Packing 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Charles Wallace is a PhD student studying insect systematics, as well as a writer, podcaster (@ASABpod), macro photographer, and amateur aerialist. He lives in the metro Phoenix area with his two cats.
For a long time, I didn’t bother packing. Most men’s pants aren’t especially tight in the crotch, and I didn’t find it a crucial aspect of my own gender expression. But then I got into the aerial arts, where extra fabric is a hazard. Between figuring out how to pack or chancing uncomfortable speculation about my gender or genitals, I chose to pack.
Packing is the practice of using something – a packer – to create the appearance of a “bulge” where there isn’t genitalia there to create it for you. It’s most frequently connected to transmasculine people, and some of the most reliable sources of packing gear are retailers specifically directed to them.
Packing can be as simple as stuffing a rolled-up sock into your pants or as complex as attaching a hyper-real prosthesis directly to your skin. The exact method you might use depends on several factors, particularly why you want to pack and how much money you’re willing or able to spend on it. But the process itself can be distilled to two aspects: the packer and what you use to hold it in place.
Packers run the gamut from completely abstract to stunningly realistic. The choice of packer should be driven by your goal in packing. If guided primarily by dysphoria, it’s worth investing in a nice silicone model with heft and anatomical accuracy. If, however, you just want to fill out a cosplay with something lightweight and serviceable, realism won’t make much difference except to your wallet.
As ace bandages are to binding, a rolled up sock is to packing, in the sense that it’s easy, cheap, and an absolute classic. Unlike ace bandages, however, a sock won’t cause physical damage. The rolled-up sock will never look like a “real” bulge. However, in most clothing (at least clothing manufactured for men), it doesn’t need to, and works fine if you’re just looking to put something behind your fly.
Where to find them: Literally anywhere. Look in your drawer.
EZ Bulge/Foam Insert
There are three main options for foam inserts. One is a relatively thick, sturdy foam insert that comes with select pairs of Jockmail underwear (though some places, e.g. TG Supply, sell it by itself). Another is the EZ Bulge, which is a thinner material, with a generalized outline of a penis.
Originally marketed to cis men to give them more volume, these work equally well for packing wholesale. If worn without a filler, they're liable to flatten out in an unrealistic way. However, a small rolled up sock works great to keep them pretty sturdy. A third option, a nondescript firm foam bulge, is offered by UK company Spectrum Outfitters.
Where to find them: Several transmasc suppliers stock them (TranzWear, TG Supply) and one is included in select pairs of Jockmail underwear
Fabric anatomical packer
TranzWear used to stock a quasi-anatomical fabric packer but it’s currently out of stock. No fear: this is an easy DIY.
Where to find them: TranzWear eventually; multiple places on Etsy in the meantime, or through your own creation
Realistic/representational packers are mostly made of silicone, and resemble a (flaccid) penis and testicles. These vary in level of detail, material, weight, density, size, and color. There are so many options for realistic packers that including them all in a list would be exhausting to write and exhausting to read.
The website FTM Packers is a fairly complete compilation. Though it primarily directs to Amazon; if possible, I recommend buying from a reputable indie retailer, of which there will be a list in Part II.
Instead, I’ll offer some tips based on what your most important considerations may be.
CHOOSING A PACKER
- What size should I get? Whatever size you feel comfortable with. There’s something to be said about going “proportional,” but there’s no robust real-life correlation between genital size and overall body size. “Average” penis size is usually listed around 3.5-4” flaccid, which most realistic packers come in.
- What kind should I get? The major distinction in kinds of packers is between those which are solid throughout and those which are hollow and can be used as an STP. (STP means "stand-to-pee," and I'll discuss STPs in more detail in Part II). If being able to stealthily use a urinal or even stand up in a stall is important to you, getting an STP is worthwhile. Otherwise, opt for a solid packer. You may be tempted by “pack and play” options, but these are not discreet enough for everyday use.
- Can I get a packer that matches my skin tone? Unfortunately, many packers only come in light beige or pink-tinted shades. Fortunately, both the New York Toy Collective and Reelmagik (both of which offer domestic and international shipping) offer a set of skin tones which range into a darker brown.
- Can I get a packer that is uncircumcised? Time was, the answer would be no. Nowadays, however, there are several options. The NYTC “Pierre” (sometimes listed on secondary retailers’ sites as “Pierre Uncut”) is the most popular.
- What if I’m on a budget? The classic first packer is Mr. Limpy, which is broadly sold and usually costs between $12-15. It comes in four sizes and two colors (a light beige and a light tan/brown). Mr. Limpy has reached a point of saturation because it’s been around a long time and it’s (usually) the cheapest option. But I don’t recommend it. Instead, TranZwear, in its “start-up kits” section offers several other low-price options. If you can afford to go up to $20-30, Reelmagik offers discounts on their standard packers with minor production defects, when available.
- Can I get an extremely realistic packer? The absolute gold standard in realism is Emisil. They offer numerous models (which vary in both length and girth), sixteen skin tones, sixteen varieties of optional hair, and both circumcised and uncircumcised options. These prostheses adhere directly to the body, and are made of three layers of silicone, for an ultra-realistic look and feel. They also cost upwards of $300, at their cheapest. The next best is probably Reelmagik, which offers six skin tones (including the deepest brown I’ve seen still being sold) in four sizes (including the smallest I’ve seen anywhere, at 2.25”).
Depending on how and how often you wear them, packers can get distinctly musky if not taken care of (especially STPs, which need regular cleaning). Fabric options (e.g. socks) are easy – just toss them in with your laundry, as normal. Foam inserts (especially the EZ Bulge) can get worn down over time, and may just need to be replaced periodically if in regular rotation. Realistic packers, however, often involve a few extra steps.
Most realistic packers are made of silicone, and can withstand extremely hot water. If you wanted to, you could boil them or place them in the top rack of a dishwasher. Some realistic packers are made of other materials, like Elastomer, and don’t have the same durability. The specific material or care instructions of a packer are usually available through product descriptions. Generally, wash in warm water with soap and let air-dry.
With most realistic packers, there is also a certain tackiness to the skin. To combat this and help keep them in good condition over the long term, many models recommend keeping them coated in cornstarch or a packer-specific powder (e.g. Cyber Packer Dust).
This is Part I in a two-part article on packing. Hopefully, you have a better sense of the options available and how to choose between them. Part II will cover how to wear packers, special considerations, and include a list of stores where you can find packers and all necessary packing accoutrements.