How To Buy a Stuff Sack

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.