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Zpacks.com Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks

Summer UL gear List - 9.93 Pounds
Summer UL gear List – 9.93 Pounds

Upgrading your stuff sacks to ultralight cuben fiber stuff sacks is often overlooked as a way to reduce your pack weight, but it can have a huge impact if you use heavier waterproof stuff sacks or compression sacks today.

I switched to cuben fiber stuff sacks this spring because a lot of my older silnylon stuff sacks had bitten the dust. I upgraded to the cuben fiber stuff sacks made by Zpacks.com because they’re super lightweight, and they come in lots of different sizes and colors which helps me keep my gear organized, and Zpack’s prices are very competitive for cuben fiber gear.

How much lighter are Zpack’s stuff sacks? They’re often 50%-75% lighter weight by volume for a comparable silnylon stuff sack with a roll top closure like the Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano, and even more if you use compression sacks.

For example, here are the weights of the bags I purchased and the gear that I store in them:

1. Large, (Rectangular shape) with 12.3 liters of capacity – weight: .4 oz.  /  11 grams

  • Used to store my sleeping quilt or  down sleeping bag

2. Medium, with 5.6 liters of capacity – weight: .3 oz.  /  8.5 grams

  • Used to store extra socks, fleece sleeping hat, long underwear top of bottom

3. Slim, with 4.0 liter of capacity – weight: .2 oz.  /  5.7 grams

  • Used to store shelter

4, Small-Plus, with 3.3 liters of capacity – weight: .2 oz.  /  5.7 grams

  • Used to store my  first aid and gear repair kits

5. Mini, with 0.9 liters of capacity – weight: .13 oz. / 3.5 grams

  • Used to store personal items

When you have to measure gear weights  in grams, you know it’s ultralight!

Stuff sacks with draw strings compress much smaller than stuff sacks with roll top closures, especially for items like quilts.
Stuff sacks with draw strings compress much smaller than stuff sacks with roll top closures, especially for items like quilts which are  stored beneath the weight of a food bag.

Unlike many of my old silnylon stuff sacks, these cuben fiber stuff sacks are not waterproof and don’t have roll top closures. I’ve actually found that stuff sacks stuff much smaller if they have drawstring closures that let air escape, especially for packing my puffy items like clothing and my down quilt. I also line my pack with a trash compactor bag which provides all of the waterproofing I need for backpacks and hikes, even for knee-high stream fords. Much higher than that, I’m prepared to find an alternate route or wait for the water level to drop.

Zpack’s stuff sacks are made out of very thin 0.51 oz per square yard cuben fiber which is more prone to wear than the thicker, heavier grades of used cuben fiber used by other manufacturers. They’ll still last a long time, but cuben stuff sacks do get “holey” from abrasion if you use them frequently, like me.

As a point of comparison, I usually get 2 years of hard use out of a silnylon (8 Liter) Sea-to-Summit Ultra- Sil Nano Dry Sack before the seams on the roll top fail or I need to patch holes in the fabric. With cuben fiber stuff sacks, I usually get one good season out of smaller volume stuff sacks because they hold items I access very frequently, and two years or more out of larger volume sacks. That’s not a bad return on investment, especially at Zpack’s prices which are comparable to regular silnylon stuff sacks.

Sides are taped and sewn
Sides are taped and sewn

One thing worth noting is that Zpacks sews the seams of its regular stuff sacks, instead of taping them exclusively, which is the current fashion amongst cuben fiber literati. I asked Zpack’s owner Joe Valesko about this and he said “we sew the seams and then tape over the side seam with a 1″ tape strip for strength.The main reason is because it is quicker.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with bonded seams, it just takes a little longer and requires more precision.” Faster means less expensive as well, which is a good enough reason for me.

If you require  waterproof stuff sacks, Zpacks.com also sells waterproof roll top style stuff sacks made with thicker 1.0 oz per sq yard cuben fiber, but they are heavier, more expensive and only available in black cuben fiber, negating their organizational value. Alternatively, you can seam seal their regular. less expensive stuff sacks, which may also help improve seam durability.

Have you considered switching to cuben fiber stuff sacks?

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  1. I used two Zpacks stuff sacks for the first time on an 8-day pack trip in the Wind River range a couple weeks ago. I was delighted with their ultralight weight and, as Phillip notes, the ability to squeeze the air out. Previously I had just used a plastic bag for clothing and a ziplock bag for gloves, etc. The stuff sacks are obviously much more durable. I got a “Medium-Plus” which was perfect for my clothes, and a “Small-Plus” for gloves, wool cap, etc.

    I also got a Medium pack cover (for a 60L pack) which weighs a whopping 1.2 oz. At $44, it cost no more than pack covers from most of the name brands. My cheapo cover weighed something like 6 oz! The 1.2 oz. includes the tiny stuff sack.

  2. I have a load of Z Packs stuff on order, including some stuff sacks so I was glad to hear your positive comments, Philip! Ordering from the UK pushes the prices up but they still look good value. Particularly looking forward to this order arriving as it includes an Arc Blast backpack. As I said to my wife “it makes the flat rate postal charge far more reasonable if you order a lot of things at the same time”. :-)

    • David, check out As Tucas for cuben stuff sacks of at least equal quality to Zpacks that are much faster and easier to order from the UK.

  3. I love ZPacks stuff sacks — light & strong. And the variety of sizes is excellent; so far I’ve always been able to find the size I need, but they also make custom-sized stuff sacks. Most recently I purchased one of their slim stuff sacks for an Exped sleeping mat. It fits perfectly.

    The other thing that I like about cuben stuff sacks over silnylon is that they hold their shape better since the fabric is stiffer. Silnylon can be frustratingly floppy & slippery. I find it easier to fill & retrieve items with cuben sacks.

  4. I have been using their dry bags for my clothes and down gear for the past year and I have been very pleased with them.

  5. If you use a lot of bags, it is likely worth the switch to cuben. I use 3: compression/dry bag, food bag, ditty bag. Total weight is about 9oz.

    The compression/dry bag (eVent) is heavy. But it holds my bag, set of long johns, sleeping socks and down sweater. It compresses to fit into a small bag about 10″ long. The space saved is more than worth it, to me, though. It *just* fits into the bottom of my Gossamer Gear Murmur and the bag is fine after a few shakes.

    The food bag is hung. It needs to be waterproof, too. It holds about 12-14 days of food.
    (Though it is sort of a pain to get a particular item out of it; it seems that the item is ALWAYS at the bottom!)

    The ditty bag also doubles as a rock sack. It has all the odds and ends needed. A journal, pencil, bear line, cloths line, batteries, lighter, 1/2oz bottles of AM, Steripen, e+Light, a 1/3 scrubbie, 1/2oz of soap, bottle of DEET, etc…

    I also take the same bags out canoeing. I have, on occasion, dumped the canoe and not gotten anything critical wet, though, I lost my hat and a map, one time.

    I would be interested in a compression/dry bag and food dry-bag in cuben. Pack liners do not work to well for me, don’t ask me why. I always manage to put a hole in them. I have tried several types.

    • Zpacks makes a high capacity good food bag in cuben in a much thicker material with a roll top. Check it out. The build quality is excellent and it has specialized components for hanging that are extra durable.

  6. I have my entire system whittled down to 3 stuff sacks (food, cooking, and “little stuff”). All Zpacks.The large rectangular sack serves as my food bag, a “Fosters Pot”-sized cook pot stuff sack for my pot and stove, and a small roll-top dry bag for small stuff (first aid, repair kit, toilet paper, matches/lighter, headlamp, etc). They are amazingly light. Since they spend most of their time safely in my pack, I haven’t noticed any durability issues, even though I’ve been using the same ones for about two years. My quilt, hammock under quilt, and clothes just get stuffed into a Gossamer Gear Pack Liner or trash compactor bag. They work well enough for waterproofing, but I have to inspect them regularly and replace as needed. I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting a ZPacks roll-top pack liner. It would be higher cost, but also much more durable. The weight difference would be negligible (If memory serves: 0.5 heavier than a GG Liner, 0.5oz lighter than a trash compactor bag)

  7. When I first started backpacking, I bought 2 three packs of waterproof dry bags from Walmart. I think they are made by outdoor products. I paid $10 per three pack and I have used them for 6+ years now. No holes, no wear.. They honestly look brand new, even the ones I keep snacks, my head lamp and jack knife in on the top of my pack.

    What makes these stuff sacks worth switching to? Don’t get me wrong, I count ounces and understand ounces add up to pounds, but I can’t imagine there is a substantial weight benefit.

    • This can be viewed as one of those final steps to cut those last few ounces. If you have 5 traditional stuff sacks weighing 3oz each, that’s almost a pound of weight. Replacing them with cuben fiber sacks at 1oz each (It’s actually less than that, but it’s easier to deal in round numbers) you would shave 10oz off your Base Pack Weight. To me, that’s a pretty significant amount.

    • Well, I have been thinking about it. But the cost (around $45 for the bear bag kit, a medium dry bag for my sleeping bag @$24, a smaller dry bag for my sleeping cloths@$17 plus shipping at around $10, makes this an expensive upgrade to save about 4.8oz. Or, a bit more than $20/oz.

      • That’s why I made the change when my other stuff sacks were pretty much cooked.(They were more tenacious tape than silnylon) On the other hand the average replacement price per ounce of cuben UL gear is now up to about $30/ouce so this is a relatively cheap upgrade if you are obsessed by such things.

  8. I’ve seen lots of backpackers with over a pounds worth of stuff sacks. A big event compressible one typically weighs over a half pound.,,,

    What do your stuff sacks weigh? Would a 4-8 ounce benefit be substantial enough?

    It all depends on what you consider significant.

  9. I honestly don’t know the weight of them individually. My digital scale doesn’t measure down to things that weigh less than a pound. I use 3 stuff sacks. 1 for cloths, 1 for my sleeping bag and 1 for misc stuff that I like to keep handy (headlamp, a few snacks, small jack knife, TP)

    I’m going to guess the three weigh just over half pound (Assuming 5 ounces for the big one, 3 for the medium and 2 for the small). If I could cut that weight in half it would be beneficial. But I like that they are waterproof, even if just for peace of mind, they are durable and if I poke a hole in one, I can get over it real quick. I guess I never considered “ultra-light” stuff sacks because stuff sacks are inherently light.

  10. I doubt that your Outdoor Products stuff sacks are actually as waterproof as you think. Just saying. You can probably get the same WP protection by lining your backpack with a 2.6 ounce trash compacter bag which is how many of us address that issue and move to much simple and lighter weight stuff sacks.

  11. I’ve been using the roll top food bag for 3 years – this includes winter camping. It’s waterproof and durable. And I’ve gotten 5 days of food on it without a problem.
    I also have the smaller stuff sacks I use for various things made of cuben and they seem to be holding up well. But I don’t put clothes in stuff sacks anymore…I just use jam them in the spots that have spaces in between gear but I use a pack liner so that keeps it dry. Like Phillip, I just keep switching for cuben as my old sacks bite the dust.

  12. You are probably right and I haven’t done any testing to say otherwise. On your suggestion I have lined my backpack w/ trash bags for the last few years. I have never had any problems with wet gear even after hiking through rain for days on end. I like knowing my down bag and clothing have that extra line of defense just in case.

    My goal is to keep me final net weight (food and water included) around 23lbs for 2 night trips (which most of mine are) and less than 30 for 5 night trips. I’m not into extreme ultralight hiking, although as I replace gear I do make every effort to get lighter. The 5 ounces I could save from going to these bags isn’t as beneficial to someone like me, but I can understand why others see value in this.

  13. I think Zpacks makes some great products – I have their food storage dry bag. However, organizationally and for peace of mind, I use the following: I have an Equinox Monarch Travel bag (1.6oz) which utilizes multiple mesh pockets that hold my first aid kit, repair kit, and emergency items, batteries, writing materials, etc. This has proven exceptional at keeping all the little things right at hand and easy to access day or night. For my sleeping bag and clothing, I have two Sea to Summit Event bottom dry bags (8L /1.8oz and 5L / 1.5oz). These bags take advantage of Events waterproof / breathability characteristics, allowing you to expel air out the bottom while closing the drybag. These have proven very durable and provide maximum compression. I still line my pack with a compacter bag. While not ultralight, packing and unpacking is a breeze with only 6 bags inside the pack – Sleeping Bag, Clothes bag, Travel bag, Food bag, cook kit, tent.

  14. My wife & I bought 19 Z-Packs stuff sacks before our section hike in 2012. 1 food bag (non-roll-top), various other sizes including very small to serve as wallets. In the 3rd season of use they are holding up very well except for some thread starting to unravel from heavy use. We now use them to stuff things for dayhikes. Nothing has ever gotten wet in them, backpacking system is Arc Blast with Z-Pack raincover & Z-Pack stuff sacks. My wife uses the same except an Osprey Hornet 46. She is now looking to get an Arc Blast for the extra capacity. Love their quality & customer service. My wife has also sewed her own set of Cuben slippers with an insole sewed in. 1.8 ozs. for the pair!

  15. A Zpacks roll top food bag arrived in my mailbox today.

  16. Hi David. where can you get this stuff in our neck of the woods? Pokey

  17. Great stuff but it’s just not in the budget for me. Also, while the percentage savings in weight is significant the actual savings is not that big a deal for me.

  18. Interesting look at these, as I only have experience with Zpacks roll-top bags. I noticed some discussion about the Outdoor Products Dry Sacks, which Philip reviewed back in 2011, and I use exclusively in my pack. I got a little carried away in crunching a few numbers to compare the two brands of stuff sacks.

    The complete OP dry sack set consists of a 2 L, 4 L, and 8 L bag at a total weight of about 3.3 oz and a cost of $10. Using the closest match from Zpacks, the 1.7 L, 4 L, and 8.5 L bags collectively weigh 0.65 oz, with a total cost (with shipping) of $45.

    So replacing your cheapo OP bags with equivalent Zpacks cuben fiber bags saves you 2.65 oz, with a replacement cost of about $17/oz. I like the idea of abusing my stuff and being able to buy replacements on the cheap, but to each their own. 2.65 oz saved isn’t as important to me as others.

  19. Comparing these to waterproof roll-top dry sacks isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison. If you compare between similarly sized zpacks cuben fiber roll-top dry sacks to the linked sea to summit ultra sill ones, you’ll see the weights are actually the same. More accurate would be to compare stuff sacks to stuff sacks.
    I do like that they’re sort of transparent, so I can see what’s in them, though.

  20. Bill Shockley(b3)

    Zpacks windshirt and goose down hood will sit separately in the rock sack size 2.5X2.5 round bag.

    I need a sack for the rain jacket and kilt so I’ll report back on that one.

    • why do you need a stuff sacks for them….why not stuff them lose? That’s what I do.

      • Bill Shockley(b3)

        IMHO you will wreck them eventually leaving them loose(it helps to roll the body into the hood) plus mine go in my trekking bicycle or kayak as well strapped externally.

        An empty bag reminds you your windshirt is hanging on a branch. I stuffed my windshirt for the first 700 miles of the PCT and it rolled around with sand and whatnot in a side packet but it just became too valuable not to care about, and a worn rain jacket…not for me in northern Wisconsin. I put my tent and sleeping bag in bags as much for protection as compression. The only thing I stuff is my puffy up on top. Keeps everything tight. Easy in and out for the puffy.

        Again just me.


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