Although perhaps somewhat more relevant to business than vacation travel, most of us do not want to spend our days looking like an untidy mess. Thus a natural concern is how to arrive at our destination(s) with our packed clothing in a fairly pristine state, with unwrinkled garments that have creases only where we want them.
FOLDS, CREASES AND WRINKLES
Much of this will be determined by the clothing fabrics themselves; natural materials acquire and retain creases much more readily than synthetic ones. The way in which the clothing is packed, however, will also play a considerable role in the outcome.
Creases result from applying pressure to folds. If you wrap a piece of paper around a cylinder, it will be easy to straighten again. If, instead, you make a fold in the paper, straightening it will be more difficult. If you apply pressure along the fold, the crease will be even more pronounced. Clothing is no different. And when clothes are packed in luggage, it’s not practical to avoid applying pressure.
Wrinkles are essentially tiny folds that most often result from garments moving against each other and adjoining surfaces. And once again, pressure exacerbates the problem.
The common practice of individually folding items of clothing, then stacking them atop one another (as shown at right), is just about the worst thing you can do from a packing perspective, commonly resulting in both creasesand wrinkles.
Over the years, many (mostly ineffective) approaches have been proposed to reduce the problem of wrinkles and creases …
The oft-suggested trick of wrapping individual clothing items in plastic dry-cleaning bags or tissue paper helps to reduce wrinkling (by reducing friction), but does nothing about the creases.
Another popular suggestion, that of rolling clothing, reduces?—?though does not eliminate?—?the number of folds (thus creases), but usually increaseswrinkling.
And at least two companies sell “packing folder” systems, which include a folding board and a sort of wrapper/sleeve to envelop the pile of folded garments. These companies carefully avoid explaining exactlyhow this is supposed to reduce creases or wrinkles, which is understandable, as the approach is simply a more expensive way to do folding and stacking, taking up extra space and weight as well!
Fortunately, there is an alternative technique, one that is close to ideal …
A much better solution to the problem of wrinkles and unwanted creases, though it involves some (very minor) inconvenience, is the use of the bundle wrappingtechnique (there is an older, related method called “interfolding”, but it offers no additional advantages, and is less efficient at avoiding creases). As the name suggests, bundle wrapping involves the careful wrapping of clothes around a central core object, thus avoiding the folds that result in creases. Furthermore, the tension created in the fabric by the wrapping process significantly reduces the chances of wrinkling. That’s the story in a nutshell, but of course there are plenty of implementation details!
Begin by selecting the object that will form the core of the bundle: an organizer pouch is an ideal choice. The optimal size will depend somewhat upon the configuration of your bag and the amount of clothing to be packed, but something around 11 × 16″ (30 × 40cm) should work well. The pouch is filled with soft items?—?like socks, swimsuit, undergarments, sheet bag, etc.?—?to form a sort of small, flat “pillow” around which the clothing will be wrapped.
Clothing is wrapped in a specific order, so that the larger and more tailored garments will end up on the outside of the bundle, with less easily wrinkled pieces closer to the core. Here is an appropriate sequence (beginning, as you will begin your packing, with the outer layer):
- skirts, dresses (though a particularly long, straightdress or skirt might be better placed before the jacket)
- long-sleeved shirts
- short-sleeved shirts
- sweater, knits
Button the fronts of shirts, and perhaps the jacket (unless it is overly wide, in which case it is better to let the sides overlap more than is possible with the buttons done up).
The easiest place to form the bundle is on a large flat surface, such as a bed. If your bag features a zipper around three full sides (as recommended in my discussion of business bags), it will open flat for packing, which enables the wrapping of the bundle right in the bag; mostly, though, you’ll find bundle wrapping more easily accomplished on a larger flat surface.
Begin by taking the item highest on the above list, laying it out flat on your working surface. If it’s a (tailored) jacket, lay it face down, orienting the sleeves so as to lie the most naturally. Such jackets are the exception to the rule: all other garments are placed face up. Smooth everything out carefully, eliminating any wrinkles.
At this point, consider the size and position of your core object, which will eventually be placed atop the pile of clothing. The top (collar) edge of the first garment should align with (or extend slightly beyond) the top edge of the core. As you add additional garments, their directions will alternate, and the size of the core object will dictate their locations. (This should be much more clear in the diagram referenced below.)
Continue with the remaining garments. Shirts and the like alternate “up and down” (to maintain an even thickness), with their collar edges aligning with (or extending slightly beyond) the top and bottom edges of the soon-to-be-added core. Slacks and most skirts alternate “left and right” (skirts are often folded lengthwise first), with their waistbands aligning with the left and right edges of the core. Strive for a smooth placement, avoiding wrinkles as much as possible.
When all items are down, place the core on top, forming the centre of the bundle. Now work your way back down the clothing stack, wrapping each piece around the slowly growing bundle before moving on to the next item (don’t interleave garments with one another). For sleeved garments, wrap one side of the garment around the bundle as far as it will go (part of the sleeve?—?which is wrapped straight across?—?will typically end up underneath the bundle); repeat with the other side. Then bring up the bottom of the garment, again wrapping it as far around the bundle as it will go. Jackets are once more the exception to the rule, with their sleeves (because of the tailoring in the shoulders) crossed, forming more of an X-shape around the bundle.Wrap each item firmly (the intent being that the wrap is sufficiently taut to prevent wrinkles from appearing, but not so taut that the cloth is actually stretched).
As a final step, place the resulting bundle in your bag (if it’s not already there), and anchor it securely?—?but not too tightly?—?with the bag’s tie-down straps. If the bundle is allowed to shift around during travel, much of your work will have been in vain. Should your bag not have tie-down straps, consider adding them; it’s an easy do-it-yourself project.
VACUUM – PACKED CLOTHING
Several products on the market promise to reduce your packing problems by “vacuum-bagging” your clothes. The claim is that by placing your clothing in a heavy plastic bag, from which you then remove the air, you will reduce the occupied space, and thus make packing easier (some of these marketers apparently attended a different high school physics class than I). If you take a moment to consider it, you’ll realize that these products actually increaseyour packing bulk, rather than diminish it, and add to the weight as well! Not to mention that they make it more difficult to avoid wrinkles and creases. At least one version even uses a vacuum cleaner to exhaust the bag, not an item you’re likely to find in your hotel room.
Some people use these bags simply for storing dirty laundry, as they do a good job of isolating soiled clothing. If this is of interest, I would recommend use of an aLOKSAK bag, which is considerably less expensive, comes in many more sizes, and?—?I would be willing to bet, given its NASDS certification?—?has a much better air seal!
I for one have never been troubled by too much air in my luggage. The promotional photo of the “regular” vs. “compressed” bulky sweater looks impressive, but I achieve the equivalent result simply by closing my bag.