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Travel hackers know one secret to being a good packer is to travel light. However, this doesn’t mean you have to make do with less. Compression travel bags — plastic bags that work to vacuum seal your clothing and other items to pack flat — are a great hack for saving suitcase space. Luckily, travel vacuum bags don’t always need a vacuum to work either. There are different types of pumps — and even no-pump bags — on the market for when you don’t have access to an actual vacuum.
So, which should you choose for your trip and your specific needs? During our research, we found different bags that work for all types of vacations. Smaller, suitcase-sized compression bags and an easy roll-up method make Ziploc’s Space Bag 6-Count Travel Variety Pack our top pick. But if you’re looking for a bag with an electric, vacuum, or hand pump, read on.
Here’s our breakdown of the best vacuum bags for travel:
Bed Bath & Beyond
Why we love it: Multiple layers make these bags more durable than most.
What to consider: You may need more than one pack for cold-weather destinations or long trips.
These Ziploc Space Bags are specifically sized for travel so you can avoid buying a variety pack containing large and jumbo sizes that often will not fit in suitcases. The two sizes are designed to fit inside checked and carry-on luggage. The multiple-layered nylon, polypropylene, and polyethylene plastic bags are more durable than most non-vacuum rolling bags. Dual sealing zippers help keep an airtight seal. These bags are 100 percent roll-up, so there are no valves to work around. One negative to the smaller overall size of these bags is that you may need to purchase more than one variety pack if you’re heading out on a long trip or need to pack several bulky items.
Price at time of publish: $40
Compression method: Rolling | Number of bags: 6 | Dimensions: 13.5 x 19.5 inches and 17.5 x 22.5 inches
Why we love it: The hand pump screws into the compression valve for a secure and sturdy fit.
What to consider: Plastic zip caps may fall off after repeated use.
The Spacesaver Vacuum Storage Bags Variety 12 Pack offer three bags in small, medium, large, and jumbo sizes which is convenient for packing for different destinations, i.e. swimsuits for a beach vacation versus thick coats for snow. The included hand pump is travel-sized and screws directly into the triple-sealed turbo valve on the bags so you get a good, solid fit each time. You can also use most standard vacuum hoses with these valves. The bags also have double-lock zips to keep air from leaking into the bags. Unfortunately, repeated use can cause the zipper caps to break off which makes for a weaker seal.
Price at time of publish: $50
Compression method: Hand pump or vacuum hose | Number of bags: 12 | Dimensions: 16 x 24 inches (small); 20 x 28 inches (medium); 24 x 32 inches (large); 30 x 40 inches (jumbo)
Why we love it: These bags have a pump that uses a USB-2A charger.
What to consider: The pump is slow, especially for the larger-sized bags.
These VSTR Travel Vacuum Storage Bags come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small to extra large so you can fit different types of clothing inside without wasting space. The double-zip acts as dual protection for making sure the bags stay closed and compressed. The electric pump means less labor for your versus using hand-pump compression bags, while the convenience of having a travel-friendly USB charger means you aren’t just limited to a wall socket to charge the pump. The fact these bags have a lifetime guarantee is also a huge plus. Larger bags will take longer than expected to compress because of the pump’s power, which can test your patience if you’re in a rush.
Price at time of publish: $40
Compression method: Electric | Number of bags: 8 | Dimensions: 11 x 8.6 inches (small), 12.6 x 10 inches (medium); 14.1 x 12.6 inches (large); 17.7 x 12.6 inches (extra-large)
Why we love it: These bags are durable and fit easily into carry-on luggage.
What to consider: Clothes can sometimes get clogged in the compression valve.
The larger sizes are particularly good for saving suitcase space with bulkier items like coats and jackets yet will still fit inside a typical carry-on suitcase. Unlike other roll-up bags, the Conair Compress ‘n Pack Space Saving Packing System bags have a patented air-release valve that works to get more air out of the bags during the rolling process, which in turn saves you energy. That said, this valve can sometimes get clogged with the clothes you’re trying to pack, so keep this in mind while stuffing the bags, and during the rolling process.
Price at time of publish: $15
Compression method: Rolling | Number of bags: 4 | Dimensions: 14 x 18 inches (medium); 18 x 23 inches (large)
Why we love it: You’ve got several compression options.
What to consider: Some bags may be too large for your luggage.
This pack of Cozy Essentials Vacuum Storage Bags have a double-lock zip closure to help prevent accidental leakage. We also love the flexibility these bags give travelers when it comes to pump type. Each bag’s airtight, triple-sealed valve works with a standard vacuum cleaner or a hand-pump (included), and you’ll also get four small rolling compression bags to boot. The variety of sizes contains six small-sized bags, which is rare for multi-pack vacuum bags but more suitable for carry-on suitcase sizes. However, unless you’re planning on storing some large blankets at home, most people aren’t likely to use the larger bags, making them feel like a bit of a waste.
Price at time of publish: $22
Compression method: Vacuum hose, hand pump, or rolling | Number of bags: 12 | Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.7 inches (small); 27.5 x 19.5 inches (medium); 33.5 x 21.65 inches (large); 39.35 x 27.5 inches (jumbo)
Remember that the compression method matters. For example, rolling compression bags are convenient because you don’t have to rely on a pump to flatten them, but they require more physical energy and time to compress and decompress. Bags that use vacuums are the quickest and most effortless, but you’ll need a vacuum to recompress them.
When traveling, less is more. Compression bags that don’t require a pump not only save space, but can be used any time. If you don’t want to self-roll your bags, consider bag sets that come with a travel-sized, portable pump.
Compression bags work by removing the air inside the bag in order to make the contents of the bag as flat as possible. They’re great for saving space in your luggage, but keep in mind they don’t change the weight of what you’re packing (so be sure you can still lift your bag and it doesn’t weigh-in over the limit).
Yes, but beware that TSA may need to decompress the bag during any inspections. This can pose a problem if you can’t re-compress the bags afterwards.
Vacuum bags do not damage most clothes, though they can cause more wrinkling. Down clothing pieces should not be packed to the bag’s capacity as flattening down can ruin it.
For this list, T+L contributor Katherine Alex Beaven researched dozens of travel vacuum bags to suss out the best for saving you time, energy, and space on your next trip.
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