Superfluous Travel Item I Need (Kinda): Packing Cubes

Posted on
Nov 18, 2009
Posted in: S.T.I.N.K.s

This isn’t just about an item that I was convinced I needed – it’s about one that I actually bought. And holy cow, have they changed my life.

No, really.

Okay, fine – but they’ve changed the way I pack, and that’s a big part of my life. So there.

I first became aware of packing cubes when I went to Italy with the lovely Pinguina in 2008. I had seen them before at luggage stores, but the price kept me away. I figured they fell into the vast category of entirely unnecessary and potentially satanic products: like peep-toe Ugg boots (designed for getting pedicures in cold weather), a yodeling pickle, and anything from the Paris Hilton “clothing” line.  These things were just invented to make you spend your money and question the existence of god, right?

Pinguina had a few packing cubes in which she carried smaller articles of clothing (socks, bras, t-shirts, etc.). And they while they first seemed totally unnecessary, the ease with which she unpacked and repacked her bags, and was able to find exactly what she was looking for without leaving her hotel room and suitcase in shambles had me convinced that I needed them, too.

I bought three of them for a subsequent trip, and I have used them ever since. It was glorious. For a hyper-organizer like myself, there’s nothing better than putting things in little bags BEFORE putting them in your bag. It’s like the Russian nesting dolls for your luggage. Plus, everything fits into your suitcase so easily and symmetrically, you’ll find yourself humming the theme to “Tetris”.

Also, I just realized I managed to squeeze two references to Russian pop culture into one paragraph. Which is bizarre, but nevertheless makes me proud (after all, I’m half Russian. It was bound to come out somewhere).

Of course, the downside to all this is the price. I have three of Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Cube Organizers (because that’s the brand they carried in the store I went to), and they ran me about $12 each. You can find them a little cheaper on, but not by much. There are also less-expensive options made by ebags and (sigh) Rick Steves. I don’t think there’s a big difference between the brands, so I’d go with cheaper if possible (as long as it’s not Rick Steves).

Okay, fine. So Rick Steves Packing Cubes dont actually have his face on them. I dont know if thats a selling point or not.

Okay, fine. So Rick Steves' Packing Cubes don't actually have his face on them. I don't know if that's a selling point or not.

Of course, the true test of the awesomeness of the packing cube came from Rand. Every time he leaves for a trip, I ask him if he wants to use one of the cubes, and he emphatically refuses, saying he doesn’t see the point. So for his trip down to California last week, I didn’t even bother offering him use of the cubes. But I found he had taken one, anyway. When I commented on it, he immediately got defensive (for the record, defensive Rand is adorable):

“What? You said I could use them if I wanted to!”

You may not realize it, but this is actually a glowing endorsement, masqueraded as a whine, from someone who travels far more than I do. If Rand can admit he needs a packing cube, you might need one, too.

Leave a Comment

  • Just curious, why are you cool toward Rick Steves travel gear? Have you had any quality problems? Let me know if you see improvements we can make. Thanks!

  • Geraldine

    OH, SNAP. Busted.

    Rich – I am sure Rick Steves’ brand packing cubes are of comparable quality to the other packing cubes out there (I even linked to them!). But since I haven’t yet forgiven him for walking into an Italian gelateria with a handwritten note that said, “Il pu bono gelato, por favor” (sic) I’m taking out my anger on the cubes. However, I do have a large number of friends that find both his guidebooks and his products to be enjoyable.

    It almost put an end to our friendships.

    I hope Rick and I can someday reach a level of peace. He just had to promise to stay away from Italy. And that includes Sicily.

    On an unrelated note, way to do brand management and props on reaching out to online consumers.

    Also, if you guys decide to put Rick Steves’ face on the packing cubes, I might consider buying them, because that would be delightful.

  • I love that I usually learn something new from your posts! I mean, I’ve never heard of peep-toe Uggs (and definitely don’t want any) and I had NO idea that Tetris HAD a theme song! I’m sure it’s because I play games with the sound off so that everyone thinks I’m working.

  • You leave Rick Steves alone! I not only love my Rick Steve’s suitcase, but I also loved my Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door tour. I’m only exaggerating a little bit when I say it was the best vacation of my life.

    Also, maybe he can’t order gelato in good enough Italian for you, but he sure does provide you with directions to the best places to buy and consume it in both Roma and Firenze.

    So there.

  • I have to admit I have the Rick Steves suitcase and I love it! Plus, he’s really the reason I became inspired to travel in the first place.

    As for packing cubes…I bought mine from E-bags. They were pretty inexpensive and I really, really like them! *clears throat and throws a kiss to the audience* Anyway, when I was in London, my budget hotel put me in the smallest room on earth and it was so easy to just set the bags out and live out of them instead of just the one suitcase.

    I like packing cubes and I’m an e-bag junkie.

  • Pingback: 10 Pieces of Essential Travel Gear for the Digital Nomad()

  • Geraldine

    Laura – like I said, I have friends who enjoy his guidebooks and his products. I know we can get through this. Also, “Europe Through the Back Door” sounds like the name of porno. Please don’t beat me up. I love you.

  • I started using packing cubes on my recent 7 week trip and I am now in love with them. Mine are Tom Bihn, to go with the awesomest bag that ever has existed and ever will, so they are a bit pricey.

    But as much as I travel, I think they will hold up for a long time. Also, Tom Bihn is Seattle-based and every so often has open warehouse sale days, including one coming up Dec 1st, so they might be cheaper then. Are you back in town?

    This is the awesome bag, btw:

    Also, I have also scoffed at the Paris Hilton clothing line, except! I borrowed my sister’s coat the other day (and managed to swipe it and bring it home!) and it’s so great. Remember how you always hate my coats because they are as big as tents and make me look equestrian? I think you would like this one! Only I don’t think Paris would actually wear it as it covers WAY too much skin.

  • Philip

    I thought Rick Steves just wore four or five shirts at once when he traveled to cut down on luggage. His name on “packing cubes” just seems disingenuous. Also, we have somehow amassed a small collection of square, plastic, zipper bags (from blankets, kids shoes, etc.) that we’ve kept and use as “packing cubes.” Having clothing pods arranged by … uh … theme makes packing/unpacking a breeze. That said, I am going to print out photos of Rick Steves and tape them to all of our luggage.

    • Geraldine

      I never considered this. It does seem counter-intuitive to Rick Steves’ philosophy. Someone needs to call that guy out.

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