How To Use Packing Cubes + [Tried and Tested] Reviews

Travel has become more complicated today. Numerous airlines have placed restrictions on the number of luggage pieces a single traveler can check and take aboard a plane, as well as size and weight limitations for each piece of luggage.

This has put a lot of pressure on travelers to pack lighter and simpler, often making difficult choices to pack what is wanted versus what is needed.

Today, you can no longer borrow your father’s suitcase he brought with him on his honeymoon 30 years ago. Excessive fees and limitations placed on luggage will deter travelers from bringing that heavy, bulky suitcase.

In a day and age when travelers are forced to be more conservative with space as well as how much luggage they can take with them on their trips, travelers must now get a little creative and crafty in how they pack.

One innovative solution for packing is using packing cubes to help travelers organize their items while also conserve space. Packing cubes are small, ultra lightweight bags of various shapes and sizes that are the perfect selection for your traveling and packing needs.

Packing cubes allow travelers to pack more while also taking up less space in your luggage without sacrificing organization or damaging any items.

Read on to learn more about why using packing cubes are so important, some alternative products to packing cubes, how to effectively use packing cubes and other aides in creative ways, and our recommendations for the best brands and packing cube systems available to help make selecting your choice a bit easier.

Our Highest Recommendation

Bago Packing Cubes 4pcs Value Set for Travel
2383 Reviews
Bago Packing Cubes 4pcs Value Set for Travel

  • 6 additional organizer plastic zip bags for even more complete & beneficial organization.
  • Pack according to travel destinations, weather or events.
  • Save time and stress finding items and packing your luggage especially when you have a plane to catch.
  • Just put the cubes inside the closet and drawers and avoid the clutter.
  • Packed in a Documents Protector Plastic Bag and Travel e-Guides with each purchase.

Why Use Packing Cubes

Is there anything worse than that bottle of lotion bursting and getting all over your other items - even your clothes? By using one small packing cube for all of your toiletries, medications, and toothbrush, and a larger, separate packing cube for all of your clothing, you can avoid this small disaster from happening.

Many travelers have used plastic Zip-lock bags to separate their items, such as toiletries and medications. However, packing cubes were born based on this idea, but they are more durable, practical, and even come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors for travel needs.

Packing cubes also have mesh windows in order to help travelers easily see the times that are packed inside.

Types of Packing Cubes

Packing cubes can come in various products, such as packing cubes, packing folders, and compression sacks. Each type of packing product has various similarities and differences, and even benefits and drawbacks. Here we will review each kind.

Pro Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are ultra lightweight and durable, making them the ultimate packing solution. They are made with durable Rip-Stop Nylon as well as pull zippers and reinforced seams.

Packing cubes are designed to compress, organize, and pack clothing as well as other items. They fit perfectly into most carry-on suitcases, tote bags, backpacks and even duffel bags. Packing cubes are also machine washable.

Although packing cubes are durable, the pull zippers can break or become difficult to use over time. In some instances they can also snag the fabric causing rips or tears.

Packing Folders

Packing folders are a great option if you need to pack dress shirts or other formal clothing and are also extremely pressed for space. Packing folders are in the shape of a folder, and are thinner than packing cubes.

Packing folders are a great option for keeping ironed shirts and slacks looking sharp. These packing folders are slim enough to fit in any carry-on bag or other small piece of luggage without consuming a ton of space. Travel wrinkle-free with packing folders.

One drawback to packing folders is although they are slim and designed as space-savers, the number of shirts, slacks or other types of formal clothing that can fit in a single folder can depend on the size of the individual.

For example, a man with a small torso size can likely fit more neatly pressed shirts in a single folder than a man with a larger torso.

Compression Sacks

A compression sack won’t help you save room in your suitcase, but it will allow you to pack multiple items in a single sack that is strong and durable for any trip or adventure.

For example, a compression sack can be used to store a sleeping bag or compress clothing in order to save the available space in your backpack. A compression sack is made with 100% water-resistant nylon, and also comes equipped with four vertical compression straps with quick-release buckles.

Although the compression sack is a great option for storing large items in a small space by packing them down, it is not the solution for traveling with clothing that you don’t want to wrinkle. The compression sack is ideal for camping trips or other outdoor adventures.

How To Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes will change the way you travel. In fact, many happy customers who have used packing cubes have claimed they will never go anywhere without packing cubes again.

Many travelers have even mastered the use of packing cubes to a whole new level.In this section, we will share some tips on how to creatively use packing cubes to maximize space and organization.

Packing Cube Planning

The first step to using packing cubes is to plan on what goes in each cube and how each cube fits in your luggage.

For example, for travelers who are traveling to unknown climates or areas with inconsistent or spontaneous changes in weather conditions, packing cubes can come in handy.

Smaller packing cubes can be used for lighter clothing, such as shorts, tank tops, and so on, and the larger packing cubes can be reserved for sweaters, jackets, sweatpants, and so on.

This approach alone will likely surprise you as to how much space you can save in your luggage. In fact, when used creatively, packing cubes can allow travelers to travel carry-on only!

Rolling Instead of Folding

One way to maximize the space in your packing cubes is to roll clothing rather folding. This can work for T-shirts, underwear, socks, and lighter clothing, and is a great idea to try to do for any clothing that doesn’t have to be ironed or that you don’t care about getting a little wrinkled.

Compression cubes are also a great solution for packing clothing that doesn’t have to be ironed or clothing that is wrinkle-free.

Once your packing cubes are packed, you can then stack them and fit them in a suitcase or carry-on. This is another great method to help you go carry-on only!

Zip It

One of the most attractive features of using packing cubes is that they come with zippers, which are relatively durable. Zippers can allow you to stuff as many items in one cube that you can essentially zipper shut.

Of course you want to avoid overstuffing, as this can take up more space than desired once the cubes are stacked on top of one another, however, you should roll and stuff as much clothing as reasonably possible in a cube and then zip it!

If you have finished packing your clothing in the cubes, and have a little space to spare, then fill the remaining space with smaller items, such as tank tops, socks or underwear.

Each packing cube has a mesh window so you can easily see which items are packed in which cube for maximum accessibility.

Here is a quick guide to using a packing cube, and how to maximize the space within each sized cube:

Full Cube

  • Pants, jeans, sweatpants
  • Sweaters, sweatshirts, and other heavy tops
  • Dresses

Half Cube

  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Shorts
  • Work-out clothing
  • Women’s underwear and intimate wear
  • Skirts
  • Socks

Quarter Cub

  • Toiletries or other medicine cabinet items that won’t get damaged or spill during travel
  • Belts and hair accessories
  • Bathing suits
  • Electronics

Not only are packing cubes a great investment themselves, they are also a highly effective in helping travelers organize their items and maximize space. Packing cubes avoid lost or damaged items during travel.

After packing all of your clothing and items into the right sized packing cubes, your items will remain right where you left them once you reach your destination.

Now that you know how to use packing cubes, and how to get the more value for your money, we are going to provide you with some recommendations on what we think are the best types of packing cubes out there.

Packing Cube System Recommendations

Packing cubes are the great choice for travelers who want to save space, pack in a more organized fashion, cut down on luggage weight or to just travel more simply.

Whether you want to be able to find the exact item you are looking for or to avoid paying exorbitant fees for heavy luggage, packing cubes are a dream come true.

Furthermore, packing cubes avoid losing items at the bottom of your suitcase - those items that aren’t reclaimed until weeks or months later when you are packing for your next trip.

By using packing cubes, everything has a designated place, and you will be able to find exactly what you are looking for without rummaging endlessly through your suitcase to find it.So which is the best option - packing cubes, packing folders or packing organizers?

Packing cubes take the cake on this one, however, ultimately the choice is up to the traveler. So which packing cube systems are the best? Here we have compiled a list of our top recommendations.

At Glance

Bago Packing Cubes

4 Pcs Set

6 Addnl Organizers

  • Saves Time
  • Protect Clothes
  • Tidy Packing
  • 100% Guarantee
Buy From Amazon

Shacke Pak Cubes

4 Pcs Set

Extra Large To Small

  • Laundry Bag
  • Avail 8 Colors
  • Water Resistant
  • YKK Zippers
Buy From Amazon

eBags Packing Cubes

3 Pcs Set

#1  Travel Accessory

  • 10 Fun Colors
  • Reinforced Zips
  • Double Duty
  • Mesh Tops
Buy From Amazon

TravelWise Cubes

5 Pcs Set

Weekender Plus Set

  • Nylon Fabric
  • Large To Small
  • Lightweight
  • MB Guarantee
Buy From Amazon

Bago Packing Cubes

Bago Packing Cubes 4pcs Value Set for Travel
2383 Reviews
Bago Packing Cubes 4pcs Value Set for Travel

  • 6 additional organizer plastic zip bags for even more complete & beneficial organization.
  • Pack according to travel destinations, weather or events.
  • Save time and stress finding items and packing your luggage especially when you have a plane to catch.
  • Just put the cubes inside the closet and drawers and avoid the clutter.
  • Packed in a Documents Protector Plastic Bag and Travel e-Guides with each purchase.

This value set of travel packing cubes are our top choice for the best kind of packing cubes out there. This awesome packing cube system comes with two medium cubes and two large cubes in the same color.

This system also comes equipped with six additional organizer plastic zip bags for even more complete organization. The larger cubes are large enough to fit heavier clothing, such as jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts and sweatpants, and even help keep that suit wrinkle-free and clean.


The Bago Packing cubes are a great packing aide that can help travelers pack what they need, regardless of travel destination, weather conditions or climate. The Bago packing cubes are ultra lightweight and can hold it all!

They are also guaranteed to protect your clothing and luggage from stains, wrinkles and damages during travel. The cubes are also made with durable rip-stop nylon material that tucks your clothes safely inside.

Bago Packing cubes are quick and easy to pack and are convenient for locating specific items during travel, especially if used as a carry-on. Bago Packing cubes also come in a wide range of bright color options.


Some users believe that packing cubes are nothing more than an organizational tool used while packing. Some users also believe that stacking packing cubes in a suitcase only takes up more room rather than saving space.

However, the majority of users have made packing cubes work for them successfully. It’s all about making packing cubes fit in any piece of luggage. This might mean doing some rearranging in order to get them to fit just right.

Another tip for successful use is to use the packing cubes for larger items that require protection and organization, such as your jeans right down to that bottle of lotion.


Bago Packing cubes come with four packing cubes - in two different sizes - and six organizer bags, all for $25 on Amazon - making it one of the best deals.

Travelers get a lot for this great price, and even save money on extra luggage fees and weight restrictions at airports. Bago Packing cubes are the number one choice for quality, quantity, variety, effectiveness and value.

Shacke Pak Travel Organizers

Shacke Pak - 4 Set Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers with Laundry Bag
3921 Reviews
Shacke Pak - 4 Set Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers with Laundry Bag

  • Made From High Quality Water Resistant Nylon Material.
  • 4 Packing Cubes – Extra Large, Large, Medium, and Small.
  • Creates a Reinforced Lid to Hold Your Clothes in Place and Prevents the Bag Material in the Middle to Fold Upwards.
  • 4 inch Deep Design Allows You to Fit All The Clothes You Need into Our Bags.
  • Laundry Bag Included to Help Separate your Dirty Clothes At The End of The Trip.

The Shacke Pak travel packing cube system helps make packing everything you want in a snap. This packing cube system makes it easy to store and and organize clothing and all of your other items easily and neatly, which is the perfect option if you need to pack a suit, dress or other formal clothing.

Clothing stays wrinkle free and other items stay put throughout travel. This system also comes with a laundry bag to separate dirty laundry from clean laundry.


Shacke Pak is made with high-quality durable and water resistant nylon. Each packing cube is four inches deep, giving travelers sufficient space to pack more clothing.

This packing cube system comes with an extra large cube, one large cube, a medium cube and a small cube, and mesh windows for easy viewing of the items inside each cube and compartment.


One of the disadvantages to the Shacke Pak travel packing cube system is that there aren’t many color options available. These packing cubes come in only two standard colors: black and navy blue. This might work just fine for the male buyer, however, some women may want more feminine packing cubes.

Another disadvantage is although the cubes themselves are relatively lightweight, once the larger cubes are filled, they are heavier than some of the other products and brands.

Although they are still a great option for saving space, they might not be the best option if the goal is to reduce luggage weight.

Additionally, the Shacke Pak packing cube system comes with one less cube than what we already saw with the Bago packing cube system. Although sometimes less is more - especially when traveling - getting the most for your money is likely one of our top priorities.


All in all, the Shacke Pak travel organizer system is still a great find. This packing cube brand costs approximately $30 on Amazon.

eBags Packing Cubes help keep everything contained in your luggage - right where you put it - while also maximizing the space in your luggage. eBags packing cube system makes packing and unpacking easier than ever.

eBags Packing Cubes

eBags Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
2502 Reviews
eBags Packing Cubes - 3pc Set

  • Techlite Diamond Nylon.
  • Zipper closure.
  • Guaranteed for life under the eBags Lifetime Warranty.
  • Includes premium YKK zippers with corded pulls for a lifetime of opening and closing.
  • Highest construction standards utilized and interior seams fully finished for durability.

eBags Packing Cubes help keep everything contained in your luggage - right where you put it - while also maximizing the space in your luggage. eBags packing cube system makes packing and unpacking easier than ever.


eBags packing cubes are designed with premium YKK zippers, with are the best quality zippers in the industry, breathable nylon and mesh compartments and fabric bound interior seams.

No matter what you pack into an eBag packing cube, you will find a space for it. eBags packing cubes are also great for packing in drawers, even while you are at home!


One disadvantage to the eBags packing cube system is that the dimensions are a little deceiving. Although the eBags packing system comes with three packing cube bags, as we have seen with other products and brands, the three bags are a bit smaller than the others, which might be a deal-breaker for travelers who are looking for packing cubes at the right size in order to maximize space.


In summary, the eBags packing cube system is still a great quality product at a great price, even if they are a bit smaller than when compared with other packing cube systems. The eBags packing cube system is available on Amazon for approximately $26.

TravelWise Packing Cube System

TravelWise Packing Cube System - 5pc Set
760 Reviews
TravelWise Packing Cube System - 5pc Set

  • 5 Piece Weekender Plus Packing Cube Set (1 Small, 2 Medium and 2 Large Cubes) .
  • Zipper closure.
  • Constructed of high-quality nylon fabric.
  • Open mesh design makes it easy to locate items.
  • Clothes no longer shift in transit! Clothes stay neat and tidy in their own small drawers.

Finally, our last item on the recommendation list is the TravelWise Packing Cube System. This packing cube system comes with one mall cube, two medium cubes, and two large cubes.

The five-piece packing cube system is made from high-quality, ultra lightweight nylon. The This system also comes equipped with two easy-to-pull zippers, and even an open mesh pockets and compartments that makes finding items easier.


The various compartments also provide optimum interior luggage space, saving room for other items as necessary. Additionally, by having neat compartments for each item or article of clothing, everything stays neat and organization and will not shift during travel.


Although the TravelWise packing cube system comes with four cubes total, the overall quality of these bags seem to be the lowest when compared with the other products and brands we have reviewed.

Many consumers have thought these to be of cheap quality. Although this system claims to be manufactured with high-quality nylon, many consumers still found that their bags ripped or fell apart after only a short time.

In several instances, the pull zippers fell off or broke off, leaving the packing cubes almost useless.


Finally, this system is still a great option when researching various packing cube systems for your next travel experience, especially if you are on a budget! The TravelWise system also comes in a variety of color options, appealing to any personality, gender or style preferences. You can find this packing cube brand on Amazon for approximately $26.

Never Travel Without Packing Cubes Again!

When it comes time to pack for your next trip or adventure, choose the packing cubes, packing folder organizers, or compression sacks that work best for you and your travel destination.

We don’t recommend buying each type; rather, we simply provide this as a guide to aid you in your decision. This might mean trying two different kinds of packing tools that intrigue you the most and determine if they’re the right “fit” for you.

Traveling can be fun and exciting but it can also be stressful and challenging, especially when you need to pack your life in a time crunch - and in a tight space. In fact, not properly packing for your trip can lead to frustration, disappointment or even misery.

This often means making important choices in what to bring with you on your trip, which could mean making the choice between packing an extra book to read or another pair of shoes.

By using packing cubes, you can pack the best of both worlds - packing what you want AND saving space.Enjoy everything about your trip - even if it’s for business rather than leisure - as much as possible by making your packing experience as easy as possible.

The next time you are ready to pack for a trip, whether it is for a long weekend or for week-long vacation overseas, you will likely think of packing cubes to make packing a snap - and in less time.

Keen UNEEK Corded Sandal Shoes

Keen Uneek review

In the footwear world, there are hundreds of “me too” styles for every one that’s truly innovative. A little tweak here, a little change there, but not much that’s really unique. Then something comes along that’s so different they have to call it…UNEEK.

Are these shoes? Are they sandals? Are they just a few pieces of rubber and cloth held together by string?

Well all of that really. Keen has created a class of “open air footwear” that’s unlike anything out there in the marketplace. These shoes are primarily made from two strands of tough paracord woven through the top upper, heel part, and sole. The result is a shoe that totally conforms to your foot, even if your left foot isn’t quite the mirror image of your right foot. That’s because instead of a fixed amount of fabric or leather needing to wrap around what you stick inside, the UNEEK expands or contracts to fit you perfectly.

If your feet are wide, loosen the lacing and you’ll get more cord to work with. If your feet are narrow, pull in the cord with the cinch clasp. Unlike with traditional lacing systems—or even BOA—this one will adjust all the way around your foot. That’s because it’s not a shoe with laces. The whole shoe itself is made of laces!

UNEEK shoes

These are naturally very cool to wear with all that air moving through, but they look more put-together than a pair of water sandals with toes, rubber, and velcro sticking out everywhere. They’ve got the shape of a shoe, but could still work for water activities. You might want to avoid trying to take them on a hike though where there’s any underbrush: there are lots of places for it to snag.

The UNEEK cord is tough though, so no fears of it easily snapping or unraveling. It’s got a nylon cord center with a braided polyester wrapping. The cushy midsole with a microfiber cover conforms to your feet and feels terrific, but it and the rubber sole with great traction are surprisingly lightweight. These are easy shoes to pack because the smash down flat and don’t add much in the way of weight.

I have to admit these seemed kind of gimmicky when I first saw a prototype a year ago, but as soon as I put them on I loved them and they’ve become my “by the door” shoes and the first ones to go into my suitcase this summer.

The ones I’ve been trying out are the “Gargoyle/True Blue” color pictured above, which goes great with shorts or jeans. The UNEEK shoes also come in a variety of other subdued and wild colors, at a list price of a hundred bucks. See more info at the Keen website and buy from there, Moosejaw, or Zappos. Go a half size up from what you normally wear as they run a tad small. There’s also a women’s version.

Lighted Getaway Toiletry Bag From Grand Trunk

Take the frequent traveler favorite, the hanging toiletry kit, then make one little change that has a huge impact. That’s the story with this new Getaway toiletry bag with a built-in light and mirror from Grand Trunk.

Grand Trunk GetawayWe can argue all day about what’s essential and what’s not when you’re packing light, but almost everyone has to have some kind of toiletry kit along on each trip. If you’re the bare bones type it might just contain five or six items. For a beauty queen maybe 30. For anywhere on the spectrum though you need to keep these things together and organized. Then the smaller the counter space, the more essential it is to have something that will hang.

So we keep coming back to this kind of item, reviewing ones in the past from Eagle Creek, Sea to Summit, Innate, and others. All of them have their pros and cons, but none has a pro like this: 4 LED bulbs that sit next to a mirror.

Whether you’re in a cheap hotel with a dim bulb, on a train, or camping off the grid, having this light source can make a huge difference when it’s dark. If you’re trying to put on make-up, these bulbs could mean the difference in looking gorgeous or looking like a Halloween witch.

Setting this kit up requires some prep work. You have to actually look at the instructions for how to insert the batteries as it’s not real intuitive. They’re the coin-type batteries so they lie flat, but if you keep the light turned off when you’re not using it, they should last a long time. LED bulbs use very little power.

You’ll also find a thin plastic film over the mirror that was protecting it during shipping. So remove that before thinking your eyes are going bad or you got a bad mirror.

travel toiletry kitThe kit itself comes in two sizes. I went for the small one since, well, I’m a guy. All my things fit in the various pockets just fine, with room to spare. There’s a nice assortment: a large pocket that’s sealed and has a viewing window, one meant to hold a toothbrush and toothpaste, a small outside one that can hold flat things like a nail clipper, then one more pocket for whatever else. It’s more like a folder than a spacious kit that’ll hold a drawer full of things, so go for the larger 10-inch by 21-inch one if you need a lot of space.

The strap that goes around this kit and closes it by hooking into a loop also works to hang it from all kinds of different hooks and rods. It’s sturdy and well-designed. There’s also heavy-duty Velcro to keep it all closed tight. Plus the mirror is secured with Velcro too and can be removed.

This medium size (7-inch by 10-inch) lists for $80 on the Grand Trunk site and you might have to pay that if you buy it at Nordstrom. On sites like Amazon and Moosejaw though, you might find it priced for less.

Hi-tec Altitude Lite 1 Waterproof Hiking Boots

altitude waterproof hiking
In the title I call these “boots,” but that word certainly doesn’t conjure up an accurate image of the lightweight Altitude Lite Waterproof footwear from Hi-Tec. These may be the lightest over-the-ankle shoes/boots I’ve ever strapped on for a hike: they weigh in at just a shade more than a pound each, which is in line with a lot of low-rise regular walking shoes.

Like many Hi-tec products, the Altitude Lite models are primarily a value play. If you want a lot of features in a boot that costs less than $100, this is your brand. It’s pretty tough to find a breathable waterproof hiking boot with a serious lace system and tread with real lugs for two digits, but these list for $90 and you can probably find them for less at the links at the end of this review.

Naturally there are some compromises when you pay half price, and I’ll go into those in a minute. But in my tests their proprietary I-Shield waterproofing solution worked very well. At one point I was walking up stairs that had turned into a waterfall. There’s is a nanotech coating system rather than a membrane system, but it gets the job done and my sweaty feet still evaporated okay during a warm hike.

Hi-tec altitude bootThe lacing system worked well for me and I was able to get a good, supportive fit. The gusseted tongue is comfortable and the mix of suede and synthetic uppers feels supportive enough for predictable trails. You can take these slogging through mud and streams and they’ll be fine. They come with built-in anti-odor protection as well.

Naturally with such a light hiker, you probably aren’t going to choose these if you’re carrying a huge pack over lots of rocks. Which also brings us to those compromises. You probably also don’t want to use these if you’ll be going over a lot of boulders in the rain or through creekbeds with lots of algae-covered rocks. The soles on these performed well in dry conditions, but I couldn’t trust them on slick surfaces when they got wet. They just don’t have the grip you would get from Vibram or other high-end rubber composites.

They fit well out of the box and don’t take long to break in, but you’ll probably want to replace the insole after a few weeks. That was definitely one of the shortcuts to get the list price down, as it often is, so pull both insoles out and replace them with something more durable that has heftier cushioning and support.

The Hi-Tec Altitude Lite Waterproof hiking boots do have a one-year guarantee though, as well as a 60-day “comfort guarantee.” Overall these are a great value and they come in wide sizes—something that is woefully rare even in brands with list prices topping $150. See more info at the company website and pick up your pair at Zappos, Amazon, or

There’s also a women’s version for the same price and a kids’ version for $65.

Craghoppers Simba Travel Pants With NosiLife

Simba travel trousersLooking for some good men’s travel pants that aren’t all baggy and shapeless? These fitted Simba Nosilife Trousers from Craghoppers give you all the right features, but with a low-profile look that doesn’t broadcast the fact you’re living out of a suitcase or backpack.

We’ve reviewed other Craghoppers trousers in the past and really liked them. The last round was the Kiwi Pro Stretch version, which still comes on a lot of trips with me. These Simba ones are built rugged rather than soft, with lightweight but strong “Polyamide” synthetic fabric that is designed to be resistant to abrasion, water, and stains. This means the pants are slightly swishy when you walk, but when I was wearing them in a light drizzle the water beaded up on them and my legs stayed dry. When I’ve washed them and hung them from the drying loop, they only took a few hours to dry.

What sets these apart, however, is the tailoring. They’re not for fat guys—take that warning up front. These are meant for guys who look okay in skinny jeans and are either blessed with high metabolism or are exercising regularly.

Despite the slim profile, you get lots of well-designed pockets in these Simba pants. There are two on the back and one has a button. Two on the front have mesh inside, which lets some heat escape, then inside the right one is a secure pocket with a zipper. On the right leg are two narrower open pockets for items like a knife or multi-tool. Although I’ve never gotten sunburned through a pair of pants, these do have Solar Shield rated to UPF40.

Simba travel pantsI’ve never worn out any Craghoppers item and I’m expecting the same durability with these. You can easily recognize the loops and double-stitching that are a hallmark of this brand. There are also some nice touches that separate quality pants from the run-of-the-mill, like a gusseted crotch, microfiber around the waist band, and heel tape to keep them from fraying at the bottom cuffs.

The online listing of these has NosiLife in the name, but mine had an InsectShield tab. Which as I understand it means there’s Insect Shield protection built in, but the NosiLife designation means it’s integrated at the thread level and is supposed to last forever.

These come in the two colors pictured here, in regular and long, with sizes that only go up to a 42 waist. (They’re trying to give you a hint.) Overall, these are great all-around travel pants that won’t look unusual when it’s time to go from travel mode to going out mode. They’ll transition fine from trail to tavern, from bike to bar.

See more at the Craghoppers site and order direct for $70 or get the Simba Trousers at Amazon USA or Amazon UK.


Stretchy, Insect-Repellent NosiLife Berko Shirt From Craghoppers

Craghoppers Nosilife BerkoWant a travel shirt that moves when you do but looks fitted when you hit the pub at the end of the day? One that will keep the mosquitoes at bay when you’re setting up a tent or chilling out in the courtyard of that tropical guesthouse? This Craghoppers Berko shirt treated with NosiLife is a great all-around traveler that does it all—if you’ve got a slim build. There’s a long-sleeve version and a short-sleeve one.

Berko shirt reviewThis is a stretchy shirt that is fitted rather than billowy, meant to have plenty of give when you’re hiking the trail or commuting on a bike. It’s also ready for summer in the backcountry, with its NosiLife insect repellent treatment. The various built-in repellent clothing we’ve tried that uses competing InsectShield is supposed to be good for 70 washings or so—more than most people are going to get to—but NosiLife is woven into the fibers and is supposed to stay effective indefinitely. This is a tough thing to test without a laboratory, so I’ll take their word for it until I hear otherwise.

Like most good travel shirts, the long-sleeve version of this one has a way to turn it into a short-sleeve one. There’s a fabric tab with a snap built into the inside of the sleeve, then a loop on the outside for hooking it. So I’d go with the long-sleeve version if you’re going to be in, say, Belize during rainy season, because then you can let the sleeves down when the bugs come out at dusk. The shirt is cool and wicks well, plus it dries quickly after washing.

built-in lens cleanerThere are a lot of handy features built into this Berko shirt and one I’ve been especially enjoying is the microfiber lens cleaner sewn into the hem at the bottom front. This is great for a quick camera lens wipe or cleaning your sunglasses without having to dig around in your pack for a cloth. There’s also microfiber on the collar to make that more comfortable and two snap tabs on the inside for hanging the shirt to dry on a clothesline or small branch. The collar has another loop. A flat seam zipper pocket on the front is big enough for most smart phones or sunglasses.

I really like this shirt, but as I hinted at the beginning, it is sized for skinny guys. Not “fit” or “in shape” guys—skinny guys. The kind who are telling you in a British accent why they first became a vegan back in ’05. So go up one size for sure if you’re muscular and maybe skip this one altogether if you’ve got a gut. I normally wear a medium with ease but the first time I put this over my not-so-pumped 38-inch chest, my wife said, “Nice shirt, but is that a small?” No, just European.

Get the Craghoppers Berko in the long-sleeve version at Moosejaw or Amazon for $95 or less, or the short-sleeve version for $85 at retail stores that carry the brand or direct from Craghoppers. If you’re in Europe, it’s more widely available.

Best All Round Shoes: Lowa San Francisco Gore Tex Shoes

Lowa San Francisco reviewIf you want some great all-around travel shoes that will let your hot feet truly breathe, put on some San Francisco ones from Lowa.

In an earlier review I raved about the new Gore-tex Surround technology just now going into shoes that have rolled out this year and I’ve been trying out another pair with this integrated: the Lowa San Francisco model.

Lowa Men's San Francisco GTX
  • Leather.
  • Imported.
  • Surround Footwear Technology.
  • 360-degree waterproofing.
  • Offers excellent grip on both the sidewalk and the trail.

The best test for me of whether I really like a pair of shoes or not is whether they stay by the front door in my house and go in my suitcase when I travel. These have been my most-worn shoes ever since I unboxed them, so it’s safe to say they’ve made that cut.

We’ve long been fans of Lowa footwear here, despite the high European-design price tag, because they usually hit all the right notes in terms of durability, looks, and comfort. This model takes it a step further with the Gore-tex Surround technology, which is a real game-changer for the industry.

How it works with these shoes is that there’s a Gore membrane under the foot, then ventilation under that so hot sweaty moisture can escape out the bottom instead of being trapped under the sole of your feet like it is in standard shoes.

Yet because of that waterproof membrane, no water is going to get in going the other direction. So you can be splashing through puddles or rock-hopping over a stream and not have to worry that water will seep in.

It sounds a little gimmicky, but after trying it out on two different brands of shoes now, I can say the design really works and my feet have stayed drier and cooler in these than in any closed shoes I’ve ever worn.

I never got the feeling I had to kick off my shoes in order to let my feet air out.

Lowa Gore-tex SurroundThe only drawback is that with this particular model having all that open ventilation underneath, it’s better for some kinds of travel than others. City walking and dirt trails are fine.

Lowa San Francisco GTX LO Mens
1 Reviews
Lowa San Francisco GTX LO Mens
  • Gore-Tex.
  • Synthetic sole.
  • Outer Material: Textile, Leather.
  • Sole: TPU.
  • Closure: Lace-Up.

But I made the mistake of taking these to a beach and the mesh underneath got filled with a thousand grains of sand. Most of that sand came out eventually after I hit them together a few times, but you’ll definitely be tracking sand and pebbles into where you’re staying if you’re in the wrong environment for this sole.

Not a huge drawback, just an annoyance, but one to consider. Wet streets  and hot sidewalks are where these are at their best.

Otherwise, these San Francisco shoes have varied ventilation holes (backed by Gore-tex) all over the Nubuck leather upper, a comfortable tongue that keeps the shoelaces in place, and cushioning around the ankle.

The insole and midsole are both well-designed for comfort and built to last. These weigh 12 ounces and aren’t clunky, so they’re easy to pack for your urban travels. They look stylish enough to go from sightseeing to happy hour too.

These being Lowa shoes and having the latest Gore-tex tech, they’re on the pricey side at $225. So if you’re on a starving artist budget you might want to go elsewhere.

If you’ve got the money to invest in quality and the best in breathable foot comfort though, head to San Francisco and pick out your favorite color combination. See more info at the Lowa site and for now buy them online at Zappos (more availability should be coming soon).

Cushe Mellow Getaway Shoes for Chilled-out Travel

Put “Mellow,” “Getaway,” and “Cushe” (pronounced CUSH-ee) together in the name of a shoe and that’s gotta be something worth packing, right?

Cushe Mellow

Indeed it is, and I’ve been putting this pair of Getaway shoes in my bag for each getaway.

Often in my travels I need to have hiking shoes and/or something good for pounding the pavement, or maybe a pair of water shoes for something wetter. Flip-flops and sandals are good to have for beach trips. But all of those look pretty goofy when it’s time to put on a collared shirt and a pair of decent pants to look respectable for dinner. I’m not going to bring along a stupid pair of dress shoes though just for the nighttime.

That’s where casual travel shoes like my various Cushe ones come in. They’re comfortable and can hold up for a reasonably long walk, but they don’t look clunky or slobby with a pair of slacks. Most of the ones I’ve reviewed before have been loafers, but I’m digging the look of these lace-up ones.

Cushe Getaway shoesThey pack down quite flat as well, which has been quite handy on two recent trips where I needed to travel with a carry-on. I actually wore my clunky shoes and packed these and some flip-flops in the carry-on. All set for a week of fun. I’m on my way to Peru as this review comes out and need to stuff everything into a backpack for my Lares Adventure trip. There will be some nice meals in the mix though, so I’ll have my Getaway shoes to put on at night. They’ll be good “recovery shoes” too when I shed the hiking boots after miles up and down Andes Mountains in the Sacred Valley.

You can be subtle or wild with this model as the shoes come in seven different color combinations. All of them would look great with jeans, but I like the ones I have (pictured at the right) rather than the camo ones or the pair with lots of orange accents. Your tastes may be different. Click one of the links below to see the options and note that you get two pairs of shoelaces to pick from. Some have a cloth chambray upper besides the suede, others have mesh.

There’s not a lot to discuss in terms of features, but I have been quite happy with the memory foam insole that really conforms to my feet and stays comfortable for long stretches.

See more info on the Mellow Getaway at the Cushe website or buy these online at Orvis, Amazon, or Planet Shoes for $75 or less.

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Organized Travel With Pro Packing Cubes

Pro packing cubes

Want some heavy-duty, long-lasting packing cubes that are also lightweight? For frequent travelers, these Pro Packing Cubes are built to last you a hundred trips or more.

I swing both ways when it comes to packing cubes, but the people who love using them really love them. If you shop at The Container Store or keep a clean desk, you’re probably the type that will go crazy for them if you haven’t already. And there are a lot of you: for years our most popular post has usually been on the pros and cons of packing cubes. The idea is, you group your clothes together so everything is easy to find and if you’re changing hotels a lot, you can unpack and pack a lot faster.

I’ve tried a lot of different ones and like these a lot for several reasons. As I mentioned, they feel really tough and built to last, like I could abuse them over and over and they won’t fail me. They’ve got tough nylon fabric that won’t rip and well-made zippers that never catch. They’re whisper light though, so you won’t have to worry that they’ll add anything to the weight of what you’re packing.

tough packing cubes

The other thing I really like is that they have handles on the top to grab them and move them from your suitcase to a hotel room drawer. This may add a few grams, but it’s a feature I didn’t realize I wanted until I had it. Now when I use cubes that don’t have a handle, I miss these and want to go back to them.

These come in four-packs that will keep your whole wardrobe organized. The smallest size is meant for cords and small gadgets, while the other three will easily fit in a carry on when packed full. They’re fabric on one side, mesh on the other so if anything is damp it won’t get mildewed and musty. Then the handle goes over the mesh part for each one. The zippers have pulls on them, a nice touch, and the mesh is as strong as the fabric. These come with a lifetime guarantee, which shows strong confidence in the durability.

These come if five different colors, subtle or easy to find like the ones pictured here. They list for $60 for four, but at the moment they’re a shade more than $35 on Amazon. There’s also a five-pack for around the same price, in four colors. See more on the Pro Packing Cubes site.

Ecco O2 Shoes With Gore-Tex Surround

Ecco 02 Gore surround

One of the first entries using an innovative new technology, these Ecco O2 shoes let the heat out from all angles.

There are all kinds of ways for your sweaty feet to breathe, from mesh to wide weaves to waterproof membranes that let heat out but keep rain at bay. There’s always been one problem though: the moisture on the soles of your feet has nowhere to go. Until now…

This new system has a Gore-tex membrane below the insole, then small tubes leading out to venting holes in the side of the shoe. So the top part of your foot can breathe normally through the tiny holes in the upper, but also hot moisture can pass out through the sole to the exterior. You can basically walk through puddles with these and your feet won’t get wet from above or below, yet if your feet get hot and sweaty they’ll expel all that and you’ll stay dry inside.

These O2 ones have perforated soft yak leather for the uppers and it feels supple from the first time you put them on. The supportive midsole has a grippy TPU sole on the bottom that I found to supply good traction while walking on wet flagstones and sidewalks. You get two sets of laces and the shoes are nicely cushioned around the ankle. They’re light enough to be your packed pair of shoes for walking around town on the other end of your vacation flight.

Ecco O2 shoesI’ve gotta say my feet love these shoes more than my eyes do, however. They’re comfortable and are a real step forward in breathability, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly flooded with compliments when I wore the camel colored ones with the salmon colored sole. This combination doesn’t work as well as the Oxfords we’ve reviewed from Wolverine. I would have preferred a black or brown sole that didn’t stick out so much. The mocha and concrete ones come with white soles, which is a bit better but still a little jarring looking to me.

You and your significant other may feel differently though, so I’ll leave it up to you on the styling. See the links below to check out all of them and here’s the women’s version.

The new Ecco O2 shoes just came out and list at a (European-made) $190. See more info at the company website and shop for them online at Amazon, Zappos, or Planet Shoes.

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