I just received a set of the Spire USA packing tubes to look at for review. Spire is a great, boutique laptop bag and backpack company based out of Colorado. They focus on making durable, accessible products and they make as much of them in the US as they can. In fact, many of their products are made in their studios in Colorado by hand. You can tell they love what they do when you look at the website, or when you look at what they make.
I originally connected with them when I was looking for the ultimate laptop back pack to haul around my Macbook Pro. Their approach with the protective Boot case for the Mac really appealed to me since I do have a tendency to change laptops a bit. I reviewed their excellent Torq mid-size back pack here.
I do use packing cubes to internally organize my packing on trips, so I was very intrigued when they mentioned their upcoming packing tubes to me. I have to confess that I pestered them mercilessly about the product until they gave up and sent me a set to look at. I think they primarily did this so I would leave them alone, but as my father used to say “No good deed goes unpunished” so I will write about them to pester them some more!
A packing tube is exactly what it sounds like. A thirteen inch long cylinder that has a full length YKK zipper to give you access to the insides. The tube is made of cordura velocity nylon with a strip of flexible mesh that the zipper is seated in. This mesh is somewhat see through, lets the tube breathe and flexes enough to let you close even an overstuffed tube. They all have a handle one one side which makes them easy to grab and pull out of your luggage.
The tubes are really robust and well made. I actually tried to destroy one by pulling it different directions and from different grab points. I was completely unsuccessful and it still looks like new.
The tubes have double zippers on them with tabs on both sides of the bag and the same zipper pulls they use on the backpacks. This makes them a lot easier to open as it gives you something to hold as you pull against it to unzip. In a fit of throwback cool, I also discovered that the pulls glow in the dark!
These tubes come in four sizes, varying from small to extra large and moving from 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The sizes are variously suited to different things but the large and extra large work really well for shoes. I really like being able to isolate my shoes inside of a bag so they don’t damage or soil things inside my luggage. My wife has already stolen the large bag and can easily fit two pairs of flats or sandals into the tube. The small and medium tubes work really well for socks and underthings. They range from $16 to $24 based on size.
Since maximum carry on size in the US is 45 linear inches and typically breaks down into 20 by 14 by 9, the packing tubes should fit nicely into any piece of luggage. They stuff equally well into the center section of my Tom Bihn Tristar or the back section of my Torq.
Unless you are packing very casual, the tubes are not so great for shirts and pants or things that you are concerned about wrinkling. If you are a bundle packer, the small or medium tube makes a reasonable bundle core.
They are, however, brilliant for small goods, shoes and even function well to stuff small electronics into. The inside of the tubes is a light gray, which makes seeing things inside of the tubes easy.
For, shirts and pants I still prefer the packing cubes so, for me, the perfect solution is a couple of cubes and a couple of tubes. Really not a competition, more like a great big blended family of packing products!
I had a bit of an odd trip on my schedule, so the tubes arrived at a great time. I had a 4 day business trip through Florida and my girls came down to meet me at the beach for a long Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, this meant leaving on a Monday and returning on the next Monday so it took a bit of forethought and careful planning to do it all in one suitcase.
I basically had two 4 day trips to pack for, so my mentality was to split the sides of my Tristar, one for business and one for the weekend. One little twist in this is that I would be taking 2 extra pair of shoes, which I hardly ever do.
So, the easy side was the beach side. Three colored tees, a polo for beach church and a pair of khaki shorts pack nicely in a packing cube. My favorite pair of sandals (which I can’t bear to go to the beach without!) stuffed nicely into the XL Packing tube. Everything is packed and protected and lays out nicely!
The work side has got 2 pair of khakis in compression straps, a packing cube with three logo bearing work polos and a tee shirt. The small packing tube with socks for the week tucks neatly in beside it.
I am carrying a briefcase on this trip so I have the flexibility of filling up the center section with clothes instead of electronics. Large packing tube with dress shoes, medium packing tube with underwear and swim trunks. The indigo flash of color is my TB Sidekick with all of my toiletries and there is a Scottevest Windbreaker hidden below in case it rains.
The great part about this approach is that nothing is loose inside the bag. All of my work clothes are in one side and can be pulled out in the hotels. All of the beach stuff is in the other side for when I quit working over the weekend!
The tubes actually add a little bit of flexibility to my packing regime. I really like them for stuff that I am not concerned about wrinkling and and they will stuff nicely into nooks and crannies that a packing cube would not make sense in.
My only criticism is that the mesh is not quite see through enough for my taste. I like being able to glance at a bag and see what is in it and the mesh on the cubes is just a bit too opaque for that. If something is light colored your can see that there is something in there but that is about it. On the plus side the mesh is very stretchy, so you have little bit of built in slop factor on the packing tubes if you tend to over pack them.
As I have looked at some of the competitive tubes out there, I have noticed that most of them are basically unstructured tubes with drawstrings at one end that you stuff like a sack. I really prefer the length wise zipper on the Spire tubes for getting stuff in and out.
Built like tanks, and likely to last a long time. Perfect for shoes and small items that are not wrinkle issues. If you are looking to add some organization to an existing bag, these are a real winner.
Small- $16, Medium- $18, Large- $20, X Large-$24
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