- I travel often, and while I’ve optimized every other part of the process, I still dreaded packing.
- Packing cubes are the only things that have made a difference. They’ve cut the time it takes to pack and get ready in the morning down to a third of what it’s been in the past.
- I pack with Calpak’s five-piece set ($48 at Nordstrom), but there are more lightweight and/or budget-friendly options to consider as well, depending on your needs.
If I could have back every moment I’ve spent blindly digging in a suitcase (and then repacking said suitcase), I’d tack weeks back onto my lifetime.
I travel often, and I’ve gone to great lengths to optimize virtually every other part of the process – from the best under-$20 airplane headphones to the best camera purse to ways to get around costly international cellular data and carry-on restrictions – even the best credit cards for travel rewards and services that literally plan each day’s itinerary for you – but I still dreaded the nights during which I had to pack.
Apps like PackPoint, which generate a basic packing list based on the number of nights away, activities planned, and the weather of your destination, make packing easier, but the only travel essential that has made a difference for me before, during, and after the trip itself are packing cubes. Specifically, Calpak’s $48, five-piece packing cube set.
Why packing cubes are useful:
The idea behind packing cubes is that you can create mini organized compartments within the unstructured main compartment of a suitcase so you can find the essentials instantly. No digging involved. You can organize them by occasion (wedding rehearsal, wedding, Sunday brunch, airplane outfit, etc.) or by type (pants, underwear, grooming essentials, etc.) depending on how you think about getting dressed every day.
What’s included in the Calpak packing cube set:
The Calpak 5-Piece Set includes a large, (17″ x 12″), medium (15″ x 11″), and two small (12″ x 8.8″) cubes, plus one Envelope pouch (13″ x 10″) with a water-resistant lining. Each cube has space for a label for extra organization (occasion, outfit, item types), a top-carry handle, and a zippered pocket on the back. The mesh front window lets your clothes breathe, and lets you see at a glance what’s inside.
My experience using the packing cubes:
For a decade of travel, I thought packing cubes were an unnecessary expense that would take up space in a suitcase. And after one trip spent traveling with them, I was converted.
Compartmentalizing my trip into events made it easier to pack smarter and avoid overpacking. Since I could visualize – and thereby had to acknowledge – that I was bringing four matching pants options for one event and none for another, I was able to course-correct while packing. It also meant that on the morning of a particular event, I wasn’t unzipping fifteen pockets to find the right pair of socks, a pair of underwear, the barrette I swore I packed, and anything else I had once imagined with this particular outfit. Just by adding in individual dedicated cubes, I cut both my packing time and my daily getting-ready time to a third of what it has been in the past. I also started keeping all my dirty laundry in a cube once I no longer needed the items from each event, making laundry at home faster and easier.
Packing cubes are an especially good idea if you’re going on a trip with multiple stops. For instance, if I’d had them on my 12-day road trip through the south of France, I wouldn’t have had to make unpacking and re-packing all of my things a nightly routine.
Alternatives to the Calpak cubes
I personally like the look and structured nature of Calpak’s set in a suitcase, but if you’re looking for something more lightweight, you may want to check out the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Cubes ($29.97) made out of breathable, translucent fabric. If you’re looking for an option that actively compresses your clothes so you can fit as much as possible, you may want to check out the Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Cubes ($27.87). And, lastly, if $50 is still not justifiable for you no matter how good-looking the products, you can find a set of four by AmazonBasics for $22.99 on Amazon.
The bottom line
All in all, I can’t recommend using packing cubes enough. I’ve dreaded packing for years, but my set from Calpak has cut my packing time down to a third of what it used to be. I’m also no longer spending 40 minutes getting ready in the mornings because I can’t find anything, forgetting essentials, or repacking my suitcase every night just to keep things manageable.