love these for sweaters, pants, t-shirts, cami’s and undies, and yes, I must have several shoes…….first time I’ve seen the bags. So cool looking too…..Kathy

  19. Canece Hanna says:

    Each trip I take my packing gets better and better. This will be the next evolution in my quest to streamline….off to go purchase

    …oh wait! let me hold off on that purchase, just…in…case…

  20. Karen says:

    I am always trying to find the best way to pack. I think your packing cubes would do th trick. they sound wonderful.

  21. Julianne Fulcher says:

    I am “anal retentive” and these would be perfect for packing organization. Please release me from my everlasting struggle to organize my luggage.

  22. Michael R. says:

    Wow – these are just what I need as I am on the go business traveler! These look great and I would love to win a set today!

  23. Joanne Watier says:

    These would have been perfect firmly most recent trip to separate the clean and dirty clothing. They would have made packing much more organized than what I ended up going through.

  24. Sunny says:

    Have been a frequent traveler for many years and continue to find better ways to pack. With baggage fees these days, it pays to get more efficient! I have used plastic ziplock bags in the past, but have never invested in the packing “cubes”. Am planning a multi-city international tour and like your idea of having a separate “cube” for each stop. Would love to try it!

  25. Karey says:

    Looks cool! We love to cruise and I’d love to give them a try.

  26. anne says:

    I LOVE the 1 packing cube I have. I use it for undies- and hope the agents don’t open it and let them all roll out. I would love some more!!cube and would love some more!

  27. Colene says:

    I travel frequently with my husband and he is too \frugal\ to pay for more than one suitcase. That means sharing space. And, when he wants something from the suitcase, he searches for it with the same approach favored by our dog when he is digging for a bug in our garden. These cubes would be a wonderful way of separating our clothing, and thus preserving some of my sanity.

  28. mary mays says:

    I love this color gree. These would be nice for my trip to Alabama & Georgia!

  29. Elena Rodriguez says:

    I am planning a trip of a lifetime for 35 days to Europe and 6 countries with 3 teenage daughters..I imagine that packing will be an adventure by itself. We are going to be on the move and will need to be organized just to stay sane. I would love to try these cubes out and see if they are effective tools for my girls. Thank you for your review as it was helpful in determining when it would be better to not use them versus when they would be more effective. :-)

  30. Brenda says:

    Have been told that these packing cubes will change my life. Would love to find out.

  31. Hal says:

    If you want to minimize wrinkles and creases, check out one bag dot com. It has all the answers. Trust me on this one.

  32. Vi says:

    I am using plastic bags for separating my clothes and other items. It is easy to pack everything into backpack. Cubes probably would be too bulky for backpacking.

  33. Beth says:

    It took me a long time to try these, but now I’m hooked (I have two sets of my own of the same ebags version you tested and I don’t need yours, so don’t include me in the draw — just wanted to share my experience with other travelers). First of all, I too only travel with carry-on luggage. That said, you can still fill in all the nooks and crannies while using the packing bags. The difference is, when you’re looking for something in particular, you don’t have to rummage through and unpack everything that’s on top of it to get to what you want, then have to repack, etc. These are particularly great for multi-purpose and/or multi-stop trips, i.e. if you’re moving from one place to another and don’t want to have to unpack and repack the whole kitten-kaboodle at every stop, and/or if, like me, you sometimes travel for work and pleasure in the same trip. I can pack my work clothes separate from my “play” clothes so I can easily get to what I need when I need it and with much less mess. Also, no more digging for gold to find those underwear or socks that were laid out in the bottoms of the suitcase. I just take out the packing cubes and “voila!” — easy access. These are absolutely fabulous! I’ve even gotten my 88 y.o. dad hooked on using them.

  34. Val says:

    Going to England next month and would love touas CUBES.

  35. Jace says:

    Unfortunately the packing cubes you tried are just mediocre ones. There are mesh cubes from places like Magellans that are far superior, more lightweight, take up less space in the suitcase, and hold an AMAZING amount of stuff. In addition, you can put the cubes right into your drawers on a trip and live out of them, making it much speedier to pack again when it’s time to leave.

  36. Edward Potereiko says:

    I like the idea of packing cubes in theory, have what I consider 7 days of clothes packed into my backpack/hand carry weekender ebag bag, and appreciate the ideas supplied, I.e.,ziplock bags and plastic garbage bag for dirty clothes.
    Yet I like the idea of cubes and would like to give them a try.
    I have pill bottles plus pill cases (to refill a 2 1/2 day supply from bottles to carry in my pocket). I think they could benefit from a cube, extra pair shoes or hiking boots, and toiletries with some sharp objects.
    Shirts 3 which I lay flat atop each other, extra pants -1which goes on the bottom, 8 days underwear, i.e., shirts/shorts, plus 8 thin sock liners and 8 pair heavy socks.
    Haven’t figured an efficient way of packing, let alone puttin the hiking boot in. Socks I line the sides with, underwear I lay to one side or on top.
    Wear and how to put dirty laundry? Garbage bag? Toiletries and pills a problem in keeping separate and able to pull ou in an instant once a week for the main bottles.
    Way too many compartments on bag in my opinion that are too small.
    Would like to try ebag cubess, but will they take up too much space?

  37. Darren says:

    Great assessment of packing cubes vs not, you answered the question I googled. Thanks so much and keep up the great blogging.

  38. Renee says:

    Would love these packing cubes, we are going overseas to Australia to see my husbands father, who is quite ill after chemo; however, I m meeting his family for the first time so I’m both nervous and excited. After I paid for the ticket, we can’t afford extras like this. Thanks for offering these cubes!

  39. Rachel says:

    Packing cubes can be pretty handy, but for me my packing issue is space, not organisation. I’d say my go to packing accessory is compression bags because they allow me to shrink my clothes down to a fraction of their normal size :)

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