What is the best way to pack a down sleeping bag

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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear Lists What is the best way to pack a down sleeping bag

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    mike a
    BPL Member


    From what I read the sleeping bag should be at the bottom of the pack. Some suggest a compacter bag for all stuff in the pack and some suggest dry bags for the sleeping bag and clothes.


    If I pack the sleeping bag in a dyneema dry bag and leave it loose will it smash and mold to what I am stuffing on top or will it act as a balloon because it is a dry bag? If it balloons than do you fully compress the sleeping bag in the dry bag? Is it best not to use a dry bag and use the compacter bag so the sleeping bag can be compressed? How do you seal the top of the compacter bag?

    How do most people pack their sleeping bag and why?

    Thanks, Mike

    Larry Swearingen
    BPL Member


    Locale: NE Indiana

    I use a lightweight Dry Bag big enough to fit the bottom of my pack
    and not so small as to over compress the down. I see no need for the usual
    compacter bag that I see with the extra straps etc. Why spend all that
    money on a lightweight bag and then have extra weight for that compressor
    to spoil your down or at least make it take longer to fluff up to it’s
    max. volume.
    BTW I’ve never seen a drybag yet that was actually airtight like a balloon.
    I’ve got another drybag for my extra clothes. 1 pr. socks, spare underwear
    Larry S

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    BTW: You don’t have to pack your sleeping bag in the bottom of your pack.¬† I pack my pack in the opposite order I want to unpack it in camp – for example in a week long trip I keep my food I won’t be eating today (often in a UrSack or Canister if I’m somewhere they are required), then my cook kit.¬† I also put any camp clothes if I bring any near the bottom along with my balaclava.¬† Then my quilt, on top of that my sleeping pad, then my shelter’s inner, and on top of that my shelter’s fly, and on top of that rain gear and that days food.¬†¬† If I get to camp and it’s raining,

    Some people put their shelter at the bottom of the pack, and that makes a lot of sense to me until I get to camp, and I want to put my shelter up first (and quickly if it’s raining) and it’s in the bottom of my pack.

    BPL Member


    Locale: San Juan Mtns.

    I line my pack with a regular trash bag (plenty tough enough).¬† I then stuff my sleeping bag into it, squishing out as much air as possible.¬† I then fold the tops of the garbage bag down and squish some more (it ends up acting like a one-way release valve).¬† When the sleeping bag is small enough, I simply twist the top of the garbage bag closed, and tuck the pig-tail down the side.¬† The rest of the gear goes on top and prevents the sleeping bag from “re-inflating”.¬† Cheap, light, effective – Yahtzee!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    down bag in DIY silnylon bag – you want a waterproof bag inside the waterproof backpack – guarantee the down won’t get wet

    Sleeping mat burrito style inside the backpack.  Down bag inside it, compressed a little

    Then, put heavy stuff between down bag and the sleeping mat next to my back, more weight lower.

    Then, put some more stuff on top.  Compress the down bag some.  If I need more stuff for longer trip then the down will get compressed more.

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I put the sleeping bag and my camp clothes in separate silnylon stuff sacks, then put those two sacks inside my Exped Schnozzel pump bag, which doubles as a dry bag.  The Schnozzel has a great little check valve that lets you smash all the air out after sealing it up so it becomes a tight little bundle that can be reshaped to an extent to fit wher you want it.

    I put that bundle at the bottom of my pack, but I think that’s just a matter of preference.¬† Most BPing gear these days is light enough that all the advice on balancing the weight and keeping heavy things close to your back is outdated.¬† Other than food, which you probably want at the top anyway, nothing is really that much denser than anything else, so just pack how it all fits the best or to allow unpacking in a preferred order.

    Lester Moore
    BPL Member


    Locale: Olympic Peninsula, WA

    The entire backpack gets lined with a nylofume bag for water protection. The first thing inside is the sleeping pad – vertically, folded to conform to the entire back panel. Second thing inside is the quilt/mummy bag – it’s simply stuffed into the bottom. Other gear is put on top of that and it holds the quilt in place just fine. When done the nylofume bag is twisted closed and the tail tucked out of the way, like Matt does above.

    After packing everything in stuff sacks and/or dry bags in the past, I find that the above “cloud packing” technique is faster, lighter and much more comfortable on the back – no hard areas of void areas pushing against your back while hiking.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    If no rain or deep water crossings expected today, my down sleeping bag goes semi-loose in the bottom of the pack, with a folded inflatable sleeping mat and pillow on top to protect it. The bag gets compressed by more gear above, but can expand as food shrinks on multi-day trips to maintain a relatively constant pack volume.

    Otherwise, my sleeping bag goes into a trash compactor or turkey bag or nylofume bag at the bottom, with the plastic bag top twisted and tucked in. I eyeball the squished volume to make the rest work.

    Tip: Once you figure out where you want to pack things in your pack,¬†which takes several days/trips, write it down for future trips. There isn’t any “best” way, everyone’s slightly different.

    — Rex

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    good tip

    I have a list mostly just so I don’t forget things.¬† I still often forget something though, maybe some special thing that was for just that trip and not on list

    The order of the list is the order I pack them in.¬† Pack first.¬† Then sleeping pad.¬† Then sleeping bag in bag…

    obx hiker
    BPL Member


    i use basically the same method as Lester, everything in a nylofume bag/pack liner, which btw creates a nice slippery inner liner in addition to a dry bag. The slight variation maybe is that if I’m using an ursack as food storage, I load that first in the bottom of the pack; then the shelter, and then a variation of the loose sleeping bag packing method putting the sleeping bag in another un-closed nylofume bag and then mashing that into the pack down around the shelter and the clothing bags etc. That gives another; 3rd layer of protection to the sleeping bag.

    i re-package my food by meal, breakfast, lunch-trail and dinner, each measured and stored in it’s¬† own labelled nylofume bag, all 3 of which go into the mothership food nylofume bag which goes into the ursack; so there’s a double layer of nylofume there and it’s easy to get exactly what you need without digging around. In camp each morning I break out the days lunch/trail and dinner into; yeppers another nylofume which stays in an outer pocket. Then at camp in the evening all I have to do is secure the closed ursack right out of the pack and no fumbling or digging around for dinner. If I’m using a can the whole process is still basically the same. Nylofume bags weight next to nothing and I appreciate that added organization,¬† security from elements, spills, and critter attracting smells.

    Matthew / BPL


    I’m on Team Cloud with Lester.

    Todd Raish
    BPL Member


    I’m late to this forum post, but I follow Lester and Matthew: use a nylofume bag. a big one, to line the backpack.¬† Inside of it:

    Fold flat the sleep pad into the shape of your back panel and lay it against the back panel, then stuff your down bag/quilt into the bottom of the pack and against the sleep pad.  Then fold flat into the shape of your back panel everything else not made out of metal.  Slide the whole pile into the pack like a stack of folded laundry.

    On top of that, stow your food bag horizontal, then your other gear that can’t fold flat.¬† Fill in all the spaces as best you can. Close backpack.

    Fold flat your shelter and stuff it into the front pocket of your pack because you will want to set up your shelter first thing at camp.

    I found that folding everything flat, in the same size as your backpack back panel, reduces the volume of your kit when stowed.  And you can pull out the nylofume bag all at once inside your shelter and access all your kit at once.  Very convenient.

    Rolling things into cylinders, balls, and multiple round storage sacks wastes space.

    But that’s just 35 years of hiking experience talking.¬† HYOH.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    RE: nylofume bags

    Just a side point, nylofume while sold by many backpacking cottage vendors, these are the same bags that the exterminator leaves with you by the 100 count when you have a house fumigated (which sadly happens a lot in Northern California).


    Mina Loomis
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central Texas

    Sleeping bag: bottom of pack in an ultrasil or DCF dry bag.

    I used to use a pack liner (Gossamer) but since my “camp clothes” and my “sudden cold storm in the middle of the hiking day clothes” are mostly the same, I ended up putting those into another lw dry bag at the top of my pack stack, easy to get to without having to open a liner and let all the rain in. ¬†Having the 2 dry bags made the liner superfluous.

    Bear can or ursack upright in the center.  Shelter vertically alongside food container.  Electronics ziplock (charger cords, anker battery, inreach, depending on the trip) along other side of food container.  Kitchen kit on top of that, outboard.  Aforementioned clothing dry sack inboard.

    Outside:  Personal ditty bag/fak/repairs in top pocket.  Water stuff (filter, tablets, backup platys) in tall pocket left side.  Headnet, fleece cap, bandanna, windshirt in top pocket right side.  Smartwater bottle, snacks in lower pocket right side.  FroggToggs, bagged paper maps flat in mesh back pocket.  Ridgerest in shock cord laced across the back.

    Pack is a Mariposa so it is often not full (unless we have a long resupply or a long water carry) but most of the smaller options with frame and hip belt aren’t lighter so whatever, plus I’m accustomed to the pocket arrangement.

    Phone, car key, ID, SAK Classic, compass, hanky, chapstick are all in pockets in my clothing.  Want to be sure those are available even when away from my pack.

    Note:  I am not at the head of the UL crowd; my base weight runs 10-13 lbs. depending on the trip.  Cook kit, FAK, and shelter are for 2 people.  I get cold easily so need extra insulation all around.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Bag in a waterproof stuff sack, and line my pack with the Schnozzle air bag, like Todd–but I just use it for the stuff that needs to stay dry (down jacket etc.). Anyway, two layers of protection for my bag–three if the pack itself counts. It’s worked so far.

    I need to carry my Bearikade on the bottom of my pack because of how it fits so nice on the bottom ‘tray’ of pack that I use. So the bag ends up near the middle of the pack. cookpot etc. and rain jacket on top.

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