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If I fill a bag of holding with smoke, could I remove all of the smoke by reaching in, or would I have to turn the bag inside out to release the smoke? I feel like removing the smoke by hand wouldn't work because the smoke particles aren't connected, so whatever I could "grab" is all I'd be able to pull out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the real question is whether smoke would be able to just drift out of the bag while it's open. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadomew
    Dec 1, 2023 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the source of the smoke? Depending on its source, there may be another way to get it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 1, 2023 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ How did the smoke got into the bag? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Dec 1, 2023 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ After you get smoke out, I think the real question is how to address the lingering odor. Is a bag of holding dry clean only? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2023 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminKuykendall And after you wash it, how do you get the water out? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2023 at 22:42

4 Answers 4

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No, smoke isn't an item

Bag of Holding says:

Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action.

Smoke is not an "item" in any sense of the term, as it cannot be bought, sold, grasped, etc.

You could, however, turn the bag inside out to get the smoke out:

If the bag is turned inside out, its contents spill forth, unharmed, but the bag must be put right before it can be used again.

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This Is Not Explicitly Covered by the Rules of D&D 5e

You probably can't just reach in and extract the smoke with an action, but you can potentially get some or all of the smoke out by other means—it's all up to your DM.

What We Know About Bags of Holding

There are a few sources that give us information about how a bag of holding behaves. For one, we have its item description in the Basic Rules and Dungeon Master's Guide—which are the same, as far as I can tell.

This bag has an interior space considerably larger than its outside dimensions, roughly 2 feet in diameter at the mouth and 4 feet deep. The bag can hold up to 500 pounds, not exceeding a volume of 64 cubic feet. The bag weighs 15 pounds, regardless of its contents. Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action.

Bag of Holding, D&D Beyond

This gives us the interior dimensions of a bag of holding, and a rule about using an action to retrieve an item. It also uses the phrases “[t]his bag” and “the bag,” to describe the bag of holding, so I think it's reasonable to infer that a bag of holding is also a bag, and everything that being a bag entails. (In the same way that a magic sword is also a sword, and generally follows the rules for using a sword.)

There are also references to the bag of holding in the item descriptions for (Heward's) handy haversack and portable hole.

Placing the haversack inside an extradimensional space created by a bag of holding, portable hole, or similar item instantly destroys both items and opens a gate to the Astral Plane.

Handy Haversack, D&D Beyond

Placing a portable hole inside an extradimensional space created by a bag of holding, handy haversack, or similar item instantly destroys both items and opens a gate to the Astral Plane.

Portable Hole, D&D Beyond

We can take from this that the inside of a bag of holding is an extradimensional space. The only source I could find describing extradimensional spaces is the section on demiplanes in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Demiplanes

Demiplanes are extradimensional spaces that come into being by a variety of means and boast their own physical laws. Some are created by spells. Others exist naturally, as folds of reality pinched off from the rest of the multiverse. …

A demiplane can be as small as a single chamber or large enough to contain an entire realm. For example, a Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion spell creates a demiplane consisting of a foyer with multiple adjoining rooms…. When a demiplane is connected to the Material Plane or some other plane, entering it can be as simple as stepping through a portal or passing through a wall of mist.

This doesn't say definitively that the extradimensional space inside a bag of holding is a demiplane, but they can be created by relatively simple magic (compared to creating a bag of holding), and can be about the right size—4 ft × 4 ft × 4 ft (64 cubic feet) is a little more cramped than what I imagine when I hear “chamber,” but it's roughly the size of a small closet.

If we assume that a bag of holding does contain a demiplane, and that its opening connects it to the Material Plane, then entering it can be as simple as stepping through the portal—things can potentially move in and out as they would through any other opening.

Can You Extract the Smoke as an Action?

One thing I think we should clear up right away is that the rules of the bag of holding don't give you a special ability to retrieve items in the bag as an action. Rather, the sentence

Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action.

is a specific restriction on your general ability to retrieve an item from a bag or backpack for free as part of movement or another action.

Other Activity on Your Turn

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. … Some magic items and other special objects always require an action to use, as stated in their descriptions.

Chapter 9: Combat, D&D Beyond

Interacting with Objects Around You

Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action:

  • withdraw a potion from your backpack

ibid

So retrieving things from your bag of holding follows the normal rules for retrieving things from any other bag, except that retrieving an item always costs an action and can't be done for free. If you couldn't retrieve smoke from a normal bag by reaching in with your hand and pulling it out, you probably can't with a bag of holding either.

Are There Other Ways to Get the Smoke Out?

We're now firmly entering ask your DM territory, because there aren't any explicit rules (to my knowledge) about getting smoke out of a bag—let alone out of a bag of holding. However, if we're still assuming that a bag of holding contains a demiplane and connects it to the Material Plane, then it's reasonable to assume that (outside of combat time) things can generally move through the bag's opening as they would any other opening to a chamber. And in that case, I think we can come up with some potential approaches to suggest to your DM.

(Again, to be completely clear: We can't assume any of these will work. Your DM will make the final decision for your game.)

Turn the Bag of Holding Inside-Out

As you point out in your question, turning the bag of holding inside out will expel everything in the bag.

If the bag is turned inside out, its contents spill forth, unharmed, but the bag must be put right before it can be used again.

Bag of Holding, D&D Beyond

This is the least debatable option, because it's right in the item description. It even says “contents” rather than “items,” which should cover smoke.

Leave the Bag of Holding Open for a While

It seems reasonable that if you leave your bag of holding upright and open for a while, the smoke should disperse. I couldn't find any explicit rules for smoke or gasses dispersing, but I did find a wondrous item in the Basic Rules called an eversmoking bottle that describes its smoke dispersing naturally after a time.

Once the bottle is closed, the cloud [of smoke] disperses after 10 minutes.

Eversmoking Bottle, D&D Beyond

So it's reasonable that the smoke in your bag of holding may disperse after a time as well—though maybe longer than 10 minutes, since it's only open to fresh air on one end.

This is entirely up to your DM, and it's also kind of reasonable that it might not work. The description of a demiplane does say that they “boast their own physical laws.”

It's actually somewhat debatable whether air circulates through the opening or not. The description of bag of holding says

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.

Eversmoking Bottle, D&D Beyond

I'd always assumed that meant when the bag was closed, but that's not written. Perhaps, because the bag has its own internal physics (e.g., gravity always pulls toward the bottom of the bag inside, regardless of the bag's exterior orientation), air does not circulate well.

But at the same time, if creatures suffocate after being in the bag for 10 minutes regardless whether it's open or closed, does each creature get their own 10 minute timer? (That seems a bit ridiculous.) Or does something reset the timer—e.g., the bag being opened?

Note that 10 minutes is much longer than a creature could survive if there were just no air in the bag.

A creature can hold its breath for a number of minutes equal to 1 + its Constitution modifier (minimum of 30 seconds).

When a creature runs out of breath or is choking, it can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 round).

Basic Rules, Chapter 8: Adventuring, D&D Beyond

10 minutes is twice as long as a creature with a Constitution of 18 could even hold its breath, let alone go without air. This seems to imply that there is air in the bag to breathe initially, but that it runs out. Since the item description doesn't say 10 minutes and then never again, I think that lends some support to the theory that air does circulate and refresh.

Send a Small Spellcaster into the Bag of Holding to Cast Gust of Wind

The spell gust of wind has specific rules regarding gasses and vapors.

A line of strong wind 60 feet long and 10 feet wide blasts from you in a direction you choose for the spell's duration. … The gust disperses gas or vapor ….

Gust of Wind, D&D Beyond

It's not explicit that smoke counts as a gas or vapor, but most effects that create smoke do explicitly state that a strong wind disperses them. For example, the eversmoking bottle mentioned in the previous suggestion has such a rule.

A moderate wind (11 to 20 miles per hour) can also disperse the smoke after 1 minute, and a strong wind (21 or more miles per hour) can do so after 1 round.

Eversmoking Bottle, D&D Beyond

So, assuming you can find a small spellcaster who can fit inside your bag of holding (a 4 ft × 4 ft × 4 ft space) with room to make the somatic gestures required for gust of wind, they could conceivably disperse the smoke from inside the bag in about six seconds. (They might even eject themselves with the spell, but otherwise please let them out within 10 minutes.)

There's debate to be had here too whether gust of wind can clear the smoke if air can't circulate—see the previous suggestion for more details. I think this is a separate debate, because even if air may not circulate naturally, it could still potentially be forced out at high speed, since we've assumed that things can move through the bag's opening normally.

Place a Portable Hole or Handy Haversack in Your Bag of Holding

There will no longer be smoke in your bag of holding.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your list of ways to get the smoke out omits turning the bag inside out. That dumps out all the contents without destroying it or them. Also, yes RAW gust of wind disperses cloud-type things, but that's because normally there's somewhere for it to disperse into. I think the inside of a 4x4x4 demiplane or bag filled with smoke would be a special case the DM should rule on, like whether you're replacing the air with fresh air from the plane of air (and inflating the bag? or removing the smoky air somehow?) vs. just creating movement in the existing smoky air, unless you open the bag. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2023 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes I skipped mentioning turning the bag inside out because OP already mentioned it in the question, and seemed to be asking about alternatives. I could include it for completeness. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2023 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes And yeah, everything in that last section is up to the DM. Though re: gust of wind, presumably the bag would be open at the time and my assumption is that things (air and smoke included) can move back and forth freely. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2023 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes I've updated the answer to mention turning the bag inside out, and to include some discussion about air circulation. I think it's a good point, and I actually misread/misremembered the item description in my previous comment. (I still think my interpretation is possible, but it's definitely not the only interpretation.) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2023 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, fair enough, I'd forgotten that turning out the bag was in the question, not just some of the other answers. And re: having the bag open for Gust of Wind: in that case it should also work to cast from outside, blowing fresh air in through the opening, so you don't need someone to climb in. But unlike the portable hole, the bag of holding's survival time limit for creatures that need to breathe doesn't say anything about only when the bag is closed, so maybe we should infer that air doesn't exchange freely, but instead stale air is fully replaced whenever a creature enters it... \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2023 at 22:16
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Smoke is not an item

The description of Bag of Holding says that you can use your action to take out items out of it:

Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action.

Smoke is an environmental phenomenon, or if you want a dictionary definition:

"a visible suspension of carbon or other particles in air, typically one emitted from a burning substance"

Smoke is not an item it any definition of the word.

You would have to turn the bag inside out to get it out.

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TL;DR

That's an interesting question. I would consider that a setting issue for the GM to answer, since it isn't clearly addressed in the rules.

Explanation

The rules specify that an 'item' takes an action to retrieve from the bag. it isn't stated in the rules what constitutes an 'item' for Bag of Holding purposes, or for any other purposes AFAIK. I would certainly consider a specific cloud of smoke an 'item' in everyday speech.

The question then is how Bags of Holding are understood to work in context. I can think of two possibilities: either the Bag makes it magically possible to extract any item as an action (in which case this would also apply to other edge cases like picking out one grain of sand from a bucketload you dumped in); or the action cost is just intended to be a guideline and the Bag of Holding follows ordinary common sense when removing items from it.

Conclusion

Therefore it needs to be determined by your game's GM, based on their determination of what is best for the game and their understanding of the setting you are playing in.

Personal Opinion

If I were your GM, I would disallow it purely because Bags of Holding are so easily abused that it's become boring to me instead of fun when somebody comes up with a clever use for one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack! Be sure to take the tour to get a nice shiny badge, and visit help center for more information. Re: "It isn't stated in the rules what constitutes an 'item'..." We actually have a question that references that concept here. The TL;DR is, since there isn't a specific definition, we have to use context clues and English definitions to help us out. And smoke is not a singular "countable" noun, it is a "mass noun", such as water and dirt (i.e. you don't say "A smoke" or "A dirt"). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 1, 2023 at 20:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: action cost of removing an item: see Handy Haversack vs. Bag of Holding - summary: in previous editions, only the Handy Haversack had magic retrieval of a requested item, that was what made it useful despite the smaller capacity vs. a standard bag of holding, instead of just being strictly worse. 5e put some action-economy rules into the item descriptions, but unfortunately(?) used the same 1 action language for both. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2023 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Two thoughts on that: For one, handy haversack still has the feature that your desired item is on top when you reach in. Also, bag of holding doesn't say you can retrieve a given item in an action, just that an item can't be retrieved without using an action. It's still a 4ft-deep container, and if you fill it to the brim it would be reasonable to say you can't just pull out the item on the bottom with an action. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2023 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisBouchard: Interesting, I don't think any of the answers on that Q&A suggested that interpretation of the bag of holding description "Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action." as a minimum, rather than a guarantee. You could post an answer there. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2023 at 8:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes I'm working on one right now! Thanks for linking to it. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2023 at 8:21

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