I want to talk about Space Bags and whether or not you should use it when you travel. This may seem like a no-brainer, but after traveling now for 13 months straight, I’ve changed my opinion on it a bit.
Below, I will analyze when I think you should use it and when I think it will cause you more trouble than it is worth.
If you don’t know what a space bag is, well, you should! It is this awesome thing that helps save space when you pack clothes in your suitcase or backpack. It is basically a giant plastic storage bag that allows you to compress your clothes and save space, hence why they are called “space” bags.
Why Space Bags are Awesome!
Space bags are a cheap and effective way to fit more items into your suitcase. It is great for allowing you to travel with a smaller bag or to simply take more stuff with you on your vacation. Having a smaller bag is a huge benefit; this can allow you to carry your bag onto a plan to avoid baggage fees and it is easier to lug a small bag around a city compared to a large bag.
When Should You use a Space Bag?
I highly recommend that you use a space bag when you simply cannot fit everything that you want into your luggage when you travel (I’m going to save the packing tips for another article).
When you are going on vacation or traveling for anywhere from 1 week to a couple months, I would say that a space bag is invaluable. When I went on my first backpacking trek around Europe, which lasted approximately 1.5 months, I only took with me my normal school backpack. Yet, this tiny backpack was able to fit everything that I needed for the trip, including a mini laptop!
I could never have done this without the use of space bags and it made traveling so much more enjoyable when I only had to carry one tiny bag with me the whole time.
But, I do mention a time limit for when space bags can be useful for a reason – read below.
When Should You NOT use a Space Bag?
Space bags are great for a short period of time. But, if you are traveling consistently for a long period of time, say more than a couple months, it is a bad idea to rely on space bags to fit everything into your bags.
First, space bags break! If you use them for a short period of time, you may not experience this. But, after opening and closing and squeezing the air out of these bags many times, they start to tear and come apart at the seams. The life of the bag will also be shortened if you need to put other items next to the space bags (which you will) that might damage them, like a shower bag or shoes. Long-term, space bags are simply not reliable.
There is nothing worse than having a perfectly packed bag that can fit everything until your space bag breaks. Then, you are left with an overflowing bag that you can simply no longer pack. Or, maybe worse, you are left with a bag that no longer meets the size requirements to be carried onto a plane. At this point, you would have to check the bag and, most likely, incur significant bag fees.
The second reason not to rely on space bags long term has to do with utility and ease of use. If you are constantly in a state of travel, it can get very annoying to have to get your clothes out of space bags. If you use multiple space bags, you may find yourself opening each one and searching through them just for one shirt or sock or pair of underwear; then, you have to close, re-seal, re-compress, and repack each bag. This may not seem so bad, but, when you are running late to catch a flight in the morning, this is a major pain.
And don’t forget about the fact that you will have dirty clothes in your bag at some point. If you are putting everything into space bags, you will then need to bring a space bag just for your dirty clothes. This of course assumes that you need to put your stuff into space bags in order to fit everything into your bag. The last thing you want is to compress clean clothes mixed with dirty and smelly clothes into a tiny space together, such as in a single space bag. I cover how to store dirty clothes without a space bag in another article, hint: use a regular plastic bag.
My Thoughts and One Potential Solution
I like to use space bags on short trips. However, at this point, after 13 straight months of being on the road, I no longer rely on space bags. I keep some extra space bags in my bag just in case I need them, but I try to never need or use them.
One thing I started to do was to put the clothes that I didn’t need right now, such as winter clothes during summer, into a space bag but to keep everything else outside of the bag. This was a nice solution that I thought would make my life easier, but the bag broke and is now just a worthless plastic bag that contains my summer clothes.
So, for short-term travels, use the space bags; but, for long-term travels, avoid using space bags.
Note: There are different types of space bags and some require you to use a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag. For travel, you want to get the space bags that allow you to take the air out without anything extra; these bags allow you to roll them up to compress the bag and push all of the air out of it.