Using packing cubes is extremely beneficial for organizing or compressing your belongings into a backpack. They come in all shapes, sizes, and designs – so how do you choose the best one?
There are several things to look out for in a packing cube. They must be lightweight, ergonomic, and durable. Packing cubes shouldn't take up much space, but they should be able to have enough room for your things. Choose compressible packing cubes if you are looking to save space and weight.
Interested to learn more about what else you should look for in packing cubes for backpacks? Read the complete guide below.
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Features of the Best Backpack Packing Cubes
Keeping your backpack organized is essential for hassle-free travels.
Backpacks do come with a variety of pockets, but they are usually not adequate for compressing and organizing everything. That’s where packing cubes come in: each cube acts as a separate compartment to ensure the bag’s contents are neat and tidy.
These useful accessories ensure that your bag is always neatly arranged. If you’re the kind of traveler that needs to maximize space, or if you simply want a more efficient way to store your belongings, packing cubes are a great way to do so.
Packing cubes for backpacks come in a wide array of styles and designs. Here’s what you should consider when shopping around for one:
If your backpack has limited space and weight, packing cubes shouldn’t add to it. The good news is that packing cubes are generally light, ranging in weight from 2 ounces for ultralight versions, to 15 ounces for bigger ones. Lightweight or ultralight packing cubes are always recommended, especially if you don’t have a lot of weight to spare.
Those with a more solid structure or interior padding will weigh slightly more. Unless you are an ultralight packer, the weight of most packing cubes won’t make a dent in your pack weight: it’s what you put inside them that matters at the end of the day.
Ergonomic features add to the simplicity, practicality, and efficiency of packing cubes for bags.
Some ergonomic features to look out for include:
- Easy open and close zippers: Packing cube zippers should glide smoothly at all times. Well-designed packing cubes ensure that zippers don’t get stuck on corners or interiors when opening or closing them. Considering the primary job of zippers is to protect your things when they are closed, the quality of this feature should not be overlooked.
YKK zippers have long been considered the gold standard in quality zippers, though other metal and nylon zippers are also durable.
- Handle: Some cubes are equipped with a handle, which make it simpler to pull out of your backpack. Handles are also helpful whenever you need to carry the cube individually.
Because of the extremely thin and lightweight nature of most packing cubes, one may think that they aren’t durable. The good news is that packing cubes from reputable companies, especially those that are made of superior fabrics, ensure that they last you many years of use.
These thin fabrics are usually reinforced through ripstop, a manufacturing technique that makes a material more resistant to tearing. Even if rips do occur, ripstop prevents them from getting larger. This is why ripstop fabrics are highly recommended for packing cubes.
Other brands use Cordura, a fabric brand that is recognized globally for its strict quality control and testing standards. Polyester is a good choice of fabric for a regular packing cube for backpack, but for compressible packing cubes, nylon material or nylon-polyester blends are recommended because of the added strength. However, if durability is your priority, nylon is much stronger than polyester.
Additionally, products with a higher denier rating are more durable. Depending on the make, packing cubes are constructed with materials that have a denier rating of 30 up to 300. The higher the denier rating, the stronger the material is and the more resistant it is to tears.
Just keep in mind that ultralight packing cubes tend to have a lower denier rating of around 30 to 50D. This is because they are not intended to be used in rugged conditions. You can also ensure they last longer by properly packing clothes into them, and avoiding placing stuff with sharp or blunt edges into ultralight packing cubes.
It’s also important to check for the quality of stitching, especially for ultralight packing cubes. As a general rule of thumb, clean stitches with no frays or loose threads at the seams are best. Packing cubes with questionable stitching upon purchase will only get worse after a few uses.
While it can be difficult to examine craftsmanship and durability when you’re buying packing cubes online, it always helps to purchase from respected backpack and travel brands with good reviews. Even better if the packing cubes come with a lifetime warranty for your peace of mind.
Packing cubes are available in plenty of sizes. The standard dimensions of small packing cubes is around 11 x 7 x 3 inches; medium packing cubes are around 14 x 10 x 3 inches, while large ones are 17 x 13 x 3 inches. Extra small, slim, and extra-large sizes are also available.
Consider the size of your bag first and if the packing cubes can fit, because packing cubes that are too small or too big may be fussy to work with. It helps to measure the interior of your backpack to see what size packing cubes it can accommodate. Also, measure other bags that you plan to use the packing cubes in, such as a carry-on, duffle bag, or tote.
When buying compressible packing cubes, check for their expanded size as well as their compressed size. It also helps to consider what you need to organize, and group them together. For example, you may need a small-sized packing cube to segregate your underwear and socks, toiletries, or device cables.
You can also use medium or large packing cubes to separate t-shirts from towels, sweaters, and pants. This comes in handy during camping trips, which usually require packing bulky things. Most backpacks can fit small and medium packing cubes, while large and extra-large packing cubes are better off for use in suitcases.
Additionally, rolling your clothes instead of laying them out flat is efficient in saving space within packing cubes. Just remember to avoid over-packing your cubes because this can compromise their durability.
Sets vs. Individual Cubes
Packing cubes for backpacks are usually sold in sets of 4 or more pieces in different sizes, though they can also be purchased individually. Some brands that sell sets of packing cubes may also include a drawstring bag or laundry bag. Depending on how long your trip is, three or four packing cubes are usually adequate for a week or two of backpacking.
However, the number of packing cubes you’ll need really depends on the length of your trip, your packing style, and your backpack size. Purchasing packing cubes in sets is usually more cost-effective than buying them individually, though if you really only need one or two, buy what you do need.
Compressible vs. Regular Packing Cubes
Compression packing cubes are extremely effective in helping you save space in your backpack or luggage. They work simply by using two zippers to condense space by getting rid of extra air and bulk. On the other hand, a regular packing cube only has one zipper, designed primarily to keep your belongings tidy and organized.
Compressible packing cubes are recommended for packing bulky clothes such as towels, winter clothing, jeans, and blankets into a small suitcase or backpack. If organizing and sorting your belongings is more important, a regular packing cube that doesn’t compress your clothes will work fine.
One thing to consider about compression cubes is that they tend to crease clothes. This isn’t really a major concern if you are packing for a weekend at the beach, though if you are packing clothes for work or for formal gatherings, it may be a problem.
Packing and compression cubes for backpacks run the gamut when it comes to price. There is the option of spending as little as $5 and sets for $10 for individual cubes or sets, though there are mid-range and pricier compression cube sets ranging from $20 to $50.
Many ultralight packing cubes on the market usually cost more, anywhere from $25 and up for a set. That’s because the cube isn’t just lighter, but it’s made with better materials compared to its cheaper counterparts. They also have quality zippers that won’t snag, ergonomic features, and in some cases, durable but water-repellent fabric.
However, just because you’ve found one that meets your needs at a lower price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s of less desirable quality. There are several inexpensive packing cubes that are durable, even if they don’t have all the bells and whistles. At the end of the day, how much you should spend on packing cubes should be within your budget: a price that you are comfortable with based on how often you’ll use them, considering that these travel accessories do provide terrific protection and organizational benefits.
A cube set with a higher price point is constructed out of higher-end materials and manufacturing technology to ensure it withstands wear and tear. They are also designed to last you for life, so it’s certainly worth the investment for many – especially frequent travelers and backpackers.
Other Features To Consider
Since packing cubes for backpacks come in such a spectrum of designs, below are some features that are not essential for everyone but worth considering:
- Mesh panels: Packing cubes with mesh top panels may be helpful for visibility. They enable you to identify its contents inside without having to open them up, acting like a window strategically placed in front. This feature comes in handy if you are using several packing cubes of the same size.
Ideally, good quality mesh panels are those that enable you to see adequately inside the packing cube. Large mesh nets that are poorly designed are vulnerable to breakage since they can easily snag on other items.
- Water repellency: Travelers may find it important to use packing cubes with some degree of water repellency to protect belongings from moisture, water, or rain exposure. Water-repellent or waterproof packing cubes are also recommended if you are packing liquids and toiletries into them. Long backpacking trips are also a good reason to use water-repellent packing cubes: there’s nothing more distressing than having all your clothes soaking wet because you got caught up in an unexpected downpour.
- Washable: Some packing cubes are simpler to wash than others. Be sure to read up on the product’s care instructions before you purchase it, so you understand exactly what its maintenance entails. There are packing cubes that can be machine washed, while others with more sensitive materials need to be hand washed.
- Sturdy structure: Depending on your preferences, you may opt for packing cubes that can stand up in place thanks to a hard or solid case design, compared to those that are ultralight and don’t have structure. But just because a packing cube is made of ultralight material doesn’t mean it’s less durable, it just lacks the ability to stand up on its own.
There’s no right or wrong answer, though if you intend to stack one up over the other inside your pack, you may prefer packing cubes with structure.
- Color: Packing cubes for backpacks come in a variety of colors to suit your personality and preferences. Some like the safety of neutral colors, while others find it more convenient to use vibrant and bright colors. It really depends on what you like best.
Our Recommendations for the Best Packing Cubes
Shopping around for the best packing cubes can be overwhelming. Below is a list of popular models, so you have great options to start with that are already popular with people because of their excellent features.
Click on the links to learn more about product specifications and reviews (note: we may earn a small affiliate commission if you decide to purchase any of these products):
Well Traveled 4-Piece Compression Packing Cubes: Adventure bags and backpacks can be notoriously pricey. However, Well Traveled has managed to change that by designing budget-friendly bags and backpacks at a friendly price.
This 4-piece set of compression cubes is incredibly sturdy and space-saving. They hold their shape well and can stand up on their own. In addition, they are designed with a patented design that enables versatile use as either a compression cube or packing cube.
The Well-Traveled 4-Piece Compression Packing Cubes set comes in three color choices that are all timeless and classic. The durable twill fabric used in its exterior is water-resistant, too. They even come with luggage tag holders to label your things: perfect for the traveler who is a neat freak.
Osprey UL Packing Cube Set: Osprey has long been recognized as a global authority in adventure and travel bags. For years, they have consistently been producing backpacks that are trusted by all kinds of travelers.
The Osprey Ultralight Packing Cube Set is the perfect addition to any trip. Choose from elegant neutral colors or vibrant lime green; there’s a set for all personalities. Weighing a mere 2.08 ounces, they have redefined the ultralight packing cube industry with this extremely useful set of small, medium, and large organizers.
These packing cubes for backpacks have an ergonomic zippered opening and grab handle for convenience. They are made from incredibly light 40D Nylon Ripstop and can hold an impressive amount of content given their small volume. Since Osprey offers a lifetime warranty for all their products, you can be sure that you are purchasing top-quality packing cubes – plus the reassurance of a warranty in case of problems.
BeeNesting Waterproof Compression Packing Cubes: BeeNesting is an expert in premium travel accessories that are made with some of the best materials, sure to last a lifetime. This set of waterproof compression packing cubes is proof of the brand’s dedication to helping travelers stay organized no matter where they go.
The BeeNesting Waterproof Compression Packing Cubes feature four cubes of various sizes, each of which helps maximize space in large backpacks and other spacious bags. Constructed out of ultra-durable 210D ripstop nylon, it is sure to withstand the wear and tear of several uses. It’s versatile too: its double-sided design enables you to separate wet and dry clothing without the need for extra packing cubes.
The dimensions of each cube in this set cater to a variety of travelers. Its frame ensures a flat design after packing, for terrific space-saving benefits in all kinds of luggage.
eBags Classic 6pc Packing Cubes: For the traveler who relies on quality and durable bags on a budget, eBags is always a recommended brand. This versatile 6-piece set has a packing cube for literally anything.
Featuring 3 slim, 1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large packing cube, this set ensures you maximize all the space possible in your backpack or duffel bag. They are manufactured to last a lifetime: self-healing zippers with corded pulls reduce the risk of breakage while in use. Opening and closing each cube is also made so much simpler.
The eBags Classic 6pc Packing Cubes set is recommended for travelers who prioritize organization over anything else. Their design is so practical that you can even treat them like drawers upon arrival at your destination. Packing and unpacking have never been so simple.
Eagle Creek Pack-It Isolate Compression Cube Set: Eagle Creek is a famous American suitcase and backpack brand. Since 1975, they have been manufacturing practical and highly durable bags and travel accessories.
It’s no wonder this Eagle Creek pack of compression cubes has been a favorite of travelers. Each piece is designed with tons of thoughtful and useful features, including an antimicrobial treatment that reduces odor-causing bacteria – a common nuisance, especially during long-term travel.
The Eagle Creek Pack-It Isolate Compression Cube Set comes in a pair of two: one small and the other medium, perfect for organizing your essentials in a backpack. The self-repairing zippers ensure you never have to worry about zipper accidents in the case of over packing, while the cord pullers make it easy to grab and go.
In addition, these portable compartments are made with a translucent and ultra-lightweight ripstop fabric. It’s water-resistant and machine-washable, so you can give it that routine cleaning without any fuss. Anyone can benefit from these long-lasting packing cubes, no matter the place or season of travel.
This article shows how there are so many excellent packing and compression cubes out there. The best packing cubes for backpacks may be different from one traveler to another, but with all the options in the market, the tips in this guide can help you find those that are right for you.