Now that I have progressed from newbie (to senior-newbie) when it comes to packing cubes, there is one other brand for your consideration. In my review of the eBags packing cubes I came to the same conclusion that countless travellers before me had: packing cubes are pretty useful things to have. This review will be a bit briefer and provide a bit of a comparison for those of you who may be looking to buy.
There are two primary differences in the Sea to Summit offering from the eBags packing cubes.
The first is the material. The Sea To Summit cubes use the extremely thin “Cordura” material – which for anyone who has seen it before is quite distinctive. It is a super thin synthetic fabric; made to be light weight, water resistant and tough. The front cover is a mesh which provides good visibility so you can easily see the contents inside. It is quick dry, so if it gets wet or you plan to use a cube for dirty laundry, it will dry quicker than most other pack cubes. Thanks to the material, it is also smaller & lighter if you are watching every spare gram or cm in your pack.
The second major difference is the design. As you can see in the photos, these open up lengthways or vertically if you like– with zips that run the length of the lid. I haven’t exactly encountered a scenario where the zippering has prevented me from fitting anything into a cube, but this could appeal to some users. On this trip I have found it easy to fit in 6-8 rolled up T-shirts. It has a hanging loop/ handle on the top as well.
Overall, another great quality packing cube– it folds up flat and smaller than other brands I have tried when not in use plus it is made of super quick-drying material and is a very light. Random side note; with the right contents, these make a quick & easy pillow if you are ever pillow-less or you need to improvise!
Never, ever did I think that I would be reviewing hair care products, but hey – I also have sunscreen with moisturizer in it… Let’s face it, when you’re travelling & on the road it can get pretty easy to forget about showering & general hygiene- even for a guy! So if you aren’t planning on developing some 90’s backpacker dreads, you’re gonna need some shampoo.
Unfortunately, on many trips it just isn’t feasible to lug around your 1L bottle of Pantene Pro-V with apricot extract.
Enter the Trek & Travel Shampoo:
The Sea To Summit shampoo comes in the same rigid bottle as the Wilderness Wash liquid which is a definite strong point
Everything is labelled clearly– so if you ever do have to show customs or airport security it should be a breeze
The shampoo contains conditioner, which means you save the space & hassle of two bottles
Another plus is that it is biodegradable – which is a fantastic feature if you will be spending time outside, camping or showering near water sources.
So is it the same as a fancy hair salon shampoo? Probably not. But if you are reasonably low maintenance like me, it does a great job. The bottle isn’t going to leak, you can take it through airports and your head won’t smell like a dead animal.
We all know how important it is to keep well hydrated on the road- especially if you are in hot weather, on an ‘active’ holiday’ or in areas where water quality may be questionable (i.e. most of the world…) So what does one do when you don’t know where the next safe water source is going to be?
Normal people carry a water bottle of course.
I have been using the Snowgum collapsible water bottle that I semi-impulse bought back in Sydney. It is definitely on the budget end of the scale for collapsible water bottles (or any type of water bottle for that matter). In preparation for the trip I had started eying these as a space saving option instead of an aluminium flask. I saw some ranging in price from about $10-$25 AUD in travel & camping stores but held off making the purchase to see a few more.
One day when we randomly popped into a Snowgum store about a month before leaving, we noticed a stack of these bottles on offer at 3 for $10. They might not be quite as solidly built as some of the more expensive models – but who could pass that deal up?
The ability to roll up and secure the bottle when empty
A small, simple carabiner style clip to hang the bottle
Screw-off pop top lid with cover
White matte spot to write your name!
As you can see, the bottle can stand up when filled– although I have seen other versions which are a bit more stable. There is always a nagging thought in my head when it is being squashed in with other items in my pack that it is going to tear or break. The plastic it is made from is fairly tough, but it is still plastic and unfortunately after about 7 weeks of use, one of them sprung a leak. The other is going strong and I guess, we somewhat factored that risk in when we bought 3 for $10 bucks!
Overall – good value as a bit of a novelty, even as a back-up to carry around empty most of the time in case of emergencies. If in use every day, I would certainly be concerned after a couple of weeks with the cleanliness – as I tend to get a bit wary of drinking from plastic after a while- even if it has been washed.
As someone who has usually just sought out laundry mats or flipped my underpants inside-out, I don’t exactly have a huge amount of experience with travel detergents and washing products.
This trip however, we are overseas for about 3-4 months in some areas where laundry operators might be hard to find, and we can also save a bit of cash too by using the Sea to Summit “Wilderness Wash”. I should mention now that the Sea To Summit Wilderness Wash isn’t just for clothes, it can be used for dishes/ eating utensils, personal use and outdoor gear as well.
The first noticeable selling point for me, is the super sturdy bottle. It is clearly labelled, TSA approved, 89 ml (3 fluid oz.) and transparent- essentially, it is perfectly designed for travel. After having a few bottles burst in the past, I have always hated packing liquids of any kind– but this is so solid I would feel pretty comfortable popping it with my electronic gear.
Excellent for Hand-washing
The wash itself works great–it’s concentrated so you can use just a few drops per item or a tiny cap-full for a sink of washing. It doesn’t have an overwhelming smell which is great for people with allergies or who just don’t want to smell like flowers.
Overall: it’s perfect if you are an outdoor or adventure traveler, going on long trips or want to be a bit more autonomous or save some money on the road.
First off, I am pretty new to packing cubes – so this review might be most useful to people in the same shoes. For packing cube vets interested in what’s on the market, read on as we will be putting some other brands to the test in the coming weeks too. The question I hope to answer for you; would it be worthwhile to go out and grab some eBags packing cubes for your trip or holiday?
Short answer: yes.
For those like me who hadn’t discovered or tried using cubes, they may seem like a bit of a waste of time – a bag to pack clothes & items into before packing that into your bag. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked past them in a store and thought to myself that the whole idea seemed a little bit anal. That said, I’m not exactly neat & organised when it comes to packing (on the road or at home). I typically do my best to roll up my clothes before shoving them in my backpack the night before a trip and once I’m on the road, things really start to get messy! If it’s a longer trip, I usually have to do some kind of weekly reshuffle just to get things to fit back in my pack… Sound familiar?
So given my last-minute packing style, packing cubes actually seem to make quite a bit of sense – luckily for me, eBags sent us a set (small, medium & large). I did have a few doubts about whether the rectangular ‘cubes’ would work in different shaped bags and whether they would really save space.
I decided to use the small cube for my day-pack – which has one main compartment that gets pretty messy as soon as you open it up. I rolled up a shirt, spare socks, underpants as well as a mid-weight Icebreaker jacket and popped them in with room to spare.
There have definitely been a few situations where the day-pack cube was awesome; like with airport security (having to remove & replace my laptop) which usually messes up all the other stuff in there. Using the packing cube was also great when retrieving things like keys, maps, sunglasses or books while walking or when the pack is under your seat. Having all my clothes packed away and compact saved me time and a probably a few of those “Oh crap, where is it?!” moments – as you fish around the bottom of your bag like a lucky dip.
Other times I thought it made life easier were of course when I wanted to grab something from the cube, like a jacket or scarf when the bag was in the dark – super handy for overnight travel or in shared accommodation. Overall a pretty big success – I will be using a small or medium cube in my day pack any time I travel from now on.
I have been using the medium sized cube in my main pack – and it has proven perfect for a backpacks worst enemy – socks & underwear.
So instead of packing them straight into my backpack (and subsequently losing them), I popped my underwear in the cube- easily fitting in 7 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of boxers/ underpants and 2 singlets. I should mention that the cube probably handle another 30% or so without much effort. For the first time on a trip, it is strangely satisfying knowing that I can actually locate all of my socks & boxers and even have a place to pack them back into when they are washed. I may even use them in my drawers when I am not on the road. (No kidding!)
*Newbie tip: socks are one of a few items that seemed to pack better & remove easier when laid flat, not rolled.
The large cube is suitable for bigger items and for some people possibly all of their clothes. For this trip it is staying at home – I really couldn’t find a need for it since the eBags Weekender Motherlode already has some amazing compartments & features. In large 65 – 90L packs like my big macpac Utopia Hybrid backpack (that is currently on holiday with my brother), it would be ideal. I remember reaching through layers of clothes looking for a shirt or board shorts down the bottom and consequently screwing up every other folded and rolled piece of clothing I had in between!
Final thoughts: So maybe (just maybe) I was an idiot. It turns out packing cubes are actually super useful for normal people and the unorganized travelers like me- not just neat-freaks and the anally retentive!
eBags packing cubes are sturdy & well made with solid zippers
The cubes have partial mesh on the lids so you can see the contents
Extremely useful for grouping small items such as underwear
Time-saving for day packs or carry-on luggage when you have to constantly remove & replace things
Really handy when you want to retrieve things from your bag when it is out of sight or in the dark
Stay tuned for further packing cube reviews and news – we will definitely be looking at some other options out there in the market!
A few months ago, eBags gave us the opportunity to test out their Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible packs, which Brooke & I used as our main packs on our recent 3.5 month trip. It is approximately 55L and can suit your needs as a large carry–on or a medium sized backpack (as we are using it).
I used my macpac day-pack in conjunction and when both are fully packed the eBags is actually not that much larger!
Exterior : the bag itself is mid-sized and quite rectangular in shape. I have it in black and it looks good – smart enough if you are more of a corporate traveler but not too delicate for backpackers. The exterior material is tough fabric, with sturdy carrying handles on the top, side and bottom – which make it the easiest bag I have ever owned to stow and retrieve from overhead lockers and car boots.
On the front lid of the bag are several compartments – one has several smaller storage options suitable for passports, pens, keys, & valuables as well as several flat zippered sections. There is also a compartment above that and even a drink bottle holder which can be hidden away when not in use. The back pack straps can also be zipped in for transit which is always a great feature if you are flying.
Inside: this is where the bag really shines. The main compartment has a divider which can actually be released- to form either one or two sections depending on what you are packing. The sides are quite deep and that is even before unzipping the exterior to expand the depth of the bag. There are two tie down straps which come in handy for compressing clothes or valuables. On the lid of the main section there is a mesh zippered section perfect for a few flat items such as collared shirts or a sweater that doesn’t roll-up easily.
Located behind the main compartment is the laptop compartment and ‘sling’ – which allows you to fit any sized laptop under 17″ quite easily without the laptop resting on the base. There is padding for protection and behind that is the flat zippered external compartment which can house the backpack straps.
In Action: so what is the bag like on the road?
Great when it comes to packing 15 minutes before check-out. I haven’t had any problems finding places to store stuff and haven’t had any battles getting the bag shut.
Organization is probably the best selling point for the TLS Weekender Convertible. Whatever you’ve got to pack, you should be able to find a space for it that just feels right!
Different modes of transport love the bag too. It fits carry on regulations and the exterior handles make it the best bag I’ve ever owned to maneuver and grab from planes, cars, trains and the ground.
Carrying the bag is probably its weakness in my eyes. In the last 6 weeks, it has weighed between 9 kg – 15 kg and even for someone in fairly good shape, it can get uncomfortable to use the back straps or shoulder strap for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
After a fair bit of rough and tumble from at least 10 bus trips and 5 flights, the appearance is still good bar a few scruff marks and some dust.
So should you buy one? That’s really up to you and what type of trip you have planned. I for one am really happy to have it in my arsenal for travelling- it is fantastically flexible and has an incredible amount of smart features for one bag.
If you are seeking a ‘weekender’ bag as the name suggests (something for flying, road trips or travelling where you do not have to carry your luggage for long stretches of time) – this bag is excellent. If you have some lengthy treks planned, it isn’t designed with the back support/ weight distribution systems and long-distance carrying capacity of a purpose built backpack.
For more info on the eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible, check out the great videos by the product designers which give you a lot more info about the features & specifications.
A trekking or travel towel is certainly one of the most essential items for any backpacker on the road (who is actually planning to shower). For readers from around the world, I have seen a few other names being used for travel towels – such as; ‘pack’ towel, ‘compact’ towel, ‘quick-dry’ towel and ‘fast dry’ towels. While a lot of places offer free towels or the option to rent one, there is still a good chance if you go on a long trip or are heading to some less-developed countries, you could find yourself stranded without a towel.
Before this trip, I had been the proud owner of two different options. The first one which is now long gone, was more of a spongy, highly synthetic material. Thicker and rolled into a hard plastic case, I don’t remember the exact brand, but have seen similar offerings in sporting goods stores for swimmers. My second was purchased from Kathmandu, of the thinner, more common microfiber style I see online and in stores. That is now also retired after many years of good service and my brother ‘borrowed’ it for a trip (about 10 trips ago). So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new one. Most travel towels tend to have a limited life before they start to have that permanent sweaty/ damp smell that can’t be shaken anyway.
So with my usual gift for timing, I decided to wait until the day before leaving to shop around for a new pack towel. I wasn’t looking for just any towel either – I needed it to be;
Large enough to actually resemble a towel
Able to pack into a small bag or roll
What I found were towels that were either too small (e.g. 30 cm x 50 cm) or too expensive (in the range of $50-$65 AUD). So I said “Hey, whatever- I’ll grab one at the airport”.
Guess what? The only ones I saw were basically handkerchief size. Awesome.
On the road, I was lucky enough to be staying in places that had towels but still kept a lookout in Turkey and Italy. We were approaching the portion of our trip that had the highest chance of towel-less accommodation (Western China, Kyrgyzstan & Mongolia) and I really didn’t like my chances of finding compact travel towels in unfamiliar territory. As luck would have it, I happened to see a small shop selling camping equipment in Bishkek and lo & behold – they had a travel towels!
With only the “Blue Line” brand to choose from, I went ahead and bought the largest size, which turned out to cost around $15 AUD or so. The towel itself is 75cm x 150cm – about chest height for me which is ideal for a pack towel. Rolled up, it is compact- a bit longer than my hand and a little wider in diameter than a can of soft drink.
The texture is a bit strange – it feels a bit rubbery to the skin compared with microfiber, but does a really good job of absorbing water and you don’t have to scrub to get dry. It also dries in a matter of hours in a normal bathroom with no windows.
Washing has been easy by hand or machine- I will try and update after more heavy use how it is performing. If you are like me and want travel towel that still feels like a real towel – this is the ideal size. The only negative I can find on the Blue Line brand is that it still smells a little like rubber.