Stuff sacks are an important part of any hiker’s or backpacker’s packing system. Unfortunately, most of the stuff sacks that manufacturers include with their sleeping bags are just awful in terms reducing volume or quality and you’re better off buying a better one. The purpose of this article is to review the best stuff sack types and sizes for different types of sleeping bags, so you can buy the right stuff sack for your down or synthetic sleeping bag. A comparison of different stuff sack types: compression sacks, dry bags and dry sacks, and draw string stuff sacks is also provided below.
Recommended Stuff Sack Sizes for Down Sleeping Bags
Down sleeping bags are far more compressible than ones filled with synthetic insulation and require smaller volume stuff sacks. You can almost always use a regular dry sack for a down sleeping bag, except for very cold weather sleeping bags where a compression sack is needed to reduce volume that the sleeping bag takes up in your backpack. The following size recommendations are intended for mummy style sleeping bags. If you have a rectangular shaped sleeping bag, you’ll want to err on the larger size of the size ranges recommended below because rectangular sleeping bags use more fabric and insulation.
|Recommended Volume||Examples||Weight (oz)|
|40 degree||6-8 liters||6.5L Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack||0.6|
|7L Granite Gear eVent Uberlight CTF3 Dry Sack||0.53|
|20 degree||8-12 liters||8L Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack||1.1|
|8L Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack||2|
|10L Sealine Black Canyon Dry Bag||7|
|0 degree||14-20 liters||20L Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack||3.3|
|20L Outdoor Research AirPurge Dry Compression Sack||5.7|
|-20 degree||22-30 liters||22L Granite Gear Round Rock Solid Compression Sack||6.1|
|30L Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack||4.1|
Recommended Stuff Sack Sizes for Synthetic Sleeping Bags
Synthetic sleeping bags don’t compress as well as sleeping bags with down insulation and therefore require higher volume stuff sacks. You’re also more likely to need a compression stuff sack to shrink the amount of space taken up by a synthetic sleeping bag in your backpack. The following size recommendations are intended for mummy style sleeping bags. If you have a rectangular shaped sleeping bag, you’ll want to err on the larger size of the size ranges recommended below because rectangular sleeping bags use more fabric and insulation. Subzero synthetic sleeping bags are very large and few third-party stuff sack manufacturers make products that will fit them, so your best bet may be to use the compression sack provided by the manufacturer.
|Recommended Volume||Examples||Weight (oz)|
|40 degree||9-13 liters||9L Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack||0.7|
|13L Granite Gear eVent Uberlight CTF3 Dry Sack||0.67|
|20 degree||16-20 liters||20L Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack||1.8|
|20L Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack||3.0|
|0 degree||25-35 liters||30L Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack||7.4|
|35L Outdoor Research AirPurge Dry Compression Sack||6.6|
A Comparison of Different Stuff Sack Types
Compression sacks are designed to reduce the volume that a piece of gear takes in your backpack. They’re best used to scrunch up large down-filler winter sleeping bags or bulkier three-season synthetic sleeping bags. While most compression sacks use external straps to mechanically compress a bulky sleeping bag such as the Sea-to-Summit Ultra Sil Compression Sack, some also have a panel of breathable fabric which will vent air as you compress them by pressing on them. While these can be lighter weight, they also tend to be significantly more expensive, such as the Sea-to-Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack.
Waterproof Dry Bags and Dry Sacks
Waterproof dry bags are required for canoe or kayaking trips in order to prevent your sleeping bag from getting wet if you flip or swamp your boat. The best dry bags for river or ocean trips are PVC or urethane-coated submersible dry bags, such as the Sealine Black Canyon Dry Bag, with roll-top closures that are airtight and will even float on water. For camping and backpacking, you can use lighter weight silnylon or cordura dry bags. While these will keep your sleeping bags dry if it rains, such as the Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack, they’re not designed to be submerged and often leak under pressure.
Regular stuff sacks, often made with silnylon, cordura, or ultralight cuben fiber, such as the REI Lightweight Stuff Sack, have draw string closures that provide less compression and water protection than compression sacks or dry bags and dry sacks. They’re still a good option for storing warm weather sleeping bags or backpacking quilts where your focus is on gear organization rather than compression. Very small stuff sacks are often called ditty bags, such as Outdoor Research’s Mesh Ditty Bags, are mainly used for storing first aid kits and other personal items.
Written: 2009. Updated 2014.
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