Unconventional Uses for Packing Cubes

Laura Lopuch

Despite my best intentions, my bag degrades into chaos during a trip.

That’s why when I heard about packing cubes they sounded perfect for me. A way to keep my bag organized and find the shirt I need now. No more wandering underwear and socks. Also, I’m a bag lover and the chance to buy more bags (to put inside my bag) was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

You don’t have to use packing cubes just for clothes. Packing cubes are designed to help you organize your bag. If you’ve already got an Outbreaker travel backpack, then you’ll be excited to know that our packing cubes are designed to fit perfectly inside. 

If you’re a Setout travel backpack traveler, you’ll love that the purpose built packing cubes are even curved to fit the contours of the bag, making use of every possible inch of internal space.

There are tons of unusual ways to use packing cubes to keep your bag neat and tidy.

On General Trips

1. Organize Cords

Have you ever torn your bag apart hunting for your cell phone charger? Or the power strip you know you packed? Me too. This is where a packing cube helps.

You can designate one cube to hold all your electronics chargers. Then, when you’re looking for your laptop charger, it’s as simple as finding the lumpy packing cube with all your chargers. Problem solved.

2. Traveling First Aid Kit

Make a packing cube into a traveling first aid kit to fix minor on-the-road injuries. Be sure to include items in here that are TSA-friendly, so you won’t have to unpack it to travel through airport security.

Some ideas of what to include:

  • Tweezers
  • Benadryl: minor allergies and to reduce itching/swelling (good for bug bites)
  • Ibuprofen: muscle aches and to reduce muscle swelling
  • Tylenol: headaches, fevers
  • Band-aids
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • TUMS or chewable pepto-bismol tabs for upset stomachs
  • Small roll of duct tape (use it to close larger wounds, keep your shoes together, use on anything really)

3. Separate Clothes by Destination

When you’re traveling to destinations with different climates, you’re going to use sections of your clothes at different times in your trip. One clever way to keep your bag organized and the clothes you need accessible is to split your clothes by climate zone. Then put those clothes into separate packing cubes.

Think about how you dress at home. Usually it’s dependent upon the weather. How much different is that from when you’re traveling? Keep it simple.

When you’re at the beach, you’ll be wearing clothes from the summer packing cube. And in the cool mountains, you’ll be using clothes from your winter packing cube.

4. Snack Cube

Ok, I admit it, this is my packing cube. Before leaving the house, my husband makes sure I have snacks on hand so I don’t get “hangry” (so hungry you’re angry). If you’re traveling with a significant other, friends, or kids who get hangry, designate a small cube to whip out and ease the hungry-monster. Here are some ideas for packing snacks to fly and below are some general items that work in a cube:

Here are some ideas of what to include:

  • Pistachios or almonds (avoid peanuts due to aggressive air-borne peanut allergies)
  • Cliff bars
  • Luna bars
  • Hard-boiled eggs (don’t let these sit too long, but they’ll last through a 4-hour flight safely)
  • Fresh fruit where available and when not traveling across international borders

Traveling With Kids

This section is for you brave parents showing your kids the world.

Travel is the best educator, so let’s teach light, well organized packing! Sometimes your child may need a little help keeping his bag organized, so tempers don’t flare when its go-time. Plus packing cubes give your child a sense of control, responsibility, and pride in his carry on.

1. Toy Cube Per Kid

Does your child have a carry on that he’s responsible for?

Help him keep it organized by giving him a packing cube for his toys, games, or books. When your child gets antsy on long flights, pull out the “fun and games” packing cube for entertainment.

2. School Cube

Are you homeschooling or teaching your child while traveling? This has become a big trend, thanks to the accessibility of online classes. Or, maybe your kid has assigned homework to complete during your trip.

Designate a long, flat packing cube to keep his school work all in one place. Pencils, pens, books, and notebooks can all go into this cube.

3. One Carry On for All Kids

You ready for a true challenge? Have one carry on for all of your children.

Divvy up the carry on bag by assigning one packing cube per child’s clothing. (Or two, depending on the size of the packing cube, and the size of the kid!) Label each cube with the child’s name and suddenly your bag burden was just diminished by half.

Traveling With Pets

This section is for all you pet-parents out there. I regularly take road trips with my two dogs in tow.

Usually they get one small bag to hold their food and toys. But wouldn’t it be cool to keep that bag super accessible by using packing cubes in clever ways?

1. One Cube For Toys

Get a sturdy packing cube (one that’s not labeled “light-weight”) to hold their bones, rope toys, and any raw hides you might travel with.

When your hound needs a toys to chew off some anxiety or extra energy, find the cube with his toys and dole out an appropriate toy.

2. One Cube For Food

This is another task for a sturdy packing cube.

Measure out how much dog food you’ll need for your trip, shovel into an old plastic grocery bag, and slip it into a packing cube. Over the course of your trip, the packing cube size will diminish as your pup eats.

3. One Cube for First Aid Kit

Your hound might need some on-the-road medical care for minor injuries. How many times has he come back from a hike with a sticker in his paw, scratched his forehead from running gung-ho through the forest, or gotten a bug bite?

Get a small packing cube and stock it with first aid items for your hound.

Most wound cleansing and aid for minor injuries for humans are safe to use on dogs. I regularly use Neosporin or hydrogen peroxide to cleanse my dog’s scratches and small flesh wounds.

Traveling With a Partner

1. Share a Bag By Using Cubes

Ready to get extra, super-duper close with your significant other? Share a bag on your next trip. Divvy up the space by using packing cubes.

Try three packing cubes per person: two small and one larger, depending on the size of your bag. Then pack your cubes by the categories of entertainment (small packing cube), underwear/socks (small packing cube), rest of clothes (large packing cube).

If you haven’t tried this before, I’d recommend starting with a shorter trip and working on your sharing and packing light muscles, before advancing to a longer overseas trip where bags tend to dissollve into chaos far more quickly — and can spark tempers.

2. Carry Ons to Share

Have you ever thought about traveling with two carry ons, one per person like normal, but not assigning one carry on per person?

Instead, if you’re going on a trip that’s heavy on electronics, designate one carry on for electronics and one for clothes.

Use packing cubes to help separate out each person’s clothes in the clothes-only carry on, and to keep the cords and devices organized in the electronics-only carry on.


Get creative with your packing cubes to max out the space in your carry on. Packing cubes don’t have to be used just for clothes. Here are some unconventional ways to use packing cubes:

  • Keep your electronic chargers organized
  • Traveling first aid kit
  • Separate clothes by summer or winter if going to different climates
  • One packing cube for your kid’s toys/books
  • One packing cube for your kid’s clothes
  • Use packing cubes to share on carry on for several of your kids
  • To keep your pet gear organized
  • Lighten the load by sharing with your travel partner

Have you used packing cubes in any conventional ways? If yes, how did you use them and what worked best for you?

Image: Olu Eletu (Stocksnap)