If you’ve ever wasted 10 minutes searching your pack for a stray battery then you already know that a stuff sack is invaluable to your packing system. Fortunately, choosing the right one is not difficult. This guide will introduce you to a few topics that will help you learn how to choose the right stuff sack for your wilderness organizational needs.
The first step in choosing the right stuff sack is to ask these two basic questions: 1. What are you going to use it for? 2. Where are you going to use it? Once you have that figured out then you can decide what type of compression sack is right for you. There are three basic types of stuff sack:
Compression Stuff Sacks: When pack space is at a premium, compression stuff sacks work wonders to eliminate the bulk of your sleeping bag on backpacking trips. A standard Cordura fabric bag with four compressive straps can transform an alligator-sized 15° bag into the size of a football. This is your go-to stuff sack for spring, summer, and fall backpacking.
Waterproof Stuff Sacks (Dry Bags): Waterproof dry bags are absolutely essential for river trips. They are also handy when hiking in wet environments. For river trips, it’s important to use PVC submersible waterproof materials with roll top closure systems. They’re much heavier, but they’ll ensure your gear will stay dry in case your boat dumps in the rapids. For hiking, use the lighter weight polyurethane or cuben fiber fabrics. These are the lighter, yet still waterproof, materials that are commonly used in rain jackets.
Waterproof Compression Sacks: Waterproof compression sacks are an impressive combination. They keep your sleeping bag dry and small on river trips. In order to compress properly, they typically have a breathable panel of cuben fiber fabric that lets air out but prevents water from getting in. The only downside of this miracle product is that they’re a little overweight for a standard backpacking trip. But it’s a confidence boosting stuff sack to have in your quiver of gear for when the conditions or situation calls for it.
Item Stuff Sacks: Itemized stuff sacks are what your grandpa might have called “diddy bags.” Those stray batteries and sporks all have a home in an itemized stuff sack. It’s helpful to get a few different sizes in different colors. Having one as a food bag, one as a clothes bag, and one as a true “diddy bag” will have your packing system truly dialed. Cordura, silnylon and mesh fabrics all work well.
Ultra Lightweight Stuff Sacks: Every ounce counts when you’re carrying your home on your back. Lightweight stuff sacks will shave a few ounces, which will translate into you having more energy at the end of a long backpacking trip. Silnylon and mesh stuff sack will provide you with the best weight ratio.