What with one airline now charging for carryon bags, and others charging for checked bags, we got to thinking about how we could severely downsize our luggage. In the past, we've toyed around with products that claim to suck out the air from plastic packing bags, thus compressing them to a fraction of their original volume. You've seen the ads on TV for "Space Bags" no doubt, but if you've read some of the online reviews, not everyone has been pleased (is everyone ever?) and these products tend to be on the expensive side. We even tried one ourselves, but found that the vacuum seal often tends to leak pretty quickly.
However, upon further investigation, we discovered a cheaper and perhaps more effective solution, from the folks at S.C. Johnson and Son, makers of Ziploc. Famous for their standard Ziploc bags, which some folks use to organize smaller items when packing, they also make a fairly new range of vacuum freezer bags. They're simplicity itself: you pack your hamburger or whatever in the bag, pull the seal, and use a small plastic hand pump, which they also make, to suck the air out.
But they're not just for freezing. The gallon size can fit a sweater, undies, socks, t-shirts, shirts, blouses, and other small and medium sized clothing items (not so good for jeans, jackets, and other big stuff, but we do hope they'll consider making a 2 gallon size in the future). In addition to being much less expensive than other vacuum packing products, they really hold a seal, and are great for organizing when you pack. Suck out the air with the hand pump, which takes just a few seconds, and suddenly your big pile of clothes can fit into a much smaller space. It's pretty amazing.
And when you get home and unpack, feel free to use the bags for what they were originally intended: freezing meats and vegetables without freezer burn. We bought ours from Amazon.com (free shipping for qualifying orders).
gallon sized Ziploc vacuum bags ($12.51 for 8 bags).
Ziploc pump $3.99 (pump plus 3 quart sized bags).
OK, you might think we're nutso, but we did try this in the Airfarewatchdog.com Labs. (No, Airfarewatchdog doesn't really have a Lab. Just a Wheaten Terrier).