Packing for a backpacking trip through Europe can sometimes be a little bit stressful. First, you need to find the perfect backpack. Then you need to figure out exactly what it is you need to bring, including some essential items that you may not have thought of previously. There are also a lot of other things you need to make sure you do before you leave on your trip. But when it comes to actually packing your bag, it can be hard to keep organised and fit everything you need into your 50-litre backpack! Enter: packing cubes.
Packing cubes are the single greatest product to help backpackers (or any travellers for that matter) keep their things small, contained, clean, and organised. They have been incredibly beneficial for us and we can’t imagine packing without them! But what are the best packing cubes for backpacking? With so many of these little lifesavers on the market, it can be hard to know if you’re making a good purchase. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Are packing cubes worth it?
Before I get into what the best packing cubes for backpacking are, let’s answer one of the top questions we come across: Are packing cubes worth it? Well, the short answer is yes, yes they are. But you want to know why! There are numerous benefits of packing cubes, especially for backpackers who are keen to maximize their space and organisation.
When you’re travelling with a backpack, there is usually only one main pocket for you to pack your things. This is true of most packs, and especially with our travel backpack of choice — the Osprey Farpoint 55. This can make keeping your things organised and secure a bit difficult sometimes. However, this hasn’t ever really come as a drawback for us as we use packing cubes. They are incredibly convenient when it comes to organising your clothing and keeping it clean.
Another benefit of packing cubes is that they can be great space-savers. When you’re backpacking through Europe, you don’t want to be travelling with a large bag so it’s in your best interest to find something that will help you maximise your limited space. If you pack smartly, you can cram a lot of stuff into a small packing cube and it will only take up a fraction of space in your bag.
Aside from the facts that they can help you save space and keep your backpack organised, packing cubes can also keep your things clean and wrinkle-free. While many people use plastic bags for this purpose, packing cubes are a lot more durable and certainly less wasteful. Also, if you’re planning on staying in hostel dorms, they will help you keep some friends while you rummage through your while others are sleeping because they don’t make that horrific crinkling noise that plastic bags make! While a good set of packing cubes might set you back a fair bit of cash up front, they will last you for years to come. It’s also always a good idea to limit the amount of plastic we use.
Best Packing Cubes for Backpacking
With so many packing cubes on the market these days, it can be hard to know which ones are going to be worth your money, last a long time, and will just make you packing easier and more organised. These are our top picks for the best packing cubes for backpacking:
TOP CHOICE: Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes
It’s a mouthful, I know, but these are seriously the best packing cubes for backpacking that I’ve tried. Not only are the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes incredibly light-weight and durable, but they also zip down and compress to half of their size so you can really maximise space in your backpack. It really is amazing how much you can fit in these (seemingly small) cubes!
They come in two sizes: the full-sized cube is 36cm x 25cm (14in x 10in) and has a 13.5-litre capacity when expanded and a 7-litre capacity when compressed. The half-cube is 25cm x 18cm (10in x 7in) and has a 6-litre capacity when expanded and a 3-litre capacity when compressed.
These are the packing cubes we currently travel with and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Because of their compression abilities, they are also the best packing cubes for carry-on travel. I use one full-sized cube (for jeans and jumpers) and two half-cubes (one for socks/undies and another for tops) and I can always fit everything I need into them. Using compression cubes for backpacking really allows you to bring far more than you would think you could while still sticking to a small backpack.
If you pack them really full, it can be difficult to compress them but with a little adjusting, you should be able to zip them down without a problem. I think these are the best packing cubes for Osprey Farpoint 55 as well, which is the backpack that I use. With the one full-sized cube and the two half-cubes fully packed and compressed, I still have ample room left for my toiletry bag and other miscellaneous items.
If, for some reason, you don’t think that the Eagle Creek compression cubes are for you, another great option for the best packing cubes for backpacking is eBags Packing Cubes. These are some of the top-rated packing cubes on the market and come very highly recommended.
They come in a range of colours and three sizes, the largest of which is 45cm x 32cm (17.5in x 12.75in). The medium size is 35cm x 25cm (13.75in x 9.75in) nd the small size is 28cm x 17cm (11in x 6.75in). They are also made of a light-weight, durable material and also have a mesh window so you can see what is in there.
They are bigger than the Eagle Creek cubes mentioned above and also don’t have the compression function, so they aren’t going to be the safe-saving miracle you might be looking for. They also weigh a bit more than the compression tubes, so they can add some unnecessary weight to your backpack.
All in all, while highly reviewed and of good quality, I don’t think these are the best packing cubes for backpacking mainly because they are larger and don’t pack down as small. I think they would be better suited for those travelling with a traditional, wheeled suitcase.
If you can’t tell, I like Eagle Creek products. I think they’re well-made and durable and the “Spectre” line of products are especially lightweight. This clean/dirty cube can be an appealing option for backpacking packing cubes as there are two separate zipped compartments on either side, one for clean clothes and one for dirty clothes.
It is made of the same material as the compression cubes listed above, but it doesn’t have the compression zipper function. They also only come in the large size (36cm x 25cm) and are a bit bulkier than the compression cubes.
Personally, I don’t feel the need to have a separate compartment in my packing cubes for my dirty clothes — I just put them in the mesh pocket on the upper flap of my backpack and that does the job for me. However, if this is a function that you think would be useful, then this cube would be a good purchase.
If you’re looking for a more thrifty set of packing cubes rather than the fancy “name brand” packing cubes listed above, then the Amazon Basics packing cubes are a really good option for you.
These packing cubes are a great choice if you’re on the fence about whether you need packing cubes at all and want to workshop how they’ll fit into your travel style without making the big investment of the brands listed above.
These packing cubes come in a set of four cubes of two different sizes: two medium and two large. The medium sized cube is 14 x 10 x 3 inches and the large cube is 17 x 13 x 3 inches and they’re made from a lightweight and durable material in a mixture of nylon and mesh. They also come in a range of colours.
There are some downsides to these cubes, however. The main downside to them is that they are just too large to fit in a compact backpack, meaning that they’re not the best packing cubes for the Osprey Farpoint 40 or 55. Another downside is that they are not quite as durable as any of the models listed above and you may have to replace them sooner than if you went with another brand.
Another great alternative choice if you want to test the water for packing cubes is the Shacke Pak cubes set. Again a more budget-friendly set compared to the first three listed in this article, these packing cubes come in a 4-piece set in different sizes.
They are made from a combination of waterproof nylon and black mesh so you can see what is inside, the material is also fairly lightweight and durable so you won’t need to replace them after using them on just one trip. They also come in a range of colours to suit any personality.
They do, however, have the same drawback as the Amazon Basics packing cubes above in the fact that the largest cube, at 17.5 x 12.75 x 4 inches, is far too large to be the best packing cubes for backpacking. However, if you do decide to purchase this set, you can opt to leave the largest one at home and use the smaller three cubes included instead. They should have more than enough room for your backpacking needs.
It can be difficult to find the best packing cubes for backpacking. With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know which are good and which are bad. However, there are many benefits of packing cubes and they will certainly help you stay organised and save space in your backpack!
Do you use packing cubes? What do you think the best packing cubes for backpacking are? Let us know in the comments!