Trying to figure out which are the best packing cubes for backpacking can be a real ballache. There are literally thousands of options across hundreds of brands, most of which look alarmingly similar.
But here’s the thing. Despite appearances, not all packing cubes are created equal. In fact many that we’ve come across are pretty crap – flimsy, cheap, and poorly built.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re off on a short getaway or a three month long adventure. The last thing you want is your packing cubes disintegrating halfway through.
Because of this it’s vital to take a decent set of packing cubes backpacking. However, not everyone is going to need the same things from their packing cubes.
Sure a great all rounder will suit most people in the majority of circumstances.
And if you’re short on time, just click here to go straight to the best packing cubes for backpacking overall.
But if you’re willing to put in a just few minutes of reading then we’ll make it worth your while. We’re gonna help you determine the best ones specifically for you.
So What are Packing Cubes?
Like all of the very best inventions, packing cubes are incredibly simple. In fact they’re so basic that they’re hard to explain without sounding patronising. But here goes.
So what are packing cubes? They’re just cube shaped bags with a zipper, that are smaller than your main backpack, bag, or suitcase.
They come in various different sizes which allow you to make the most of your available space.
You can also get loads of different types which are better for different types of travels, hence this guide.
Some of them compress, some are waterproof, some are see through, and some of them are extremely lightweight.
What they all have in common is that they’re a handy way to instantly simplify your packing.
Do I Need Packing Cubes?
Well, no. You don’t need packing cubes in the sense that it’s possible to travel without them.
In the same way it’s possible to run a marathon in your socks. Or go swimming in jeans. Or wipe your arse with your hand.
You could do it, but it’s a move you’d probably regret.
I speak from experience because when we first started travelling full time over 3 years ago, we didn’t use packing cubes. Looking back and thinking about that now I have to fight the urge to punch myself in the face.
I’d even read some stuff about using packing cubes and promptly decided to ignore it.
My advice to you? Don’t be a douche like I was. Get your hands on some packing cubes and save yourself a whole lot of bother.
Benefits of Packing Cubes
Because the concept of packing cubes is so simple, it’s actually quite difficult to describe why they’re so essential. People often think “why in the hell should I put a set of smaller bags into a big bag?”.
But there are sooooo many benefits of packing cubes! So I’ve come up with a great analogy to explain to people when they ask. And ask they do. Frequently.
Imagine you keep all the clothes you own in a big rectangular box. On the face of it, it’s no problem. You can fold them all in piles, roll them up, whatever.
But what if you need something that’s at the bottom of one of the piles? Well that’s where you think it is anyway. You’re gonna have to pull that whole pile out to get to it.
It doesn’t matter how neat and tidy your piles of clothes are. It’s gonna be hard to keep them all in order when you’re having to rummage through them on a regular basis.
Then imagine you were moving that box all the time. It’s getting shaken all about on a conveyor belt, picked up upside down, thrown around etc. Keeping it in order is gonna be damn near impossible.
That’s why some clever sausage invented chests of drawers, wardrobes, closets, and all the other storage systems we use in our homes. So what’s the difference between a big box and a chest of drawers? The compartments.
With packing cubes, you’re able to compartmentalise all of your threads into smaller, more manageable packages.
It’s like having a chest of drawers on your back instead of just a big rectangular box.
So what are the main benefits of packing cubes?
1 They keep your stuff organised
Most people arrange them so they have different things in each packing cube. For example, shirts and t-shirts in one, underwear in another, jeans and sweatshirts in the next etc. This keeps your bag in perfect order at all times.
2 They make things easy to find
No more dragging everything out of your bag to find that one item you’re looking for. With packing cubes everything is within easy reach and you can take a single cube out at a time.
3 They keep your clothes wrinkle free
No more stuffing things in your bag and pulling them out looking like they’ve never seen an iron. Packing cubes ensure your garms are lovely and uncreased.
4 They make packing far easier
You simply fill the cubes then arrange them in your bag instead of trying to find a place for every individual item. And they make packing on the road a cinch as well if you need to unpack and repack multiple times.
5 They’re a ready made dresser
If you’re staying somewhere for a longer period of time then instead of unpacking everything, you can simply take out the packing cubes. Unzip them and pop them in a drawer or wardrobe and you’ve unpacked in seconds.
6 They keep you sane
Trust us on this.
Do Packing Cubes Really Save Space?
One of the big questions around these little beauties is “do packing cubes really save space?”. The short answer is hell-to-the-yes! And here’s why.
They allow you to tightly pack your clothing, compressing it to maximise whatever space you have.
I get that. It doesn’t seem to make sense that adding an extra item into your bag could help you save space. But they really do, and once you’ve tried them you’ll understand why.
Best Packing Cubes for Backpacking Overall
Taking home the prize for best packing cubes for backpacking overall is this slick set from renowned market leaders, eBags. They’re a big name in the travel luggage industry so it’s no wonder their packing cubes are awesome.
What makes them so great? They’ve paid attention to the little details that really make the difference, and everything about them screams premium product.
These packing cubes are constructed from Techlite Diamond Nylon which is breathable, lightweight, and yet super durable.
The zippers are made by YKK meaning they’re the best in the business. They’re corded for easy use and have a fabric interior lining so they don’t snag or catch on your clothing. Plus the zips are self healing meaning they will work every time.
These eBags packing cubes come with convenient soft mesh panels that allow your clothes to breathe. They also mean you’ll never have to go rummaging around in your bag again as you can easily pinpoint every item.
They come in all kinds of sizes and colours so you’ve got a huge choice to pick from. However, this classic plus set gives you one large, one medium, one small, and one slim. This selection is pretty much perfect allowing you to separate your different stuff into different cubes.
These are a quality all round product, made to last and will be perfect for virtually any type of traveller. To top it off, they’re also guaranteed for life. Which is why they’re easily our choice for the best packing cubes for backpacking overall.
Best Packing Cubes Overall: eBags Packing Cubes Classic Plus Set
Best Compression Packing Cubes
Going carry-on only or opting to only take a smaller bag? You’re probably going to want a set of packing cubes that’s specifically designed to maximise smaller spaces.
These LeanTravel Compression numbers are the best packing cubes for backpacking if you’re a traveller really short on space.
While packing cubes do naturally help save you space, these amplify that by compressing your clothes at the same time.
Each Packing cube has a double zip which enables you to squash it down and make it stay compressed. First you unzip both the zippers and fill it before zipping the lid up. Next you zip the second zipper around the middle which can halve the cube size in some instances.
Sometimes it takes a little prodding and teasing to get the zipper around. But when you weigh that up against the space savings you can make, it’s a little price to pay.
This nifty system also means your clothes come out virtually wrinkle-free, which can be a problem with other packing cubes.
They’re made from a sturdy polyester material which is durable and feels thick and good quality to touch. And there’s a mesh section on top to allow the clothes a bit of air and for you to be able to peek in.
They have a few colours to choose from but not a huge selection. In this set you get only 3 packing cubes, 2 large and 1 medium. However, the compression means you can still fit plenty in.
These LeanTravel models are undoubtedly the best packing cubes for backpacking when you need to really save space.
Best Compression Packing Cubes: LeanTravel
Best Waterproof Packing Cubes
If you’re more of an outdoorsy traveller, you’re going to want a packing cube that can keep up with you. Adventure activities like hiking, camping, or anything where you’re in the wild always come with the risk of getting wet.
Even if you’ve got a waterproof cover for your bag, rain has a sneaky habit of finding its way inside. And the last thing you need is a bag full of wet clothes.
This Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set is the ideal solution. They’re easily the best packing cubes for backpacking when you need to keep your clothes dry.
They’re made from a poly micro weave water repellent nylon. Like you, I have no idea what that means, other than it will keep your stuff dry when you’re on the go.
This goes for if you have any kind of accidental spillage in the bag, for example from your toiletries. Or if your airline leaves your bag out in the rain while it’s being transported to the hold.
The material is also extremely lightweight, and yet the material is still really tough thanks to their ripstop design.
They’re made by Eagle Creek who are one of the original manufacturers of packing cubes. So you know that years of research and experience has gone into designing them.
This set includes 3 medium sized cubes, which is enough to cover most people’s needs. While there’s no see through compartment, the white set are translucent meaning you can still make out what’s inside.
These are the best packing cubes for backpacking if you’re worried about keeping your gear dry.
Best Waterproof Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter
Best Budget Packing Cubes
If you’re on a tight budget then you’d be forgiven for being tempted to just forget about packing cubes altogether. To some people they seem like another unnecessary cost.
But hopefully by now we’ve managed to convince you of the many benefits of packing cubes! However, you definitely don’t want something cheap and nasty that will tear and break on your first use.
So if you’re looking for the best quality packing cubes for backpacking available on a small budget, here we go.
The AmazonBasics range of packing cubes is fantastic, period. So when you also consider the price that they’re available at, it makes them even better value.
Now of course they don’t have the premium quality feel to them that the other products here do. But they’re still extremely durable, well made, and will do a fine job.
This set includes a full range of 1 each in the large, medium, small, and slim cubes. This provides you with plenty of space and packing options.
At this price range, these are the best quality packing cubes for backpacking on the market hands down.
Best Budget Packing Cubes: AmazonBasics 4-Piece Packing Cube Set
Best Ultralight Packing Cubes
If the weight of your baggage is your primary concern then an ultralight set of packing cubes should help you. As the name suggests, these cubes weigh far less than your average.
Like our choice for the best packing cubes for backpacking overall, these are also made by eBags. This alone means you’re guaranteed quality.
Though the material they’re made from is extremely thin and hardly weighs anything, they’re deceptively tough. The fabric they’re made from is Cordura nylon and have a thin silicone coating on the inside.
Like their classic cubes, these have the self repairing zippers. But unlike the classics which have a sturdy structure, these have a spring loaded frame technology. It means they fold down to almost paper thin, but the frame keeps them hold their shape when you’re packing them.
The whole of the top of these packing cubes are made from mesh. It’s another reason they’re so light, but also means you can see absolutely everything in them.
This set of 5 includes a great selection of 2 large, 2 small, and 1 slim and is available in a range of 4 colours.
These are undoubtedly the best packing cubes for backpacking if you want to keep it as light as possible.
Best Ultralight Packing Cubes: eBags Ultralight Travel Packing Cubes
Conclusion on the Best Packing Cubes for Backpacking
Packing cubes are one of those pieces of travel gear that you never knew you missed until you get them. They will revolutionise your packing, removing a bunch of stress, while allowing you to be more organised. We’d never leave home without them, and would 100% recommend you add some to your bag.
Looking for more travel gear? Check out our travel gear page here to find out exactly what’s in our backpacks and what essentials to take with you on your trip.