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I always carry a single packing cube. I pack it with underwear and socks and carry it at the bottom of my backpack. The cube consolidates these small items so that they take up less space and are all in one spot, not jammed into every nook and cranny of my bag.

The rest of my clothes are packed loosely outside of a cube.

Here at Tortuga, we get occasional questions about packing cubes. Mostly, “Should I use packing cubes?” and “Which ones?”

Many hardcore travelers packing everything they bring in packing cubes. But how common are they? What do people want in a packing cube? Most importantly, should we make packing cubes?

We weren’t convinced that the world needed more packing cubes. The existing cubes are commodities that compete on price. Being the cheapest product in a category (and the sub-standard quality that implies) isn’t our strength. That’s best left to big corporations operating at massive scale.

We could make a better packing cube… if anyone wanted one.

Rather than guess, we asked you. We polled Team Tortuga and received 371 responses. Not bad for an unglamorous product category.

Below we’ve broken down your responses. Your answers and the directive they gave us are very clear.

We combed through the data looking for the 20% of choices that accounted for 80% of the results. Since we can’t make a perfect product for everyone, we used the Pareto Principle to decide where to focus our efforts for the most leverage.

Rather than just copying what’s already out there, we wanted to know what really matters to you. Then we can double down on the most important features and ignore the rest.

Keep reading to find out what we learned.

Do you use packing cubes when you travel?

We started with the most important question. If only a small minority of travelers used packing cubes, we wouldn’t have any reason to make them.

That was not the case.

Do you use packing cubes when you travel?

69% of people use packing cubes when they travel.

We expect that number to be slightly biased by the nature of the survey. If you don’t know what packing cubes are or don’t use them, you probably didn’t open the email about the survey. However, the numbers were strong enough for us to continue digging.

Only people who answered yes to the first question were shown the rest of the survey.

Next, let’s learn more about how packing cube users travel.

Click to continue…

As long as everything fits in a carry on, you’re good. Right? Not necessarily.

Everyone knows about carry on size limits. But airlines have carry on weight limits too.

You can easily overstuff a carry-on-sized bag. The weight of a laptop, book, and an extra pair of shoes adds up quickly.

Airlines’ carry on weight rules vary even more than their size rules do. Air China allows carry on bags up to 11 lbs, while Frontier Airlines allows bags up to 35 lbs. Always check with your airline before flying.

The most common weight limits are 15 lbs (6.8 kg), 18 lbs (8 kg), or 22 lbs (10kg). Aim for 15 lbs. 

If you can pack light, do it.

Packing light is hard. Let’s discuss some of our favorite strategies for keeping the weight of your carry on within airline limits.

Get a Luggage Scale

Buy a scale so that you aren’t playing luggage roulette. Show up to the airport knowing exactly how much your luggage weighs. Don’t wait for the ticketing agent to tell you it’s overweight and must be checked.

With a luggage scale, you can weigh your bag as you’re packing so you know if you need to make any changes.

I use a $20 Balanzza digital luggage scale. This scale is more expensive but also more accurate than the cheap, analog scales.

Buying the scale is cheaper than checking a bag once. It will more than pay for itself every time you fly.

That is a great return on investment.

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Don't Leave Anything Behind

Perfect your packing with our free carry on packing list.

Join our mailing list below to get your packing checklist and weekly packing tips sent straight to your inbox.



Spam is the worst, so we won't send you any.

They may be known as unmentionables, but we’re devoting this entire post to underwear.

Underwear is small, light, and easy to wash. Don’t waste too much packing space on your undies.

This post outlines the best travel underwear options and how to pack them efficiently. You don’t need special underwear for travel, but some brands lend themselves to the rigors of the road.

The best travel underwear have the same properties as other performance clothing. They’re lightweight, breathable, and odor-resistant. Most importantly, they are quick-drying so that you can wash them yourself to cut down on the number of pairs you need to bring on longer trips.

In case you couldn’t tell from the last paragraph, cotton underwear are the worst for traveling. You don’t want your skivvies hanging around your hotel room drying for days and days.

Let’s start with the best underwear for travel.

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Tortuga, Air, and Daypack

Behold, the Future: Tortuga, Tortuga Air, and Tortuga Daypack

The response to the Tortuga Travel Backpack has been tremendous. The first run of re-designed bags sold out in less than two months over the holidays. We re-stocked bags at the end of June and sold the same amount in two hours. The next batch will be in our east coast warehouse in early July.

Yet, the Tortuga isn’t right for everyone. We’ve heard from many people who need something different for their travel style.

The first is short trips. The Tortuga was designed for trips from one week to one year. When we surveyed you, our customers and readers, you told us that you take 2-3x more domestic trips than international trips every year. Those domestic trips are mostly for less than a week.

Unless you’re a heavy packer, the Tortuga is too much bag for those short trips. I’ve become so used to packing a Tortuga that I almost never fill it, even on longer trips. The bag that once felt adequate now feels cavernous. Minimalist packers will agree.

The other reason that people take short trips is for business travel. The Tortuga works perfectly well for these trips but doesn’t transition seamlessly to the office. It’s just too big.

The last case where the Tortuga fell short was with shorter people. Because the Tortuga has a hip belt, it’s not one size fits all. Your torso should be at least 18″ for an ideal fit. You can check your fit by following these instructions. Many petite women found the Tortuga to be too tall for them.

For all of these reasons, we created the smaller, lighter Tortuga Air. Today is the first extended look at our next backpack.

Read more about the Tortuga Air and join the wait list to be the first to know when it’s available.

Keep in mind that these are pictures from a prototype and that the final product is subject to change.

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In today’s installment of How I Travel, we talk to Manoj from Mango Diablo. Manoj is currently in Southeast Asia on a trip that combines his love of travel, his passion for cooking, and his professional experience as a technology executive. Keep reading to find out how he’s making all three work.

I don’t need a whole hell of a lot to be happy.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Manoj Mohan. I’m a cook, blogger, and worked as a technology executive for 10 years before leaving my career to travel the world.

What about your travels inspired you to start your blog?
I initially had started my blog 1 year before leaving and it focused primarily on cooking western dishes with an eastern influence. Now that I’m in Southeast Asia, I figured it would be best to include the travel aspect and cooking influences and techniques I am learning abroad.

Minced Pork with String bean over rice (Laap)

Minced Pork with String bean over rice (Laap)

What’s your travel style and why?
Digital Nomad + Budget. I choose the digital nomad route because I want to stay connected to the tech world and see SE Asia as a hotbed for entrepreneurial action. If I am able to combine my passion for food and cooking with my professional experience as a technology executive, I would have it made.

I keep my budget very tight so that I can extend my runway here. Plus I don’t need a whole hell of a lot to be happy.

What was your first great travel experience?
My first great travel experience was with my mom and brother on a trip to India when I was 5. After that I had always known that one day I would see the world and hopefully live in different countries throughout my life.

Click to continue…

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