A “secret” packing tip: use bags inside bags

I thought everybody knew “the secret” to packing was to pack smaller bags into larger bags but having seen some monstrous and truly unruly backpacks, suitcases, tents and camper vans while travelling, it seems not. So it’s time to share this tip and offer travellers everywhere hassle free packing and, perhaps more importantly, repacking.

What you need



You can use humble plastic carrier bags, ziploc bags, black refuse, trash or rubbish bags.

If you want to splash out, have specific needs or want to avoid plastic you can also use specialist packing cubes, branded vacuum bags or fancy compression bags.

However, the general idea is the same. You need anything that is smaller than your biggest bag, is thin and compressible.

What to put in your bags

Here’s the magic. Everything and anything that is similar or will be used at the same time should be bagged together.


Some examples in my bag right now

Cold weather clothes – thermal underwear, hat, gloves

Dirty clothes – yeah that’s right, clothes that need washing

Electronics – a solar panel, cables for phones, phone chargers, plug adapters

Food – tea bags, sugar, a sachet of ketchup, forks and spoons

Medical kit – the usual ibruprofen, pepto bismol etc…

Wash kit – shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste etc…

Makeup – lipstick, blusher etc…

Stationery – a pad and a pen, sometimes a language dictionary

Toilet kit – toilet paper, hand sanitiser

What to do with all those bags?


Pack ’em.

I recommend the most frequently used items at the top of your bag but if that doesn’t work, because of weight (heavier at the bottom is better for your back if you are carrying a backpack) or bag shape, then do as best as you can.

Don’t be afraid to put a bag inside a bag if that makes sense. For example, in my food bag the tea bags are in their own bag and the forks and spoons are in another. In my dirty washing bag I’ve got a bag for items I need to wash soon, because I use them regularly, and things that could wait.

Why all the bags?!


No need to unpack everything all the time

As you have packed similar things together, when you reach your location, you only need to get out those things that are needed. For instance we just left the beach in Ecuador and I did not need my cold weather clothes or my wet weather clothes. These did not leave their respective bags and so when it came to repacking my bag was already half done.

Who cares?

This benefit is especially important for long term travellers who carry alot and pack often. Short term travellers who have packed items “just in case” will benefit by putting the non-essentials in a separate bag and avoiding unpacking them unless necessary.


Clean and dry

Putting your clothes in bags protects them from rain, spills, sand and bugs.

Who cares?

Anyone backpacking and carrying their bag with them everyday will one day be caught in the rain and will be happy their items were protected. Likewise, it might sound silly if you’re just going to the Caribbean on vacation but we’ve all seen the luggage trucks on the tarmac at the airport in the rain. Bags will help protect your belongings wherever you are.



Instead of hunting through all your belongings for clean underwear you’ll be able to go to the “underwear bag” and be nude no more. Added benefits are when you share a dorm or have a tiny hotel room to live in. You’ll be able to store your belongings neatly. You could even put your name on the bags and list their items if you’re really into it!

Who cares?

We’ve all hunted for that missing item in a rush and wasted our time. Bags will help you better use your precious vacation time. If you want proof that this technique helps, just do it and wait for that first time you “bag” something into the wrong bag and have to search for it. It’s so annoying.

That’s it. Packing perfection is now yours.

Final note – I’m a huge proponent of reduce, reuse and recycle and many of my bags have been used and reused many times. When appropriate I try to find biodegradable or natural fabric bags to use instead of plastic. Please don’t take this post as encouragement to waste or litter. Always leave no trace.k



  1. maleksiuk

    Hello. This is a good tip and is new to me. I look forward to giving it the ol’ college try.

    I’d like to share a tip in return. Rolling your clothes into tight cylindrical shapes saves a ton of space. It also might make them look crummy so it’s best for dirty clothes or for packing on the way home when you want to fit in last-minute souvenirs such as coca leaves and giant tortoise meat.

      • maleksiuk

        I have heard people say it’s good for avoiding wrinkles but it doesn’t work for me. But I roll clumsily without that in mind.

        You aren’t a crummy mess, just a stinky one.

      • suziejprince

        I take that as a compliment. Only true travellers stink, not tourists. Also we are off to the lavandería this morning so I’ll be stink free soon.

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