CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Smart Home

Folding, rolling or packing cubes: What's the best way to pack a suitcase?

Three different methods, but which one is best?

Kirsty Lee / EyeEm

When it comes to packing your clothes for a trip, are you all about folding or rolling? Or, perhaps, is your go-to packing method involve haphazardly shoving clothes and shoes into your luggage and sitting on top of your suitcase to make it close?

Despite traveling often, I never gave much thought about how I pack my suitcase. Until now. I put three popular clothes packing methods to the test to see which one uses space the most effectively, minimizes wrinkles and is worth the effort.

The results surprised me.

Chris Parker/CNET

Folding: Most people's default

Folding your clothes feels natural. Assuming you have somewhat organized dresser drawers or closet shelves, most of your clothes are already folded, so it's easy to grab them and plop them in your luggage. Whatever's not already folded can be in a matter of seconds.

The pros:

It's fast and easy, usually requiring little more effort than opening a drawer, grabbing a shirt and putting it in your suitcase.

Folding works well for structured clothes, like dress pants, jeans and button-down shirts. The last two items are usually folded on store shelves and you can easily recreate those folds to minimize wrinkles when packing.

The cons:

You're more likely to get creases in your T-shirts and other thin, soft clothing items by folding them.

It uses space less efficiently, taking up more room in your suitcase and leaving small gaps.

If you stack your folded clothes one on top of the other, it can be hard to get out that shirt you want buried in the middle. You can avoid this by folding and stacking front to back or side to side.

Chris Parker/CNET

Rolling: Compact and versatile

Many people swear by rolling their clothes. It can take extra time, but the payoff is being able to fit more clothes in your suitcase and, in some cases, reduce wrinkles.

The pros:

You can fit more clothes in your suitcase. To test this, I packed the same 16 clothing items -- two dresses, four T-shirts, three button-downs, two sweaters, three pairs of jeans and two pairs of pants -- in the same suitcase, once folded and once rolled. The folded clothes suitcase was nearly full, while there was room for at least three more items in the rolled clothes suitcase.

You can see your clothes more easily, because they aren't stacked on top of each other. This is particularly useful when you're staying somewhere that you can't unpack your clothes.

The cons:

Rolling is great for T-shirts, pants, casual dresses, swimsuits, and pajamas, but not so good for bulky clothes, like sweaters. They can take up more space when rolled versus folded.

It's harder to roll button-up shirts, and rolling is more likely to cause creases in them because the fabric gets bunched up as it rolls.

Formal wear, like a gown or suit, also doesn't fare well with rolling.

Chris Parker/CNET

Packing cubes: The organization upgrade

I didn't realize how enthusiastic people are about packing cubes until I started this experiment. Apparently, once you buy a set, you'll never go back.

I didn't quite fall head over heads for them, but I understand their value. Packing cubes help organize your outfits, compress your clothes, and let you isolate dirty clothes from clean ones.

The pros:

They make organizing your clothes and outfits super easy. With a lot of different sizes to choose from, you can use packing cubes in seemingly endless ways to corral your clothes.

Packing cubes let you move things around and find the item you want, without the fear that your clothes will fall out of your bag. That's great when you want to grab a sweater out of your carry-on before a flight and don't want the rest of your clothes to spill out of your bag.

They can compress your clothes, allowing you to bring more with you and giving you more suitcase space.

The con:

Let's be real, you don't need packing cubes. Most sets start at $20 and go up from there, and that's just another added expense. Most people will argue that they pay for themselves quickly, but the truth is that you can get by without them using the two methods above.

Now playing: Watch this: What's the best way to pack your clothes? 3 methods,...
1:54

OK, so what's the best way to pack my clothes?

A mix of all three! Before this experiment I was firmly on Team Folded. Now, I'm a convert. By combining folding, rolling and using packing cubes, you get the best of all worlds.

  • Folding button-downs, jeans, formal dresses and dress pants allows you to prevent wrinkles.
  • Rolling the rest of your clothes helps you make the most of the gaps in your suitcase that folding can leave. Plus, it lets you pack more.
  • Packing cubes help you stay organized, and you can use either method above to prep your clothes before putting them in a cube. I found that rolled clothes in a packing cube seems to take up the least amount of suitcase space.

Check out CNET's best travel hacks, from finding cheap flights to keeping your house safe while you're away.

CNET's Guide to Smart Living is a destination for tips, tricks and guides that make your life smarter.