Packing with Compression Sacks — Fit More Clothes!

I’m someone who likes to pack plenty of clothing options so I make sure I’m prepared for every occasion and temperature. But since I carry a backpack and try to go carry-on only, this often becomes a problem. Thankfully my sister bought me a compression bag before I left for Australia and I haven’t been able to travel without it ever since.

Heather showed us how to pack a lot without it looking like you did, and compression sacks are one of the many ways to do this. I’ll explain what makes compression sacks a must-have travel item and show you how to use them.

What Are Compression Sacks?

Compression sacks are bags made of nylon or a similar material that you stuff your clothing into. You pull the fabric tabs to suck the air out of the bag, leaving you with more room in your bag. They come in different sizes and differ from packing cubes in that they aren’t as rigid and therefore take up space in a more efficient way. They’re especially handy if you’re traveling with carry on baggage only.

Do I Need Compression Sacks?

I got one large compression sacks and put the rest of my clothing in Ziploc bags, which the zippers soon broke on. While you could find alternatives to shrink your clothing size, like vacuum sealed plastic bags,  I think the compression sacks are the most durable. You don’t have to worry about re-sealing them throughout your trip. You can also purchase different sizes and organize your clothing with one bag for shirts, one bag for pants and one bag for everything else. Or you could use them as laundry bags once you’ve used up all your clean clothing.

Who Are Compression Sacks Ideal For?

compression sacksHikers, backpackers, scuba divers and travelers of all styles can benefit from compression sacks. Hikers can throw their sleeping bags and other gear inside and backpackers can bring more clothing. There are waterproof versions available for scuba divers or kayakers. They may not, however, work well for business travelers who have to keep their clothing looking neat and pressed.

How Do I Use Compression Sacks?

First, organize your clothing how you want to find them, with the items you will need first at the top and the ones you might not need at the bottom. Then fold each item lengthwise and roll into a ball. Place items in the order you’ve chosen into your compression sack. Pull the drawstrings, fold the top over the bag and pull straps until all excess air has left the bag. Lastly, place the filled compression sack in your luggage or backpack and you’re good to go!

How to Use Compression Sacks from Caroline Eubanks on Vimeo.

What Kind of Compression Sacks Should I Buy?

I recommend the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil brand because they’re lightweight but durable. They also make great waterproof dry sacks, both of which are washable with soap and water. REI and Granite Gear make similar models.

Where Can I Buy Compression Sacks?

Most outdoors stores, like REI, MEC, Dick’s Sporting Goods and even Wal-Mart, sell compression sacks. If you’ve found your chosen brand you can search online for deals on websites like Steep and Cheap or

>> BUY compression sacks on Amazon

Do you use compression sacks when you travel?


  1. says

    I’ve sworn by my compression sack for years! on my most recent trip to Africa i actually used it to compress my sleeping bag so i could pack my sleeping bag INTO my backpack (I also threw a few bulkier items, such as my hoodies in with it!

  2. says

    My sleeping back came with one of those !! It’s soooo good ! I didnt know you could buy them sepereatly – definitely keeping an eye out for them next time I go shopping,
    I usually use vacuum storage bags but I don’t always have a vacuum around so this will be a great alternative !
    thanks for this article :)

  3. Elizabeth says

    Thanks for making this helpful article and video! I am looking at the Sea to Summit bags and I can’t decide which size to get. Which size is featured in the video? 6 L, 10 L, 15 L, or 20 L? Thanks!


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