How To Pack A Sleeping Bag?

Rolling or Packing a sleeping bag is an essential skill for any camper. Though bags come in a variety of shapes and storage options, packing your sleeping bag is easy.

Rolling or Packing a sleeping bag is an essential skill for any camper. Though bags come in a variety of shapes and storage options, packing your sleeping bag is easy. Once you’ve determined how your bag should be packed, getting it together is simple.

Packing a Sleeping Bag

  1. Do not roll a bag if it comes with a stuff sack and space is no issues. Rolling a bag frequently can damage the insulation, making it less effective at keeping you warm. Most bags that come with a storage bag are actually meant to be stuffed into the bag loosely, not rolled. Check your owner’s manual if you are unsure how to store your bag.

    • If the bag came with straps, either separately or attached near the head, it is likely meant to be rolled. These straps are meant to keep the bag rolled up.
    • If you need to save space, rolling your bag is the best way to compress it into its smallest shape. However, you should try to remove your bag from compression as soon as possible.
  2. Lay the sleeping bag on a flat, dry surface. If possible, use your ground tarp of the floor of your tent to roll up the bag, as this will keep it clean and moisture from getting rolled into the bag, where mildew might grow.

    Zip up the bag and push any large air pockets out through the head. Zip it up completely, as an unzipped bag makes it hard to roll evenly. Smooth out the bag so that you get out as much air as possible, as air pockets will prevent an even, tight roll.

    Fold the sleeping bag in half lengthwise. Fold one side over so that it lines up with the zipper. Take some time to make sure the edges are lined up. They don’t have to be perfect, but the closer you can get them the better.

    Start rolling upwards, firmly, from the feet. Use both hands to roll the bag up tightly, kneading it with your hands to push any air in the bag up and out the hole at the top for your head.

    Sit on the bag with your knees to keep it tight. If you are having trouble getting the bag tight enough, crouch down and use your knees to keep the roll tight and push out air. Then roll up another 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm), using your fingers to get the roll tight, and push some more air out with your knees.
  7. Use the attached straps to keep the bag rolled. Most sleeping bags that are meant to be rolled have straps that cinch around the rolled bag and then tighten, keeping it rolled up. You should have at lease two, and they should be positioned roughly 1/3 of the way from each edge of the rolled bag.

    • If you don’t have straps, you can improvise one out of a belt, large rubber bands, or rope.
    • If your bag came with a bag but no straps, store the sleeping bag in the appropriate carrying bag and close the top tightly.
  8. Keep the bag dry and free from water. If you are in the backcountry a wet sleeping bag isn’t only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Water wicks heat away from your skin much faster than air, so a wet bag can lead to deadly cold temperatures if you aren’t careful. Keep your bag in a waterproof bag, or improvise one out of garbage bags if you don’t have one.


Avoiding Common Issues

  1. Know that prolonged compression will make your bag less effective. Keeping your bag tightly stuffed or rolled for long periods of time will make it lose loft, which is what traps hot air to keep you warm. While you want to roll your bag tightly to travel with, you should never store your bag compressed or jammed in a stuff-sack.

    • Loosely roll your bag, or let it rest, lightly folded, when it is not in use.
  2. Turn wind or water resistant bags inside out. The layering on the outside of these bags is great at keeping air out when you need to stay warm, but it can keep air in when you need it to escape for packing. Turn these bags inside out, zip them up, and then roll them as normal.
  3. Use a stuff-sack for tighter packing. These bags come with several straps and cinches that let you pull down on the top of the bag and get it even smaller. They are usually waterproof, and you can often get a large enough bag the lets you stuff several other items, like shirts or camping pillows, in with the bag.

    • Always start packing by the tail if you use a stuff sack — this allows the air in the bag to escape through the top.
  4. Air out your bag when you return from your trip. While you should never stuff your bag and store it fully compressed, good bag care requires brushing out any dirt, twigs, and leaves and letting the bag dry out completely when your trip is over. Mold and mildew will grow if your bag is allowed to be stored wet, and it is tough to remove once it grows. Let the bag rest outside on a dry day for several hours and brush out any debris.

    • UV light can damage the sleeping bag fibers, so take care not to leave the bag in the sun all day.
  5. Gently pull any leaking down feather back into the bag. A few loose pieces of down is not uncommon in new sleeping bags. Gently work the quills back into the bag, pulling from the back side whenever possible. The holes will close back up and the insulation should settle with time.

How to Store and Clean a Sleeping Bag?

Keep your sleeping bag up to fluff with proper care and handling, including storing the sleeping bag, washing/drying, and special considerations.

My first sleeping bag was a rectangular, slumber-party special with horses and flowers adorning the yellow flannel lining. After my first backpacking trip, I retired it (too cold, too heavy, too bulky) and bought a down mummy, which I proceeded to store in its stuff sack for an entire winter. When I pulled it out the following spring, my cozy cocoon was flatter than a day-old pancake and offered less warmth than my old flannel job.

Regardless of whether you opt for down or synthetic fill, give your sleeping bag the TLC it deserves.


  • After each trip, air dry your bag for at least 24 hours before storing sleeping bag.
  • Never store your bag in its itty-bitty stuff sack! The longer you compress the insulation, the more loft it loses. It’s fine to use a stuff sack-even a compression stuff sack-on the trail, but the minute you get home, get your sleeper out of that confined space, give it a good shake to fluff up the fill material, then store it in a cool, dry place. Spread it out under your bed, hang it in a closet, or put it in a big, breathable storage bag (often provided by the manufacturer). If you don’t have such a sack, use a king-size pillowcase.


  • Wash your bag when it gets stinky, dirty, or loses a noticeable amount of loft, but not after every trip. For most people, this means once a year. Don’t dry-clean your sleeping bag, because the harsh chemicals wreak havoc on the materials.
  • For safe and thorough cleaning, head to your local laundry and use a jumbo, front-loading washer. The agitators that churn clothes in most home washing machines can twist and damage insulation fibers and baffle materials (baffles inside your bag hold the insulation in place).
  • Before washing, unzip the bag and bring the slider halfway up on e side of the zipper. This ensures that the slider won’t come off during washing.
  • Use warm water, the gentle cycle, and ¼ cup of a mild powdered detergent.


  • “The key here is transferring the wet bag from the washing machine to the dryer,” says Bob Upton, president of Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle, Washington. “When a bag is wet and heavy, the stitching and baffling materials are prone to tearing. Gently lift the bag onto a rolling cart, being careful to support the entire bag. Don’t pull on any part of the bag,” he cautions. Exercise the same caution when lifting your bag into the dryer. Opt for the largest dryer you can find-“preferably one you could crawl into,” says Upton.
  • For a down bag, toss in 6 to 12 tennis balls to help fluff it up.
  • Turn the dial to the lowest/coolest setting, and start feeding in the quarters. Sleeping bags take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to dry completely.
  • Check the bag periodically to make sure the fabric isn’t scorching hot and the insulation isn’t bunching or clumping. If it clumps, line dry it instead.

Special Considerations

  • If your bag is an heirloom inherited from Great-Uncle Jeb, it might be unwashable. To check the integrity of an old bag, reach inside and grab a handful of lining material. With your other hand, grab the opposing shell material and tug gently. If you hear threads popping or ripping sounds, the baffles are damaged and will need to be repaired before washing.
  • A bag with a waterproof or water-resistant/breathable shell will hold a lot of water, so use extra caution when transporting it from washer to dryer. And prepare yourself for the 4 to 5 hours it will take to dry completely.
  • Detergents reduce the water-resistancy of shell materials. Treat your bag’s shell after each washing with a spray-on waterproofing agent, available at outdoors shops.