How to pack bulky items

We’re all trying to pack lighter, but sometimes it’s unavoidable to pile it on.

Cold-climate destinations top the list of difficult packing challenges, but other high-packing scenarios include long trips and gifts for friends and family.

So you have a pile of packing that’s two-foot high and a suitcase that’s a foot high, what do you do?

Cut it out

Carefully cull any items you cannot use for two purposes. Wraps can be decorative scarves, but also on-board blankets. Puffy jackets keep you warm, but should be stylish enough to wear to a meal out.

Decant all your bulky toiletries to smaller containers or buy travel sizes. Most supermarkets dedicate a small section to smaller – although doubtless more expensive – travel-sized toiletries these days.

Roll with it

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them has been demonstrated to be a more efficient use of space. If you need help, this guy has more than two million views on the technique on YouTube so he must be good.

You can put the squeeze on your rolls further by using elastic bands to smush them down. Expert level is using vacuum packs, but the downfall of this tactic is unless you have access to a vacuum at the other end, your return trip could be challenging.

Another handy tip in the subset of rolling is to roll entire outfits together, saving time riffling around in your suitcase to find things.

One more step is to put each complete outfit roll into a plastic ziplock bag if you are expecting dodgy weather so your clothes remain dry.

Full metal jacket

If you have to take a bulky coat, choose carefully.

A beautiful wool winter coat may look damn fine, but it could take up half your luggage. If that’s your thing, go with it, but generally, a puffer jacket is a better option as they squish down.

While some puffer jackets are just puffy, some roll down to about the size of a small handbag so you can stow them away when you don’t need them. You probably wouldn’t want to explore the Arctic with them, but hopefully you’d have specialised gear for that.

And if you are feeling a bit cheeky, there is always this travel hack to stuff it into a pillow for some added on-board baggage.

And don’t forget, some cold-weather accommodation and destinations will have cold-weather gear available to hire, saving you oodles of room.

Layer up

Can you wear any bulky items on the plane? Wearing your big, boofy jacket on board may be a real space saver.

Also, try to wear a few layers to free up space in your suitcase. It’s a double dipper for travel tips because often the cabin temperature can vary widely and layering up means you can adjust to the environment.

Do you have any packing tips for bulky items? Why not share you experiences in the comments section below?

Also read: How to survive the worst plane seat

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Using vacuum packs is a great idea and you don’t need a vacuum cleaner to redo these. Put your clothes in the bag, make sure all of the air is out of it, zip it up and roll it. It might not be as tight as when you use a vacuum cleaner but it reduces the amount of space you will need in your suitcase. You might have to roll it a couple of times but it is worth it as it saves a lot of space. We do it when we have to take bulkier clothes

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