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Getting to know Packing Cubes

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This post is part of Stephanie Booth‘s 10 day blogging challenge.  You can read about the details and join in here , and check the hashtag #back2blog for the others who are doing the same.  While I blog regularly at Muslimah Media Watch, I should do more here. So here is post 1 out of 10, enjoy!

The past year, having done many trips back and forth Zurich-Lausanne, trips to France and Italy and Spain (if you stretch the definition of year) and regular work trips to Amsterdam and London, I have been trying to resist my natural urge to overpack and become a more zen traveller with less ballast.  Two criteria have helped me whittle down: I refuse to check luggage so I must limit my toiletries to the 3-1-1 bag (a makeup lover’s nightmare); and, if whatever I want doesn’t fit into my Patagonia MLC, it doesn’t go (nb: the MLC is too large generally for three or four day trips, but I find it holds my work laptop and assorted textbooks as well as my clothing, thus reducing the need for a book bag or a tote).

So once I found the perfect bag and the “as good as it is going to get without checking the bag” toiletries situation, I started wondering how I could streamline further, and chats with Stephanie as well as journeys to the ends of the internet led me to packing cubes, the little rectangular things that help you sort your clothes even further. I’m usually skeptical of the little accessories of a capitalist, consumer society, and I feel like some sort of poseur  flashpacker (halfway there with the Patagonia bag anyway). However, that balances out against the “digging through my luggage in a hotel room at 8am when I am late for work in Amsterdam” and have gotten cubes in the hopes of just having the peace of mind of knowing where my crap is without dumping the compartment-less MLC upside down on the bed.

My trip to Amsterdam in the coming days will be my first trip with the cubes. I have two smaller cubes (socks), two medium size cubes (t-shirts) and one big cube for dirty clothes as they get dirty (trick I learned online, somewhere at the ends of the internet). I’ve already packed everything but shoes and trousers. My first assessments are:

-cubes are definitely a “nice to have” item rather than a necessity.  For the usually-under-four day trips I do, they might be overkill, and to be honest, I could easily pack the MLC without them. I’m not in love yet. I feel like this is another one of those things, like armpit bleaching deodorant, that capitalism tries to tell us we need or something, but no.  I think I would only start getting my money’s worth out of cubes at the day 7 or 8 mark but for 4 days I’m still in “gadget” territory. But like a good sport, I’m giving them a try for this short trip.

-In my case, since i pack reasonably light, the cubes add bulk for shorter trips. The ones I have are no-name brand but pretty light but the MLC has soft sides and the cubes make it pooch a bit.  However, the bulk is offset by everything being there color-coded by cube (underwear in one, socks in one…), and the organizational aspect is currently worth a few more centimeters to me. (For MLC fans- if the MLC is stuffed it will not fit into some of the smaller European jet overheads. Best bet Europe intramuros is to keep it only 3/4 full so as to smush it).

So I’m not sold on the cubes yet, but am excited to try. I’ve gotten to the point professionally and personally where I need to think as little about packing as possible (I probably spent an inordinate amount of time agonizing over buying the cubes, then the birthday GC helped stop that) and I am hoping that the milliseconds I save each trip not looking for underwear will somehow add up.

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Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

5 thoughts on “Getting to know Packing Cubes

  1. The organisation-addict in me now wants cubes!! Brilliant idea 🙂

  2. I find that cubes are great if you have stuff that needs to stay organized rather than save space. If the priority is saving space, then nothing beats the rolling technique.

  3. Pingback: Using Google Docs for Small Team and Project Management | Climb to the Stars

  4. I’ve been using a set of simple bags from the stores for my dirty clothes / shoes / ensembles (ziploc bags for the random-little-annoying-items like phone chargers), for ages. I call them my “kits” (sun-kit, underwear kit, pic-nic kit…)

    Regularly been made fun of. Regularly praised the system (try travelling around a continent for 6 months moving every 3 days and with no personal space at all except your backpack…)

    • I did that with gallon-sized ziplocs for a while as well, and used shopping bags for my shoes. It got old replacing the ziplocs after a few trips, or the dye from the bags getting on things.
      it worked well and probably with less bulk than the cubes. I’m liking the cubes but don’t think i would have gotten them without a birthday gift certificate.

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