The online world of luggage packing tips is an intense and often overwhelming place.
Unexpectedly heated debates rage on about the cost-benefits of “bundle” packing, and passionate soliloquies wax on how to pack light. Some suggestions are surprising: “make your own laundry machine,” “mail your dirty laundry home,” and “wear only disposable undies.” (Yes, really.)
Every member of the massive population of online travel writers seems to have a take on packing, from new bloggers to bigger publications.
At Bluffworks, we think a lot about packing, and design our travel clothes to be lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, machine-washable, and stylish so you don’t need to own a lot – or carry as much when you travel.
But you still have to find a way to get your clothes into your bag (see here for our roundup of best carry-on travel bags). We believe that it really doesn’t need to be so complicated, and you should follow whatever method works best for you.
Our Approach to Packing Clothes
A few basic principles help set a good foundation (read more of our packing strategy in this post) before you even focus on the details about how to physically get your stuff into a bag.
Start with the essentials. A good rule of thumb for a reasonable clothing load (though this is merely a guide – take what works for you): a week away shouldn’t require more than two pairs of shorts or pants, four tops, two pairs of shoes, and a hat. A swimsuit and exercise gear may be needed too.
The right stuff. Pick lightweight travel clothes that resist wrinkles. This can be challenging with nicer outfits and more formal wear, which is why we created the Gramercy Suit – it is designed to pack well, no suit bag needed. (Best to fold the blazer in half or pack flat, if your bag is big enough.)
Use a smaller bag. Just like no one ever eats half an ice cream cone, most people will never pack half a suitcase. (But you also don’t want to pack your bag to the gills.) One way to ensure you won’t bring too much is to limit the physical capacity of what you can take. Bags less than 22 inches on their longest side are generally international carry-on approved.
Reduce. Arrange what you think you’ll need, then cut it down. Way down. If there’s something you’re packing just in case you’ll need it, you don’t need it. You can probably buy it there if it becomes critical, but you also probably won’t have to.
How to Pack Clothes
Once you have the what to pack, it’s time to address the how.
Here’s where controversy lurks. There are several methods to prepare your clothes to go into your bag, and people can have diehard opinions about which way is the right way.
1. Folding Clothes for Travel
This classic method remains most common among travelers. It’s quick, easy, and familiar.
Overall, folding means you won’t have to change much from how you store clothes at home, which may make it easier earlier in the process, but it may not be the most efficient use of space in your bag.
To maximize a bag’s cargo room, folding clothes for travel often means arranging items where they fit most snugly, not in the order of that you may want to access them. That means you’ll have to flip through and basically unpack every time you need something.
Some experts encourage layering folded clothes in order of outfit, from most immediate on top to last outfit on the bottom. Others recommend a “filing” style fold approach (think Marie Kondo), with shirts and pants packed vertically rather than stacked horizontally, which frees up a little more space.
2. Rolling Clothes For Packing
The world of packing information gets so rigorous that military training comes into play. Seriously.
Learning how to apply an Army Ranger shirt fold is a space-saving way to pack (not to mention a satisfying sort of fabric origami). And it does keep shirts compressed and discourages wrinkles.
Essentially the gold standard of rolling, the “Ranger Roll,” involves a precise method of converting your garment into a clean rectangular shape, and then roll it into a tight little burrito.