Packing has never been my strong suit. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still have to fight the urge to throw five extra pairs of everything in my bag…just in case.
With a trip to Europe looming in my near future, and my general hatred of checking baggage, I knew that something had to be done. My travel pack is a 40L, which doesn’t leave a lot of extra room. To be as prepared as possible, I decided to invest in a few packing accessories and test them out in the weeks prior to my trip.
My first test: compression sacks
Recommended to me by one of the members over at Nomadic Matt’s forum, I decided to give the Eagle Creek Pack-It System Compression Sac Set a try. At a glance, they’re not much. They look like big, glorified Ziploc bags, and I have to admit that I hesitated for a moment before buying them. Would they really work, or could I get the same out of a trip to the grocery store?
The Eagle Creek two-piece set was priced at $22, which seemed reasonable (if they worked), so I decided I didn’t have much to lose. On the credit card it went!
Worth the hype?
When the package finally came in the mail I was still skeptical. The little drawing on the label made it seem magical, but was it really? Luckily I had a camping trip coming up, which provided a perfect test run.
I was using my 70L Gregory for the backpacking trip, but since I won’t have to worry about a tent, food, and various other camping necessities on my Europe travels I figured the comparison was pretty close. I had two compression sacs at my disposal, a large and a medium.
I started with the medium, determined to fit all of my clothes for the four day trip into the bag.
It took a bit of pushing and shoving, and I eventually realized that it worked better if I folded the clothing as flat as possible. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long before I had every article of clothing in the bag.
Okay, so my clothes fit in a bag. Now it was time for the true test. The bags are outfitted with small, one-way ventilation holes at one end. To compress them, you simply seal the bag using the yellow tab and then roll the bag downward, letting all of the excess air out of the ventilation holes.
Okay, somewhat easier said than done. I gave up on the rolling method pretty quickly, instead using my knees to squeeze out the air. This worked pretty well, so if you don’t mind looking a little silly it’s not a problem. And, hey, it works! My clothes compressed down nice and flat.
Considering I could have probably fit another day or two worth of shirts and underwear in there, I’d say that the medium bag did pretty well.
So, what to do with the large bag, now that my clothes are all nice and compressed?
I decided to really put the large compression sac to the test. Let’s see how it fits this bad boy:
I may not need a tent on my European vacation, but I figured that if the compression sac can handle my four person + vestibule monster it can handle just about anything.
The tent, once rolled up, was just about the same size as the compression sac, so my biggest concern was getting it inside. Once that was accomplished I had to actually close the thing, which turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for.
The yellow tab, which allows you to create the airtight seal you need to compress the sac, snapped off in my hands, mid-seal. For a moment, I thought I had destroyed the sac and it would never work again. Turns out, these things are hardier than all that. The yellow tab slipped right back on and I was able to complete the job.
Tent secured, it was compression time. Once again, I relied on kneeling on the bag to release the air. Someone stronger than me may be able to accomplish the same effect by rolling, but I found using my knees much easier. The end result?
Okay, I’m sold. If you can get my tent to look like that, to fit in my pack and leave ample room for the rest of my gear, you win the packing game. Considering the size of my tent, I feel like I could easily fit over a week’s worth of clothing in the large sac, clearing up a lot of space in my bag.
But wait, there’s more…
The truly awesome, life-saving benefit of the sacs didn’t reveal themselves until the end of my camping trip. The trip itself was one of the rainiest I’ve ever been on, and while the compression sac didn’t fail me, the tent did. It leaked through thunderstorm after thunderstorm, leaving our sorry little troupe soaked to the bone.
When it was time to pack up and leave, we faced a conundrum. The tent, the fly, the footprint (which we had commandeered to make a rain screen so that we could cook our food) were all soaked. We didn’t want to put them straight into our bags with the rest of our gear if we could help it, but we also weren’t too keen on strapping the gear to the outside of our sacs.
Enter the compression sacs. I sacrificed my medium sac for the cause, letting my dirty clothes remain loose. Instead, we put the tent back into the large sac and used the medium sized one for the rain fly and footprint.
It worked perfectly. The result was two flat, waterproof sacs that fit neatly into our backpacks and kept the rest of our gear dry. I shouldn’t be so psyched about something as simple as a bag, but seriously, when you’re coming back from a weekend of being rained on any amount of dryness you can find is worth clinging to.
If I wasn’t sold before, I am now.
Alright, nothing is perfect, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the compression sacs.
- They work! Everything gets compressed nice and flat, freeing up a ton of packing space.
- Easy to use in a variety of situations.
- Waterproof, allowing you to keep your wet and dry clothing/gear separated.
- Several sizes are available, letting you choose the compression sacs that suit your needs.
- The yellow clip can become detached pretty easily. It goes back on, but if you lose it you’re out of luck.
- My clothing did become quite wrinkled, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re packing for a trip where you want to look a bit more put together (my advice? Use them for your dirty clothes, which will keep them separate from what you’ve yet to wear)
- About $20 gets you two sacs, which for me was plenty, but if you want a different combination or more of them you’ll have to cough up some more money.
Overall, not a bad deal! I would definitely recommend them, and I can’t wait to try them out when I head over to Europe. If you’re looking to add packing space without buying a bigger bag be sure to check them out for yourself.
Note: Outbound Adventurer did not receive any compensation from Eagle Creek. The above review represents our honest experiences and opinions. If you are interested in having your product or service reviewed, please contact us at admin [at] outboundadventurer [dot] com.