By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications and The Faithful Prepper
If you’ve done any camping anytime in the past, you know that one of the most frustrating things when it comes to packing up is stuffing your sleeping bag into its sack. Actually, getting all of your gear back into its original stuff sack is a real challenge. It’s like trying to stuff a container of Grand’s biscuits back into the little tin. It just ain’t gonna happen.
You squish and cram your tent and stakes back in there as best you can, but you’re just never able to get them back, and you can’t help but wonder if the people who designed the bag purposefully made it this small out of some sick and twisted sense of humor. Maybe they sell larger stuff sacks as an upsell. I don’t know.
All I know is that whether we’re talking about tents, hammocks, tarps, or mosquito netting, it always feels like the stuff sack the gear is supposed to go into is always just slightly too small for the task at hand.
The same thing goes for sleeping bags.
For years, I’ve wrestled with rolling the bag into as tiny of a ball as possible and then just muscled the whole thing back into the stuff sack it came out of. It’s always been a pain in the butt, but it’s just always been the way I’ve done it. I just considered it part of the camping experience.
But then my friend showed me something a little over a year ago (it was when we were making coffee out in the woods and I was kicking his butt playing board games) that completely changed the way that I’ve done things since, and I figured it might help you out as well. Either that or you’re going to read this and think I’m an idiot for not having figured this out sooner. I’ll take the risk.
Here’s the trick.
So what you do is stand up with your sleeping bag in your hands, letting the foot end of your bag just barely rest on the ground. Now take one of your feet and step on that part that’s right there. This is going to be your anchor that holds the bag taut. You’re now going to take the bag in your hands, pull the bag a bit (don’t rip your bag, ya’ll), and roll it up nice and small. You’ll start in a standing position, and end up with a little rolled sleeping bag down at your foot.
That little bit of extra tension from your foot helps to make it so you’re able to get as compressed of a sleeping bag roll as I think is possible.
Every single time that I’ve done this method since, I’m able to then get my sleeping bag back into its stuff sack with minimal effort and in less than two minutes. Using my old method of getting on my knees in the dirt and wrestling the bag, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to unroll and reroll my sleeping bag something like three times hoping that this time I had rolled it small enough. I’m pretty happy about this new method as a result. I don’t mind getting a little dirty while out backpacking, but it’s nice to keep your bag clean and dry if it’s been raining all night.
If you don’t want to put the foot end of your bag in the dirt while doing this, just put it atop your backpack and step on that instead.
This can save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. Let’s say you’re on a photography/backpacking trip mix, you’ve been really wanting to catch the sunrise from that mountain peak for years now, and you want to be up and with your gear at-the-ready as soon as possible. You don’t want to potentially miss the perfect lighting because you were back at the campground struggling to get all your gear put away and on your back.
It works for other items too.
I actually use this method now on my tarp and tents now too. I don’t apply enough tension to cause any damage (you have to be ginger), but just enough to give me a compressed roll.
While I’ve done a lot of camping and backpacking, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know it all, and I’m happy to see the ways that other people do things to see if I can’t pick up any tips or tricks along the way. The sleeping bag hack was one of the more recent “how on earth have I never thought about this” discoveries of mine that I thought ya’ll may like to hear about too.
But whether you’ve been using this method for years or it’s brand new to you too, I’d love to hear your thoughts on other tips and tricks that make for an easier time backpacking or camping. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.