Something you learn pretty quickly when you're travelling is that lugging around bulky and heavy backpacks and suitcases sucks. Part of it is not packing as much which is why having a good packing list is key but the other part is being able to keep your bag organized while also efficiently maximizing all the space you have.
To that end, one of the most useful skills to have when travelling sounds silly but it's how to roll your clothes. Below, find out how it works and why it matters.
Here's what we're covering:
How to roll your clothes
Now you're probably thinking whether this is a joke but it really isn't!
You probably learned how to fold your clothes from your parents but how you fold at home is very different from how you should be folding them when you're travelling.
After you go through this you'll realize how simple this is so let's jump right in.
Why rolling your clothes works
Let's start with the why.
Why roll your clothes and what are the advantages?
1. Optimize the space in your bag
Intuitively, it may feel like folding your clothes is equivalent to rolling them but the truth is that when you roll your clothes in tight bunches, you can fit in more.
When you fold your clothes, there's much more loft in the fabric but when you roll them, they're tighter bunched and it packs in a lot more volume and squeezes out air.
At least that's how I rationalize it.
Even CNET has a little test you can do and they prove that yes, rolling your clothes takes up less space.
2. Crease and wrinkle free
I'm not sure if this is 100% fool proof but the long-standing argument for rolling is that it results in less wrinkles and creases.
When you think about it, it does make sense.
Rolling means there's no mid-torso or mid-leg fold lines because you've rolled it all the way up.
3. Better organization
When you roll your clothes, you can lay them out in your suitcase in an organized manner so that you can see them all at once.
Folding your clothes on the other hand results in things being piled up.
The bottom line is that when you can see all your clothes clearly when looking at your bag top-down when rolling your clothes.
It's all very Mari Kondo.
Technique to rolling your clothes
Even USA Today agrees, rolling your clothes is a must have skill and technique to packing a suitcase or backpack.
Here's how it works:
How to roll t-shirts
This is the Ranger Roll method that works extremely well for t-shirts. This technique allows your shirt to securely roll and wrap unto itself.
Step 1: Lay your shirt flat, flip the bottom up 2-3 inches inside out and make sure everything is smooth.
Step 2: Fold a third inwards and fold the sleeve back over itself.
Step 3: Do the same thing to the other side of the shirt. When you're done, rotate the shirt around 180 degrees.
Step 4: Starting from the collar, roll your shirt as tightly as you can until you get to where you flipped the bottom inside out. Use this part as to secure your roll as you tuck it in.
How to roll pants
This is a basic way to roll your pants that doesn't have a tuck mechanism as I find the Ranger Roll method to be a bit too complicated but you can check out the video here.
Step 1: Fold your pants in half and make sure everything is as flat and wrinkle-free as possible.
Step 2: Start rolling from the bottom end of the pants to the waist and try to keep it as tight as possible.
Watch how it's done
This is a little embarrassing to share but this really goes to show you where Going Awesome Places started as a YouTube channel.
Below is a video I created to show you how I fold my clothes and what I use to organize everything in my suitcase.
The rolling method I use isn't quite the Ranger Roll but is a more basic version that is also useful to know.
Where do the rolled clothes go
Rolling your clothes is just one half of the battle. While you could just lay the rolls in your suitcase or backpack, it can still be a mess.
The big life-saver are packing cubes.
I've had these packing cubes by Eagle Creek for years now and what they allow me to do is keep similar clothes together.
T-shirts always go into one cube. Pants are organized into another. Underwear and socks I might throw into a stuff sack.
Trust me, you'll be in travel packing bliss when you're able to open up your bag, see a packing cube and know exactly what's inside.
You can rearrange the different cubes with ease, and none of your rolling goes to waste because it's kept nice and bundled together.
Peak Design Packing Cubes
Peak Design is known for their camera gear but you might not know about their travel gear line. Their packing cubes are the most well-built on the market. If you need a large expandable cube, this one I highly-recommend.
Are there disadvantages to rolling your clothes?
As with everything, rolling your clothes has some cons that you should be aware of.
- Bulky clothes don't roll very well such as jackets and sweaters. Even if you try to roll it, it may not result in a convenient shape or size.
- It isn't necessarily crease free especially with buttoned shirts since you still have to fold things in many times. Rolling improperly can also create more wrinkles.
- This doesn't work for formal wear including suits and gowns.
The best way to pack
Now that you know how to roll your clothes, we circle back to the question you might be asking yourself, what is the best way to pack a bag?
With the pros and cons in mind, it depends but here's a great rule of thumb.
Use both rolling and folding.
- If it's small, thin-fabric, and delicate, rolling is best.
- If it's bulky and large, folding and flat packing them is best.
One thing is for sure though, you should invest in packing cubes.
Frequently asked questions
This technique works well for hiking backpacks but necessitate the use of packing cubes even more especially if the backpack is top-loading. This has the advantage of identifying types of clothes really easily and also keeping your clothes as compressed as possible. A compression sack is also useful in this scenario.
It's easy. By default, we always go for this method of packing because it's what we've learned to do. It's quick and easy.
If you're the ultimate organizer and want to maximize space, you should also be rolling dirty clothes. To keep dirty clothes away from fresh ones, you should also invest in a packing cube or stuff sack.
Eagle Creek calls these compression sacs but they are also known as space bags or vacuum bags. While handy to have, you'll find that they're really only useful when you have extremely large items such as a poofy winter jacket or large pillow. By sucking all the air out, you can get it down to be really small and flat. Since it does take some effort to compress the bag, you don't want to be doing this that frequently on the road.
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