Pack-It 18This simple product could change the way I pack, particularly for multi-leg trips. Regular readers know I’m a big proponent of bundle packing – primarily because in my experience it’s the best way I’ve discovered of avoiding wrinkles.  If you’re unfamiliar with bundle packing, check out this old post; it does a good job of illustrating and explaining the method: A minimalist approach to packing for a short business trip

(One thing I should point out:  when packing dress oxford shirts, I only use Joseph A. Bank “Traveler Collection” shirts.  They’re permanent press without looking cheap or funky; in fact, they’re quite nice for business wear.  But my point is:  they travel well.  You might have a completely different experience if you were using the bundle method with 100% cotton dress shirts. )

The bundle method has a major shortcoming, however:  it’s best suited to trips with a single destination. If your journey has several legs, trying to extract exactly what you need from the bundle is difficult if not impossible, and repacking the bundle to travel to your next destination is inconvenient.

Prompted by a few reader comments and reader Till’s thread questioning the value of the bundle method over at the One Bag, One World Forum, I thought I’d give the Eagle Creek Pack-It system a try.

My results thus far are hardly conclusive, but my initial impression is quite favorable.  This shirt was in the Pack-It folder for the entire trip (I never removed it from the folder).  On the way out, my bag (the new MLC. ) was shoved in the upright/vertical position into the overhead on a 737, and on the return it was crammed (literally) into the overhead on a CRJ 70, after which I stuffed a leather jacket on top of it.   In other words, the bag was shoved around and beat up a fair amount.  The shirt had a couple of light vertical creases on its front and back, but frankly could have been worn to a business meeting directly from the Pack-It:

shirt from pack-it

Sorry about the moiré pattern; I need to remember to pack simple solids from now on!  A caveat:  the Pack-It 18 is no lightweight; my scale has its empty weight at 15.06 ounces.  As someone who’s taken some effort reduce the weight of nearly everything I put in my carry-on, that’s not going in the right direction.

In any event, I was pleased with the results. We’ll use it some more and then do a more extensive review with additional photos.  Here’s a very brief video on the Pack-It Folders from the manufacturer:

You can find Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders on the Eagle Creek website, or at Amazon and Magellan’s. The 18″ model will hold 8-12 items and generally sells for a few bucks under $30.

If you’ve used a Pack-It or want to defend bundle packing, please comment!

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to Eagle Creek.  I am a Magellan’s and Jos. A Bank affiliate; this post contains NO affiliate links, however.

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11 Comments on Quick Take: Eagle Creek Pack-It 18

  1. Michael W. says:

    As a weight conscious traveler – and particularly since I face a 15 pound carry-on luggage weight limit on my transpacific flights – my first reaction to a ONE POUND packing accessory is to dismiss it out of hand. Gosh, I’ve gone nuts trying to find the right trade-off between a featured bag and a light bag, and now you want me to spend an entire POUND on a mere packing accessory?

    But I think you have made some good points (and also Till in the comments section on the MLC first take) – that this packing aid may have its place where easier access to clothing items is required (don’t have to unwrap an entire bundle to get to a single item) or where especially wrinkle-free packing is important (business travel).

    Actually one pound is nothing at all…if this were to go into in a checked bag, like a 22″ wheelie. (And I am coming around to being a fan of at least one piece of checked luggage.)

    From that perspective, this meld of a clothing store folding board and rigid wrapper may well be terrific. I know my 22″ Costco wheelie came with a shirt pouch and tri-fold garment “hanger”, and neither was worth a tinker’s dam in terms of keeping my business clothes )or even casual clothes) of that era reasonably wrinkle free. So any improvement in this modern era is certainly worth taking a look at. I had written off the Pack-It as overbuilt hype before, now I’m not so sure.

    I recently purchased the 15″ Pack-It to put into an 18″ wheelie I bought at the same time, but I think it’s too small. When I bought it, for some reason I thought my clothes were going to be wrapped around each other and therefore make the Pack-It longer and wider (so it would not longer fit the 18″ wheelie) when in fact they clothes are all single folded, stacked, and all they do is make the Pack-It thicker. My bad.

    (But you’ll have to watch the length and width of the Pack-It you choose if you decide to follow Till’s excellent suggestion, on the MLC comment page, to wrap your slacks and sport coat around the shirts packed in a smaller Pack-It – essentially a hybrid packing method that uses the as smaller Pack-It containing shirts as a core for the bulkier items.)

    Here’s a couple of questions on the Pack-It:

    1. Till noted that the flat rigid panel on the back side of the Pack-It isn’t really necessary so long as you are laying the Pack-It down on a rigid surface – removing the Pack-It internal panel could then save some weight.

    I’m not sure how the Pack-It is supposed to work – I got the impression the two panels (built in panel on the back of the Pack-It plus the same-sized, free floating panel with folding instructions on it, used to fold the clothes) were supposed to act as a “straight jacket” around the folded items, with one board on bottom and one on top, to prevent “clothes slump,” where a soft-bundle of clothing slumps within a luggage compartment.

    I guess there’s also a trade-off between cinching down the Velcro’d wrap panels on the Pack-It to prevent shifting vs. introducing wrinkles from using too much pressure.

    So what have you noticed in terms of the clothing shifting and the usefulness of two panels instead of one? Could we get by with a single panel – or none?

    2. What if I use the Pack-It’s folding board to fold the clothes, then insert the folded, stacked clothing into a conventional packing rectangle (the Bihns come to mind) and insert the packing rectangle under the tie down straps in my bag?

    Would that work, saving me the weight of the panels AND the wrapper (the wrapper isn’t made of as light materials as the Bihn or Steves packing rectangles)?

    I don’t think I need a folding board at my destination, if tie down straps work. Once my clothing is worn, it gets stowed any old way until I get home and launder it.

    I guess if push comes to shove, I’d rather spend one pound on a Pack-It (for those circumstances where I need wrinkle free clothing at my destination and don’t have time to iron or send out to laundry) than spend the two or three extra pounds on the hardware it takes to make my wheelie.

    And if weight is still a problem with a heavier soft-sided carryon, then I can default to a lighter one. Although the lighter ones always seem to look cheaper….

    BTW – why do you think Eagle Creek has so many sizes (15″/18″/20″)? From their advertising and instructions, I can’t tell really tell whether the sizes are based on bags they will fit into, or amount of clothing each Pack-It will hold. Maybe its a little of both. My sense of it now is that the 15″ is great stuffed into a tote for women’s clothing, which is generally smaller and less bulky than men’s clothing, the 18″ is for an MLC sized carryon and the 20″ is for a 22″ wheelie or AirBoss ginormous carryon soft-sider.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael, a lot of good points and you’ve given me some things to think about and address when I do a full review.

    The sizes of the Pack-Its relate to the long dimension of the folder. The 18 is 18″ long and accommodates 8-12 items. The 15 is 15″ x 10″ and handles up to 7 dress shirts. The 20 is 20″ x 14″ and handles 12-15 items.

    kc

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    Richard J Laue Reply:

    I’ve never used a packing board, so no comment or opinion on that. I want to address a statement Kevin made in the opening post: “The bundle method has a major shortcoming, however: it’s best suited to trips with a single destination.”

    I just spent 14 days at a “single destination” – a location where I did not have access to a closet or a dresser in my tiny room. I literally lived out of a suitcase (which I leave stored at this location permanently under the bed) and my single carry-on bag.

    Bundle-packing would have been a disaster for a situation like this. Rather, I’ve learned to stack-and-sort my various garments such that it’s pretty easy to grab whatever I need with minimal disturbance to other things in the case.

    When I first read about bundle packing, I became quite enthused — so much so that I actually packed a carrying case just to see how it would work, even though I had no trip planned at the time! I was impressed — not because of the wrinkle issue, which is of no concern to me, but rather because it did seem to be more compact and space-efficient. (Somebody recently said 10-15%; that seems about right if it’s done REALLY carefully.)

    So far I’ve made two trips using the bundle method — NOT including the trip above! — and my conclusion is that it’s just not worth the trouble for me. The UN-bundling and RE-bundling are a nuisance, and I really like being able to spontaneously grab an individual item out of my case if the need should arise.

    What I like about this site is that we can exchange experiences, both good AND bad. We can recommend something that has worked for us, but we can also point out the pitfalls, since everybody’s experience and requirements are different.

    So, while I’m glad you guys taught me about bundle-wrapping — and I’m glad I gave it a try — I just want to echo Kevin’s comments above that it MIGHT not be the optimal method for everyone.

    Cheers and aloha –
    RJLaue

    [Reply]

    Till Reply:

    So Richard, what’s your preferred packing technique then. Just folding, cubes, rolling…?

    Were we able to inspire you to try a folder and a cube perhaps? Mind you, folder is only a real benefit if you have wrinkle-sensitive items to travel with. Otherwise not worth it in my opinion.

  2. Till says:

    Well, thanks for all the name drops! :) And thanks for the review.

    The shirt folder, as I call it, is clearly not for everyone and it has to be used judiciously or it becomes counterproductive.

    I call it shirt folder because only shirts (and ties) will go IN the folder. This is what it’s best at. For all other uses, cubes or ordinary folding or even bundling are better.

    The big thing about them is that they DO work. Yes, there will be some wrinkles but those wrinkles will be vertical and in places where you don’t really see them, especially if you choose the 18″ model and wear a jacket over your shirt.

    You can further prevent wrinkles by folding two shirts at a time, one shirt cushioning the other – like silk paper that is used in the butler method of packing. The smaller of the two shirts will be the inner shirt if they are of different size.

    Another technique is to position the collars in a 69 position. E.g. you pack four shirts total, folded 2×2. The first pack of shirts goes in with the collars up and to the right. The second pack goes in with the collars down and to the left. Imagine a Tai-Chi symbol and you know what I mean.

    Now you might need to bring some ties. Ties are horrible to pack and those tie folders are even more weight inefficient than a shirt folder. Here’s what I do and it works great. In fact, this is one of the best things I ever discovered (not to say invented) about packing. You wrap the ties around the first pack of shirts lengthwise. There will only be a minimum number of bends in the tie (2 or 3) and the bends will be so well cushioned that they are guaranteed not to crease. Make sure to have the tips of the tie which are the most fragile part sandwiched between either the two shirts stacks or between the shirt stack and the bottom of the folder. This way the tips are flat and don’t move. Then you top off the first stack that has the ties wrapped around it with the second stack of shirts. This way the velcro closure of the folder will not rip up your fine ties. Don’t ask how I found out about that trick! :(

    Then you top off the stack with the folding (transparent) board.

    As Michael correctly sustpected the idea is to lock the shirts between two smooth and hard and slippery surfaces. They have enough slip to move freely without being compressed or cinched but nothing creates friction on the material that could crease it. That’s the principle. This is why in theory it should work if you leave out the heavy base board and instead put the bottom on the folder on a flat, hard, even surface. In an MLC that might be hard. In an Airboss it can be put against the foam divider. In a roller it would be best to put it upside down against the lid or actually in a flat exterior pocket of the lid. That board weighs 6.0oz on its own so it’s really good IF you can get rid of it.

    Some more tips:

    1. The slip compartment where the base board resides is a great place to transport fragile or secret documents. If you substituted a manila folder with 50 pages for the base board, it would also be stiff enough. Two flies killed with one swap.

    2. Having such a folder can give structure/rigidity to an otherwise floppy bag.

    3. The folder can be used as a divider or shelf in a bag.

    4. If there is still room in your folder (with 4 shirts in an 18″ model there is still plenty of room), you can top the shirts off with t-shirts or underwear for example. This might save you the weight of another packing cube thereby rentabilizing the weight of the folder. Important: Make sure that the shirts are sandwiched between the folding board and a hard surface on the bottom. This means the extra t’s go on top of the folding board. Nothing touches the shirts!

    5. Using a packing folder to wrap your knits or khakis makes absolutely no sense from a weight or wrinkle perspective. It will be more orderly but that’s all. BUT it is a great way of creating a combo technique where you wrap your pants or even a suit around the folder.
    See here: for a description of the technique (the thread also contains other helpful tips):
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum.....ost15.html

    6. Ultimate weight saver tip. You know how many bags have a zippered mesh compartment on the inside of the lid. Well, that compartment can work super nicely as your integrated shirt folder. Fold the shirts on your bed or table with the folding board. Then slide the shirts into the zippered mesh pocket. The bottom will be against the lid thus replacing the base board. The top will get the folding board as a cover and protecting the shirts against the mesh and the other contents. Zip close, done. Not as easy to pack and unpack but only 3oz for the folding board of extra weight.

    I only need two packing accessories and can get along with them in any situation and for any bag: a shirt folder and a medium packing cube. For leisure packing, depending on the bag, I could probably go without any aids.

    Finally, here’s a link to the PAPER formula of packing that I devised:
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum.....cking.html

    Cheers to all!

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Till said, in part, very helpfully and not at all “authoritatively”:

    “Important: Make sure that the shirts are sandwiched between the folding board and a hard surface on the bottom. This means the extra t’s go on top of the folding board. Nothing touches the shirts!”

    Verrry interesssting (in Get Smart voice). I see you have done this a lot. I would have never thought of it. That’s brilliant.

    [Reply]

  3. Till says:

    Just re-read the PAPER formula thread (link above). This thread has an even more detailed discussion of packing folders than what I provided here, with special attention paid to ties and trousers. In addition, there is helpful feedback from other users, as well as instructions on how to create your own LIGHT packing folder. A must read.

    They make all those sizes to SELL them. The question is if they all make sense. The 15 incher will be good for smaller bags. It makes it possible to have a spare shirt and set of underwear in your briefcase for a really quick business trip taking only your briefcase. Or it can be used in something like the Western Flyer.

    The 18″ is the gold standard for 45 linear inch bags, I find, and for normally sized shirts (40-46 chest).

    If you are much larger than that, the 20″ model may actually be an advantage. Its 14″ width will most likely not allow it to fit in an Airboss style bag, though.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    The only way a Pack-It 20 could fit in an Air Boss would be if it were empty… sorta kinda defeating the purpose. The 18 fits nicely. kc

    [Reply]

  4. Till says:

    Thanks, Michael. Yes, the results are different, which was logical once I had understood the principal. The other important part is to be careful with ties and velcro.

    And Thanks, Kevin, for confirming what I supposed that the 20″ folder will not fit in an Airboss.

    Cindy H. proposes a different “evaluation” system in the Criteria thread. It is fairer than mine but much more work to put in place and does not have ratings, just feature listings that are more detailed than what you get at the luggage dealer sites. So, it’s not a real evaluation tool, just a transparency tool. Still worth a look.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Just FYI: the folding board from the 18 weighs 2.86oz./81g

    [Reply]

    Till Reply:

    Wow, my 3oz was a guess. Pretty close. I just weighed mine, too. I got 85g. We now know that our scales are 4g apart (quelle horreur!) or that EC doesn’t have 1000% quality control. :)

    [Reply]

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