(Un)Packing Methodologies: Rolling vs. Bundle

May 30th, 2009 § 31 comments



Tomorrow I am heading out to San Francisco! My fiance T. is going for a week long workshop and I am happily tagging along. Since I’m there for the pleasure of it, my itinerary includes the following: much walking and sightseeing, visits to the museums, thrift and book store perusals, a couple of nights out for drinks with friends in the area, and a night at the San Francisco Opera!

In order to account for all the different activities on my schedule and the volatile weather in San Francisco, I will pack for several temperatures and events. This gives me the perfect opportunity to explore the bundle vs. rolling method when it comes to compact packing and good use of suitcase space before I apply it to a much larger packing job in September. 

Click to see the  Great Rolling vs. Bundle Face-Off ….



The Spread:

  • 2 blazer jackets
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of navy cords
  • 1 jean skirt (for the extreme off-chance it warms up next week!)
  • 2 patterned cardis
  • 2 solid color cardis
  • 7 solid color tees (one for each day)
  • one dress for the Opera!
  • 2 pairs of walking shoes that can transition to evening (red and yellow)
  • 1 pair of sling-back heels for Opera! 
  • 3 tanks for layering
  • 3 light-weight scarves
  • 1 pink pashmina
  • undergarments, laundry bag, make-up, toiletries, jewelry 
  • Not included: the flats, jeans, top, and cardi I will wear on the plane

The Plan:

For the last seven years or so, I have always rolled my clothing when packing. Then, E. did a post on packing for a weekend conference and blew me away with the bundle packing method. 

Since I have to fit a year’s worth of clothes into two suitcases this coming September, I have been thinking a lot about how to make the most out of every inch of suitcase space I have. So I’m using this much smaller packing job to put the rolling vs. bundle methods to the test.

The Bundle:




I started with the bundle method, since I was curious to give it a try. It’s suggested that you start with the larger items (jackets, jeans) and slowly work your way to the core (see a list with the suggested bundling order here ), so I tried to do just that.




One of the supposed advantages of bundling is that it’s said to eliminate wrinkles even better than rolling, which I’m really hoping for when it comes to my silk Opera dress. I layered it toward the bottom of the bundle, so that it would wrap around a larger circumference than if it were closer to the center of the bundle.




I wasn’t sure it I was doing the “correct” order, but just kept layering the thinner items on top until I used up my entire packing spread. Then I started folding them in over the core of the bundle. 




And tah-dah!  The finished bundle:




And, for a size comparison, see the bundle next to Louie. As you can see, it’s just slightly larger than cat-sized:




Finally,  I placed the bundle in my suitcase and used the remaining space for my toiletries, shoes, scarves, and other such small items. And with that, the suitcase was full.




The Rolling:

The rolling method is pretty self-explanatory: you roll everything. It’s more wrinkle-proof than folding and supposedly also more space efficient. With smaller items, such as tees and tanks, I roll a two to three of them together. With larger items, such as jeans, I roll them by themselves. 



I wasn’t sure what to do with my jackets since they somewhat resisted being rolled, and I was also unsure about rolling my silk dress. So I left those three items out to simply lay across the bottom of the suitcase. 



Voila the finished rolling job! After laying the jackets and dress across the bottom of the suitcase, the rolled items went on top, and the remaining space was once more filled with the non-clothing items.





As you can see, both packing methods resulted in similarly full suitcases, so I’m not certain that one was more space-efficient than the other. However, I am now a bundle convert! Not only is the finished bundle cute and charming in its self-containment, it is conveniently easy to carry off the bed and into the suitcase. The rolls at times come undone and took much longer to make than the bundle. It also seemed that the clothes in the bundle were smoother when unpacked than the more wrinkled rolled items.

So my verdict: the bundle may not necessarily be more space efficient, but I found it to be more time efficient as a process and more aesthetically pleasing in the end (yes, the latter my not be functionally important, but still scored the bundle some points in my mind). And I do think that it appears to be more wrinkle proof than the rolling method. So overall, the bundle wins the Great Packing Showdown in my book.

What do you think? Have you experimented with both packing methods at some point? Have you picked up any good packing tricks that you employ each time you travel? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! S.

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§ 31 Responses to (Un)Packing Methodologies: Rolling vs. Bundle"

  1. Sara says:

    I use eagle creek packing folders. They really keep the wrinkles away (especially for suits) and they don’t take up much space. They are also great for short trips where I can take a day or two worth of clothing in the extra compartment in my laptop bag since they are just the shape of a folder.

  2. Anna says:

    For small items like socks, underwear, and layering tees, I like to roll them and pack them in plastic bags. Once I pack them all into the bag, I squeeze all the air out, essentially vacuum packing my clothes. This helps them take up less space, plus it’s easy to unpack if I sort them into categories when packing. But next time, I’m definitely going to try bundling!

  3. Danielle says:

    I’m going to have to try the bundle method!! :)

  4. Kelly says:

    I am a big fan of the bundle method. For me, not only did it take up less space than “regular” (not rolling) packing, but my cargo pants, which get wrinkled when I even just think about them getting wrinkled, came out of my suitcase wrinkle-free. I originally got the idea from a website called http://www.onebag.com, which I think is an amazing site. I’ve become a onebag convert through it.

  5. S. says:

    wow, thanks for the great tips already! I’m very intrigued by the Eagle Creek packing folder, Sara!

    Kelly – glad to hear the wrinkle part, that makes me very hopeful! And yes, I linked to the One Bag site above too, that’s where I learned how to do this as well!

  6. S 2 says:

    I could see the bundle method working best when you have one destination and can unpack the bundle. It seems like rolling might be better if you are traveling around and living out of a bag, because you can access individual items without having to undo the whole bundle.

  7. sjb says:

    I’m with S2 on this. The bundle might work nicely if you’ve got one destination and plenty of space to take everything out of the suitcase and hang it up or whatever, then re-bundle when you leave. But anytime you’re moving from place to place within a short time period or even if there’s nowhere to unpack all your stuff (e.g. a hostel, my sister’s teeny tiny guest room) then the rolling makes it SO easy to live out of a suitcase.

  8. Lauren says:

    What a great, comprehensive comparison of packing methods! How very academic of you. :-) I am traveling to a conference in a few days and will try this method thanks to your inspiration. Thanks and have a great trip to San Fran!

  9. Lauren N. says:

    The only bad thing I see about the bundle method is that if you’re living out of the suitcase, it will be significantly harder to get the clothes you want to wear that day out of the bag.

  10. Debbie says:

    I have also spent time abroad restricted to only one suitcase for a long period of time. The best way I have found to not only be space efficient but also organized is the packing cubes. I usually roll the items in each cube. With 5 cubes I can pack everything I need. 1 large one for jeans/skirts/jackets, 1 medium one for tops and sweaters, 1 small one for undergarments/socks, 1 for shoes(usually can fit up to 3 or 4 pairs) and 1 for toiletries. The cubes pack tetris like and provide even more room to fit a few things into the remaining crevices between the cubes if you need to. I have done TONS of traveling this way and have found the rolling method works great and the cubes keep me super organized. You can pick a pack of 3 up for about $20 on ebags.com

  11. Diana says:

    This really fascinates me. I’ve never really found a good way to pack for trips. I love this bundle idea. I’m definitely going to try it out the next time I travel.

  12. simply.femme says:

    I found the bundle method worked fantastic for my trip to Italy where space was much more important than any previous stateside trips. The way I did it was to place shoes, hair dryer and other heavy items in the bottom of the suitcase and actually start the bundle in the suitcase. After all the clothes were arranged, I placed nightwear, underwear, socks, etc. in the middle of the unfolded “bundle” and folded around that. I definitely found I got less wrinkled clothing.

    I generally unpack, regardless of the amount of time I stay in a hotel, as rummaging through my bag disturbs whatever method I used to pack, but if that is a concern, you could create individual bundles for each stay. (The packing cubes do sound interesting…)

  13. S. says:

    I have also considered the problem of unpacking the bundle and how it doesn’t allow you to access individual items like rolling or folding does.

    I tend to unpack stuff even if I replace it in the suitcase and use the suitcase for storage, but I loved the suggestions of the packing cubes or the individual bundles!

    Thanks, everyone, for some really great tips!

  14. Christine says:

    I’m also a fan of packing folders and packing cubes, like the ones from EBags. They kind of restrict you in that you have to fold or roll items into a single rectangular space (if you like packing into every nook and cranny of the suitcase like a game of “Tetris”, you won’t like these). It’s nice for occasions where you don’t have a dresser to put your items in from your suitcase. You can just leave the cube stacks on a table or desk.

  15. piglet says:

    I’m a roller.
    I like to live out of my suitcase rather than unpacking so it would drive me INSANE having to unravel the whole bundle to find what I wanted!

  16. Jess says:

    I find all of this so fascinating- I’ve never done anything other than just fold and pack. When my husband and I travel we often share a suitcase- I always pack because I have the most stuff and he just sort of tosses things in all willy-nilly. Next time, I may try making separate bundles for each of us!

  17. Von says:

    I’m so glad I found this (via Passementerie, I think). Using your bundle method, I was thrilled to find my dresses did not need ironing when I arrived at a hotel on the weekend. It Works!
    Yay for you!

  18. [...] method. I compared the bundle “one bag” method to the rolling method for a previous trip here, and now I’m certain that this is the solution for getting the most items into one [...]

  19. JAMES HOLLAND says:

    My wife and I bought special carry-ons from RedOxx, after reading Dyment’s website, and used the bundle packing method. We traveled to Europe with just the one carry-on each for 16 days. Each bag weighed less than the 17 lb. limit for Luthansa. Included was a suit for me and an evening gown for her. All the clothes were unwrinkled and immediately wearable. Now I tell all my friends to bundle pack.

  20. Sara says:

    Oh my gosh, I never realised that there are people out there who are more obssesed with packing than I am! I haven’t come across the bundle method before and will certainly be giving it a try when I go to Singapore!

  21. [...] is the key to my success thus far. I lay my larger clothes out on the bed in an X as described here, and then roll smaller items & place them in the middle of the X.  This baby can get 6 days [...]

  22. This bundling method is genius. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before. I’m not sure if it would work as well for me from a pulling-one-item-out perspective, so it might be better for longer trips that involve complete unpacking, but I’m keen to experiment!

  23. Packandgo says:

    Thank you for your blog post. I had been wondering whether rolling or packing would be more efficient, so your test gives me further info!
    I am amazed that all of the clothing you packed seemed to take up only a little more than 50% of the bag area.

    I have tried packing cubes and folders. I like the concept, but not the extra weight.

    The only other concern i have about the bundle method, would be that if the TSA decided to go thru your bag it would be a mess to replicate in the middle ofva crowdedvairport.

  24. Packandgo says:

    Meant to say bundling, not packing.

  25. [...] friend alerted me to a blog that has a great “how-to” about packing methods. In this particular article, the author [...]

  26. person says:

    I have rolled my clothes since I was a kid. I roll one outfit up with all the pieces I need for it and keep it together with the belt. Every morning of my trip, I just take out a little roll and jump in the shower. My best friend uses the bundle method and when she goes to get her clothes out of her suitcase, she just searches and searches until she gets an outfit together. I guess it would work better if you were going to stay in one place your whole trip.

  27. [...] a proponent of the rolling method for packing and, thus far, I’ve packed an insane amount of stuff with 1/4 of my suitcase left [...]

  28. [...] a proponent of the rolling method for packing and, thus far, I’ve packed an insane amount of stuff with 1/4 of my suitcase left [...]

  29. angie says:

    if you are going to several places consider multiple bundles. I am going to arizona in early November. The first part of the week I will need shorts and short sleeve shorts and maybe one long sleeve shirt and pants for my Phoenix destination. Then later in the week, going to sedona and grand canyon where I will need warmer clothes. i am doing two bundles. Its easier and you wont have to rip the whole bag apart to get one certain item.

  30. Quality posts is the secret to attract the users to pay
    a quick visit the web site, that’s what this site is providing.

  31. [...]  full up. The rolling method may not truly save you much space (though  it’s been heavily debated!) but it does make it easier to pull clothes in and  out of the case without worrying too much [...]

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