Compression Packing Cube Experiment

I decided that traveling with more than carry-on isn’t an option. I will never forget struggling to get from SFO to my friend’s apartment in Russian Hill and battling the stairs of the BART station with a ginormous suitcase. Traveling with just one bag isn’t realistic, however, because of my electronics needs, but traveling with a carry-on bag and a personal item is.

I debated whether to go with a suitcase or a backpack and both won. For my carry-on item, I already own a very good suitcase in the appropriate dimensions. I’ve been traveling with it for years and know how to pack it. It weighs 1KG more than the best rated and lightest backpack I found and I think that the wheels will make losing that 1KG worth it. It is made by Skyway. The link goes to a very similar suitcase to mine, but the interior of the lid on mine has storage compartments. Skyway makes a really good suitcase and has a bunch of little details that you don’t find in cheaper luggage, like the handle at the bottom of the case to make it easier to grip as you’re lifting it into an overhead compartment. My Skyway luggage is plum, an unusual colour that makes it easier to spot on the carousel when I have to check it.

While researching packing a carry-on bag for an extended trip, I came across the notion of “packing cubes.” That’s just a fancy term for a sturdy zippered pouch you can use to compartmentalise your luggage. You can also get compression cubes that have an extra zipper that will smoosh your clothes and get rid of any extra space in the cube.

I really liked the idea of compression cubes and so I bought a set of Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes. They were not sufficient enough for my needs so I added a set of Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Cubes. The difference is that the Specters are much lighter weight and you can’t open them up fully the way you can the regular compression cubes. This left me with four large cubes and four mediums.

Everything I wanted to bring and then some fit into my four cubes. I couldn’t believe how much I could cram into them. But, of course, the more you put in, the harder they are to compress. All the tips I read said to roll your clothes before putting them in the cubes, but I found that folding them to the dimension of the cubes and stacking them flat allowed me to not only put more in them, but also to more evenly compress them. I did end up having to make a couple of deletions to compress the cubes fully.

Here are my two large ones. The black one has bottoms, the purple one has tops (including a rain jacket and a fleece hoodie). As you can see, they pretty much take up the entire suitcase.

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Add in my two smaller cubes, my shoes, and my jewelry box (subject of a future post) and you can see I’m going to have a problem. I don’t have my French press in here or my toiletries bag.

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Yeah, this is not going to work…

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Now, here is everything in my compression cubes put into my suitcase with no effort made to maximise space or prevent wrinkles. I just pretty much threw everything in there.

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The suitcase closed without any issues. I still have room for my toiletries bag and my French press. I bet that with a little effort, I can even fit in a couple of the things I discarded.

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For the curious, the bag weighs just over 10KG, which is right on target. I weighed it with a Dunheger digital luggage scale. WestJet doesn’t have a weight limit for carry on, but many other airlines do, so I decided that I should leave with my luggage at the common allowable weight of 10KG if at all possible to save me possible grief on other flights.  The bag does not include my airport outfit, which I may change. Right now, I’ve got myself traveling in a skirt, which would be like wearing pajamas all the way to London, but I may have to reclaim space in my suitcase by wearing a pair of jeans instead. Of course, I’m wearing my heaviest and most cumbersome shoes on the plane.

I really love how neat the compression cubes are, but they end up being like a brick and do not let me make use of all the nooks and crannies in my bag. I’m not convinced at this point that I will be using them, or I may only use a couple and leave other items loose.

Before I make any decisions, I am going to wait for my computer bag to get here. This was a last minute purchase that I think was a smart decision. I was going to go with a soft sided messenger-type bag that wouldn’t have been able to carry much because it would have been too difficult to carry. I had a vision of me trying to get all the way across London with that heavy thing strapped across my body and went nope! By going with a slim backpack that I can slip over the handle of my suitcase, I’ll be less fatigued. I made sure to get a bag that would fit WestJet’s dimensions for a “personal” item since most backpacks would be too large. This will also give me a backpack for day hikes, even if it’s not made for that purpose.

An idea that I have at this point is that I may have room in the backpack for one of my smaller cubes as well as my toiletries bag. I would pack a full outfit in the compression cube so that if I decide to get changed upon arriving in London, everything is right there in one neat bag and I can also throw dirty laundry into the cube. Of course, I can’t overload the backpack as I have to make sure that it can fit under the seat in front of me.

I’ve spent a couple of hours already experimenting with packing both with and without my packing cubes. I’ll be glad when the computer bag gets here so that I can practice packing up my office and see if there’s any room left in that bag for the few things that won’t fit in the suitcase. I think that I’m doing well for a first time trying to pack minimally for an extended trip, but I’m still very much at the beginner stage.

The last thing I need to decide on is a purse. I am trying not to bring me beloved leather tote because the top doesn’t zip, but I haven’t get found anything I like better. Whatever I decide on has to travel in either my suitcase or the backpack on travel days.

So to recap what I’ve learned about compression packing cubes:

  • You can fit more in them and more easily compress them if you pack things flat instead of rolling them (especially heavy items like jeans);
  • If you fill them fully, you will not be able to compress them (pack less or buy regular, less expensive, packing cubes instead);
  • Once compressed, they become a brick with no give at all;
  • They are great for compartmentalising your clothes and keeping your bag organised, but do not let you use your bag space to its full potential;
  • They would be great for two people sharing one bag.

6 thoughts on “Compression Packing Cube Experiment

  1. Have you looked at Travelon anti-theft bags? They are made with fabric, come in a variety of sizes and shapes. My sister got a cross-body one. I liked the looks of it so well I went to Amazon and bought me one in a different style that I’m really liking.

    • Yes, I actually did, but they are way too expensive for my needs. If I was doing the standard European tour and spending a lot of time in cities where pickpockets are an issue, they’d be a no brainer. I will probably stick to a money belt for the valuables I don’t need right on hand and use a lightweight bag for the rest.

      • Understand. My sister bought hers because she was being paranoid about being in an airport/airplane for the first time. (grin) I bought mine because I wanted to replace my heavy leather purse with something lighter and cross-body to free up my hands for dealing with canes, railings and such. (getting old and your knees falling apart is a pain) So the 35 bucks I spent seemed fair to me. We will see how long it lasts.

        • I don’t like to spend a lot of money on a purse because I like to replace them regularly and also so that I don’t get upset if they get damaged or, worst case, stolen. That’s not to say I have cheap bags — I am really good at spotting deals at thrift stores! My main purse here is a gorgeous leather bag that retailed for over $200, but for which I paid only $2!

          (I know all about knees falling apart and wondering how much longer I can avoid a cane…)

  2. I like your computer bag so much I went to Amazon.com to see if we can get it here. The answer is sort of. 🙂

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