I have had the funniest experience this summer at parties. When I tell people what I do for a living, I get the question, “Do you roll or fold?”. Seriously, at a party someone told their companion that I worked for Rick Steves and they looked at me and, rather than “Nice to meet you” they simply said, “Roll or Fold?”
This has happened a bunch of times over the summer. At first I thought this was some sort of smoking reference that I wasn’t in on. I’ve had to ask to repeat the question because it seemed so random. Sorry, I’m a little slow on certain things. Now I get it, it’s an Internet debate, is it better to fold or roll your clothes when you pack?
If you are a follower of this blog you probably know my answer, but I thought I’d go into a little detail about my thought process on this topic. Short answer: Both.
I use a packing cube system for my clothes. I have one cube for tops, one for undies, socks, scarves and PJs, and a packing folder for folded things. Using cubes and a folder, I can quickly access just about anything I need quickly in my backpack without tearing the whole thing apart. When my bag is fully packed, there is not really anything floating around, everything is corralled in a stuff sack or cube.
Basically, this category is for tops, which in my case are mostly knits. I fold my tops in half, lengthwise, then roll. I stack the rolls side by side in the cube. Rolling tightly minimizes wrinkles and maximizes space in my bag. When my tops are stacked like sausages, all in a row, I can quickly see what I’ve got. And to get really specific on my logic here, I put them in the cube in order, from sleeveless to long sleeved.
It’s pretty simple with this system to put an outfit together. I grab a bottom and lay it over the cube of sausage-tops and see what matches, what works for the temperature. The smell test is also important here!
I fold the things that are typically susceptible wrinkling. Woven fabrics, stiff fabrics. Normally it’s my pants, skirts and dresses. I used to put folded things at the bottom of my suitcase, with the cubes on top. The folded stuff was getting messy so I found a better way. I have a packing folder that’s like a giant envelope, keeping everything contained and neatly folded. The folder came with a folding board and specific instructions on how to fold a dress shirt. I don’t tend to wear button up dress shirts, but I’d pack them in the folder if I did.
I am tall and have long legs, so folding pants in half and half again doesn’t work. I need to fold them in thirds, which tends to be a fairly efficient style and minimizes creases. I fold tops and dresses in they way you see them in stores, arms folded behind.
Other IdeasI’ve seen lots of clever packing ideas but I don’t see them as very practical for road warrior types. Some people stack an outfit together and roll it into a bundle. Some people make separate ziploc bags for each outfit. Some people buy suitcases withe SHELVES inside. My son recently packed for summer camp by stacking all of his clothes and rolling them all up together. He called it the “Packing Meatball”. It actually worked, it went into an awkwardly shaped duffle bag perfectly.
All of this stuff is personal choice. I don’t fold or roll my underthings and pjs, I stuff them in my bag, which could be considered sacreligious to some. I’m not into gimmicky techniques, I like what works, keeps it simple, and makes it quick to pack up in the morning.So, the answer to this hot debate of pack or roll? I say both.