PACK UP YOUR TROU­BLES

Why cells are the so­lu­tion to your lug­gage woes

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM - CATHER­INE BEST

Pack­ing cells are the great­est travel in­no­va­tion to hit the tar­mac since whee­lable suit­cases were in­vented al­most 50 years ago. But which brands are best, and do you need to spend big bucks to sep­a­rate your knick­ers from your knick-knacks? On a re­cent two-week fam­ily trip to Fiji, I road-tested five pop­u­lar brands – from the bar­gain base­ment to the Rolls Royce of cloth­ing com­part­ments.

Five peo­ple, two suit­cases, three planes, four boats, two mini-vans, three re­sorts and a freight-load of cells later, I’m a con­vert.

Here’s the low­down on each brand.

ZOOMLITE

These guys scream dura­bil­ity. In fact, you could safely se­quester your smalls in them, bung them on the lug­gage con­veyor, and be quite con­fi­dent your clothes would ar­rive in­tact at the other end, al­beit a lit­tle dusty.

Zoomlite, an all-Aus­tralian brand, is about strength and sim­plic­ity.

The clas­sic four-piece set comes in x-small, small, medium and large cells. Each has a strong mesh lid (so you can see what’s in­side and squeeze out ex­tra air) and dou­ble zips.

We road-tested the clas­sic set. You can also get toi­letry and shoe bags, gar­ment fold­ers and travel pouches.

The hus­band mostly used these and, de­spite de­fy­ing pre­vail­ing wis­dom to “roll not fold”, his shorts and T-shirts trav­elled mostly wrin­kle­free. The com­part­ments are a lit­tle deeper than some, as the cells are not dou­ble-sided, so rolling re­ally is the way to go if you don’t want to rum­mage through lay­ers of clothes, which de­feats the pur­pose of us­ing cells.

I love that these re­tain their shape when packed in a suit­case or un­packed in a ho­tel cup­board.

4-PIECE SET, $49.95, ZOOMLITE.COM.AU

LAPOCHE

The Imelda Mar­cos of pack­ing cells, Lapoche has a so­lu­tion for ev­ery so­journ. The home­grown range, cre­ated by Mel­bourne de­signer Beth Richards, cov­ers tra­di­tional pack­ing cubes and shirt flat packs, to jew­ellery or­gan­is­ers, tech packs and spillage­proof toi­letry pouches.

These cubes look smart and have some lovely girlie touches (dis­claimer: they had me with the his and hers jocks and lingerie cells; the lat­ter has a cute bra and undies-shaped mesh win­dow). Looks aside, they’re su­per func­tional with a struc­tured but com­pact shape (to keep items snugly in place), breath­able peek-a-boo mesh and two-way zips. My daugh­ter used the dou­ble-sided cell for rolled-up dresses on one side and shorts and Tshirts on the other. I used the sin­gle cells in sim­i­lar fash­ion.

I found the two-sided lingerie cube a lit­tle squeezy for bras, yet bulkier than some of the other brands. We sprung a small hole in the mesh on one cell as the fab­ric isn’t as tough as Zoomlite or Kath­mandu.

But over­all, I loved these, not least be­cause $1 from ev­ery on­line sale is do­nated to the world Hunger Project. SIN­GLE CUBES FROM $22.95, LAPOCHE.COM

KATH­MANDU

The New Zealand trans­plant we love to call our own, Kath­mandu is no light­weight when it comes to pack­ing solutions. There are a range of soft cells and hard (for pro­tect­ing your frag­ile bits on the fly).

Sim­i­lar in de­sign to Zoomlite and Lapoche, the clas­sic cells have breath­able mesh and dou­ble zips but are softer in struc­ture, with funky pat­terned de­signs. I used a medium cube for swimwear and beach gear (they also have dou­ble-sided cells).

The stand­out is the Pack­ing Cell Ul­tra Dou­ble, which func­tions like a minia­ture hard-shell suit­case; there’s a rigid gar­ment folder com­part­ment on one side, a reg­u­lar cell on the other, with com­pres­sion straps to smoosh it all to­gether. You may need a ge­om­e­try de­gree to per­fect the shirt fold, but it’s a clever de­sign none­the­less.

What we did like was the “odour de­stroy­ing” pack­ing cell, which kept footwear funk out of clothes.

Kath­mandu gets bonus points for sus­tain­abil­ity; clas­sic cells are made from 100 per cent re­cy­cled polyester, the equiv­a­lent of one plas­tic bot­tle. CLAS­SIC CELLS FROM $19.98, KATH­MANDU.COM.AU

OSPREY

I was du­bi­ous about these at first. They can be scrunched into the ball of your fist and have lit­tle more struc­ture than a plas­tic bag.

But this makes them su­per light­weight, ver­sa­tile and great for com­pres­sion. That means squeez­ing that ex­tra pair of dacks into your lug­gage even though you don’t re­ally need them.

My el­dest daugh­ter and son used the small, medium and large sizes (in­clud­ing the dou­ble-sided range) – colour-coded by kid – and we fit­ted a sur­pris­ing amount of clothes into a rel­a­tively small space.

I wasn’t a fan of dou­ble-sided cells to be­gin with but I’m a con­vert be­cause they en­able you to mul­ti­task com­part­ments with­out bulk­ing up on mul­ti­ple cells. This is handy for lit­tle peo­ple’s fid­dly bits of cloth­ing (you can also use them to sep­a­rate clean clothes from dirty) .

As far as com­pres­sion goes, they’re a win­ner, but that silk blouse may pay the price be­cause they’re not the best for keep­ing clothes wrin­kle free. That said, Osprey is a US out­door ad­ven­ture brand, and these are spot-on for their mar­ket – think hik­ing back­pack or duf­fel bag more so than suit­case.

They are made of tough ny­lon, with a sin­gle, half­way-open­ing zip.

We also found these use­ful in our carry-on lug­gage to keep jack­ets and changes of clothes sep­a­rate from drinks, snacks and other on­board anti-bore­dom para­pher­na­lia. 3-PIECE UL­TRA­LIGHT SET, $39.95, OSPREY.COM

KMART

If you’re wheel­ing Louis Vuit­ton on your trav­els, these bar­gain-base­ment cubes might be out of place among your de­signer duds.

But don’t write them off too quickly. They are su­per light­weight, with two-way zip­pers and breath­able mesh, and the three pack (small, medium and large) folds away neatly into a teensy tote.

We used these for stow­ing the kids’ shoes and packed the largest bag for our dirty laun­dry.

They’re not as ro­bust as the other brands, and I can’t vouch for their longevity on a round-the-world trip, but for $9, they’ll sep­a­rate your jocks from your jumpers and give cell cyn­ics a trial run with­out break­ing the bank.

3-PIECE SET, $9, KMART.COM.AU

LAPOCHE

KATH­MANDU MEDIUM CUBE

KMART

OSPREY

ZOOMLITE CLAS­SIC

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