Zpacks Packing Cubes, which are misnamed because they aren’t cubes, are brick-shaped packing pods that come with compression straps so you can shrink the volume that gear takes inside your backpack. This can allow you to carry a lighter weight, smaller volume backpack, or carry more food, so you can stay out longer and hike further.
Available in small (2L / 17g), medium (4L / 21g ), and large sizes (8L / 27g) sizes they’re made with seam-taped 1.0 oz/sq yd Dyneema Composite Fabric and a waterproof zipper that makes them highly water-resistant. All the cubes have a single webbing compression strap that links the two ends of the bag to form stackable bricks when compressed, making them good for packing backpacks as well as more conventional luggage.
Here’s what the medium-sized, 4L Zpacks cube looks like with a Feather Friends Flicker 40 quilt sleeping bag inside when zipped up and compressed.
I tried these Zpacks Packing cubes because I’ve noticed that the packing pods I own from Hyperlite Mountain Gear aren’t very effective when it comes to compressing gear so it uses less volume in my backpack. They’re good organizationally, but the smallest volume pod that Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes is 6.9 liters in a size small and 1.2 oz / 34 g in weight. When I put the same sleeping bag in a 6.9L HMG packing pod, it fills it completely and takes up close to twice the volume of the 4L Zpacks packing cube.
This is a simple example, where size does matter, especially if you have a couple of these packing cubes in your backpack. If your goal is to maximize the utilization of space in your backpack, I think Zpack’s Packing Cubes are a better solution than Hyperlite’s Packing Pods and those of other vendors because they have a built-in compression component.
Disclosure: Zpacks donated packing cubes for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
Yeah! I’ve also noticed how much room HMGs pods take up. Good call.
Is the benefit that once compressed in Zpacks cube, it will compress no further? Which I could see if you are packing a sleeping bag, as you may not want to over-compress it.
Otherwise, when I use the HMG cubes, the volume of whatever I put in them may well fill the bag at first (clothes, quilt, etc.), but when I put HMG cube in my pack it is compressed as l load contents on top if it.
I think you’ll find that you need a lot more force to get any compression for a sleeping bag in an HMG pod. The reason, I like these Zpacks stuff sacks is that I can get a lot more stuff into my pack than when I use HMG pods.
Well, dangit, once again I want a thing that Phillip has reviewed. :-D
Go up smarts mountain with me once and it obviously rubbed off!
I gotta just stop reading your blog! But I never will, please keep writing it forever. :-)
I’ve never really bothered with compression sacks, although I can see how they would come in handy with synthetic insulation. I no longer carry any synthetic insulation, and my down gear compresses nicely without the aid of a compression sack (I can fit a two-night winter load in Ohio into a 45-liter pack, compressing gear by pushing down as I load in gear (like Tom B said.) I could never quite manage to get enough compression that way when I used synthetic insulation back in the 80s and early 90s – I did use compression bags back then. However, I found that when I cinched them down, I ended up with brick-shaped bricks: they were so rigid that you couldn’t smoosh them around to fill the inside of the pack – I ended up with odd-shaped air spaces that I couldn’t use for anything. Never had that problem with regular stuff sacks (or the dry-bag type sacks); all the available space gets used, and the load is solid in the pack.
Remember, I’m an old fogey whose hobby is chasing crummy kids off my lawn. :) So, I’m not disputing the fact that some people find compression sacks useful – I’m just not one of them.
HMG did just come out with a compression packing pod, but I don’t know how well it compresses and you stuff from one of the sides, so the shape isn’t uniform.
Actually, I think it’s just a side-loading pod (from HMG).
I use an MLD pack and HMG posds. Not terribly worried about the individual compression of individual cubes or sacks in a frameless pack. Stuff the pods, stack, then compress the pack as a whole and the result is a beautiful stack that minimizes overall space and supports the pack. My 2 cents.
The pods cost more than the backpack, I bet!
I have a set of these and also a FF Flicker 40. You ain’t kiddin’ about the Flicker in that 4L cube! Amazing. But I also have a UGQ hybrid 30 and there’s no way to get it into the 4L, while the 8L is way too big. If there were a 6L, that would be just right. But I am a bit confused about the orientation of the strap. It appears that you have folded over the zipper side, but the straps on mine have to be twisted to be able to cinch down that way. The Zpacks site shows them folded over the non-zipper side, but my straps are too short to effectively cinch down that way. I’ll have to contact them about it, I suppose.