Packing is not the same as re-packing


I have a pet peeve that I know is totally trivial and shouldn’t annoy me, but it just does. It’s essentially this: for some unexplainable reason, I have always been kind of annoyed by “how to pack” articles that include the  little bit about “rolling instead of folding” and things like that. I know, I know, it’s totally trivial. I warned you.

But today, I finally discovered why these articles annoy me.

As I was glancing over this infographic about packing efficientlty (HT: TravelBloggerBuzz), I realized that these articles are annoying to me because all the little details that are helpful for packing more things into your bag, are actually unhelpful for unpacking and repacking frequently, a necessary part of pretty much all of my travels.  In other words, these tips may be great for someone who needs to pack once, unpack once, and then stay put somewhere for a long period of time before repacking and heading home.

But for someone hotel hopping, it’s just not helpful. At least not in my opinion.

Let’s take “rolling” for instance.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s when you roll your clothing like a sleeping bag instead of folding it.

Intended result: Pack your clothing more tightly and fit more in! Also avoid wrinkles!

My result: No noticeable increase in space and clothing is a disorganized mess after just two days of needing to actually use or access any of the articles of clothing. Also…lots more wrinkles.

Why? Maybe I suck at rolling my clothes. But rather, I think that shuffling through a stack of folded shirts is less mess-making than shuffling through an assembly line of rolled up clothes. For whatever reason, I just find that actually accessing items in my bag causes less disorganization to a plain old folded stack than it does to a little bundle of rolled up stuff.


And I have no idea why, but my clothes always end up more wrinkled if I roll them. This is probably my fault, but I take half an hour to repack during a hotel transition as it is. I am not going to add ten minutes to that process just so that I can make sure my clothing rolls are chipotle-grade.


Another common bit of advice: compression packs.

Intended result: Again, more space!

My result: I’ll admit, these are a good idea if you need to pack a coat that you will not actually need to wear most of the time. Otherwise, it’s just tedious and time consuming.



Hotel hopping is entropy at work. Everything will move towards chaos within your bag as your travel time goes on. I guarantee it. The nicely rolled shirts and jeans will fit snug as a bug on day one, but as you use these items, unpack them, repack them, or (heaven forbid) as you purchase items to add to that nicely packed bag, it will turn into a mess.


So how do you fight this inevitable entropy?

Ultimately, the best advice I can possibly give regarding packing, is to be space efficient in an entirely different way. Instead of using your space efficiently by packing things to their smallest, most tediously compacted size, do so by choosing truly versatile articles of clothing, and leaving out anything you won’t need.

Or to put it another way: Don’t pack smart by fitting a lot into a little space, (because as much time and attention as you put into packing it the first time will be the amount of time and attention you have to put into it each and every time.)  Instead, pack smart by selecting your items wisely and minimizing as much as possible. That is attention you won’t have to repeat every time you change hotels or hop on a flight. You do that once when you leave home and don’t worry about it again until your next trip.

9 Comments on “Packing is not the same as re-packing

  1. I completely agree! Those packing articles always seem geared towards folks that are trying to pack too much to begin with. I value having less to lug and easy access to my items over having more options that end up jammed into a bag. I do like compression sacks for certain bulkier items like sleeping bags, puffer coats, etc. I also use small muslin bags to group items, which makes pulling items and repacking much easier.

    • Definitely agree. I have the philosophy that it’s going to suck at first either way. If you pack a lot of stuff, it’ll suck to repack, and haul all of that around. If you pack lightly, you’ll inevitably wish you had this that or the other thing. Given the choice between the two, I recognize that I’m more likely to, (and more motivated to) get better and better at needing less stuff than I am to get stronger and stronger back muscles. 🙂

  2. My best advice? One word: modularizing. If it’s a word.

    When I’m moving every day or two it really helps to know where everything is. The best is by using different ditty bags, hopefully of different colors/styles, but I’ve used common trash bags as well. One for clean clothes (or “clean enough to wear again”!), one for dirty. I use a different one for swimming/snorkel/diving stuff that may not have completely dried, so I know to hang it up again at my new place. A toiletry bag/case. One for shoes or flip flops. A compressible for a down sweater/jacket + other colder weather stuff like hat/gloves. And so on….

    Best part is it makes it really easy to pack when you’re tired. No thinking, just placing. Seems like I pack either really late or really early.

    • yes definitely! I also think modularizing (nice word, if not a real one!) is a good way to make sure you don’t lose anything. I pack one module at a time and the only times I lose something seems to be when I either ditched a module, or switched it up somehow.

  3. Have you and Drew given up blogging ? We miss your posts and Drew’s take on things. Hope to see you guys back soon- If not thanks for everything and success in your future ventures.

    • Thanks for checking in! It’s been a busy spell, but don’t worry, we’re not finished blogging!

  4. We felt the same way after a year of full time travel. We were able to ship enough home to have two carryons and two personal bags for two parents and two little kids. Probably the most useful thing to keep our clothes organized was PACKING CUBES, especially with more than one person’s things in each bag. So essential… quick access with a zipper, and when arriving put them in a drawer, and when leaving zip it back up and fit it right back in the suitcase. Then as the laundry bag fills up with dirty clothes, the packing cubes get smaller, and the laundry bag fills the space they clothes took before.

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