A compression packing cube is like a regular packing cube but with an extra zip. In theory you can use the 2nd zip to shrink and compress the cube down to a smaller size.
Every brand makes big claims about how effective their product is at saving space in your luggage. And they always show compelling graphics that demo the effect. For example here is an edited promo graphic from Gonex:
Regular packing cubes already can save you a little space but their main function is for organization. But compression packing cubes are about organization AND squashing your clothes into smaller bundles.
Gonex marketing visuals are claiming a 39% reduction in space. I’m not surprised if you have seen the photos and been skeptical before making a purchase.
Of course you can’t squash the unsquashable. You’re, not going to compress that hard-cover romance novel any smaller, but are compression packing cubes just hype or do they really work?
My personal option is that yes compression packing cubes really do save space. I use them regularly myself and these photos from Nancy’s Review at TravelWithPurpose.com prove it.
By these measurements the compression cubes reduced the volume by around 33%. That’s a great space saving!
Once compressed they no longer form a perfect cube shape.
They compress most around the outsides and bulge a bit in the middle. This can mean that there are little gaps between them because they don’t stack neatly anymore.
My gut feeling before was that the product graphics exaggerated how effective they are a little bit. But to be fair to Gonex there demo photo isn’t far away from real world results. You can check out the product that Nancy tested below:
The more fluffy your clothes are the more effective it can be. And they do it really well without the hassle of vacuum compression bags. It can be an art form to pack in the little gaps between them but that’s not really a problem when you consider the overall benefits.
If over-packing is a habit you can’t seem to break then compression cubes might not be the cure you are looking for. In fact they could just exacerbate the problem.
The danger is that you use the saved space to pack even more and still end up with a suitcase that you can’t close.
And if you over-pack your packing cubes they squash down into more rounded, bulging, awkward to pack shapes.
And of course compression packing cubes don’t reduce weight.
If you use the saved space to pack extra things your bag might start getting heavy.
You might be okay with this if you are taking a rolling suitcase and a taxi to and from the hotel. But it could cause weight problems if you’re traveling with a duffel bag or a backpack.
Some airlines have started asking for money even for regular carryons. Only the personal item is still safe from add-on airline fees.
If you’re a determined lightweight traveler your personal item can be your ticket to saving money. And who doesn’t like sticking it to those tight-fisted sneaky airlines. You know the ones… they are trying to figure out if they can charge you extra for using the toilet.
I take great pleasure in avoiding airline add-on fees whenever I can.
I am a big fan of compression packing cubes for both saving space and helping with organization. But compression packing cubes are just a tool not a packing panacea. If you don’t use them sensibly they won’t fix all your packing problems.
I am an even bigger fan of minimalist packing. I encourage you to be very thoughtful and picky with your packing list. Check my 101 tips for packing light for more on this!
But I’m not the only one that likes compression packing cubes. Let’s take a quick tour of real-life users around the web.
Acraven was confident that they… “definitely save space as long as you don’t take advantage of using them to pack extra clothing”.
Sandybwb agreed… “they do streamline the bundle”.
Wray had a specific use… “compression bags pay off when you have to pack a very small bag” and “The compression bags allow me to fit my clothes into my 12x16x6 personal item”.
Aquamarinesteph chipped in with with some packing psychology… ” They DO make me think twice about what to put into my bag. I use the regular packing cubes for jeans, slacks & shirts. I use the compression cubes for undies and socks.”
Aeon was giving it… ” They can definitely work in some applications but for clothes they’re not the end all”
BWeaves was like… “I only use the compression cubes for clothing that’s puffy and can compress. So I use the compression cubes for wool knits and sweaters. Cotton and poly clothing is not going to compress”
But Carrot was singing their praises… “I really like […] compression packing cubes. I don’t often fill up a full-size cube so without the compression my clothes would be sinking to the bottom and getting extra wrinkled.”
GetawaysRus had something to say about wrinkles… ” If you pack T-shirts flat, yes, there will be more wrinkling in the compression cubes, but I think it’s an acceptable trade-off for the space you save.”
ibmman69 was channeling Obiwan Kenobi with this comment… “If you [use compression packing cubes] you’ll be able to carry stuff than you can possibly imagine.”
philistineinquisitor was certain… “Yes they work and they are worth it. Sometimes they are a pain in the ass to compress, but your bag ‘feels’ much roomier, which to me is really worth it.”
homeslipe was blunt and to the point and spoke like he was a celebrity endorser… ” I dont travel without them”
But kenetikK said almost the complete opposite… “Traveled all over the world and would never use these”
bastardpeaches had some very wise words… “If all the stuff fits, no, you don’t need compression”
And Schedulator might have been a boy scout when he was younger because he liked to be prepared… “don’t want compression – just leave them unzipped. Better to have the option”
bsasson was playing the role of chief naysayer… “If you need to compress your cubes then you’re packing too much “
Frank9567 really hit the nail on the head so I’ll quote him in full… “If the essential criterion is weight alone, it’s not needed. However, many airlines also have a size restriction for carry-on bags. Compression helps if it enables the bag to comply with the airline’s size restriction.”
Okay that was just 16 quotes but there is no sense in repeating things over and over!
To summarize, compression packing cubes really do save space.
Whether you personally will like using them is a different question. I mean… some people don’t like buying sliced bread because they have a perfectly good knife at home.
Compression packing cubes are a good innovation and a tool that works that some people will like.
If you have small bag and you want to squash down to help you fit your clothes inside, and if your clothes are squishy… then compression packing cubes are one good way to help you do that!