I am busily packing — not for a trip mind you, for a move across Germany. Nevertheless, I am filling up suitcases, which got me thinking about the best way to pack a suitcase.
My favorite suitcase to pack is a Timberland wheeled convertible backpack. When I got it, it was carry-on size, but since then carry-on dimensions have decreased. The best thing about this suitcase, which has now seen better days, is that it is tombstone-shaped. It is exactly the shape of a medium-large shirt. And so I place my shirts in this suitcase, one on top of the other, tucking in long tails and folding arms across the chest. I lost count of how many shirts I fit in there today, but I would guess at least 30.
There seem to be two schools of packing: flat and roll. The roll school believes that rolling your clothes keeps them from getting wrinkled and that rolls take up less space. I used to be a roller, but these days I am a flat packer, as this seems to work better with most of my large suitcases. Flat packing is ideal if you are only dealing with clothes or other textiles; once you have to fit oddly shaped things in (shoes, toiletries, etc.), the gently rising tide that is flat packing floats everything higher, making your suitcase harder to zip closed. Trying to work with other items generally means more folding, which leads to more wrinkles that most try to avoid. Further, every fold in one item of clothing prevents another from fitting into the suitcase.
I don’t believe it really matters which school you follow; the most important thing is that by becoming practiced at one method or the other, knowing well your suitcase and the items you are going to put in it, you will find packing, unpacking, and finding/digging on the fly much easier.
In my cursory search of the two methods (trying in vain to find my original inspiration), I came across this amusing video from the International Institute of Modern Butlers (no, I cannot believe such a thing exists either) about packing flat to reduce folds. I never take so much care packing my travel wardrobe, but the principles are essentially the same. I believe, however, this video was produced before TSA began wreaking havoc with suitcase contents. I imagine today it is much harder to have your suits arrive in pristine condition, because you know TSA’s gonna be suspicious of all that tissue paper . . .