Pack Like A Pro: Get Organized


Get Organized is the first of 4 blogs focused on helping make your travels easier by offering best practices and products for getting your bags compact, organized and lightweight.

Whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, I have to find ways to maximize the space in my bag to fit everything I need. When I’m working, most of my luggage is packed with professional video equipment – cameras, tripods, lights, computers, cables and cords. Thankfully, equipment has gotten smaller over the years and I have been able to consistently get my bag count to 4 (2 carry-ons and 2 checked).

My work trip bags. My back cries every time I travel.

In those bags, along with all my video equipment, I would wrap my clothes around the equipment as a buffer and extra protection for the trip. Plus, I was not paying $160 to check another bag just for clothes. When I arrived at the project location, I would go in the corner and pull out equipment, trying not to let everyone in the room see my clean underwear wrapped around a light fixtures.

Then I discovered packing organizers. I could fit them in my bag because it compressed my clothes and I could pull the organizer out of my bag without worrying about people seeing my unmentionables.

Packing organizers make great sense. They keep you organized, making it easier to find what you need. They keep your items together and compact, fitting in your luggage and actually providing more room. Depending on the sizes and how many articles of clothing you have, you can choose either packing cubes or packing folders. Both come in different sizes and are often sold in sets.

Assorted packing organizers

Wondering about the difference between packing cubes and packing folders?

  • Packing cubes are made of lightweight fabric and have zippers for securing your items.
  • Packing folders are also made of lightweight fabric, but they have a thin piece of plastic between the fabric and have Velcro enclosures for securing your items. Some packing folders come with a shirt folding board that includes folding tips to minimize wrinkles.

Cubes are usually lighter than folders, but folders hold slightly more items. Both organizers keep your clothing from falling out all over the place if your luggage accidently comes open. (They have saved my clothes on at least two occasions!)

The most recent set of packing cubes I bought came with 1 large cube, good for your bigger items like jeans and jackets, 1 medium cube for shirts and shorts, and 1 small size for smaller items or shoes.

Here’s an example of what I packed using the Bagail cubes for a 4-day trip over Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day weekend trip

Items packed:
• 1 pair of jeans
• 2 pairs of shorts
• 3 pairs of undies
• 2 collared shirts
• 1 graphic t-shirt (I love Richard Pryor)
• 2 tank tops
• 1 pair of workout shorts
• 3 pairs of socks
• 1 belt
• 1 bath towel (we like to bring our own towels)
• 1 face towel

I rolled all the clothes into 1 large packing cubes. I placed my 2 folded towels and my toiletry kit on top of the rolled clothes and zipped up the cube. I put a pair of shoes in the small cube. Both cubes fit perfectly in my Osprey 60L backpack with room to spare.

4 days worth of clothes in my Osprey backpack.

To roll or fold?
It is totally up to you, but really, the size and amount of clothes will dictate whether you need to roll or fold. I’m a big guy – 6’2” and 270 pounds on a good day – so it makes sense that my clothes are bigger than most. Shit, my jeans damn near weight 5 lbs! Not really, but they are bulky. So, if I’m going on a 2-to-3 day trip, I usually fold. For trips lasting 4 days or more, I’m rolling. I’ll address rolling versus folding in part 3 of this series.

Most of the packing organizers are pretty durable as long as you don’t overpack them. The price range for cubes and folders is between $15-$70, depending on the number of pieces you get in a set and the brand. You can find them at outdoor stores like REI, retail stores like Target and Walmart, discount stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, and online at Amazon and eBay.

Here are some of the best ones I have used and seen on the market. Click images for details.
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Packing Cubes

  • Shacke Pak – 4 Set Packing Cubes – Travel Organizers with Laundry Bag – $24.99
  • BAGAIL – 6 Set Packing Cubes,3 Various Sizes Travel Luggage Packing Organizers – $24.99
  • eBags Packing Cubes – 4pc Classic Plus Set (Titanium) – $39.99

Packing Folders

  • Eagle Creek – Original Pack-It Garment Folder Set, Black – $69.95
  • Dot&Dot – 18 Inches Packing Folder Backpack Accessory to Avoid Wrinkled Clothing – $31.99
  • BAGSMART – 17″ Packing Folder Anti-wrinkle Travel Garment Bag and Luggage Accessory – $21.50

Next in our Pack Like A Pro series: What clothes do I pack?

What tools do you use to help you pack efficiently?

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