Checking and packing your sleeping bag
“Speaking of sleeping bags, has anything ever had a less creative name?” Adam Carolla
Sleeping bags are relatively quick to check and pack. First, make sure that your sleeping bag is clean and dry and doesn’t have any damage to the material. Check by running your hands over the material and doing a visual inspection. Also, check that the zippers can open and close smoothly, and any other toggles or clips are working too.
Check that the sleeping bag rating is suitable for your trip.
Next, find a clean open area at home to pack your sleeping bag. Some people find sitting or kneeling is a comfortable position to pack the bag, but the most important thing is to be relaxed and not straining shoulders or arms.
Most shop-bought sleeping bags come with a stuff sack or compression sack that makes it easy to reduce the sleeping bag volume with drawcords on the side. Generally, sleeping bags made with down compress into a smaller volume than synthetic bags (although sleeping bag technology has been steadily improving with new materials on the market each year, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for new products).
It’s really important to pack your sleeping bag in a way that minimises the risk of it getting wet. Your sleeping bag is your primary source of warmth at night and will not effectively insulate when wet [note]Hawks, Leona K., “Care of Down and Synthetic Sleeping Bags” (1990). All Archived Publications. Paper 210[/note]. Sleeping bag stuff sacks are generally water resistant, can let water in, particularly in heavy rain or if the pack is submerged. Another option is to pack the compression sack into an additional dry bag, or double bag it with garbage bags, ensuring to twist and tie the tops to prevent water getting in. Lining the stuff sack with a large plastic bag, before stuffing the sleeping bag – then twisting the plastic bag closed before sealing the stuff sack is a good way of adding an extra layer of protection from water.
There are two ways to pack a sleeping bag: rolling or stuffing. Generally, stuffing is a good option if you have a compression bag and you want to get the sleeping bag as compact as possible. Rolling is very straightforward, but results in a larger volume bag so is generally used in situations where volume doesn’t matter (e.g. car camping).
Option 1: Stuffing (generally for down sleeping bags)
Start at the foot end of the sleeping bag and place it into the bottom of the stuff sack (this lets the air escape through the top of the bag). Then gradually add small wads of material into the stuff sack without folding or rolling the bag. The aim is to fold the material in a random (and different) way each time you stuff the sack, and in doing so, this keeps the insulation in the sleeping bag evenly distributed and performing better over time. It also reduces lumps in the fabric and likelihood of tears on the material.
Tighten the cord at the top of the compression sack, and then adjust the straps on the side to reduce the volume further. Tighten the straps little by little, keeping the compression even across the sack.
Option 2: Rolling (generally for synthetic sleeping bags and when volume is not an issue)
Lay the sleeping bag out on the floor and fold the sides in to create the desired roll width. For some sleeping bags, this will be thirds, others halves. Decide based on the what width you need the final roll to be.
Then begin to roll up the bag from the foot end, keeping the roll as tight as possible. For extra pressure, you can place a knee on the roll. Once entirely rolled, tie up straps, or use tape or rope to prevent the bag from unrolling. Sometimes it can help to grab another person to give you a hand attaching the straps.