Elementals don't need to breathe, eat, or sleep, thanks to their Elemental Nature (MM p. 123). This means that one could survive indefinitely in a Bag of Holding.

An Air Elemental using its Air Form ability could enter a creature's space and stop there, effectively engulfing a PC in air. While the statblock does not clarify if this is breathable air or not, there is also no such thing as "breathable air" in 5e; things that you could breathe that are not air tend to be Poisons or specific gasses, not "air." The convention, then, would be to assume that the "air" in an Air Elemental was breathable. In addition, the statblock of the Air Elemental does NOT say that the creature sharing the space of the elemental is unable to breathe or begins to suffocate, implying that the creature inside the elemental is fully capable of breathing normally.

Could you, therefore, put a party member and a friendly elemental into a Bag of Holding (assuming that there is enough rations in the bag of holding to tend to the character's biological needs) and expect them to survive indefinitely?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Only if you consider inhalation and respiration a viable attack on an Air Elemental :) \$\endgroup\$
    – chepner
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "there is no such thing as breathable air in 5e". Note that the Spelljammer rules (after this question was asked) introduced the concept of 'fresh air', which is explicitly defined as "completely breathable". Cf. Does the Air Bubble spell stop poisonous gas? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you could use the elemental as an air supply, could you then further use it to make love out of nothing at all? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 15:38

4 Answers 4


As written, no.

As written, there is nothing about the air elemental that tells us it creates breathable air in a way that could sustain breathing creatures inside a bag of holding. So we can conclude that rules-as-written, this phrase from the bag of holding description would still apply:

Breathing creatures inside the bag can survive up to a number of minutes equal to 10 divided by the number of creatures (minimum 1 minute), after which time they begin to suffocate.

That said, obviously a DM could rule otherwise. Being able to breathe inside a bag of holding can lead to some shenanigans, but it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to assume that an air elemental is breathable air.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ In the Foreword to Elementals in the Monster Manual, it specifically states that creatures of the Elemental Type do not need to breathe, eat, or sleep. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 20:17
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @SeraphsWrath Missed that, it's fixed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, there's precedent in the form of numerous published examples of captive elemental-type creatures being used for all sorts of creative purposes that seem to rely on their generating the element that composes them -- e.g., Eberron's lightning rail, the mephits used to create a magical water supply in a certain Yawning Portal module, the magical airship powered by a fire elemental in Storm King's Thunder, and Princes of the Apocalypse's balloon pack (which technically contains "the spirit of an air elemental"), to name a few. \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ That puts the size of a bag of holding at roughly 70-80 L \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 18:16

The elemental doesn’t stop you from breathing but you aren’t breathing elemental

Things only do what they say they do. So:

  • if you can breathe without the elemental, you can breathe with the elemental, and
  • if you can’t breathe without the elemental, you still can’t breathe with the elemental
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, this is RAW. "everything does only what it says it does" is a general rule for interpreteting RAW, and with such an important aspect like suffocation, it would've definitely been mentioned. That being said, there is official precedent for elementals being used for their output (though not breathable Air I think) \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 11:48

Sure, you can, but the elemental isn’t making new air to breathe.

Sure, you can put an air elemental into a Bag of Holding, and then have someone climb into the Bag and breathe its air. However, this wouldn’t cause the bag to contain any more air than it normally would, or clean up the carbon dioxide and replace it with breathable oxygen.

As a result, a person who enters the bag will still suffocate from CO2 poisoning after the standard amount of time for that item, at which point you’ve got a corpse and an air elemental with a heightened amount of CO2 in its body stored in your Bag of Holding.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe even the elemental suffers adverse effects from getting its body contaminated by filthy non-elementals. This is not only about CO2. Who knows what kind of weird stuff comes out of one of those "lung" thingies these beasts have. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yunnosch
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 9:29

Scientifically speaking, air is not oxygen

Oxygen is what most creatures need to breathe, but saying "air" does not imply having oxygen, nitrogen, and other necessary elements. And even if you have all the right elements, it does not guarantee the proper mixture.

So and "Air" Elemental can have too few, or too much, not any of the periodic elements needed to actually breathe.

On a DM level, I have a druid that focuses on the "death" aspect of nature, and as such, when he summons elementals, each takes on the persona of one of the four horsemen. Air is represented by plague and pestilence--definitely not breathable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This may be true, but scientifically speaking you can't also turn a thin iron rod and a spell slot into a hold person. It would be interesting to see what a simulationist version of D&D would look like but probably a nightmare to run and play. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 21:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Scientifically speaking a bag of holding violates a lot of physical laws, of which breathing is pretty far down the list. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 21:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov, agreed. But I was going for the more general "use elemental for breathing", so whether it's in a pocket dimension or underwater, the principle is the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 22:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Of course, a pure Oxygen elemental wouldn't be a good idea either, that would be toxic. Maybe like 20 small Oxygen elementals and 80 small Nitrogen elementals? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 0:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Why limit yourself to the four classical elements? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 15:48

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