How to Pack a Sleeping Bag in a Backpack? (With Pictures)

In almost every outdoor activity, it is essential to know how to pack a sleeping bag in a backpack. Many times I have done this wrong and ended up with the fabric caught in the zippers. In other cases, my sleeping bag got damp, and it was a nightmare to sleep in it the following night. Hence, I decided to provide you with the ideal ways to pack it inside and carry the bag for an extended period.

You can pack a sleeping bag in a backpack by using the main compartment; either tie it with the backpack’s built-in straps or use your sleeping bag’s compression sack. You may also pack it inside a separate compartment at the bottom in case your backpack features one. For last, you may place it on top of your gear while using the lid for compression.

1. Putting it in The Main Compartment

The most obvious way in which you can pack a sleeping bag is to put it into the main compartment of your backpack. You can opt for this method when you have a backpack with fewer compartments. Even when you’re using the main compartment, there are a couple of options that you can go with when it comes to packing a sleeping bag. I will go into the details of these options below.

Rolling it up

The first method is pretty simple. You can roll the sleeping bag and use the built-in straps in your pack to keep it in place. These straps are usually located at the bottom part of the main compartment.

Otherwise, they should be on the sides of the inner part. Either way, I highly suggest that you use them. This way, your bag doesn’t inflate and occupy a vast amount of space.

Using The Compression Sack

Does your sleeping bag come with the compression sack? If yes, it becomes even easier for you to use the main compartment for storage. Merely roll it into it and place the bag at the bottom (source).

If you do so, you may use the built-in straps of your backpack for different purposes. For example, you may secure your clothes with them and keep the sleeping bag on top of those.

The compression sack itself ensures that the size of the sleeping bag maintains small, even on the hike, when things move naturally inside your backpack.

These are the two methods that you can opt for when planning on putting the sleeping bag into the main compartment. There are, however, a few tips to follow while doing so. These include:

  • You should plan your packing list to ensure that there is enough space for the sleeping bag. Make sure you have extra room for things you may buy during your adventure, as well.
  • If you’re putting it at the bottom, you have to take into account the weight, which will be on the sleeping bag. Do not put water or considerable heavy substances on top of it; otherwise, it may damage its stuffing.
  • You may consider putting it on the side of the main compartment to ensure that it does not experience high load.

Once you follow these three tips while using the main compartment for carrying the sleeping bag, you will not miss out on anything.

2. Using The Separate Compartment

Does your backpack have a separate compartment for sleeping bags? Well, many packs feature this at the bottom (source).

On times you are not using this compartment, you can remove the divider and combine it with the main compartment. However, these compartments are the best option when it comes to carrying a sleeping bag inside.

All you have to do is rolling up your sleeping bag and put it inside this compartment. Once you do so, it will become easy for you to carry the sleeping bag without disturbing the contents on the other side.

While doing so is quite easy, but there are a few general guidelines that you have to follow. These include:

  • You have to ensure that the separate compartment is weatherproof.
  • If you have a compression sack, it would be best using it. This way, your bag would have double protection in case the backpack itself isn’t water-resistant. 
  • It is always better to keep the zipper of this compartment closed to protect the sleeping bag from the elements of the weather outside.

These three simple tips will ensure that carrying the sleeping bag in a separate compartment would work best.

3. Taking Advantage of The Lid

Most backpacks available these days are top loading in design. The closing mechanism of these backpacks is such that you have to stuff everything into the main compartment and tighten the strings around the lid to secure it.

Many bags consist of a redundant mechanism to close the top as well. It means that once you tighten and close the top cap, the contents will be entirely secure.

Did you know that you can secure the sleeping bag in between the top and the rest of the backpack contents? The way to do so is pretty simple.

You need to follow the steps below to accomplish this:

  • Load up the backpack as you usually do.
  • On top of the compartment, place the rolled-up sleeping bag.
  • Use the strings to secure the lid. Also, take advantage of the redundant securing mechanism to ensure that the sleeping bag remains stable. 

While the shape of the lid at the top might change a bit, but it will help you keep the sleeping bag on top. It will also mean that you create extra space for the sleeping bag. As a result, there will be no compromise on the space inside the backpack.

You have to follow some instructions while using the lid for secure. The instructions are:

  • I highly suggest you use the compression suck of the sleeping bag here. Since the bag is near the outside space, it is exceptionally vulnerable to raindrops and snow. The sack would ensure the stuffing doesn’t get damp, which will compromise its thermal insulation significantly.
  • You have to roll up the sleeping bag in the smaller size possible before putting it just beneath the lid. It is vital since if you don’t, the bag will pressure the zippers, and your backpack may crack open.
  • You have to ensure that the sleeping bag and the main compartment are covered with a piece of fabric. It can be nylon to prevent moisture from going inside.

Thus, if you’re looking for another method that helps you save space inside the backpack and carry the sleeping bag at the same time, using the lid may come to your rescue.

To make sure the bag doesn’t occupy a lot of space, I highly recommend that you read an article I’ve written on how to roll a sleeping bag. I’ve included there a few pictures so that you get a better visual understanding.

Can I Pack The Sleeping Bag Outside The Backpack?

Yes, it is possible to pack it outside. I have previously spoken about it in an article I’ve written on how to attach a sleeping bag to a backpack. If you wish to save space, I highly recommend you read it. I gathered all the possible techniques to do it so that it would work with all kinds of hiking backpacks.

Tying it to The External Frame Bottom

Do you have a backpack with an external frame? If yes, did you know that you can use this outer frame to carry your sleeping bag?

I have personally used that technique on almost all my hikes in the past. The advantages of tying the sleeping bag to the external frame include:

  • It frees up space inside your backpack.
  • It is possible to carry bulky sleeping bags with small packs.
  • It does not obstruct your movement in spite of being on the inner side.

Most of the external frame backpacks have tie-points at the bottom. Even when you go through the manual of the bag, you will not find the exact use of loops or tie-points. While I’m not saying that they are only for tying up the sleeping bag, but they can be used for that as well.

Many backpacks come with their straps, which means that hanging the sleeping bag is quite easy. You can secure as well, which will ensure that the sleeping bag will remain in place.

A few tips which you need to follow while using this method include:

  • You have to use the straps in the backpack along with the tie points. Only once you use both of these, you can carry the sleeping bag without imbalance.
  • Before beginning your expedition, it is essential to ensure that the sleeping bag is secure.
  • You should put the sleeping bag into the compression sack and then use the tie points and the straps on the backpack to carry it.

Thus, instead of taking up space inside the backpack, your sleeping bag can now be on the outside. With these few tips, it will be easy for you to secure the sleeping bag and at the same time, ensure that it does not swing and hurt your back.

Use The Side Loops

Have you noticed the loops around your backpack?

Typically speaking, they are for ice axes or trekking poles. However, they are highly versatile. You can use them to carry your sleeping bag as well. 

The easiest way to do so is with the help of the compression straps of your sleeping bag. You need to move these compression straps through the loops. Once you do so, it will become easy for you to secure your sleeping bag.

If you plan on using the loops to pack a sleeping bag, the tips which you need to follow are:

  • You should use the loops on both sides if available.
  • You should ensure that the sleeping bag is entirely secure before moving on.
  • You have to be careful when you walk along branches and bushes so that your sleeping bag isn’t damaged.

These three tips will make it easy for you to carry the sleeping bag with the help of the loops on the outside.

Tie it on Top

The last method which I’m going to highlight now will make it easy for you to carry your sleeping bag. Also, it will ensure that when you’re putting the pack down, the sleeping bag will not obstruct it or get dirty. I’m speaking about tying the sleeping bag on top.

You can easily use straps to tie it to the top of the bag. There are mainly two advantages to doing so:

  • The sleeping bag will not obstruct the center of gravity.
  • The backpack will not overburden your back.

Due to this, it is always a good idea to consider this method before starting your hike. Nevertheless, you have to secure it at multiple points to ensure that it does not fall.

With so many different ways to pack a sleeping bag in the backpack, you will never be short of options. These methods will also ensure that it becomes easy for you to carry the sleeping bag irrespective of the pack, which you have.

Which is The Most Secure Method to Carry a Sleeping Bag?

Among so many different methods, you would, of course, be wondering about the most secure way to carry a sleeping bag.

The answer is that it is a tie. The tie is between two methods which are:

  • Carrying the sleeping bag in a separate bottom compartment
  • Taking the sleeping bag in the main compartment

The logic behind it is that your sleeping bag would be most protected inside your pack, towards the bottom. When under the lid or hung outside, the bag is exposed to raindrops and damp.

If both of these are not possible, you can go with any other methods which I have described above. Nevertheless, make sure you follow the tips for that particular method.

Can I Pack The Sleeping Bag Without Using a Compression Sack?

While many of these methods can work without the compression sack, it features additional protection for the sleeping bag. Especially where you want to attach the sleeping bag externally, compression sack is a must. It provides various advantages like:

  • Keeping the sleeping bag away from elements of weather.
  • Compressing the sleeping bag.
  • Making the sleeping bag easy to carry.
  • Reducing the wear and tear of the sleeping bag.

So, if you’re using any of the methods which involve carrying the sleeping bag in the interior, you might skip the compression sack. However, if you have one, it is a good idea to use it.

How to Protect my Sleeping Bag Inside The Backpack?

Irrespective of the carrying methods which you use, there are a few general tips which you have to follow when you’re carrying the sleeping bag. These tips will help you protect the sleeping bag.

  • You should take the sleeping bag in the compressed state. If you don’t, the fabric might get caught in the zippers and tear.
  • Even if you’re not using the compression sack, it is a good idea to shield it with some other material. Try putting your clothes from the sides to provide cushioning.
  • You have to take into account the pressure which will be on top of the sleeping bag inside. Keep the heavy equipment beneath the sleeping bag, if possible.
  • If you are carrying damp shoes or boots inside, make sure you seal them properly in a separate plastic bag. Any dirt or moist may compromise the sleeping bag’s insulation capabilities.

When you follow these four tips, you can be sure your sleeping bag would be protected during the hike.


So, if you’re wondering about the possible methods to pack a sleeping bag in a backpack, these are the ones which you should consider. The advantage of my guide above is that once you go through the methods, you will find one which is suitable for your backpack as well.

The method which you choose can vary from one to another. Hence, it is a good idea to take a look at your backpack and then make a decision regarding the method which you plan on using.

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