Best packing gear for backpacking and travel in 2021

best packing gear

If you are traveling, backpacking or hiking, your luggage or backpack is probably the most important gear you carry. Since space is a luxurious commodity, how you pack your luggage/backpack is important as you would like to maximize the things that you can carry and ensure that the most important items are easily accessible.

While this task may simply look like a chore, how you pack your stuff can make a difference between an uncomfortable trip and a fantastic one. After all, even Steve Jobs was fussy about how the iPod was packed !!

There are multiple packing solutions available in the market that you can consider to help you keep your stuff organized in your luggage or backpack. In this article, we will look at some of these packing organizers available in the market- packing cubes, compression sacks, and dry bags. We will look at some of the best options available in the market and the factors to consider while buying one for your needs.

Best packing cubes list

Some of the best packing cubes available in the market are listed below:

eBags Packing CubesL : 17.5" x 12.75" x 3.25"
M : 13.75" x 9.75" x 3"
S : 11" x 6.75" x 3"
- A set of 3 buy-it-for-life packing cubes from the world leader in packing gear.
- Each cube is made from breathable nylon and has fabric bound interior seams and mesh top.
- The cube features premium quality YKK zippers.
- Backed by eBags lifetime warranty.
- Larger, 6-piece cube set is also available.

Pro Packing Cubes Travel OrganizersL: 17.5" x 12.75" x 3.25"
M: 13.75" x 9.75" x 3"
S: 11" x 6.75" x 3"
XS: 9" x 3.75" x 3"
- Ultralight packing cube set of 4 made with Ripstop techno-Nylon with a see-through mesh. Lighter than most other packing cubes.
- The seams are double-stitched to provide superior durability.
- Each cube features high-quality YKK Zippers for smooth, superior operation.
- Each cube has a grab handle for independent carry
- Backed by a lifetime manufacturer warranty.
bago Packing Cubes For TravelVaries- An economical set of 10 packaging items – 2 packing cubes, 1 string bag, 1 document bag and 6 packing pouches.
- Ultralight, but reasonably sturdy cubes made with high quality nylon.
- Each top has a mesh to view the items packed inside.
Shacke Pak 4 Set Packing CubesXL: 17.5" x 12.75" x 4"
L: 13.75" x 12.75" x 4"
M: 13.75" x 9.75" x 4"
S: 11" x 6.75" x 4"
- A set of four packing cubes made with high-quality, water-resistant nylon and mesh top.
- Features a 4-inch deep space and cross-design stitching to prevent cube from folding.
- The cubes feature premium YKK zippers for long lasting, problem-free closing.
- Also includes a complimentary laundry bag to store dirty clothes.
AmazonBasics 4-Piece Slim Packing Cube Set14” x 5” x 2.8” each- A set of 4 slim cubes, with a double sided chain and mesh tops for ventilation.
- Each ultralight cube is made with high-quality polyester fabric with finished interior seams for durability
- Normal sized packing cubes are also available.
G4Free Packing Cubes SetXL : 20” x 12.6” x 3”
L : 15.8” x 10.2” x 3” (2)
M : 12.2” x 7.5” x 3” (2)
S : 10.6” x 5.5” x 3”
- A well-designed set of 6 packing cubes, with mesh top.
- Each cube is made from high quality water resistant nylon.
- Available in more than 4 colors and patterns.

Best dry sacks list

Some of the best dry sacks available in the market are listed below:

Aqua Quest Coastal Sunset Dry Bag SetSet of 30L, 20L, 10L and 5L- A well-designed dry bag set with four dry bags made with ultralight nylon 66 fiber with waterproof coating, making the dry bag highly water repellent.
- Each bag Includes 3 D-rings for multiple tie-down and clip-on options
- The dry bag set is backed by two year manufacturer warranty.
Wolfyok Dry Gear BagSet of 10L and 7L- This set contains two high end 100% waterproof dry sacks with adjustable shoulder straps.
- Each dry bag is made from high quality PVC plastic fabric which ensures complete protection from moisture and water.
- Manufacturer also offers custom builds of specific sizes.
Outdoor Products Ultimate Dry SackSet of 8L, 4L and 2L- A popular dry bag set with 3 ripstop fabric dry bags.
- Each bag is double seamed for maximum protection with watertight roll-top closure for maximum compression
- Water resistant but not fully waterproof.
Granite Gear DrysacksSet of two with size of 7L, 10L or 13L- A set of two dry bags with specified sizes (7L, 10L or 13L).
- Each dry bag is made with extremely waterproof non-pvc fabric making it lightweight and durable
- The seams are taped with hot–weld tape for maximum waterproofing.
The Friendly Swede Dry Bag SetSet of two with capacity of 2L, 5L, 10L or 20L- High-quality dry sack set available in multiple size combinations, made with 500D PVC tarp.
- Double-stitched with water protection rating of IPX5, meaning water resistant to rain and moisture (except submersion).
- Backed by manufacturer lifetime warranty.

Best compression sacks list

Some of the best compression sacks available in the market are listed below:

Earth Pak -Waterproof Dry Bag10L to 40L- Well designed and popular waterproof compression sack that comes in capacity ranging from 10L to 40L.
-10L and 20L sacks have single shoulder strap while bigger sacks have backpack strap set
- Each sack includes a fully waterproof IPX8 rated phone case, making it an attractive buy.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack6L to 30L- One of the most popular compression sack in the market that comes in sizes ranging from 6L to 30L.
- The sack is made with 30D Diamond ripstop cordura with four webbing cinch straps for full compression
- Suitable for all types of camping gear- ranging from down jacket to sleeping bag.
GRANITE GEAR Rock Solid Compressor9L to 50L- A well-designed lightweight compression sack from the world‘s leader in backpacks.
- The sack is made from 100% nylon fabric with special waterproof coating.
- The unique cylindrical design evenly distributes the stress of compression, so can be used to store items such as sleeping bags.
ALPS Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack10L to 40L- Popular, lightweight compression sack made with polyester ripstop fabric, with top zippered enclosure.
- Has double stitched seams, with bartracked stress points for durability.
- Comes with a small mesh sack for carrying the compression sack when not in use.
- Backed by limited lifetime warranty.
Outdoor Research Ultralight Compression Sack5L to 35L- Ultralight compression sack, made with 40D ripstop SilNylon.
- Features four compression points with a drawstring cordlock top-cap closure.
- Has an additional pocket on the end for self-storage or additional items.
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube SetSet of 10L and 14L- A unique compression cube set for storing clothes.
- Each set has two cubes made from water resistant ripstop nylon.
- Each cube has compression quality zippers for maximum storage.

What are different types of packing gear and why do you need one?

Whether you are traveling or backpacking, your luggage space is a premium commodity. You would like to pack almost everything you need without occupying too much space in your backpack or suitcase. Packing gear such as packing cubes and stuff sacks are meant for exactly this purpose. Mentioning that the stuff sacks help in saving space in your luggage, however, their effectiveness depends upon how compact are the items that need to be arranged.

Packing cubes are rectangular organizers made with semi-soft, breathable fabric with zipped cubicle and meshed lid. They are primarily meant to keep items organized within the luggage. Most packing cubes are typically suited for suitcases because of their rectangular shape and drawer friendly design, though depending upon the backpack design, they can be used with backpacks as well.

Stuff sacks such as dry bags and compression sacks are made from heavy duty water-resistant or waterproof fabric such as nylon, cordura or PVC based fabric. Because of their cylindrical design, stuff sacks are most suitable for use with backpacks and tote bags. Dry bags are primarily used to shield the contents from moisture and hence suitable for storing phones, wallets, electronic items etc. along with clothes. Compression sacks are special types of stuff sacks that have roll tops and straps designed in a way to compress the contents to reduce volume. They are most useful for items which are “compressible” such as sleeping bags, blankets, jackets etc. Compression sacks help in creating a lot of extra room in the luggage.

best packing cubebest packing sackbest compression sack

How to pick the best packing gear?

As discussed in the section above, different types of packing gear are meant for different types of needs. Once you have decided to go with a specific type of packing gear, you can look at some major factors while picking the best option for yourself. These major considerations are discussed below:

  • Manufacturing Material
  • Design and Capacity
  • Water protection
  • Miscellaneous considerations

Manufacturing Material

The manufacturing material of the packing gear is an important consideration as it governs the durability, weight and moisture protection provided by the gear. Packing cubes are generally made of breathable nylon and are coated with waterproofing layer to make them water resistant. Because of their rectangular design, packing cubes have zippers for enclosures. High-quality BIFL(buy-it-for-life) packing cubes such as eBags Packing Cubes and Pro Packing Cubes have double sided YKK zippers making them last the lifetime of the cube. The top of the packing cube is meshed and made of nylon or polyester.

Dry sacks are generally made from ripstop nylon or polyester with heavy waterproof coating and extra protection across the seams to help keep the moisture out. Since dry sacks have roll top designs, they generally have drawstrings or packing straps which can be used to vacuum seal them.

The compression sacks are generally made up of heavier plastic-based PVC fabric, giving them superior protection against moisture and water. In addition, such sacks generally have heavy duty straps for easy carry and transportation.

Design and Capacity

As discussed earlier, the design of packing gear is generally governed by the type of the gear. Packing cubes are rectangular in shape with meshed lids and zippers for enclosing contents. Dry and compression sacks are generally cylindrical with roll top openings. There are some exceptions, such as the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set which are designed as cubes with rounded edges making them suitable for backpacks and totes as well.

The capacity of packing gear (generally expressed in liters) is probably the most important criteria to consider. All the packing gear options come in different sizes with capacity ranging from 3 liters to as high as 50 liters. Off course, how much you can store in these packing gear is also governed by the volume, shape, and packaging of the items that you are storing.

In addition, the purpose of packing gear also governs the capacity you should look for. Packing cubes are generally suitable for personal items such as clothes, toiletries, undergarments etc. Dry sacks are most suitable for items that you would like to protect during a trip – phones, wallets, cameras, first aid kits etc. High capacity compression sacks are generally suitable for storing big yet compressible items such as sleeping bags, jackets, pillows, baby bedding etc.

Water Protection

The advancements in water protection technology over past decades has helped in providing an extra incentive for packing gear. However, you must be careful while evaluating an option as terms such as “water resistant” and “water repellent” have different meanings than “waterproof”.

Water resistant sacks are able to provide considerable resistance against moisture and even resist penetration of water, but do not provide full protection. So water resistant packs cannot be exposed to a stream of water such as during rain and kayaking/canoeing.

Water repellent sacks are one level above the water resistant ones. Water repellent fabric refers to the coated fabric that does not allow water to settle on the surface and hence provides additional protection against exposure to water and moisture. If you have a waterproof backpack, then water repellent sacks should be good enough for you.

Waterproof sacks provide true protection against water, including submersion. Waterproofing is generally represented by IP rating (Ingress Protection Rating) with a rating of 6 or above considered reasonable. Because of costly building material, such sacks are generally costlier than water repellent sacks.

Check out the product description and reviews to determine the true water protection level provided by the packing gear before picking one for yourself.

Miscellaneous considerations

In addition to the factors listed above, there are some miscellaneous considerations that can make a packing gear purchase attractive.

One of the considerations is the color of the gear in the set. This is not important for packing cubes because they anyway have a meshed lid, but for stuff sacks, it is important as the color can act as an indicator of what is inside the sack. Generally, all multi-sack sets have sacks with different colors.

Another consideration is the type and length of straps used. This factor may be important if you are looking for stuff sack as an additional carry on. Some dry sacks are the draw-string type, while others have straps with clip lock. In addition, compression sacks have shoulder or backpack straps for easy carry. Make a note of the types of straps that your packing gear has to evaluate its suitability.

Finally, some packing gear comes with additional accessories and items. For example, the bago Packing Cubes Set has 6 packing pouches that you can use during backpacking trips. Similarly, Earth Pak Dry Compression Sack comes with an additional waterproof phone case, making it an attractive buy. Look out for these accessories while picking the most suitable packing gear for your needs.

Which are the best packing gear items and what our picks are?

eBags Packing Cubes Set – Editor’s choice for best packing cube set

best packing cube
Despite having a number of great options in the market, picking up the best packing cubes is not a difficult. The eBags Packing Cubes Set is the most popular, extremely well designed and durable packing cube set available in the market.

Each standard set contains 3 differently sized cubes and there are multiple options and color combinations available to pick the most suitable one for yourself. Each cube in the set is made from ultra-thin, breathable Techlite diamond nylon and has fabric bound interior seams and mesh top. The zippers in the cube are double sided YKK zippers with corded pull strings.

Each eBags packing cube set is guaranteed for life under the eBags Lifetime Warranty.

For its excellent design and superior quality and durability, the eBags Packing Cubes Set is our Editor’s choice for best packing cube set in the market. If you are a frequent traveler, you should definitely consider getting a set and see how easy it becomes to organize your stuff.
  • Extremely well-designed packing cubes with breathable nylon body and mesh top.
  • Multiple size options and 10 color combinations available.
  • Extremely sturdy YKK zippers which can be used throughout the lifetime.
  • Guaranteed for life under the eBags Lifetime Warranty
  • Costlier than other packing cube options in the market.

Aqua Quest Coastal Sunset Dry Bag Set – Editor’s choice for best dry sack set

best packing cube
Picking the most suitable dry sacks can be a difficult task with so many options and combinations available in the market. Aqua Quest dry bag set is a relatively new entrant, but with Coastal Sunset dry bag set, they have a winner. This dry bag set features four differently sized, color coded dry sacks.

Each dry sack is made from lightweight ripstop nylon 66 fiber with TPU waterproof coating. The seams of the bag are “welded”, making the dry bag virtually waterproof. The sack has a roll top closure with a clip lock to prevent any moisture from seeping in.

Because of the superior fabric, the dry sacks are not super ultralight, but still light enough to be suitable for backpacking. The weight of the sack ranges from 3.6 ounces for the 5L sack to 6.1 ounces for a 30L sack.

In addition to this, each dry bag set is backed by a two-year “no worry” manufacturer warranty.

For all these reasons, the Aqua Quest Coastal Sunset Dry Bag Set is our Editor’s choice for best dry sack set.
  • Superior ripstop nylon fabric dry sack with waterproof coating.
  • Seams are welded and the bag has roll top closure, making it virtually waterproof.
  • Each set has 4 differently sized and color coded dry bags of 5L to 30L capacity.
  • Comes with 2 year “no worry” manufacturer warranty
  • Because of heavier outer fabric, not super ultralight.
  • Costlier than some other options in the market.

Earth Pak Dry Compression Sack – Editor’s choice for best compression sack

best packing cube
The Earth Pak dry compression sack is an excellent compression sack for the money. The compression sack comes in four sizes with capacity ranging from 10L (15″ x 8″) to 40L (20″x 11″). Each compression sack is made with thick 500D PVC material, making it tear and water proof.

The 10L & 20L sacks come with a removable single shoulder strap, while the bigger 30L & 40L bags are equipped with backpack style shoulder straps with an additional sternum strap for stability. In addition, each sack has a roll top and buckle closure for air tight enclosing.

In addition to the compression sack, each sack includes a fully waterproof IPX8 rated 6.5-inch phone case, making it an attractive buy.

For its excellent quality, durability and value for money the Earth Pak dry compression sack is our Editor’s choice for best compression sack.
  • PVC plastic construction makes it virtually tear and water proof.
  • Well-designed with single/backpack shoulder straps which can also be removed if desired.
  • Each sack comes with a waterproof 6.5 inch phone carry case.
  • Not ultralight when compared with the Sea to Summit compression sack.

Additional options

If you find packing gear uneconomical and want to consider other ways to organize your gear, then you can look at using zipper bags. These zipper bags are reasonably water resistant and hence help in keeping contents safe from moisture.

Some of the best options available in the market are listed below:

Another smart accessory to use is compactor bag as an additional liner in your backpack to make it more waterproof. Because of their durability, compactor bags are better options than the simple trash bags. The exact size of compactor would depend on your backpack size.

Some of the options to consider are listed below:

HELPFUL TIP: A smartly filled dry or compression sack can make an excellent emergency pillow.

Sizing the Compression Sack

One of the major challenge associated with packing gear, especially compression sacks is picking the right size. While the exact size that you need to pick depends upon how compressible the contents are, you can check the following table for some approximations (Courtesy Granite Gear website). Moreover, if your sleeping bag has a stuff sack, you can pick a compression sack one (or even two) size smaller than the stuff sack of the bag.

VolumeSuitable for
7L-8LStandard fleece, down or rain jacket; Bivy sacks; Down 30 degrees mummy sleeping bag
10L-12LLarge fleece or down jacket; small 1P tent; 2 hammock tarps; Down 15 degrees to 20 degrees or large mummy sleeping bag
15L2 jackets; standard 2P backpacking tarp tent; Down 0 degrees to 10 degrees or large mummy sleeping bag
20-25LLarge 2P backpacking tent with footprint; Synthetic 0 degrees or Down -10 degrees to -20 degrees mummy sleeping bag
30L-35L3P backpacking tents; Synthetic 0 degrees or Down -10 degrees to -20 degrees mummy sleeping bag

You can check here for more information on how you can determine the appropriate size of compression sack for your sleeping bag.

Final thoughts on best packing gear to buy

In this article, we looked at some of the best packing cubes, compression sacks and dry bags available in the market. We looked at how these packing gears can make the task of packing for travel or backpacking easy. These items not only help in organizing stuff, they also help in keeping the gear safe and dry by resisting water. We also looked at some of the factors to consider while selecting the most suitable packing gear for your needs. Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Happy backpacking!!

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