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How Much Extra Space Do Compression Cubes Actually Buy You?

Some people are natural minimalists. They can travel the world with nothing more than a change of underwear and a toothbrush. And then there are the rest of us who need a little help to reap the benefits of the carry-on-only lifestyle.

Happily, help is easy to come by in the form of packing aids that allow us to fit a little more stuff into a little less space. Being a non-minimalist by nature, I decided to pit three space-saving packing aids against each other (basic packing cubes, compression cubes, and plastic space-saver bags) to see which would be most useful in my travels. Here’s what I learned.

The Baseline: Packing Cubes

I filled large and medium Eagle Creek packing cubes with rolled clothing to capacity to establish the baseline. Stacked, the cubes stood eight inches high and took up most of the space of the clam-shell 22-inch Eagle Creek AWD Tarmac carry-on.


The Contender: Compression Cubes

I then transferred the items to Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes and saw immediate improvement. The same items stood only 6.75 inches high once I loaded them into the bags and used the zippered compression system. And I freed up a significant amount of space in my suitcase as well.


The Upstart: Plastic Rolling Bags

Moving the items for a third time, I deposited them into two of the carry-on-sized Travis Travel Gear Space Saver Bags. These bags use human-powered rolling to squeeze out the air, offering an on-the-go compression alternative to vacuum compression bags. Once again I saw a volume improvement: The items were a bit more spread out, but now stood only 5.75 inches high at its thickest point. That freed up even more suitcase space.


RELATED: How to Fit More Stuff in Your Suitcase

The Verdict

But … I wasn’t ready to declare a winner just yet. While each level of compression freed up more suitcase space, there were also practical matters to consider. Because the more you squish stuff, the more wrinkly it will be when you arrive at your destination. Are a few inches of extra space worth the time at the hotel ironing board?

In my opinion, no. But a mix of packing aids could yield more space and fewer wrinkles. Here’s how:

  • Pack items that wrinkle easily—linen, 100 percent cotton, silk—by rolling in a packing cube. Or, combat wrinkles like a pro with a garment folder or sleeve.
  • Use compression cubes for items that are less prone to wrinkles, for instance knits, lyocell, polyester, cashmere, and pieces with spandex or other stretchy fabrics.
  • Reserve the plastic rolling space-saver bags for bulky items that don’t wrinkle—jackets, sweaters, and other fall or winter wear. You’ll free up a huge amount of space without any added hassle at your destination.

Considering compression cubes? Check out The Best Travel Compression Bags, Plus How They Work.

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis loves to stay organized when she travels. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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