So many times I had to roll up my sleeping bag, I can’t even count. There were even times when I had to do so a couple of times a day. Still, I wasn’t quite sure what would be the right way to do so. Should I stuff it? Should I roll it tightly or loosely? What would do better for the long haul? That was when I began to research. After reading a couple of hours online, I now feel sure about the entire process. Let’s dive into it and figure out how do you roll a sleeping bag properly.
1. Prepare The Materials
The main two things you need to roll a sleeping bag are:
If your sleeping bag does not come along with the compression sack, it would surely have straps to keep itself in place once rolled. The straps may be detachable or fixed. If they apart of the bag, you need to make sure that they are spread out and in a proper position.
If they are removable, you have to keep them by the side of the sleeping bag.
If the sleeping bag comes with a compression bag, you need to place it by the side of the sleeping bag. At the same time, you have to ensure that the straps are in a proper position as well.
A Heavy Object
You can keep a heavy object like a step ladder or a rock beside you. If you don’t have any access to one, you can, later on, use your own feet to keep the sleeping bag in proper position until you close the straps or put it into the compression sack (source).
Thus, once you can gather these three materials, you are ready to roll the sleeping bag.
2. Flatten The Bag to The Proper Shape
This step might be obvious, but if you miss this crucial one, you will not be able to roll your sleeping bag properly. By getting it in proper shape, I mean that you need to flatten it out before rolling it up. You have to reduce its thickness as much as possible so that you can roll it up into a compact size.
The flattening procedure takes care of 2 different things which are:
Eliminating The Air
Over time, there can be pockets of air in the insulation of the bag. While during use, these pockets of a can keep you warm, but when rolling the sleeping bag, they can hinder the entire process. That is why flattening the sleeping bag will ensure that you can remove these pockets of air.
Spreading The Insulation Uniformly
In case, there is any bunching of insulating material, flattening the bag will spread it around evenly. It will ensure that the thickness of the sleeping bag is uniform across the entire length and breadth. As a result, rolling it up into a small size will not be a problem.
As you can see, the step of flattening the sleeping bag is pretty important. Only once you can flatten it up, you can move to the next tip.
3. Make a Single Fold
Before you think about rolling your bag, it is important to fold it in half. You will be folding it along the length. Since you have already flattened it, once you fold it, the thickness of the sleeping bag will not increase much.
Once you fold it, it is again a good idea to try and flatten it out. It will remove any leftover air or bunching of the insulation. When you’re doing so, it is better to start at the bottom and move towards the top. Doing so will ensure that you can then roll it up with ease.
Before you start rolling the bag, it is a good idea to match the two sides of the bag to ensure that it is folded right at the center. It will ensure that you can roll it up with ease. The matched bag sides will ensure that the diameter of the roll is uniform throughout.
4. Roll it up
Now, the actual rolling process starts. You have to roll with both the hands and also ensure that you start from the bottom. Another thing you need to do is kneeing the sleeping bag as you go on rolling it.
When I use that trick, I do it quite hard, to ensure that any leftover air or unevenness in the filling is now ironed out. Doing so ensures that you can roll it to the most compressed form possible.
Also, rolling it upwards ensures that any air trapped inside the sleeping bag gets removed with ease from the head area of the pack. As a result, rolling it up in a compact form is quite easy and does not take much time.
When you finish rolling it, the top part of the roll will start to unfold. If you’re not careful enough, it can unravel the entire sleeping bag. In such a case, all your effort will go in vain.
To avoid that, I usually place my legs on top of the roll and put my weight on the sleeping bag to ensure that it does not unfold. Another alternative is to use a heavy object like a rock or a big step to keep it in place.
If you have not procured the object as described in the step earlier, you can place your knees on the roll. Doing so ensures that the diameter of the role does not increase. Also, when placing your knees on top, it will not unfold.
Did you think that after the rolling, the process is over? No, it is not. I will also go into a few couples of steps that will help you in securing it as well.
5. Use The Straps While Sitting on Top of it
So, if you have been following the process correctly, you should be sitting on top of the bag, with your knees applying the pressure.
The next process that you need to undertake depends on the supplies at hand. If you’re using external compression straps, now is the time to strap the sleeping bag.
On the other hand, if using the inbuilt Velcro straps, you have to close them now. Either way, it is a step in which you use the belts to your advantage.
You have to adjust the length of the strap, so the roll does not have any space to expand.
Once you complete this step, it will become easier for you to remove your knees or the heavy object placed on the sleeping bag. It will also prevent the bag from unfolding itself. That is why it is essential to complete this step in the most accurate way possible.
6. Use The Compression Bag to Your Advantage
Most of the sleeping bags these days come along with their compression sacks. These compression sacks are custom-made for the sleeping bag that you buy. That is why putting this roll into the compression sack will not be a problem.
Doing so ensures that even if the strap accidentally opens up or if the belt is loose, the sleeping bag will not expand.
In many cases, the compression sacks come along with loops. It means that if you want to store the sleeping bag by hanging it, once you put it into the compression sack that will be easy to achieve as well.
In fact, these loops serve many other purposes. For example, they could help you attaching a liner to your sleeping bag, or even tying it to your backpack. To understand precisely how to do so, I highly suggest that you read the article I’ve written regarding the purpose of sleeping bags loops.
Once you have tightened the roll with the straps, it is time to put the sleeping bag into the compression sack.
The beauty of compression sacks is that they mostly come along with their compression straps as well. Once you put the sleeping bag into the compression sack, you can use these external compression straps to compress the size of the sleeping bag further. It means that there will be no chance of the roll unfolding itself on the inner side.
Also, the compressions sack’s straps could help you tie your sleeping bag to other objects. On that matter, you might find the article I’ve written on how to attach a sleeping bag to a backpack useful. I’ve mentioned there all the possible techniques by taking into account all the different kinds of packs.
The redundant securing mechanism ensures that all the effort which you have put into rolling up the sleeping bag will not go in vain.
Did you think that rolling up the sleeping bag was a one-step procedure?
Well, as you can see, it is quite the opposite. Nevertheless, the elaborated procedure that I have highlighted above can be done within minutes. The advantage is that you will not have to worry about the sleeping bag accidentally unrolling itself. Once you spend those couple of minutes rolling it up sufficiently, you can be sure that it will stay in its compact form.
What to Avoid While Rolling up The Sleeping Bag?
There are a few common mistakes which individuals often make when it comes to rolling up the sleeping bag. If you try to save a minute or so, chances are you might miss out on a couple of steps that I have highlighted below. In such a case, you will end up facing a few issues which will reduce the advantages of rolling up and storing the sleeping bag.
Not Extracting The Air Out Sufficiently
If you have gone through my rolling procedure above, you will realize that I have extracted air at three different steps. The first one is when you lay it on the ground; the second is when I fold it lengthwise, and the third one is by kneading when I’m rolling the sleeping bag up.
If you do not follow the procedure mentioned above correctly, you’re bound to miss at least one of those air extraction steps. In that case, you cannot roll the sleeping bag into a small enough size for the compression sack. That is why it is essential to go through all the three air extraction steps so that you do not face the issue of the sleeping bag roll being of a higher diameter than the compression sack.
Starting at The Top
While most people do not consciously decide to start at the top, but they mistakenly do so. Doing so can hamper the entire process. You will not be able to roll the sleeping bag after a certain point (source).
The reason why I roll it from the bottom is to provide an outlet for the air. If you start at the top, there will be no outlet for the air at the bottom. Well, you might open the bottom zipper to let the air out, but surely it is a temporary solution.
Instead, the right way is to roll it upwards. Doing so will ensure that you do not face any issues.
These are the two fundamental issues that you need to avoid when rolling up a sleeping bag.
Is it Okay to Compress Down my Sleeping Bag?
In a nutshell, yes compressing down the sleeping bag is completely fine.
The compression bag is specially designed for storing the sleeping bag in a small amount of space. There is no problem in compressing down the sleeping bag when you plan on storing it. It is also the ideal way to carry it around.
You need to, however, keep in mind that if you plan on storing it for long periods, it is a good idea to unfold it from time to time and open it to its full size. It will help you avoid any damage to the fabric and the insulation. After a while, you can easily roll it up once again and put it into the compression bag.
However, if you plan on using it at least 2 to 3 times every fortnight, there will be no need to open it in.
How Long Can a Sleeping Bag be Compressed?
Ideally, you shouldn’t keep the sleeping bag compressed for more than a fortnight. I open it up once in a fortnight in-case I haven’t used it. After a couple of hours, I usually roll it up once again and put it into the compression sack.
Moreover, it is essential not to keep the sleeping bag too compressed for an extended period; doing so might damage its lofting properties (source). That is even more crucial when we are dealing with a down-filled sleeping bag (source). Hence, I suggest that you take it out of the compression bag once in a while and keep it rolled loose.
By following this procedure, I’ve been able to use my current sleeping bags for over seven years without any issues.
The efficient way to roll a sleeping bag is by eliminating all the air pockets and following the compression steps strictly.
To do so, you can easily follow my guide above. I have articulated every small step in great detail. Once you go through the above you steps, rolling up the sleeping bag will be a cinch.
In case of queries; you can go through the FAQs answered in the latter part of the article; to clear your doubts. With the right rolling technique, you can use sleeping bags for years together, and there will be no need to replace them.