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30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 13: Rolling vs. Folding – Which Saves More Space?

Day 13: Folding versus rolling. Which is better?

Welcome to Day 13 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag.

We all know the big debate when it comes to packing your clothing. Is rolling better than folding? Does it really save space and keep your clothing from getting wrinkled?

Is there a better way?

When it comes to rolling and folding and finding a better way, it is really a matter of your trip style and packing goals. For example, business travelers will probably prefer to fold their clothing on the creases, with maybe something like tissue paper in the middle to reduce friction and help keep it from getting extra wrinkles. Backpackers, on the other hand, will most likely be trying to cram as much clothing into as little a space as possible. To do this, they might prefer the rolling method, which can do that while also keeping wrinkles to a minimum.

Let’s discuss these methods in greater detail.

Rolling

Rolling has been said to be the method of packing that will help people save space. Why? Because it compresses the clothing while also making it easier to stack and pack into a tiny section of your bag or suitcase.

Think about it. Folding your clothes and leaving them to sit as is can mean that your packed wardrobe covers more surface area in the backpack or suitcase. In the end, this makes it harder for you to fit your other pieces of travel gear into the luggage without overlapping, or being a bit more unorganized. Rolling means you can treat your packing list more like the game pieces in Tetris, filling in gaps between certain items to take full advantage of the space (and freeing up space in the process).

How to Roll Your Clothes

For items like shirts and tops, you generally want to fold the body in half, vertically. Fold in the sleeves and then roll tight.

For items like pants and jeans, you will want to fold in half and then roll tight.

Try to pack items in your luggage so that the rolls stay as tight as possible. While a rubber band will do the trick, they tend to leave lines on your clothing from the pressure. Another option is using some packing bands, but our preferred method is to roll clothes and then place into a packing cube or compression sack.

rolling vs folding - inside the packing cube

Rolling versus Folding

Some people argue that rolling doesn’t do a better job at making your packing smaller because a bunch of folded shirts that are squished into a suitcase will also be compressed. This is true.

In fact, it has been said that just by leaving your clothes and gear to settle in your luggage overnight (the natural weight of the items squishing out air, for example), your overall luggage size can reduce by up to 8% on it’s own!

But, it’s not just about the amount of fabric being compressed into its absolute minimum, it’s about being able pack the pieces in their optimal positions so they remain taut and well-packed — and let’s not forget about the fewer wrinkles part. We’ll be talking more about keeping your clothes wrinkle-free in a future post, and packing techniques for that purpose could vary greatly compared to packing for space.

Take Action: Fold and Roll Your Clothes
Fold a stack of clothing, being sure to take a photo of the before. Roll the same stack of clothing and compare images. If you’d rather see them side-by-side, then get two stacks of clothing that are about equal and see the difference. If you want to make it truly interesting, leave your folded stack of clothes overnight to see if they settle.

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm producing episodes of The UnPacking List or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren says

    I feel like whether I roll or fold… my clothes end up getting wrinkled! I love using Downey’s Wrinkle Release Spray on my clothes when I arrive at the hotel, then I hang them up for the night.

    Better yet, everyone should read your previous posts for this month. That way they won’t have to worry about cramming their clothes into their suitcase since they won’t be overpacking 😉

    Happy travels!

  2. Kristi says

    I’m a total “roller” when I pack! But I do enjoy the roll/fold hybrid as well LOVE my packing cubes. It’s inevitable that clothing will get wrinkled when packed in luggage for hours and hours – however, I try to choose fabrics such as Bamboo and Modal that are more ‘crease resistant’.

    Great post, thanks!

  3. Donna says

    You can use dry cleaning bags in between the folds and each piece to almost completely eliminate wrinkles when you choose the folding option. They work great for business travel.

  4. Aaryn says

    I use the bundle method. I went to the Philippines with a 20 inch carry on and was able to take enough clothing for the 3 weeks I was there.

  5. Mary Pierce says

    I understand about rolling t-shirts and the like but what about woven blouses, etc? I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Thanks

    • Brooke says

      Nice blouses are tough, and I don’t think there’s any way to get them to your destination wrinkle-free, unless you invest in shirts made of wrinkle-free fabrics. Some people fold their blouses with pieces of plastic or tissue paper as it helps prevent hard crease lines. Another tactic is to “bundle wrap” the blouses on the outside of other clothing items. Remove blouses immediately at your destination, hang in the shower, or bring a small bottle of wrinkle release spray.

  6. Lillian Kurowski says

    Folding clothes and layering them in a 2 gallon zip kock is the best! You can see your clothes and the way you fold them, that’s how they come out. I have learned this aftertraveling foe over 30 years!!!

  7. Donna says

    Just by pure physics, a shirt (or any piece of clothing) will take up the same amount of space whether it is laid flat or rolled. The mass of the shirt cannot change so a rolled shirt has the same mass as a flat shirt. It is an illusion if you think otherwise. You might be able to mold a rolled piece of clothing, but it takes up the same space as a flat piece of clothing because the mass is exactly the same.

    • Chintan Mehta says

      I agree, as long as the air is removed – either folding and stacking or rolling, both will take same space. The key to folding is stacking so that there aren’t extra air spaces between items.

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