The Best Packing Cubes for Backpacking 2020

Packing cubes

The links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases.


Best Packing Cubes Quick Answers!

When it comes to packing for your trip, things can get complicated. With so many must-haves, it’s difficult to figure out just how everything will fit into one backpack…

The first time I went travelling I had never heard of packing cubes, let alone bothered researching the best packing cubes for backpacking!

It was a mistake I only made once and I have since made sure I have an ample collection. These days I always have enough for any trip and usually have a set left over for a travel buddy to borrow!

Packing cubes make it much easier to organise and fit all your gear into your backpack or suitcase. Honestly, you will not believe how much easier they make packing and unpacking!

What are Packing Cubes?

Also referred to as packing squares, luggage cubes or packing pods, packing cubes are small bag-like containers, used to organise your clothes, toiletries and other equipment within your main bag. These travelling organisers are generally made of polyester or nylon and most often come in a rectangular shape. 

They zip shut to keep your belongings in place and you can use them to get your pack organised in the most efficient way. There are different types of packing cubes, each with their own benefits. Keeping reading to learn (almost) everything there is to know about packing cubes!

How Useful Are Packing Cubes?

In a word, very. Packing cubes can be used to separate t-shirts from trousers, jumpers from pants or even clean clothes from dirty laundry. Some will even compress your clothes into smaller bundles to make extra space for other essentials!

Waterproof packing cubes are available for use in dodgy climates, or simply to stop your toiletries spilling all over your stuff and even padded packing cubes are available for electronics or valuables. 

Are Packing Cubes Worth It?

Everyone has their own packing style, but packing cube sets can make a big difference in anyone’s pack. According to our readers, packing cubes are that one inexpensive travel accessory you simply don’t want to miss out on. Taking the time to organise your equipment before you head out on your adventure will help you stay organised and save you time throughout your whole trip. If you appreciate an easy to manage backpack as you transition from place to place during your travels, then investing in packing cubes is well worth your while!

Benefits of Packing Cubes for Travel

If you’re still not sold on using packing cubes, consider the wide range of benefits…

  • Use them to separate your dirty clothes from clean ones.
  • Keep your backpack organised.
  • Reduce wrinkles in your clothes. 
  • Make unpacking and repacking at each destination super easy.
  • You can categorise while packing saving you precious holiday time.
  • Functional packing for all equipment including clothing, toiletries, gear, shoes, and more.
  • You will reuse them for many trips.
  • Help keep your belongings protected during travel.
  • Better than a plastic bag for the environment.
  • They are very easy to keep clean.
  • Can be used as a backup yoga pillow.
  • Or, even a travel pillow for flights, bus, and train trips!
Packing cubes for backpacking.
Separating your dirty laundry from your clean clothes is one of the big advantages of packing cubes!

Things to Consider When Buying Packing Cubes:

  • How much stuff do you need to pack? If it is a lot then I recommend getting a set with more cubes is a good idea. 
  • How big is your backpack? If you haven’t already chosen a backpack, you should do that first so you know how much room you have to play with. 
  • Where are you going? If your trip is to colder climates you will obviously need more stuff. Bear this in mind when choosing your packing cubes because not all cubes are large enough for jumpers and warm clothes. Likewise, if you are going to be staying in dorm rooms a lot, it is good to know you can pack and unpack your bag quickly without having to wake up the room. Smaller, well organised cubes can really help with this. 
  • Do you need waterproof packing cubes? Not all cubes that claim to be waterproof actually are. Even if the material used has some sort of water resistance, many cubes come with a mesh front panel that water can easily get through. 
  • What is more important, weight or durability? Whilst you can get many lightweight cubes that are durable, they will not last as long as packing cubes made from thicker materials. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether saving a few grams is worth having to buy packing cubes more often.

The Best Packing Cubes for Backpacking!

Types of Packing Cubes…

Before we can dive right into the packing cubes, it is worth noting that they are generally split into different types or styles. These are:

  • Compression Packing Cubes
  • Lightweight Packing Cubes
  • Waterproof Packing Cubes
  • “Normal” or “Budget” Packing Cubes

The Best “Normal” Packing Cubes

These are the standard packing cubes we have been describing throughout the article so far. They are generally rectangular in shape and will often have a mesh front panel so you can see what is inside. 

Costing around $25 for a set, they will not break the bank and providing you look after them will last for many trips!

AmazonBasics Packing Cubes

  • Cost: Approx $20.
  • Quantity: 4.
  • Sizes: Mixed.
  • Colour: Various options available.

 

With a huge variety of packing cubes on the market at varying prices, you may wonder if it’s really worth spending more money on a more expensive set, or if a cheap set will do.

The AmazonBasics Packing Cubes were the first set I ever bought and they are still going strong, 3 years and almost a dozen countries later. 

If you are not fussed about saving a few grams and more concerned with saving some cash, these packing cubes are a great choice! They come with a mesh front panel which allows air to circulate around your clothes and are durable enough to go the distance.

Over time, wear and tear does become obvious but this is to be expected and even though mine have a few scuffs, they still do their job.

BAGAIL 6 Set Packing Cubes (6 Piece)

  • Cost: Approx $24.99.
  • Quantity: 6.
  • Sizes: 3 different sizes included.
  • Colour: Various options available. 

 

The BAGAIL set of packing cubes is super practical as it provides you with six cubes in total, two of each size.

This leaves plenty of room and flexibility for fitting everything you need neatly into your backpack. The cubes are made durably with finished interior seams, so you won’t need to worry about having a packing breakdown during your travels.

Just like the AmazonBasics packing cubes, these come with a mesh front so you can easily see what you have packed in each cube. 

The BAGAIL packing cubes even come with a years warranty! If you have an issue, contact the seller directly on Amazon and they will be able to replace any damaged cubes for free.

TravelWise Packing Cube System 

  • Cost: Approx $18.
  • Quantity: 5.
  • Sizes: 3 different sizes included.
  • Colour: Various options available.

 

The TravelWise Packing Cube System includes five cubes, 1 small, 2 medium and 2 large, to get your backpack organised before you head off on your next adventure. 

Each cube is made with durable fabric and is designed with mesh ventilation. The two-way zipper on these cubes makes packing and unpacking super simple, whilst the grab handles make it easy to pull the cubes from your bag, or even hang them up in your hostel!

The Best Lightweight Packing Cubes

Yep, they’re exactly what you are thinking, lightweight packing cubes that weigh less than the standard options. To achieve this weight saving, the manufacturer generally uses thinner materials or in some cases, they may use exotic fabrics such as Dyneema (formerly known as Cuben Fibre). These fabrics tend to cause lightweight packing cubes to be significantly more expensive than the basic models. 

Whilst this weight saving can be pretty handy if you are right on the limit of your weight allowance, most of us won’t actually notice the saving of a few grams here and there. The main downside of these ultralight packing cubes is that they are not always as durable as their cheaper brethren so you could find that after a long trip they need replacing. 

Eagle Creek Pack It Specter Cube Set

  • Cost: Approx $40.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 different sizes included. 
  • Colour: 5 options available.

 

Eagle Creek is a well known brand within the travel world. The fact that they have attached their name to something, usually means it is top quality and definitely worth considering.

These ultra lightweight packing cubes are perfect for those who are close to their weight limit or just want to reduce the load they are carrying. If you can save a few grams on every item in your pack, it soon adds up to big weight savings!

The Specter Cube Set contains three different sized packing cubes so there are plenty of packing options available to you. The largest is easily big enough for jumpers and jeans whilst the smaller two give plenty of space for t-shirts, shorts and underwear. 

Eagle Creek are keen to stress that even thought the material used is thin and lightweight, the ripstop construction of the cubes make them durable over the long term. Customer reviews back up this claim. 

Osprey Packs UL Packing Cube Set

  • Cost: Approx $38.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 different sizes included.
  • Colour: Lime or Shadow Grey.

 

As with Eagle Creek, Osprey are massive players in the travel and luggage game and as such these packing cubes are of the highest quality. 

Just as confident as ever, Osprey give their amazing, All Mighty Guarantee to their UL Packing Cubes. No matter what happens, if they fail, Osprey will repair or replace them free of charge. 

These cubes are a touch heavier than the Eagle Creek ones because they are made using a slightly thicker fabric. It’s barely enough to register, unless you are a human scale (which let’s face it, would be a cruddy super power) but does mean that the cubes are going to be tougher and more resistant to wear. 

The main downside of the Osprey UL Packing Cubes is the small sizes they come in. Even the largest is only 3-litres, which is fine for warm weather gear but can get cramped if you are visiting anywhere cold on your travels. 

The colours also leave a little to be desired, the lime option screams of someone unable to let go of the 80’s and the Shadow Grey is more suited to an old Rover than a packing cube.

Pack All Ultralight Packing Cubes Set

  • Cost: Approx $34.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 different sizes included.
  • Colour: White.

 

The Ultralight Packing Cubes Set from Pack All is slightly cheaper than lightweight options we have discussed so far but do not take that as a sign of poorer quality. 

They are thin, lightweight and durable. If you find yourself not using them all, the spares can be squashed down really small, barely taking up a fraction of the room in your pack.

The largest cube is big enough for long trousers, jumpers and more t-shirts than you would ever need for a single trip. The medium sized one will easily fit shorts or warm weather gear and the smallest is a great size for toiletries or other essentials. Obviously, toiletries won’t compress but it’s better than having them loose in your bag!

One massive advantage these cubes have over their rivals is the level of water resistance. Sure, they won’t hold up to a real soaking but they will shrug off spills or a quick excursion to the shower floor without issue. 

DX 210D Packing Cubes

  • Cost: Approx $40.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 sizes in each set – Can be bought separately.
  • Colour: Stealth Grey or Wasabi Green.

What is it with lightweight gear and rubbish names for their colour palette?! 

Now that’s off my chest, let’s talk Dyneema for a moment. This fabric has become a mainstay within the ultralight community. Many folks, more intelligent than I, claim that pound for pound, it is 15 times stronger than steel! 

Thanks to its incredible strength, it is possible to use very thin layers of Dyneema and still have super robust gear.

These DX 210D Packing Cubes are some of the very lightest available on the market today but they are also some of the smallest so bear that in mind when making your choice. 

Whilst you could fit a pair of jeans and maybe a thin jumper in the largest cube, you would be hard pressed to get anything else in there. As such, these should are only really useful for hot weather travels. Otherwise, you will have so much stuff outside of the cubes it’s not worth having them at all. 

At this price though, these packing cubes are an absolute bargain. Dyneema usually fetches a much higher price than this! I’m even considering replacing my much loved AmazonBasics packing cubes!

The Best Waterproof Packing Cubes

The name says it all, these are packing cubes that are also waterproof. They can be used to keep your electronics safe from getting wet or to throw your wet gear in after a day at the beach. 

Although waterproof packing cubes tend to be heavier than the normal or lightweight variants, it is a great investment to have just one that you can use for multiple purposes throughout your travels. 

One thing to be aware of with waterproof packing cubes is that they are not always as waterproof as advertised…

It is not uncommon to see companies claiming their packing cubes are waterproof even though they have a mesh front… Obviously, mesh isn’t waterproof so I really have no idea why they think their customers would fall for this outright lie. 

Don’t worry though, all the waterproof packing cubes on this list are as close to 100% waterproof as you can get!

Tranvers PVC Waterproof Packing Cubes

  • Cost: Approx $20.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 sizes per set.
  • Colour: Clear.

 

This waterproof packing cube set from Tranvers does everything you would expect from a package cube made out of PVC. It is sturdy, holds its shape well and water runs right off without worrying the contents.

You should be aware though, that the zips are not waterproof, so if the cubes end up submerged or completely drenched, water will find its way in. 

Due to their higher weight and smaller size, these cubes are best used for toiletries rather than clothes. Alternatively, the larger one could be used for a beach day to store wet towels and swimwear from soaking your bag. 

Pack All Waterproof Packing Pouches

  • Cost: Approx $27
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Sizes: 3 sizes per set – Can be bought separately.
  • Colour: Black.

 

Okay, I admit, these aren’t really packing cubes but they serve the same function and to be honest, it’s harder than I imagined to find high quality packing cubes that are actually waterproof!

This set of waterproof packing pouches from Pack All share all the same great qualities as other Pack All products. Namely, great build quality and durability. 

Whilst these wouldn’t be great for clothes, they are just too small, the largest can easily fit A4 notepads in so could be used for underwear. The smaller pouches are a great way of keeping your electronics and valuables away from the elements. 

As most waterproof packing cubes, the zips on these packing pouches are not waterproof so do not expect them to survive submersion. 

The Best Compression Packing Cubes

Compression Packing cubes are the same as normal packing cubes in every way except one. They compress your clothes. A lot! 

To do this, there is often an extra zip in the middle of the cube that, once done up, will compress the cube and hold everything in place. It is not uncommon to see these types of packing cubes compressed to less than 50% of their original thickness!

They are a little bit heavier than the normal options but as we have already commented in this article, a few grams here or there won’t make much difference to an average backpacker. 

Tripped Travel Gear Compression Packing Cubes

  • Cost: Approx $50
  • Quantity: 6 per set.
  • Size: 4 different sizes per set. 
  • Colour: Various colour options.

 

This set of 6 compression packing cubes from Tripped Travel Gear are a great choice for those planning on taking a lot of stuff travelling, or for those who just want plenty of options when it comes to packing cubes. 

With two large cubes, two small ones, a slim tube designed specifically for electronics and a shoe bag, this set really has it all and makes it super easy to keep all your belongings organised and well packed. 

Best of all is the amount of compression these bags can deliver. Once filled and fully compressed, each cube is only about one inch thick! 

There is plenty of room for jeans and jumpers in the larger bags whilst the small ones a perfect for just about everything else. If you don’t end up using the shoe bag it doubles up nicely as a laundry bag or even a drawstring bag for use while you explore your surroundings!

Eagle Creek Specter Compression Cube Set

  • Cost: Approx $40
  • Quantity: 2.
  • Size: One large and one small.
  • Colour: White

 

Very similar in looks and exactly the same as the original Eagle Creek Specter, this Specter Compression Cube Set is the final word in ultralight compression cubes. 

Just like the Tripped Travel Gear Compression Cubes, these compress down to just one inch and are plenty big enough for your travel needs.

The real downside of this compression cube set is that you only get two for the price. If quantity and variety are what you’re after, then you’d would be better served with the previous set. However, if you are after really light compression cubes that will see you through a multitude of trips, then look no further!

Be careful not to overfill them though, this can make the cubes uneven and cause them to move around a lot in your pack. Worse still, it could cause the compression zips to fail and then your compression cube is just a cube…

Lean Travel Compression Packing Cubes

  • Cost: Approx $30.
  • Quantity: 3.
  • Size: 2 sizes per set.
  • Colour: Grey.

 

These Lean Travel Compression Packing Cubes are one of the highest rated sets by users. The two large cubes are more than capable of holding jeans, jumpers or large items, with room to spare for your smalls and warm weather gear. The small cube is plenty big enough for t-shirts and swimwear so you really can keep all your clothes organised with just these 3 cubes!

The mesh top makes it easy to see into each cube. No more unpacking everything because you can’t remember where you put your last clean t-shirt! 

The only real complaint about these cubes is that the compression zip has a habit of getting jammed which can prove frustrating. To avoid this, make sure you close the zip carefully and make sure the cubes are not overfilled nor bulging.

Lean Travel also sell these compression packing cubes in 6 pack if you want a little more choice.

How to Pack with Packing Cubes

Of course, before you start thinking about how you will use packing cubes to organise your backpack, you need to have a solid packing list. It’s also important to measure your luggage, so you know just how much space you’re working with. Once you’ve settled on what will be coming along for your trip and how much room you have, it’s time to determine your packing system!

There are many ways you can go about using packing cubes:

  • You can arrange your clothes into one outfit per cube, this will save any confusion when heading out for a busy day exploring. Or, you can separate your clothes in terms of warmth; tank tops in one, long-sleeved tops in another.
  • Another obvious way of using packing cubes is to organise things by size. Pants and socks in one, t-shirts and shorts in another and a large packing cube for cold weather clothing.
  • Some travellers will keep one packing cube just for dirty clothes, that way their clean clothes remain untarnished!
  • If you’re heading off on a beach trip, it may be a good idea to look for a set of packing cubes that has at least one water-resistant cube to pack your wet swimsuit and/or wet towel away if you’re making a quick transition – Just be aware, not all cubes that claim to be waterproof or water resistant actually are!
  • Don’t overpack your cubes. Make sure that you can zip the cubes closed easily, while still filling them up. You don’t want to break the zip!
  • The best way to pack each individual cube is to roll your clothes up inside them. I was amazed at how much room I could save by rolling my clothes! 
  • Once you’ve packed all your belongings into cubes, start loading your backpack. The best strategy is to load the larger cubes first, followed by the smaller cubes. This will allow you easier access to all cubes.

Don’t just take our word for it though! I asked our readers for their best packing cube tips and got some great responses!

“I usually roll what I can and then do a layer of folded on top which gets squished down when you zip up the packing cube!” – Jaimee.

“Roll clothes and use more small packing cubes rather than larger cubes. If you’re really trying to save space, roll up tightly then wrap in cling wrap. Stops expansion after rolling.” – Craig.

“Myself and my partner both used vaccum bags in our backpacks for a few months in SE Asia. One small tear happened in mine, easily fixed with a bit of tape!” – Chris.

If you want to help us out with valuable nuggets of information, share your thoughts with our readers or absorb the knowledge of thousands of other travellers, then head on over to our community page. Tell them Tim sent you!

Backpacking Packing Cubes
Large packing cubes are great for bulkier clothes and toiletries.

FAQs about Packing Cubes

How many packing cubes should you buy?

The number of packing cubes you will need depends largely on two factors: 

  1. The size and type of your backpack. 
  2. The amount of clothes and equipment you plan to carry.

As a rule of thumb, it may be helpful to organise your belongings, take stock, and start with a set of cubes in different sizes. That way you can adjust accordingly while packing.

What size should they be?

This is another decision that should be made based on the size of your backpack and how much you plan to pack. Generally speaking, small, medium, and large cubes will fit comfortably in most packs. However, you may prefer to use a larger collection of smaller cubes or just a couple of larger cubes depending on the contents of your load. I usually use just small and medium cubes in my pack as I find it means I can fit more in and things are less likely to move around. Of course, this is just personal preference so see what works best for you. 

What are common mistakes people make with packing cubes?

First of all, remember that you don’t have to put everything into a cube! There may be some equipment that you want to pack as is. One common mistake people make with packing cubes is how much they put into them. It’s easy to underfill or overfill them.

Packing cubes compress your clothes, so you can pack them tight. If you underfill them, they will not hold their shape properly and may move around in your pack.

Conversely, if you overfill your packing cubes there is a good chance the zips will break over time, rendering the cube useless. Make sure the zip closes without a struggle and you’ll be fine.

What can you use instead of packing cubes?

Some decent alternatives to packing cubes include:

  • Plastic bags – Cheap, easy to find but not durable or great for the planet. 
  • Zip-lock bags for things like toiletries – As with plastic bags, they are cheap and easy to find but not good for the planet. 
  • Dry bags – A great alternative for hikers or outdoorsy folk who already have these lying around but they will not stack together in quite the same manner as proper packing cubes. 
  • The bags from toiletry kits or makeup bags.
  • Vacuum and space-saving bags – These are a great choice if you have access you a vacuum cleaner. You can suck all the air out of the bag for maximum compression. Travellers have been known to suck the air out the hard way when no vacuum is available!

Do packing cubes really save room?

Packing cubes will save you room and keep your pack organised but only if you:

  • Use them for predominantly soft items – Any packing cube will compress your clothes, it’s not really worth packing in too many items that cannot be compressed.
  • Roll your clothes – Rolling your clothes is a simple strategy to fit more in your bag. By rolling them in the packing cube and then compressing them, you are saving even more room!
  • Organise the cubes within your bag – It may seem simple but just putting your clothes in the packing cubes wont actually save much room. Being able to organise the cubes is what really saves space. Suddenly years of playing Tetris is paying off!
  • Don’t overpack the cubes! – Not only do you risk breaking the zip but once overfilled, the cubes get bulky and won’t sit together like they should.

Join Our Community!

  • Join Our Facebook Group: South East Asia Backpacker Community.
  • Join Our Newsletter: Find out about opportunities to review trips for free.
  • Our Recommended Travel Resources

  • Travel Insurance: True Traveller and World Nomads.
  • Transport: Skyscanner (Flights) and 12Go.Asia (Local Transport).
  • Accommodation: Booking.com and HostelWorld.
  • Hannah Rivera is a freelance writer and Clinical Psychology graduate student. She left the hustle and bustle of New York City and made her way to Athens, Greece for a tastier and more relaxed lifestyle. When she’s not writing, Hannah spends time volunteering and feeding Athens’ street cats and dogs. Are you interested in writing for us?

    After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since the incident, he has travelled in South East Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and is currently backpacking around South America. His first book ‘From Paralysis to Santiago’ chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident that changed his life and will be released later this year.