Each year we pick a gift for travelers who do more than one tour a year, we call this our “customer appreciation gift”. And this year, we picked compressible packing cubes! While not revolutionary, using packing cubes for travel is a game changer for me. If, like me, you’ve resisted the adoption of packing cubes because it’s just one more thing to buy, I encourage you to think again. The benefits are several.
Small and light
Your suitcase will be lifted, carried, and moved about by your tour leader team at least twice a day. We subsequently take seriously the size and weight of your luggage. If you love our tour leaders as much as we do, think of them when you pack your bags. The lighter the bag, the less impact this will have on their overall physical longevity!
But, what do cubes have to do with weight? Their predetermined size limits what you can bring and helps keep the overall weight of your bag in check (assuming you’re not packing sand or a bowling ball!). The two sets of ExperiencePlus! packing cubes I used decrease in size from 17”x13” to 9”x7”. Each has a zipper that expands the cube to 3.5” in height.
I packed my bike clothes into the largest cube since they take up the most space, my ‘regular’ clothes into the next size down (and I scrutinized every choice), and my socks, underthings and PJs into the next size down. I left the smallest one empty for dirty clothes (but, see comments below on managing laundry with a mesh bag).
My suitcase is a small, 42L Dakine roller bag that fits into plane’s overhead compartment. This simple bag has two compartments separated by a mesh zippered divider. On my most recent trip I placed the packed bike clothes, shoes, pedals, rain pants and jacket into the zippered mesh side. I used the slightly deeper ‘main compartment’ for the other two cubes of clothing, my toiletries, sunscreen, and miscellaneous necessities, such as sandals and power converter.
Everything fit into my suitcase with room to spare.
Since the majority of my clothes were in cubes, I could easily arrange and rearrange cubes to find the best packing configuration. This singular ease blew my mind wide open. Without the cubes, I would touch every piece of clothing to find the right configuration. While, I have always packed my socks and underwear in a bag, I had not previously used one that compressed and laid flat.
Once I arrived at my first destination and I needed to change clothes, it felt so freeing to have all my clothes in one location. I zipped open the bag, grabbed what I wanted, and zipped it back up. No major explosion of clothes all over the room. Ahhh. That meant less time needed to repack once I had to move on to my next destination.
I know there are plenty of you thinking, well no duh girl! Why has it taken you so long to adopt this simple approach to packing? Why do any of us take forever to change our ways? Stubbornness, ignorance, cost-avoidance, and other rationales that usually only make sense to us. Speaking of money, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get your hands on a set of ExperiencePlus! packing cubes and you don’t even need to purchase fancy ones.
“My dad would always pack some things that you don’t really use much but need to bring along, such as a rain jacket and rain pants, into old socks,” says Maria Elena Price, ExperiencePlus! co-owner.
In particular, she says her dad Rick, ExperiencePlus! Founder, would use larger, stretched-out old socks, which hold those items well and keep them individually contained. “I use that method from time to time to pack those types of things and it works great!”
If you have old socks lying around, consider using them to stow your socks and underthings, your bike jerseys, or anything else that you want to keep contained.
Other packing hacks
We’re thinking a lot these days about how we can help simplify the challenge of packing for a bicycle tour. Fewer, smaller, and lighter luggage will cost you financially, physically, and psychologically less in the long run. Budget airlines charge you for every piece of checked baggage. Heavy bags are no fun getting on and off trains and buses. Traveling with more stuff than you need means there’s more to keep track.
We know many of you struggle to pack a helmet in your suitcase, but that’s the last place we think of packing ours. We just clip it to the outside of our backpack that we use as a carry-on. Sure this doubles as a conversation starter, but for a bicycle touring company that wants to see a world where more people explore by bike, that’s a good thing!
From the types of clothes in various fabrics you select (we love merino wool!) to the shoes you wear (why not leave the cycling shoes at home?), there are countless ways to travel smarter and lighter. You can start by consulting our travel packing lists for recommendations on what to bring, but we’d also like to hear from you.
What tried and true packing hacks have made a difference for you? Send us your ideas and we’ll compile them and share.