I bet most of you have heard of packing cubes, and maybe some of you have heard of field pockets. Aren’t they just the same thing? In some ways, they are. But there are a few key differences which is why they are named differently and why GORUCK sells both Packing Cubes and Field Pockets.
First of all, what are packing cubes?
Packing cubes are zippered fabric containers for organizing, separating the items in your bag. They come in a variety of sizes and fabrics and are usually light but durable and some of them, like the GORUCK Packing Cubes, have separate zippered compartments that allow you to separate different types of clothes or between worn and unworn clothing.
Why do you need them?
There are many reasons why seasoned travelers swear by packing cubes.
- Easily pack and unpack items
Instead of packing all of your items into a big space, you are compartmentalizing your bag into the way you want. You can choose a smaller cube for a smaller set of items and a larger cube for a larger set of items. This will prevent things from getting mixed up within the bag when you are on the move, making it a nightmare to locate later on.
- Protect the items
Since your items are encased in an extra layer, they get an extra layer of protection against any abrasion within the bag’s interior material or against other items. Many cubes are also water-resistant, so can protect against an accidental spillage.
- Easily use your rucksack as a day pack
Using packing cubes means that one can easily dump out the cubes and use their backpacks as their day pack. This is especially a well-used technique in the one-bagging community, since they are trying to minimize the amount of things they bring along.
- Save space
You might think that it’ll take up more space, because the packing cubes themselves take up space. But since you are able to compress more items down into the same space using the cubes, you actually take up less space by using packing cubes.
These are just some of the reasons why some travelers love packing cubes and why I personally never travel without them.
How is a field pocket better than a packing cube?
- Better protection
Field pockets come with padding while packing cubes have none. So you would be fine storing an expensive camera in field pockets, while it’s a bad idea to keep anything breakable in just packing cubes.
- More versatile
Field pockets come with molle and can be attached inside and outside the bag. This means you can reduce the space taken up within the bag if need be.
- Organization for small items
Field Pockets are designed to protect your electronics, so they come with slots that can hold smaller items such as your memory cards while packing cubes often just have general dividers.
How is a packing cube better than a field pocket?
Field pockets are made with more durable materials and thick padding, so this naturally adds on weight. Especially for one bag travelers trying to save every ounce to meet the budget airline carry-on weight limit, a packing cube is a better option if you don’t need that amount of protection.
- Stores more
Since packing cubes are meant for clothes they often offer much more space for a lower price. For example, GORUCK’s largest packing cubes are 20 liters while their largest field pockets are 4 liters.
- Lower Cost
Since packing cubes simply need to just hold your items, they are usually cheaper since cost like materials and internal organization can be brought down.
- Takes up less space
A packing cube doesn’t have any in-built padding, therefore takes up less space. While you could technically compress clothes into a field pocket, it’ll take up more space overall compared to not using one because of the padding.
Which should you get?
The answer is pretty dependent on the type of things you pack, and sometimes, the size of the rucksack you have. But in most cases, you need a combination of both types.
You’ll likely need no more than two field pockets for your electronics or things that just need a little more protection. On top of the field pockets, I usually use just two to three packing cubes and it’ll be able to contain everything I need on a trip.
About the Author
Alex Kwa is an avid traveler who believes good travel gear should have both form and function. He writes product reviews on durable and stylish travel goods at alexkwa.com.