As somebody who has spent a large part of the past 9 years traveling while living out of a tiny backpack, I figured I could teach you how to fold all your clothes small and neat for your next trip.
Generally, when folding clothes for travel most people focus on packing the clothes down as small as possible. It is also important to keep them organized so you don’t need to pull everything out of your bag to find what you need. Therefore we are going to ranger-roll all the clothes and put them into an organized system in this guide.
While I encourage you to go through the entire guide, feel free to use the table of contents under this paragraph to jump around in the article if you only need some of the information.
- How to Fold Tops for Travel
- How to Fold Bottoms for Travel
- How to Fold Undergarments for Travel
- How to Pack Your Clothes for Travel
How to Fold Tops for Travel
Tops are great to pack! Since they are so large we can also pack underwear and socks inside them as if we want, but more on that towards the end of this guide.
First, I am going to show you how to ranger-roll t-shirts, hoodies, sweaters, jackets, shirts, and dresses in this section.
I have combined the steps for t-shirts and undershirts with each other, and also sweaters and jackets with each other since the steps are identical.
Fold T-Shirts and Undershirts for Travel
Let’s start with ranger-rolling t-shirts and undershirts.
There is a video that you can watch first, or jump directly to the step-by-step illustrations.
- Lay the shirt with the front facing up and fold the arms in on both sides, long sleeves can overlap.
- Turn the bottom of the shirt inside-out about 4-5 inches (10-12 cm).
- Fold the shirt in 1/3 of the way on both sides. The second side can overlap the first.
- From the collar, roll the shirt down all the way to the bottom.
- Lift the roll up with one hand and wrap the inside-out part of the bottom back over the shirt
- Grab the roll with your other hand and flip the other side of the inside-out part over the shirt too.
- Push your thumbs inside the t-shirt to adjust the edges.
How to Fold Hoodies for Travel
Hoodies are rolled a bit differently from other sweaters since we can use the hood to secure the roll in place.
This method will also work for hooded jackets if you prefer it over the jacket guide below.
- Lay the hoodie down with the back-side facing up.
- Fol the arms in from both sides. The second arm folded can completely overlap the first.
- From both sides, fold the hoodie in one-fourth the length of it’s witdth.
- From the bottom, roll the hoodie up all the way to the start of the hood.
- Flip the hood around the roll, and pull the strings in to secure the roll. Tie a knot.
How to Fold Collared Shirts for Travel
To stay on the theme of rolls, I am going to show you a great way to pack your dress shirts and other collared shirts using a very simple roll that is also very wrinkle-resistant.
- Start by buttoning up the shirt all the way. Optionally you can also leave the collar unfolded.
- Turn the shirt around on its back and even out the fabric.
- Fold the shirt in half from side to side (pro-tip: lift it up at the fold and give it a shake to even it out).
- Fold the arms in. Long-sleeved shirt arms should be folded down towards the opposite end.
- From the bottom, gently roll the shirt up to the collar.
How to Fold Jackets and Sweaters for Travel
Most sweaters and jackets are folded the same way when you’re packing them up for travel.
I have added two videos for you below with one for each, but for brevity, I recommend that you just watch one of them.
- With the fron facing up and buttons closed, fold the arms over to the other side from both sides.
- Flip the bottom of the garment inside-out about 4-5 inches to create a pocket that we will use later.
- From side to side fold the jacket in 1/4 the breadth of the jacket from both side so they meet in the middle.
- From the top down, roll the garment down tighlty to the end of the pocket we created in step 2.
- Lift the garment up, and wring the inside-out part back over to its correct side.
- While doing this, make sure that you cover the entire roll with this fabric on both sides.
- Stick you fingers inside the ends of the roll to adjust the fabric to get an even ranger roll.
- You can now stack it vertically or horisontally in your suitcase.
- Pro-tip: Put your underwear and socks inside the roll at step 1 for more saved space
I wrote a guide with some more examples for folding jackets, including winter jackets.
How to Fold Dresses for Travel
Most casual dresses can be rolled up using the ranger roll.
Make sure to not ranger roll dresses with lots of detail or dresses made of fabrics that will crease easily. Pure cotton dresses and linen are particularly prone to creasing.
A great alternative for these dresses is to skip the pocket of the ranger roll, and just roll the dress up normally.
- Lay the dress down with the front facing up.
- Flip the bottom of the dress inside out 4-6 inches upwards to create a pocket.
- From the side, fold the dress in 1/3 the width of the dress.
- Repeat from the other side so the second fold completely overlaps the first.
- Roll the dress down from the neck to the bottom of the dress.
- Flip the inside-out fabric back over the roll to secure the dress.
Pro-tip: Do one side at a time.
- Make adjustments to the roll by sticking your fingers into the pocket.
I have some more techniques to fold dresses here that may interest you.
How to Fold Bottoms for Travel
Bottoms are generally quite bulky, especially when it comes to pant fabrics like denim and similar.
So we are going to do our best to compress these down as much as possible to maximize our space.
Each of the different types of bottoms: pants, shorts, and skirts all have individual ways to be optimally folded. So make sure to study all three types below.
How to Fold Pants for Travel
Pants are generally the bulkiest item in your luggage.
There are some types of pants like yoga pants and tights that are not as bulky, but they still benefit from being folded the same way as the bulky pants i.e. jeans, sweats, and chinos.
In the instructions you will learn to do the rose fold for your pants as it is overall better than the ranger roll.
However, feel free to follow the instructions for shorts on your pants if you prefer ranger-rolling your pants.
- Lay your pants down with the front facing up.
- From side-to-side fold them over in half.
- Fold the leg on top out 90 degrees at the knee.
- Fold in the crotch area to create an even line down the pant.
- From the waist, roll the pants all the way down to the end of the pant leg.
- Grab on to the rolled pants and lift it up with the free leg facing upward.
- Put your hand inside the free leg and wrap it over the roll.
- Adjust the wrapped pants leg so that it fully secures the roll.
Check out some more clever ways to fold pants here.
How to Fold Shorts for Travel
Shorts are generally one of the hardest types of clothing to fold for travel.
For running shorts and other shorts that won’t wrinkle up easily the ranger roll is the best option if you can handle it.
If you have wrinkle-prone shorts like chino shorts, it can be better to simply fold the shorts in half from side to side and roll them from the waist down.
- Lay the shorts down with the front facing up.
- Flip the waistband of the shorts inside-out and pull it down 4-5 inches.
- If any pockets or labels are falling out at the waist, stuff them back inside the shorts.
- Fold the shorts over in half from side to side.
- Fold in the crotch area of the short to create an even and paralell line down the short.
- From the leg opening of the shorts, tightly roll it up to the top of the waist.
- Lift the short up and flip the inside-out waistband back over the rolled up shorts.
- Make sure that the waistband completely secures the roll on both sides.
- If the shorts are uneven, stick your thumbs inside the opening at the waist and adjust the fabric inside.
Here are some more folding styles for shorts that may interest you.
How to Fold Skirts for Travel
Much like dresses and shorts, you can generally ranger-roll your casual skirts.
You should avoid ranger-rolling your formal skirts, skirts with heavy detailing, and skirts made of pure cotton or linen.
These skirts are better off being rolled up gently by folding them in half from side to side and then rolling them from the waist down.
- Lay your skirt down with the front facing up.
- Flip the waist inside-out and pull it down 4-6 inches.
- From side-to-side, fold the skirt in 1/3 of its width.
- Repeat the process from the other side so that this fold completely overlaps the previous one.
- From the bottom of the skirt, roll it up all the way to the top of the waist.
- Lift the skirt up and flip the inside-out waist over the rolled up skirt.
- Place your fingers inside the opening in the waist to adjust the fabric from the inside for an even roll.
How to Fold Undergarments for Travel
While undergarments generally don’t take up a lot of room in your luggage, we will focus on saving space while folding them as well.
This is because you generally have large amounts of undergarments compared to other types of clothing.
So it is beneficial to roll them up tightly to save space, but also to keep them all neatly organized.
How to Fold Underwear for Travel
While there are many types of underwear, most of them can confidently be ranger-rolled without much hassle.
If you have small undies like thongs and strings, or very delicate underwear that can easily be damaged, you can see this guide as these types of underwear should not be ranger-rolled.
- Place the underwear with the front facing up.
- Flip the waistband of the underwear inside-out and pull it down 2-4 inches depending on it’s size.
- From side to side, fold the underwear in 1/3 of its width.
- Repeat from the other side so that the second fold completely overlaps the first.
- From the bottom, tightly roll the underwear up to the top of the waist.
- Lift the undies up and flip the inside-out waistband back over the roll.
- Make sure that the waistband completely secures the roll on both sides so it doesn’t unravel.
- If the roll looks uneven, stick your thumbs inside the opening at the waist and adjust the fabric inside.
Have a look at some more ways to fold underwear like thongs here
How to Fold Sports Bras for Travel
Sports bras without padding are also fantastic to ranger-roll.
Continue to the section under this one on swimwear if your sports bras (and bras in general) have padding or underwires.
- Place the sports bra with the backside facing up.
- Fold the bottom of the sports bra inside-out and pull the fabric up 4 inches.
- From both sides of the bra, fold it in 1/3 of it’s width. The second fold should completely overlap the first.
- From the top of the straps, roll the sports bra all the way down to the bottom.
- Lift up the roll, and flip the inside-out fabric back over the the roll to secure it.
- Stick your fingers inside the opening in the roll to adjust the fabric inside if the roll looks uneven.
I wrote a guide with more details on folding bras and panties here.
How to Fold Swimwear for Travel
Swimwear can be tricky to fold since there are so many different types for both men and women.
Men’s swimwear can be folded using the ranger roll as we did for shorts earlier in this guide.
For women’s swimwear, I have broken this section of the guide into two parts: The first part is for two-piece bikinis, and afterward, we will dive into one-piece swimsuits.
The magic of folding two-piece bikinis is that we can combine them into one set after some folding.
We are going to start by folding the top, then the bottom, and then we will have a look at how to pack them together.
Folding Bikini Tops
- Start by placing the bikini with the backside facing up.
- Secure the shoulder straps by putting them under the back strap.
- Fold the back strap up over the cups.
- From the side, fold the bikini over in half.
Folding Bikini Bottoms
- Place the bikini bottom with the thinnest side facing up.
- Fold the garment in half from the bottom to the top.
- From both sides, fold the garment in 1/3 of it’s width.
- The second 1/3 fold should completely overlap the first one.
- From the bottom, fold the garment bikini bottoms up in half again.
Packing Two-Piece Bikinis for Travel
The fun part is that we can now combine the set into a neat little package using either a little plastic bag or any other transparent bag.
- Open the folded bikini top back up.
- Place the bikinibottom inside one of the cups.
- You can now close the bikini back up. The bottoms will give some support to the tops cups.
- Place the set into a transpearent bag.
- Place the swimsuit with the backside facing up.
- Put the shoulder straps inside the swimsuit to secure them.
- Fold the bottom of the swimsuit up so that they meet the bottom of the cups.
- Fold the already folded up bottom up in half one more time.
- Now, fold the cups down over the folded up bottom.
- Optional: Place the swimsuit inside a transpearent bag to secure the it.
Check out my guide to folding swimwear if you want more details.
How to Fold Socks for Travel
Socks may seem like a trivial thing to fold for travel.
I would however argue that it is one of the most important elements to get right due to the large number of socks you have.
But also to avoid damaging the socks during travel.
In this section, we are going to do the rose fold on a regular pair of socks. If you have ankle socks or very long socks, take a look at this guide I made specifically on folding socks.
- Place one sock on top of the other, both with the heel facing down.
- Fold the top out 90 degrees from the heel.
- From the toes of the socks roll them up to the elastic of the bottom sock.
- Lift up the roll while making sure that the free part of the sock faces up.
- Gently wrap the free sock inside-out over the entire roll.
- Make adjustments to the sock roll so that it is even and nicely secured.
I wrote a guide for folding ankle socks too that may interest you.
How to Pack Your Clothes for Travel
I’m so happy you made it to this part of the guide.
This is the most fun part by far!
So now we are going to start organizing all the neatly rolled-up clothes into a packing system, either individually, or by using day rolls.
First of all, I want to show you a really cool system that I have been using for the last few years where I roll all the clothes together into individual day-packs.
If you have a large number of clothes, or if you like to mix and match from day to day this isn’t the way to go for you.
In that case, you will still learn a really useful skill here, but you can skip ahead to the next section if you’re in a hurry.
If you are unsure what clothes to pack, check out my guide on building a capsule wardrobe for travel.
How to Fold Outfits Together for Travel
So the idea is that we make rolls of all the clothes that we use at the same rate by placing the smaller items like socks and undies into a larger item like a t-shirt, and then make a ranger roll of the t-shirt with the other clothes inside.
This way you get to keep all your clothes very neatly organized so that you don’t need to dig up each individual piece of clothing every day.
In addition to this, you also save some time by only having to roll up one piece of clothing instead of 3-5.
In general, a top is used as the roll. So you can use t-shirts, sweaters, jackets, and even dresses.
Inside you can place items you use at the same rate. So for t-shirts, you can place socks, underwear, sports bras (without underwires or cups).
Items like skirts, shorts, and thin pants can also be placed inside the rolls.
Just remember that if you want to grab just one of the items inside the roll you will have to unroll the entire thing.
You can potentially get disorganized if you forget what you took out of the rolls.
I recommend using packing cubes (Amazon paid link) to organize the individual rolls further.
Usually, the S-sized cubes can hold two rolls while the M can hold 3-4 rolls depending on how thick you make them.
I have added step-by-step illustrations on how to do the day-rolls below in case you would like to practice a little.
I have also written a guide on how to file fold all your clothes which is great if you want to fold clothes fast and keep them neatly organized.
It is best for home though, as they won’t hold as well together as these rolls will. Feel free to check out that guide next.
How to Use Packing Cubes
While it may seem pretty straightforward to use packing cubes, mindlessly stuffing your clothes into the cubes usually just ends up being a huge mess.
Therefore I recommend planning out how to fill your packing cubes in advance.
Generally, it is best to first roll up all your clothes before placing them into packing cubes.
Place similar types of clothing in the same packing cube to stay organized.
Another advantage is that having clothes of similar size usually allows you to fill the packing cube completely.
Whether to go for the ones with compression or not depends a lot on the individual, but I’d say if you are willing to get a few creases on your clothes to reduce the space your clothes take up in your luggage by a third or so, compression is the best option.
If not the regular packing cubes are a fantastic second option.
Remember you can always mix and match.
Troubleshooting for Folding
If you are new to rolling your clothes, you are sure to encounter some problems in the beginning.
While most of the problems can be solved by simply looking through the videos or step-by-step illustrations one more time, I have also added a troubleshooting guide below that you can look through if you’re still stuck.
By the way, this troubleshooting section is ripped straight out of my premium Space-Saving Rolls guide.
It also has an accompanying video, but I wouldn’t feel right about posting it here since my students have paid for it.
If you’re interested in learning more about rolling your clothes to save space, I have added a little sneak peek video below.