My favorite sleeping pad is comfortable, warm, robust, well-made, and nearly impossible to fit back into its tiny little stuff sack when I’m packing up camp and heading for home. Come to think of it, same with my tent. Because I’ve experienced so much grief trying to cram stuff back into stuff sacks, I thought I’d put together a guide to help the frustrated packer recognize the stages of stuff sack trauma. It’s easier to cope this way.

Denial
Oh, this is totally going to fit, even though I’ve rolled this (tent, sleeping pad, tarp, hammock, whatever) into, somehow, the shape of a bloated croissant because I’m in a hurry and impatient and it’s trapping all sorts of air inside, but surely it’ll just slide right on in there. I’ll just stretch the opening a little bit here…

Anger
Why the f@#@! isn’t this thing fitting in the sack? In this stupid, stupid sack? What sadistic engineer thought this would fit, anyway? Let me just *grunting noises* scrunch…it…down…smaller…*gasping sound* oh, you piece of [blank]. FIT!

Bargaining
Okay, okay, okay, I’m going to take a step back here. Hey, little sack, I promise if you let me fit this sleeping pad in you nicely, I’ll stow you right at the top of the pack, no crushing. And next time, you better believe it, I’ll make a real serious effort to fold and roll the pad properly, swear to god, and we won’t have to go through with this, okay? So will you please fit now?

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Depression
God, I’m such a crappy packer. So messy. How could I let this happen? I just had to have that third cup of coffee and stare out at that stunning, snowy mountain pass while everybody else at camp was carefully packing up and now I have this mess of a tent half in, half out its sack, dirty and filthy. I probably bought the wrong tent anyway. Everything is terrible.

Acceptance
You know what? Who cares? I’m just gonna stuff this whole thing deep into the pack, cram everything else on top of it, and deal with it when I get home. It’s going to be fine, really, it is. Backpacking isn’t about the best-packed bags, right? It’s about the adventure! Even the adventure of getting this POS pad back in the sack. Oh, to hell with it. I’m having another coffee.