Best Stuff Sacks of 2023
Toiletries, electronics, extra clothes, food – all the little bits and bobs in your backpack can become a mess if you don’t have a way to keep things organized. Stuff sacks may seem small and inconsequential, but we’ve learned over the years that the right packing system can make a big difference in efficiency and enjoyment on trail.
Some hikers will want specific sacks for everything, while others only carry a couple for key items. Whatever your style is, we’ll help you build the perfect organizational system for your backpack.
Last updated: March 20, 2023
Check out this quick list of our favorite stuff sacks, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best stuff sack overall: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Drawstring
- Best waterproof stuff sack: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry
- Best budget stuff sack: REI Lightweight Drawstring
- Best compression sack: Sea to Summit eVac Compression Dry
- You’ll want some of these: Ziploc Quart / Gallon
- Best ultralight stuff sack: Zpacks Drawstring
- Best food bag: Ursack Major
- Best pack liner: Nylofume
- Best budget compression sack: REI Lightweight Compression
- Best stuff pod: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pod
- Customizable ultralight stuff sack: Hilltop Packs Food Bag
- Best stuff sack pillow: ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow
What’s Most Important to You in a Stuff Sack?
PRICE – Stuff sacks are small, but they can be spendy. Especially if you want them to be waterproof, ultralight, or compressible. We tend to be willing to spend a bit more for stuff sacks with a good balance of low weight and durability since we hike a lot, but we recommend options for every budget below.
WEIGHT/DURABILITY – A single stuff sack on its own doesn’t weigh very much, but they start to add up when you carry a lot of them. We typically choose a few broad categories to organize things into – like food, sleep system, clothing, and hygiene – and stick with lightweight stuff sacks to separate these items. Lightweight stuff sacks can be less durable though, so you may want to choose slightly burlier bags for categories like food that go in and out of your pack a lot.
- Best ultralight stuff sacks: Zpacks Drawstring, HMG Drawstring, Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry, Ziploc Quart / Gallon, Hilltop Packs Food Bag & HMG Pod
- Best lightweight stuff sacks: REI Lightweight Drawstring & REI Lightweight Compression
- Best heavy-duty stuff sacks: Sea to Summit eVac Compression Dry & Sea to Summit Big River
WATERPROOF – We tend to look for stuff sacks that are waterproof (or at least highly water-resistant) for really important gear like clothing and a sleeping bag/quilt. Moisture can find its way past a pack liner or pack cover in really heavy downpours or extended periods of rain, so it’s good to have an extra layer of protection around crucial items.
- Best waterproof stuff sacks: HMG Drawstring (highly water-resistant), Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry, Ziploc Quart / Gallon, HMG Pod, Hilltop Packs Food Bag, ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow & Zpacks Rolltop Dry Bag
- Best waterproof compression sacks: Sea to Summit eVac Compression Dry & Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Compression Bags
- Best pack liners: Nylofume & trash compactor bags
VOLUME – Most stuff sacks are offered in a variety of sizes, but what sizes are best for your items? We typically carry one medium/large stuff sack for clothing, one small/medium stuff sack for personal care items and electronics, a food bag, and a waterproof stuff sack for a sleeping bag/quilt. Below are the stuff sacks we like most for each category.
- Best large stuff sacks 14-20+L (food, sleeping bags, bulky clothing): Sea to Summit eVac Compression Dry, REI Lightweight Compression & Hilltop Packs Food Bag
- Best medium stuff sacks 7-13L (clothes, ultralight quilts, camp kitchen): Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry, Zpacks Drawstring, Ursack Major, REI Lightweight Drawstring, HMG Pod & ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow
- Best small stuff sacks 1-6L (toiletries, electronics, first aid): HMG Drawstring & Ziploc Quart / Gallon
Best Stuff Sacks of 2023
BEST STUFF SACK OVERALL
WEIGHT: 0.1-0.9 oz.
VOLUME: 0.3, 2, 3, 4, 9 & 13L
PROS: Ultralight, durable, high-quality materials, highly water-resistant, easy to use
BOTTOM LINE: HMG’s Drawstring Stuff Sacks are incredibly durable for the weight. We have several of them that have traveled over 1,000 miles with us, and they’re still going strong. These bags are made with Dyneema fabric that’s highly water- and abrasion-resistant, so we feel confident storing sensitive items – like electronics – in them. They’re expensive, but we think their excellent balance of low weight to strength makes them well worth the price. You can choose between a couple different weights: DCF8 or DCF11. We would choose the DCF11 for the added durability.
BEST WATERPROOF STUFF SACK
WEIGHT: 1.1 – 2.6 oz.
VOLUME: 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 35L
PROS: Waterproof, good value, ultralight, buckle closure is strong for hanging, range of color options for organization
CONS: Not as durable as some
BOTTOM LINE: Sea to Summit’s Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks have been an industry standard in pack organization for as long as we can remember due to their reliability, low weight, and approachable price. Several little features make these our top choice when we need a waterproof sack – color options for coordinated organization, buckle clasps for easy hanging, and reinforced taped seams that keep contents dry. The thin fabric isn’t as durable as some others, so you could upgrade to the Lightweight Line or the mega tough Big River Line if you’re hard on gear. But the Ultra-Sils are very tough for the weight, and they’ll hold up for years as long as you avoid storing items with sharp edges inside.
BEST BUDGET STUFF SACK
WEIGHT: 0.7-1.2 oz.
VOLUME: 5, 10, 15, 20L
PROS: Excellent value, durable for the weight
CONS: No color options
BOTTOM LINE: REI’s Lightweight Stuff Sacks are nothing fancy – just bags that keep your stuff contained. But what more do you really need? If you’re not worried about getting something waterproof or compressible, these value stuff sacks will get the job done. They’re a tad heavier than the ultralight DCF sacks on our list, but they’re far more affordable and quite a bit more durable than something like the Zpacks Drawstring Bags.
BEST COMPRESSION SACK
WEIGHT: 3.5-6.7 oz.
VOLUME: 5, 8, 13, 20, 35L
PROS: Waterproof, durable, breathable fabric makes it easy to get air out
CONS: A bit heavy, expensive
BOTTOM LINE: We don’t use compression sacks all that often since the most common use is for packing a sleeping bag or quilt, and we tend to use sleep systems that’re already very compact. But when we do use one, we prefer it to be waterproof. The eVac Compression Dry Bags from Sea to Summit are our favorites because the air-permeable fabric lets air escape from inside the sack while it’s closed, so you can make the bag as small as possible. The 70d material is also very durable, so contents remain safe from abrasion when crammed amongst other gear in a pack or set on the ground. These bags are a bit heavier than other options, like S2S’s Ultra-Sil Dry Compression Bags. But since you typically only need one compression sack in your backpack per trip, the added durability of the eVac sacks can be worth the weight.
YOU’LL WANT SOME OF THESE
MSRP: $10-15 (box of 80)
WEIGHT: 0.1 oz. / 0.3 oz.
PROS: Affordable, contents are visible, ultralight, pretty close to waterproof, masks odor
CONS: Not as durable, need to replace more often than stuff sacks
BOTTOM LINE: We probably don’t need to tell you how great Ziplocs (quart / gallon) are for organizing and protecting things in your backpack, but we’ll do it anyway. Ziplocs are the best! This is the option we use most for repackaging food, holding trash, and isolating small items in our packs. They’re cheap, ultralight, basically water/odor proof, and they can be reused for many trips if treated with care. Of course, Ziplocs aren’t as tough as actual stuff sacks that’ll cost you many times more. But we may or may not have over a thousand miles on the Ziploc we keep our toilet paper in. If you want to increase durability a bit, you could always splurge on the Freezer (quart / gallon) weight.
BEST ULTRALIGHT STUFF SACK
WEIGHT: 0.1-0.4 oz.
PROS: Ultralight, highly water-resistant, affordable for the quality, can see contents from outside
CONS: Not as durable as some
BOTTOM LINE: So you want to lighten your load, but you’re not yet willing to give up the organizational goodness of stuff sacks? Well then grab a set of Drawstring Stuff Sacks from Zpacks. These featherlight sacks are barely noticeable in your backpack, but they’ll make a huge difference when you go to find that one specific small item. They’re offered in a ton of different sizes and colors so you can categorize to your heart’s content. The DCF material makes them nearly waterproof, but moisture can still get in since they close via drawstring. If you want to mingle in a few actually waterproof bags, check out the Zpacks Rolltop Dry Bags. These sacks are watertight, but we’ve found the seams near the buckles can wear out a bit quick if they’re not handled carefully.
BEST FOOD BAG
WEIGHT: 7.6 oz.
PROS: Protects food from critters & bears, very durable, good size for about 5 days of food
CONS: Expensive, heavier than regular stuff sacks
BOTTOM LINE: We don’t like to mess around when it comes to our food, so we’re almost always willing to carry the extra weight of an Ursack Major for added peace of mind. These sacks are made from Spectra fabric, which is quite literally bulletproof. So they can handle just about anything you – or the local wildlife – throw at them. Ursacks are tested and approved by the same group that analyzes bear canisters (the International Grizzly Bear Agency), but it’s important to note that most national parks won’t accept an Ursack in place of a canister where they’re required. We think the Ursack Major is the perfect size for about five days of food, but you can bump up to the MajorXL (15L) or Major2XL (30L) if you’ll be out longer or tend to carry lots of bulky food, like freeze-dried meals.
BEST PACK LINER
WEIGHT: 0.9 oz.
VOLUME: 42.5L (usable space)
PROS: Affordable, ultralight, waterproof, transparency makes it easy to find things, durable for the weight, odor-resistant
CONS: Very crinkly
BOTTOM LINE: A pack liner is an awesome tool that will keep the contents of your backpack dry and clean(ish). We used trash compactor bags for this task for many years before making the switch to Nylofume Pack Liners. We prefer Nylofume for several reasons – they’re more durable, they’re clear so you can see contents easily, and they’re super cheap. If you’re the type to throw most of your gear into your pack without a stuff sack, we highly recommend at least using a Nylofume liner to keep things contained and dry. And even if you’re a stuff-sack-for-everything kind of hiker, we still think the negligible weight of a pack liner is worth it for the added protection in downpours.
BEST BUDGET COMPRESSION SACK
WEIGHT: 3-3.9 oz.
VOLUME: 10, 15, 20L
PROS: Excellent value, durable for the weight
CONS: A little tricky to get all the air out
BOTTOM LINE: It’s helpful to have a couple of Lightweight Compression Sacks for bulky items that take up a lot of space in your pack. Compression bags tend to be on the pricey side, especially if you want something ultralight or waterproof. But these sacks from REI cost quite a bit less than similar options. The fabric isn’t quite as water-resistant as some others, like the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sacks. But we lean more towards the REI Compression Sacks since they’re very durable for the weight, and we don’t see enough of a difference to justify spending more on pricier sacks.
BEST STUFF PODS
WEIGHT: 1.2-1.4 oz.
VOLUME: 9, 11, 13, 16L
PROS: Backpack-shaped for efficient packing, waterproof, ultralight, wide opening makes it easy to pack
CONS: Expensive, designed for HMG backpacks (they may not be ideal for all backpacks, but we’ve enjoyed using them with a variety of packs)
BOTTOM LINE: We love HMG’s Stuff Pods because they’re waterproof and perfectly backpack-shaped for easy organization. We usually only bring one at a time on backpacking trips – a small one for a warm weather sleeping bag/quilt or a large one for a cold weather sleep kit. Putting one of these puppies at the bottom of your backpack with a sleep sack inside creates the perfect soft base for all of your other gear to sit on and can help give your load more structure for a comfortable ride. While Stuff Pods are pricey, we think they’re well worth the cost since they’re so durable and versatile.
CUSTOMIZABLE ULTRALIGHT STUFF SACK
MSRP: $37+ (depends on size & customization)
WEIGHT: 1.2-3.7 oz.
PROS: Wide opening, ultralight, highly water-resistant, reinforced loop for bear-hanging, durable for the weight, custom printing available
CONS: Expensive, lead time required for custom orders, not critter resistant
BOTTOM LINE: Hilltop Packs is a small cottage company that makes a ton of really cool stuff sacks, but we particularly love their food bags. These sacks have wide openings so you can easily see what’s inside, and the button closure can be more convenient than tying and untying an Ursack if knots aren’t your thing. But the best thing about the food bags is that you can get them custom printed with whatever image/color scheme you like. Custom printed bags are not only fun, they’re also especially handy for popular campsites where a lot of food sacks are stored in the same place (such as a bear box), since you’ll easily be able to pick yours out from the crowd.
BEST STUFF SACK PILLOW
WEIGHT: 1.4-1.7 oz.
PROS: Multi-purpose, ultralight, great value, highly water-resistant
CONS: Expensive, not as durable as some
BOTTOM LINE: The ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow does double-duty serving as a dry bag for your clothing during the day and a comfy pillow at night. This bag is a little more expensive than some others on the list, but when you figure in the cost of a separate pillow plus something to store your extra clothes in, we think it’s a pretty great deal. We’ve tried other stuff sack pillows, but we give Zpacks the nod for its low weight and top loading design. The Zpacks Dry Bag pillow comes in medium and medium-plus sizes – we prefer the medium-plus size because it’s a little wider.
The following stuff sacks didn’t make our final list, but they’ve still got a lot of good things going for them. You never know, one of these stuff sacks might be perfect for your needs:
- Loksak Opsak – Many people swear by these, but we’ve not had the best luck with them. We don’t find them durable enough to justify the price, and in all honesty we’d rather just take cheaper and lighter Ziplocs. That said, Opsaks are effective at keeping odors at bay, so they make a good companion to an Ursack.
- Sea to Summit Lightweight View Dry Bag – A dry bag with a clear window on the side so you can see contents. An awesome choice for paddlesports, but for hiking we feel like the extra cost and weight isn’t necessary.
- Outdoor Products Dry Sack Multi Pack – A very affordable set of dry bags, but they’re not fully waterproof. We think it’s worth it to pay a bit more for something more durable – like Sea to Summit Dry Bags.
Critical Stuff Sack Considerations
HOW MANY STUFF SACKS SHOULD I CARRY? – Some hikers carry a stuff sack for each category of item, some carry just a couple for their sleep system and food, and others carry none at all. The answer to this question is really: however many you want. Stuff sacks are by no means a necessary piece of gear, but they can really help with the comfort of your backpack and your efficiency at camp.
ROLL TOP VS. DRAWSTRING– We like to carry a variety of stuff sack types. Roll top sacks are generally more water-resistant since the opening is tucked away, so they’re great for clothing or sleeping bags/quilts. Drawstring stuff sacks are quick and easy to get into, so we keep frequently used items like first aid stuff and food in this type.
WHAT SIZE DO I NEED? – The size you’ll need for your items will vary a lot depending on the gear you have. Do you use compact, ultralight gear or do you pack more comforts? We’ll outline some general guidelines below, but it might take some trial and error to get the right sizes for your specific gear.
WHAT ABOUT THE STUFF SACKS INCLUDED WITH GEAR? – Most backpacking gear will come with a stuff sack. Of course those are fine to use, but there are several reasons to switch to a different sack. The biggest reason people change to a different bag is because they want something waterproof. You may also find that the included stuff sack is a bit small, so you could upgrade to something bigger for easier storage. Another common reason to switch is to save weight – the stuff sacks included with gear are generally not the lightest.
OTHER ORGANIZATIONAL ITEMS – We use a variety of organizational tools to keep frequently used items easy to access on the trail. It’s fun to experiment with different things until you find the system that works best for you. Below are some of our go-to accessories we use to keep our backpacks efficient on trail.
Need More Gear Advice?
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:
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