Compression Sacks

A down sleeping bag is a very large thing when spread out. To get it into your pack you have to stuff it into a bag, often called a stuff or compression sack. The name comes from the compression straps most makers put around the cover sack they supply: yo

A down sleeping bag is a very large thing when spread out. To get it into your pack you have to stuff it into a bag, often called a stuff or compression sack. The name comes from the compression straps most makers put around the cover sack they supply: you stuff your sleeping bag into this large cover sack and then reef up the compression straps to reduce the volume even more. A convenient idea, but the straps do squash the down and the sack should only be used while you are walking, never for storage.

If you are gong on a short trip and your pack is large, don't bother compressing your sleeping bag. Let it stay a bit loose: it will retain its loft better this way. In fact, some ultra-lightweight enthusiasts in America line their UL pack with their foam pad, then put their UL sleeping bag into the pack, then stuff all the rest of their gear into the sleeping bag. That way their pack, which typically has no structure of its own, gets some shape and their sleeping bag does not get tightly compressed. I am not sure I want to try this in the Australian weather, but you get the idea.

One of the more puzzling things you will see in some books on walking is a picture of your pack with your sleeping bag right at the bottom and your (wet) tent up at the top. If any water gets into the pack from your wet tent, guess where it is going to end up? With a single compartment pack this can be unavoidable, so you will need to get smart here. The heavy compression sack which comes with your sleeping bag is almost guaranteed to leak like a sieve: there is all that stitching through it. When the cover sack is all compressed up, put it into a more waterproof bag. A good plastic bag and a very light nylon stuff sack over that is often used, or a special waterproof sack if you can find one. They add a very small amount of weight, but this is one place where the little extra weight is truly worth while. Such a cover will also protect your bag in your pack when you are walking in heavy rain: some water always seems to get in somehow.

You may see novices walking with their sleeping bag tied to the outside of their pack. This may be OK in the desert (not really: they can get awfully dusty that way), but otherwise it is just plain stupid. The bag will either get soaked when it rains or shredded by the scrub. It could even fall off: we found a sleeping bag lying on a track in the Blue Mountains once: bet he was cold that night! (Pity it was only a cheap bulky sleeping bag.)