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Choosing a Compression Stuff Sack for your Sleeping Bag

When you’re trying to save valuable space in your pack during a backpacking trip, compression stuff sacks are very useful tools to help reduce the volume of soft items like your clothes, or especially your sleeping bag. If you’re lucky, your sleeping bag’s manufacturer included a compression stuff sack made specifically for the size of your sleeping bag, and this may help you reduce your sleeping bag’s packed size to an acceptable level. More likely, only a regular stuff sack was included with your sleeping bag, which limits your compression abilities. Maybe you don’t have a stuff sack at all.  Regardless, it is likely that you can safely compress your bag down to a smaller size with the use of an accessory compression stuff sack. The question then becomes “what size do I need?”

Backcountry Edge Gear Specialist Becky breaks it down for you in this informative video to help you find a compression stuff sack that’s not too big or too small, but just right.

Choosing a Compression Stuff Sack for your Sleeping Bag Video

What Size Compression Stuff Sack is Right for My Sleeping Bag?

Different types of compression stuff sacks
Compression stuff sacks come in different shapes and styles

One of the best ways to start sizing your compression sack is find the specification for your particular sleeping bag’s packed size dimensions. This piece of information might be found on documentation included with your sleeping bag, or you may have to do a bit of internet searching. Start with the name of your sleeping bag model for a general search, or go to the manufacturer’s website and find your sleeping bag model. (Have an older model sleeping bag or can’t find it online? Our friendly Backcountry Edge Gear Specialists are also happy to help! Give them a call at 1-800-617-0643 or email gearspecialist@backcountryedge.com). If your sleeping bag came with a stuff sack, this specification will often refer to the size of the bag when stuffed in that sack; you can always take your own measurements if you have your sleeping bag close at hand.

Remember: it will be nearly impossible to determine what size compression stuff sack you need simply by knowing the degree rating of your sleeping bag because many factors play into the stuffed size. It is always good to know your sleeping bag’s manufacturer and model name to start. Other good pieces of information to know about your sleeping bag include:

Webbing-style compression sack
Webbing strap compression is a popular method
  • Fill type: down or synthetic (or sometimes a hybrid mix of both)
  • Fill power: for down bags, this refers to the measurement of the amount of space one ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches when allowed to reach its maximum loft. Generally, this number will be somewhere between 600 and 800, and it matters because higher fill powers can be packed down smaller.
  • Gender: is your bag a women’s specific model, or is it a men’s or unisex bag? (Women’s specific sleeping bags often have insulation distributed differently).
  • Size: Long or regular? Double-sized (meant for two people to share)?
  • Face Fabric: Polyester, nylon (or maybe even cotton)? Ultralight face fabrics such as polyester or nylon will pack smaller than a natural fiber like cotton. (Note: cotton face fabric is rare these days).
  • Temperature Rating: The amount of fill in your sleeping bag (which is different than fill power) determines the temperature rating. Bags made for colder weather conditions will have more fill than bags made for warmer weather conditions.
Roll-top closure compression sack
Roll-top compression sacks are often waterproof

Now that you know everything there is to know about your sleeping bag, and you’ve even measured it in its included stuff sack, shopping for a compression stuff sack will be simple, right? Almost certainly – the main rule of thumb when choosing your compression stuff sack is to go slightly larger than your sleeping bag’s included non-compression stuff sack. This allows for easy stuffing and lets the compression straps or roll-top do all the hard work of reducing your sleeping bag’s packed size. There are a few additional facts to keep in mind, however:

  • Compression stuff sacks come in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular are those with webbing straps to provide the actual compression. Roll top style compression stuff sacks are also quite common and rely on rolling the top down with a healthy amount of pressure and cinching closed to compress.
  • Some compression stuff sacks are waterproof, which is appropriate for kayak and canoe trips or backpacking in particularly wet weather conditions.
  • Manufacturers provide size specifications in different ways. Sometimes compression stuff sack sizing is given as diameter in inches, while sometimes measurements will be provided as volume in cubic inches or liters. If you’re lucky, a manufacturer will provide both actual measurements and volume. (Note: the stuff sack seen in the video measures 5”x7.25”x20” and has a 10 liter volume).