Roll or Stuff a Sleeping Bag (And Why Stuffing Is Better)

When you get a quality sleeping bag, you want to make sure it’s going to last as long as possible. Different bags are going to require different types of care, and how you store a bag in your pack is going to be different than how you store your bag at home. So which is best? Is it better to roll or stuff a sleeping bag?

Do you roll or stuff a sleeping bag? Stuffing a sleeping bag better than rolling a sleeping bag. Stuffing a sleeping bag is easier than rolling and utilizes extra space. Many sleeping bag manufactures recommended stuffing instead of rolling.

Why Stuffing Is Better

You don’t always need a sleeping bag for camping (check out my sleeping bag alternatives), but if you do bring a bag, stuffing is the preferred way to pack your sleeping bag.

The reason why stuffing is better than rolling is because, well, it’s just easier. After all, stuff packs are called stuff packs for a reason, and not roll packs. Stuffing will also help to maximize the available space in your pack.

How to Stuff a Sleeping Bag in Your Backpack

The easiest way to stuff your sleeping bag inside your backpack is to put a 2mm contractor bag at the bottom of your pack, then stuff your sleeping bag or quilt inside the bag. Once done, twist or tie the bag up (bring extra rubber bands). After your bag is stuffed, place the rest of your gear on top of the bag.

When compared to a typical stuff sack, contractor bags cheaper, lighter, and can also be used in emergency situations (think ponchos, bedding, and water collection).

Stuffing your sleeping bag like this at the bottom of your pack is advantageous for a few reasons:

  • The sleeping bag will take up the most horizontal space possible. It will fill in all the nooks and crannies, leaving more vertical space to store other gear.
  • Your bag will be already partially fluffed when you arrive at camp and will be warmer (check out my tips for staying warm during winter)
  • A stuffed sleeping bag is more evenly distributed in your pack, meaning no bump pressing into your lower back when hiking.
  • Rolling a sleeping bag takes longer and requires room for rolling, risking tears when the bag is laid out.

Some hikers have even suggested that stuffing is better than rolling because rolling puts pressure on the same areas, whereas stuffing is more randomized. This makes sense in theory, but it probably applies more to synthetic bags than down bags.

For synthetic bags (which are more sensitive to compression), some hikers suggest storing them un-compressed at the top of your pack. This might come down to personal preference, but I’m a little skeptical of this theory. I imagine with a full pack this won’t always be doable and it seems less practical when you do need to access other items in your pack.

If your sleeping bag is still too big for your backpack, then one option is to attach the sleeping bag to the outside of your pack using a compression sack.

Can I Use a Compression Sack for My Sleeping Bag? Isn’t It Bad for Your Bag?

You can still use a compression sack for your sleeping bag, and many hikers do. If you’re looking to how to fold a sleeping bag as small as possible, then a compression sack is the way to go.

Some manufacturers like Western Mountaineering claim that keeping your bag compressed will not have permanent effects on the loft. The screenshot below was taken from their FAQ Page.

Western Mountaineering on compression affecting loft

Another sleeping bag manufacture, PHDesigns, says on their care page that compression will affect synthetic bags, but not down bags.

PHDesigns says compressing down is safe

Even though there might not be any long-lasting effects on the loft, compressing your down bag for so long time could make it longer to fully recover.

Some hikers claim that cheaper down could be more affected by compression than quality down. To be safe, it’s best not to store bags compressed at all for long-periods of time.

How Long Can I Keep My Sleeping Bag Compressed?

As far as down bags, it’s probably okay to keep it compressed for a very long time. If you are wondering if it’s okay to compress your bag for overnight trips up to a few days or a week, then that’s probably fine too.

When hiking, many backpackers will still use compression sacks on the trail. One of the most popular compression sacks for sleeping bags is the Sea to Summit Event Compression Dry Sack (find them at Amazon and Backcountry). These do weigh more than the contractor bags, but you can be sure you bag stuffs down and stays absolutely dry as the bags are waterproof.

Another advantage of compression sacks is that you can often attach them to the outside of your pack, saving room inside. Some people make sure they get a compression sack that is bigger than what they need to make stuffing easier.

Storing Your Sleeping Bags at Home

If you’re storing your bag at home and not in your pack, then you’re not going to want to store your sleeping bag compressed at all, especially if you have a synthetic bag.

Down bags are generally considered very compressible and safer to store compressed long term, but it’s still best to avoid this practice.

REI sleeping bag storage sack
REI sleeping bag storage sack

So how should you store your sleeping bag at home? Once your bag is completely dry (very important!), store it inside a breathable cotton or mesh sack. A quality sleeping bag will come with a stuff sack, but if it doesn’t, a cotton laundry bag will be a great and inexpensive solution (check the prices at Amazon). If you are looking for something a little fancier, REI sells 90L sleeping bag storage sack (find it on REI.com)

The sleeping bag should be stored in a cool dry place out of the sun. Another option is to hang your sleeping bag, which is also not a bad idea.

Conclusion

When it comes to rolling vs stuffing your sleeping bag, stuffing is always the way to go. When you are packing your pack, using 2mm contractor bags at the bottom of your pack at the best way to go.

If you do need extra space, stuff sacks can work and won’t cause any damage to down bags. Synthetic bags, however, will need some extra care and are more sensitive to compression.

When you are storing bags at home, use a cotton or mesh bag to store your bags in. Make sure they are dry and are stored in a cool place out of the sunlight.

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