Packing systems

Stuff sacks for packing (Photo courtesy of REI)
Stuff sacks for packing

The traveling closet: Packing techniques to keep clothing wrinkles to a minimum

How you choose to organize everything in there is up to personal preference.

Keeping clothes from wrinkling, that's a bit of a challenge. I've tried 'em all, and currently use a carefully tweaked mix of the methods below.

Nylon stuff-sacks

These help keep your jumble of stuff neat and easily accessible inside your bag.

Keep clean clothes in one sack, dirty ones in another, and sundries in a third.

Tip: Roll your clothes to look like so many cotton sausages; they’ll wrinkle less, take up less room, and fit in the stuff-sacks better. 

Soft-sided packing cubes

use the sausage roll method of rolling clothes for this packing system as well.

Interestingly, I find I like my own clothes in the resealable baggies mentioned below, but prefer putting my kids' gear in these little cube-like bags.

Maybe it's just that, since their togs are smaller (also, they have things like bears and ducks on them), it's easier to organize and see them all in these cubes.

(I also use one for my sport sandals when I am on an active trip where I'll need them.)

Compression bags (a.k.a. Massive Ziploc baggies)

OK, so these aren't actually made by Ziploc, and Ziploc is a brand name, but darnit, that's what they look like.

You fold your clothes and slip them inside the big clear plastic baggie in flat layers.

The trick is, there's the regular end of the bag that you seal by squeezing together the two flaps (just like Ziploc), but the opposite end of the bag is lined by a series of one-way valves that let air out.

So once you've sealed the top, you flatten the bag, roll it up tightly, and then sort of lie on top of the thing and wrestle it for a minute to force all the air out of the other end.

The clothes really do compress to half their original total bulk, though this does mean a certain degree of creasing and wrinkling (but you didn't pack wrinkly clothes, now did you?).

An alternative for those who need to keep pants creased and shirts neat(ish) is:

The Eagle Creek Pack-It Folding System (Ripped Off from The Gap)

The best way to carry dressy duds if you don't go the garment bag route (though there is a stripped-down garment bag version of this available).

These folders come in various sizes (20" is the most useful) and are giant cloth envelopes of sorts that fold over from all four sides. You use a sturdy plastic sheet as a guide to fold each shirt and pair of pants (just like a worker at The Gap!).

Layer the crisply folded clothes on the flat bottom panel of the open cloth envelope, then put the plastic sheet on top, fold over the four sides (Velcro fasteners), and viola: you have a rectangular package of clothing.

OK, so it's not totally wrinkle-free, but it is one of the least wrinkly alternatives.

Photo gallery
  • Stuff sacks for packing, Packing systems, General (Photo courtesy of REI)
  • Compression bags for packing, Packing systems, General (Photo courtesy of REI)
  • Folder packing system, Packing systems, General (Photo courtesy of REI)
  • Packing cubes, Packing systems, General (Photo courtesy of REI)
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