Since we’re in prime getting-out-of-town season, the Strategist has been thinking about the best travel gear (see what our editors can’t get on an airplane without, a roundup of the best rolling luggage, and our favorite travel shoes). Below, our latest conquest.
I am militantly anti baggage check and pro carry-on only. The problem? I’m also a compulsive overpacker.
I don’t really think I’ll be wearing a tuxedo on that ski trip, but what if I spontaneously get invited to a charity gala? Do I really need to pack two sets of workout clothes? Obviously, I’ll definitely wake up before everyone else and enjoy several sunrise runs on this beach in Tulum.
The paradox of being stridently carry-on and an overpacker was a frustrating, existential one — until I discovered the Pack-It Cube. It’s exactly what it sounds like: The Russian nesting doll of luggage. And it’s the simplest of products: an empty, square bag with a zipper. That’s it. A smaller box for your stuff, to go inside the bigger box of your stuff. Which you then put inside your rolling suitcase. It’s equal parts separation and stuffing mechanism — it not only compartmentalizes your luggage but also helps you cram whatever’s inside it into an incredibly small, predetermined place, too. It’s installing brilliant, draconian order and organization where there was once only chaos. Packing cubes permanently reconfigure for accuracy the notion of what fits into your luggage by having your bag’s contents laid out neatly in front of you before you throw them in your luggage.
These come in a set of three: a larger one, for shirts and maybe some shorts. A medium one, for socks, briefs, etc. I’ve got no idea what the hell to do with the smallest one other than put it in the larger or medium-size cubes for fun, but, hey, it’s there if you need it. They’re an absurdly cheap, high-yield investment considering how much you’ll end up using them and how durable they are. And yeah, sure, they’re “ugly,” until you begin to fall for the certain normcore charm in how fundamentally they lack for aesthetics.
And how will you use them? Oh, how you will. For example, unlike before, where everything in your luggage was pressed against everything else, now you can overstuff the bag of things you don’t mind being wrinkled (like undershirts, socks, and underwear), while creating a safer, more carefully-guarded space for that which you want to remain wrinkle-free (like anything with a collar on it). Your packing won’t just have structural integrity, it will also have architecture. You will become the Frank Gehry of luggage interiors. Mid-trip, you can begin to use your cubes to separate clean clothing from dirty laundry without either group touching each other, if you’re really into luggage eugenics. Yes, you’re creating a class system for your clothing, but it works.
All of a sudden, everything has its place, before you’ve even packed it. This seems like a mundane revelation, until you see someone else’s luggage and realize that the difference between your packing job and theirs is the difference between blank sheets and graphing paper. By the second or third time you use them, you’ll already know exactly what fits where and how much of it you can take with you — down to the very last sock.
BUY IT: From $27 at Amazon
The Strategist is a series of smart, obsessive shopping guides from the New York Magazine section of the same name. We’ve scoured the web to bring you the best of the best. Some of our latest conquests include rolling luggage, water bottles, umbrellas, beach tents, iced coffee, nail clippers, and yoga mats. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Please note that all prices are subject to change.