Pack It! Part 2 – Five tips for buying travel packing cells

So after reading Part 1 Five reasons to use packing cells you’ve finally seen the light and decided to purchase some packing cells? Congratulations!

But how do you choose the ideal packing cells (or packing cubes)? We all travel with different gear, so what works perfectly for one person may not be quite right for another. There are so many different styles of packing cells around – think wet cells, garment folders and underwear cells – it can be difficult to work out exactly what to buy. (In Part 3 of this post I’ll look at: Ten types of packing cells.)

Packing cells can organise everything in your suitcase

Packing cells can organise everything in your suitcase

The best place to start is with a set of simple, multipurpose cells. I bought my first cells on sale from Kathmandu several years ago and loved them so much I bought lots more (also on sale) in a variety of sizes and colours. I use them for everything from clothes to electronics and they have lasted extremely well, being as good as the day I bought them. I have since bought numerous other brands in different styles and weights, including La Poche and Flight 001, and while they have earned a place in my suitcase depending on my needs, the most-used are my trusted Kathmandu cells and my new Zoomlite cells.

So, what do you look for when choosing packing cells? Here are my five top tips:

1. Lightweight

No one wants to add extra weight to their suitcase, so look for cells that are lightweight, but still hold their shape. (I bought some cheapies online that were so flimsy they were hard to fill, which defeats the purpose. Consequently, they never get used.) Some cells are lined for added strength, but this makes them marginally heavier. I was recently sent a set of Zoomlite packing cells to road test and I can honestly say they are the lightest weight-to-strength ratio of any I’ve tried, so they have definitely earned a regular spot in my suitcase along with my trusty, lightweight Kathmandu cells.

Zoomlite packing cells are lightweight, yet sturdy

Zoomlite packing cells are lightweight, yet sturdy

2. Breathability 

Look for cells that have mesh panels for breathability. They help keep clothes fresh and you can easily see what’s inside each cell. There are double-sided packing cells available, designed for clean clothes on one side and worn clothes on the other side – which doesn’t have the mesh – designed to contain any odours. It’s a good idea, but unless your clothes get seriously stinky, I don’t think it’s necessary. I just air my worn shirt overnight, then fold it and place it at the bottom of the packing cell, so it’s ready in case I need to wear it a second time.

Choose cells with mesh panels like this Kathmandu one

Choose cells with mesh panels like this Kathmandu one

3. Durability

Ensure the fabric, seams and zips are hard-wearing. Packing cells get endlessly dragged in and out of your suitcase, so need to be able to stand up to the tough treatment. Most are made from nylon, which is strong, but make sure the seams are bound and well stitched, and the zips are good quality two-way style. Some cells, like Zoomlite and La Poche, have webbing handles, which are handy, but in my opinion, not actually necessary.

4. Multiple sizes

Buy a variety of different sized cells initially and test them out to decide which sizes suit you best. It gives you flexibility for the type of clothes you are taking and the style of suitcase or backpack you will be using.  As an example, extra-small is good for cables, plugs and battery chargers; small is perfect for underwear; medium fits folded tops, pants and skirts perfectly; and large takes bigger or bulkier items like jackets. I regularly use two or three medium cells, two small and one extra small, but rarely use the large ones unless I’m packing multiple jumpers or jackets. However, the large ones are perfect for some of my husband’s gear.

Packing cells, like these Zoomlite ones, come in a variety of sizes

Packing cells, like these Zoomlite ones, come in a variety of sizes

5. Different colours

While you can buy sets of different sized cells in the same colour, I prefer to buy individual cells in different colours, especially because I use numerous ones the same size. That way it’s easy to remember my tops are in the blue cell, my shorts and skirts are in the purple cell, and my formal wear is in the black cell. If you’re sharing a suitcase, allocating each person their own colour or colours works well.

Flight 001 Spacepaks have one-way mesh rivets which allow for air compression

Flight 001 Spacepaks have one-way mesh rivets which allow for air compression

 

That’s my five top tips, which should be sufficient for the average shopper, so feel free to stop reading now and start shopping.

But if you crave detail, or are just plain fussy, you might like to read on and benefit from the finer points I’ve picked up through buying way more packing cells than can be considered normal or necessary.

More for the pernickety:

When buying double-sided cells, consider the position of both zips. Some brands, like Kathmandu have the zips on the outer edge of each cell, which works well, as whichever side you place it on, the top cell will always open at the top. However, La Poche have a zip on the outer edge of one cell and on the inner edge of the other cell. So to access this cell with the items still sitting inside the cell, you have to fold the top cell right over, which can be awkward when it is full. (Told you this was for the pernickety!)

Kathmandu double-sided cells have zips on the outer edge of each cell

Kathmandu double-sided cells have zips on the outer edge of each cell

Zoomlite, Flight 001 and La Poche have webbing handles on their cells. While I don’t feel handles are necessary, they are ‘handy’. La Poche and Flight 001 put the handle on what I regard as the front of the cell – where the zips are – so you just place it down with the handle and then open it. Zoomlite puts the handle on the back edge of the cell, opposite the zips, so when you put it down with the handle, you have to swivel it around to open the zips. (Yes, this is super pernickety, I know.)

The handle on La Poche cells are on the same edge as the zips

The handles on La Poche cells are conveniently on the same edge as the zips

The cells produced by La Poche and Flight 001 are lined, so feel a little sturdier, although that increases their weight slightly, but not enough to be a big deal.

Some brands have their bound seams on the inside, like Zoomlite, Flight 001 and Kathmandu, which gives them a sleeker look, while La Poche have theirs on the outside, giving the appearance of being bulkier. This difference doesn’t affect the use of the cells in any way, it’s just a matter of aesthetics.

More: Once you have purchased some multipurpose cells, you might like to explore the world of purpose-designed cells for items like electronics, jewellery and bras. In part 3 of this post I’ll look at ten different types of packing cells.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned above and do not receive any remuneration should you decide to purchase from them. I have purchased many of the products mentioned, with the exception of the Zoomlite cells, which were sent to me for review. My opinions are honest and unbiased.

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Pack it! Part 1 – Five reasons to use travel packing cells

Packing cells have changed my life. That’s a big statement, I know. But they have made my travelling life so much easier I wonder how I ever travelled without them.

I just wish I had cottoned on to packing cells years ago, then there would have been no embarrassing underwear trailing from my ripped suitcase on the airport carousel in Paris, or time wasted at Australian Customs trying to jam everything back into an over-stuffed suitcase after a random search.

Buy a set of packing cells like these from Zoomlite and you'll soon be an organised packer.

Buy a set of packing cells like these from Zoomlite and you’ll soon be an organised packer.

Packing cells, or packing cubes, are lightweight zippered pouches, often rectangular, for storing clothes and other items in a backpack, overnight bag or suitcase. They are usually made of a nylon-type fabric and often have a mesh panel for breathability. They come in a variety of sizes for different items of clothing or accessories. (In Part 2 of this post I’ll look at the different styles of packing cells.)

Choose lightweight, durable packing cells.

Choose lightweight, durable and breathable packing cells.

So why use packing cells? Here are five good reasons:

1. Personal Organisation

Use different size cells for different types of clothing and you’ll always know where everything is in your suitcase. Use large cells for jackets, pants and skirts, medium cells for shirts or dresses, and small cells for underwear and accessories. Use a cell for items that may only be worn occasionally, like formal wear, or if you’re travelling to different seasons, separate winter clothes from summer clothes.

2. Family Organisation

Cells are fantastic when sharing a suitcase with a partner or family members. Allocate each person cells in a particular colour and it’s easy to know whose gear is whose (and they can’t mess up your clothes while accessing their own). Use cells for keeping children’s toys or other paraphernalia together.

Keep children's essentials all together.

Keep children’s essentials all together.

3. Versatility

It doesn’t matter if you prefer to fold your clothes or roll them, either method will work within the cells and ensure your clothes are as wrinkle-free as possible. And with packing cells coming in various shapes and sizes, there are cells for everything from ties and belts to shoes and electronics.

La Poche Charger bag

The La Poche Charger bag keeps cords and plugs tidy.

4. Space saving

Using packing cells helps keep your clothes neat and tidy, taking up less space in your suitcase. Compression cells ensure bulky items like puffer jackets take up as little room as possible and cells of different sizes can be stacked like a 3D pentomino puzzle, maximising room in your suitcase. Any spaces around the cells can be used for awkward-shaped items like shoes, umbrellas, tripods and souvenirs. If you start travelling with a half-empty case (leaving room for new purchases) the cells will ensure your clothes stay neatly together and don’t end up in an untidy mess.

Packing cells don't have to be boring - just look at these pink stripe ones from Zoomlite.

Packing cells don’t have to be boring – just look at these pink stripe ones from Zoomlite.

5. Time saving

Don’t bother unpacking the cells, just transfer them to the hotel drawers or wardrobe shelves. If you return worn clothes to the cells on a daily basis, then repacking is a breeze. This is so convenient when you are constantly on the move – repacking is no longer a time-consuming chore (especially when you arrive back at your hotel after a big night out only to realise you have to pack for an early morning departure!). The bonus – more time to enjoy your destination.

More: In Part 2 of this post I’ll look at the different types of cells available and provide tips for buying packing cells.

 

 

 

 

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Tai Chi with the locals in Bangkok

Apparently, tai chi is all about internal energy flow, but the only energy I’m channelling is nervous energy. How much of a goose (or perhaps that should be crane?) am I making of myself? But I don’t care.

Lumpini Park is a tranquil place to exercise

Lumpini Park is a tranquil place to exercise

I feel enormously privileged to be invited to join a tai chi session in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park by people I don’t know, don’t share a language with and will probably never meet again.

Lumpini Park is a green oasis in the heart of Bangkok. Like New York’s Central Park, it’s a place for exercise, relaxation and recreation. It’s also a great place to escape the heat with its shady trees, artificial lake and trickling fountains.

Lumpini Park offers cool respite from the heat in Bangkok. Photo © Briar Jensen

Lumpini Park offers cool respite in the heart of Bangkok

Every morning the park is filled with people meditating, socialising and exercising – from ballroom dancing to sword fighting.

Exercise comes in various different froms

Exercise comes in various different froms

On an early morning walk from my hotel, the Sofitel So Bangkok, I stop to admire a group of women practising tai chi when, with hand gestures and encouraging smiles, I’m invited to join in.

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Sofitel So Bangkok overlooks Lumpini Park

While it looks simple, tai chi takes concentration and control. I lack the fluid movements of the leader as I cross my arms the wrong way and turn in the wrong direction. My ‘White Crane Spreads Wing’ is more ‘Black Bird Dies Slowly’.

tai chi takes place throughout Lumpini Park

Tai chi takes place throughout Lumpini Park

But the grins of appreciation at my clumsy efforts have me brimming with pride. Hmm, the energy flow of pride – that’s probably not quite the tai chi philosophy, but I certainly feel good on the inside. And it’s a lovely way to start the day in Bangkok.

The lovely group that invited me to join them to tai chi

The lovely group that invited me to join them in tai chi

On your travels have you ever spontaneously joined locals exercising in a park? I’d love to hear your stories.

More: The Sofitel So Bangkok overlooks Lumpini Park. The rooms are decorated in four themes: earth, water, wood and metal and the staff wear quirky, vibrant uniforms designed by Christian Lacroix.  Visit www.sofitel-so-bangkok.com

Disclaimer: I travelled to Bangkok as a guest of Accor Hotels. This story first appeared on the Get Up & Go magazine blog.

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10 Travel-themed homewares

Just because you are stuck at home, doesn’t mean you can’t dream about travelling. Part of the joy of travel is reminiscing about past adventures and planning new exploits. So surround yourself with travel memorabilia as a reminder of holidays past or to inspire you to ‘get up and go’ on another journey. Here are ten travel-themed homeware suggestions to get you started.

Just go

Just do it

Need a nudge to book the next holiday? You’ll get a daily reminder from this mug as you sip your tea or coffee. As you eat your Tim Tam you can study the world map for inspiration on where to go next. Available at Australian online retailer Annabel Trends.

Miss Melbourne?

Miss Melbourne?

Love Melbourne? Want to go there or have just been? Then mull over the Melway map on this teapot while you have your next cuppa and dream about Melbourne’s bustling laneways, quirky street art and rattling trams.  Available at Australian online retailer Make Me Iconic.

Remember your road trip

Road tripping

Cushions are an easy way to add character and flair to your home, and travel-themed cushions come in so many different styles, from map prints to photographs (watch out for an upcoming post just on cushions). This cushion lists destinations along America’s Route 50. Others in this series include Melbourne tram routes and Sydney bus routes. Available from Melbourne designers Johnson and Waters.

Where in the world

Where in the world

Add some funky art to brighten up your wall. This airport tag canvas wall hanging would add kitsch to a kitchen or sass to a sitting area. Available from US online retailer Airporttag who ships to Australia.

Jetlagged

Jetlagged

Curl up on the sofa for some much needed rest after your next long haul flight and make sure you’re not disturbed by snuggling up under this cosy blanket that lets everybody know just how you feel. Warm and plush it comes in three sizes from US online retailer Airporttag.

Paris at your feet

Paris at your feet

Walking around Paris has never been easier – just put this floor rug down and away you go – there’s not much chance of getting lost and you don’t have to watch out for doggy doo-doo either. Available from the Australian branch of online retailer Cafe Press.

Shower curtain

Shower inspiration

Be inspired to see the world during your morning shower with inspriational travel quotes printed on your shower curtain. Other designs include colourful airport code tags, black and white US flight board or aeroplane toilet door print. From US online retailer Airporttag.

Sunset drinks

Sunset drinks

Sunset drinks anyone? Be the envy of your friends as you sit down to cocktails on the terrace with these gorgeous deckchairs printed in Australia. Choose from sunset palms or vibrant ocean blues. Look out for their directors chairs which will be added to the range soon. Available from Australian design team Pacific Pillow Co.

scratch wall map

Well travelled

Like to keep a record of where you’ve been (or just show off to your friends how well travelled you are)? Then you’ll love this world map – just scratch off the gold surface to reveal the places you have been. Available from Australian Geographic.

Colourful dreams

Sweet dreams

Go to sleep sleep dreaming about your next holiday destination. There’s a world of designs (pardon the pun) available for pillows and quilts. From colourful paint-splashed world maps to vintage atlas maps, you can choose a design to suit your decor. Available from the Australian branch of online retailer Cafe Press.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these companies and do not receive any remuneration should you choose to purchase from them.

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Postcard of the week – Glorious gum trees

Nature's canvas

Bark beauty

Sometimes nature blows me away with its beauty. Like this magnificent gum tree, whose subtle colours were given a vibrant makeover by summer rain (actually a summer downpour that turned our walking track in a mini riverbed). Rain gives the bush a welcome spring clean, sluicing away the dust and highlighting things you might otherwise miss, like delicate cobwebs strung between branches and abstract patterns on tree trunks. I came across this tree in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, on the Cowan to Brooklyn track, part of Sydney’s Great North Walk, which I did last year (read about how you can do it here). I love the gutsy way Australian gum trees tenaciously grip the rocky ground, draping their trunks over sandstone boulders or, like this one, stretching out across rock platforms in search of soil. Parks Week from 5-13 March is an ideal time to get out and admire nature’s beauty in  park near you. See www.parks-week.org.

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10 World Map themed travel accessories

Earth Stressball

Globe squashing

Getting stressed at work? Rather be travelling the globe than stuck in the office? Then you could do with an Earth Stressball. Simply squeeze and relax says the tagline, but you could also just fondle it and dream of where you’d rather be (or perhaps where you’d rather send your boss – like Siberia)  About $5 from selected outlets, including ABC online

Glasses Case

Where in the world

Put your sunglasses in this world map case and you’ll be reminded about your travels or prompted to book your next holiday whenever you put your glasses on. It comes with world map cleaning cloth too so you can polish your rose-tinted lenses. $24.95 from Australian online retailer Annabel Trends.

Travel attire for iPad

Travelling iPad

Protect your iPad while projecting your globetrotting credentials with this iPad cover from deva Australia. Cushioning protects it from damage on your travels and it opens up to form a stand so you can watch your favourite shows while on the go. $19.95 from Australian online retailer Ciao Bella Travel.

Pimpos

Walk around the world

The world is at your feet, or rather on your feet, with these cool, quirky shoes from Pimpos. Part of the Chocolaticas range, they are made in Venezuela, are ethically produced and vegan friendly. Take on the world one step at a time. $89 from Pimpos Australia.

Vintage globetrotter

Vintage globe trotter

You can never have too many luggage tags. This all leather one has a gorgeous old-world look with it’s vintage world map print.  $12.95 from Australian online retailer Ciao Bella Travel. 

World Map zippered pouch is great for the plane

Zip it

Pack you travel accessories in this little three-zip pouch and you won’t lose them in your bag. Great in your carry-on luggage for items you need inflight, like a pen, tissues, lip balm, mints etc. Just whip it out and hang it from the seat in front or pop it in the seat pocket. $19.95 from Australian online retailer Ciao Bella Travel.

Secret your laundry

Hide your laundry

Where in the world do you put your dirty laundry when travelling? Hide it in this pretty Kikkerland laundry bag and you’ll never expose you dirty underwear at customs again. From Australian online retailer Jetsettr. (Temporarily out of stock, but enter your email address and they’ll let you know when it comes in.)

Sweet dreams

The world at your neck

Put your world-weary head to rest on this DQ&Co map print neck pillow as you nod off to sleep on your next train, plane or automobile. Bead-filled for squishy comfort its monochrome colour won’t show the dirt too much. $24.95 from Australian online retailer Jetsetter.

Sweet dreams

Sweet dreams

Like to take your comfortable full-size pillow from home when travelling? Then give it travel panache with a dedicated world map pillowcase. Choose from brightly coloured maps or more subdued tones.  $44.50 from online retailer Cafe Press

Take the world with you

Take the world with you

Where in the world is your suitcase? Hopefully in the same place as you. At least this ‘worldly’ suitcase by Heys America will standout at the baggage carousel for easy identification and quick getaway. Currently on sale at US$139 at US online retailer Wayfair. They only ship to America, but set up an Australia Post ShopMate account and have it delivered to Australia.

Special thanks to my travel buddies at Bike Walk Eat and Marian McGuinness for their globe-printed gifts which inspired this post.

 

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Five things you probably don’t know about Canada

1. Victoria, British Columbia is experiencing a baby boom ­­– of orca whales.

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There have been nine calves born to the Southern Resident Orcas in the last 12 months, the largest number of births since the 1970s. The Southern Resident Orcas are actually made up of three pods, with family sub-pods centred around older females, usually grandmothers or great grandmothers.  Granny, the matriarch of ‘J’ pod, is the world’s oldest known orca, estimated to be over 100 years old. www.tourismvictoria.com

2. Land-locked Calgary is a burgeoning surfing destination.

Most famous for the Calgary Stampede, the annual rodeo festival held every July, Calgary now boasts river surfing too. Following floods, which changed the contour of the Bow River bed, a permanent wave suitable for riding can be found under the 10th Street Bridge. For more river surfing action, head about an hour west of Calgary to Kananaskis where the group Surf Anywhere has built a permanent wave by placing boulders in the Kananaskis River to form a channel. www.visitcalgary.com

3. Edmonton has the largest Fringe Festival outside Edinburgh.

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As well as world-renowned artists, 30 percent of performers are non-professional, so you could witness the start of someone’s stellar career (or not).  The best thing is tickets are all $20 or under. Edmonton has a wealth of other festivals too, from craft beer to dragon boats. www.exploreedmonton.com

4. Toronto has one of the largest shoe museums in the world.

03 CCOP Heights Bata Musuem

A whopping 13,500 shoes and footwear-related exhibits are housed in the purpose-built Bata Shoe Museum. Items span the centuries, from 4,500 year-old Egyptian wooden sandals to contemporary celebrity footwear. There’s an extensive collection of Native American and circumpolar footwear too. www.batashoemuseum.com  www.seetorontonow.com

5. Vancouver International Airport is an art gallery in itself.

Reg Davidson Art Celebration 1 (1)

It has the largest collection of Northwest Coast art on public display, with a focus on First Nations art. The thematically linked art, architecture and interior design are integrated to reflect a theme of land, sea and sky. Artworks include sculptures, paintings, weaving, ceramics and glassware.  So take some time at the airport to appreciate this vast collection.  www.yvr.ca  www.tourismvancouver.com

More: au-keepexploring.canada.travel

 

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