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Stuff Sacks – More Common Sense


Don’t use them. That’s it.

Okay, that’s not it…or this could have been a tweet. I feel like this should be common sense, but the hiking community is full of gearheads (including me. I have like 20 stuff sacks) who want to have every item to be prepared for every scenario. Unfortunately, many people confuse “What does it do”” with “Why does is do it?”

So let’s break down what a stuff sack is and why it does what a stuff sack does. Barney style.

A stuff sack is exactly what it says, a sack you can stuff your stuff in. That’s it.

“But, Steve! The guy at REI showed me the ultralight dyneema fiber stuff sack that costs $60 but rolls up tight and is waterproof and weighs negative one grams!”

If you feel the need to pay too much money for a bag -let’s face it, that’s all it is- with frills, have fun with that. Be warned, I will judge you for your cuben-fiber stuff sack the same way I judge people who waste their money on Prada purses. If you really need a stuff sack, go to walmart and buy a 3 pack off all the stuff sacks you could ever possibly want for ten bucks-ish.

Now let’s get into the why, and moreover, why you don’t need them…err..okay, I carry one…but only one!


You don’t need this. There shouldn’t be enough stuff in your bag to worry about organizing it, beyond packing it up the same way every time. Stuff you need while on the move goes on top, in the top lid, or in exterior pockets. Stuff you sleep in/under goes on the bottom or in a sleeping back compartment. Sleep clothes go either with, or on top of that. Then food and mess kit, with rain-gear on top or outside. Tada! It’s organized without a single stuff sack.

Well, not totally true. Here I use a single 5L bright yellow stuff sack as my bear bag. My mess kit goes in the bear bag too. I also carry 2 -COUNT THEM- 2 contractor bags. One for my sleeping back compartment, one for the main compartment.

“Steve, couldn’t you save weight by using a smaller stuff sack…maybe made of DYNEEMA?”

I didn’t ask you to carry it, did I.


“Steve! I spent $600 on a down -60 degree bag. If it get’s wet I’ll die! I need my sleeping back stuff sack.”

But the little puckered drawstring hole in that thing lets water right in just as much as the porous fabric. Why, because that’s not a waterproof stuff sack. It’s either a compression sack made of porous durable material or a stuff sack also made of thin but similarly water loving stuff. Why? Mold, that’s why! Your sleeping bag (or quilt. Fine!) needs to breathe to release the pent up moisture and fart gas your body puts out while you snooze. Keep it in a totally waterproof bag and you’ll grow a science experiment in no time!

“Steve! I saw you! You use a backpack liner! That would cause the same problem!”

Excellent observation, young padawan. I recommend everyone use a backpack liner to keep their stuff dry. But, you missed some other crap I do. First, as soon as I’m out of my sleeping back, it gets opened up and stretched over by hammock  straps to breathe. No hammock straps? Use a tree branch! No trees? Shake it out and put it on the ground. You’re dirty anyways!

Second, I don’t keep my sleeping bag in the liner so the crumpled up bag can breath a little. If it starts to rain or if I need to ford water, I put it in there. Since I use a bag with a separate sleeping bag compartment, I don’t have to unpack everything to do that.


So your stuff doesn’t need extra organization and your bag liner already waterproofs your stuff. Sounds like you don’t need a sack for that stuff. That’s it. Stop worrying about stuff sacks and go hiking.

“but…but…steve…I’m a VLOGGER and I have sensitive electronics.”

Fine! Use another stuff sack or a ziploc. I don’t really care. Vlog me and I’ll put you in a stuff sack.

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