Caring for Your Sleeping Bag
With proper care of your sleeping bag you can improve the life of your bag and the warmth in colder conditions.
- Use a sleeping bag liner inside your bag, this will protect the down from perspiration, grime and body oils which can inhibit the lofting ability of your down.
- Sleep in clean clothes.
- Air your sleeping bag after every use. Don't leave the bag in direct sunlight for very long, as UV light slowly degrades the fabric.
- Remove your sleeping bag from its stuff sack once you have set up camp, this will give the down time to loft before you hop into it.
- Always use a self-inflating mat under your sleeping bag. The cold ground can steer warmth away from your sleeping bag.
- Keep your sleeping bag dry. Your bag will lose much of its insulating properties when it becomes wet.
- When packing up camp, always stuff your sleeping bag back into its stuff sack, never roll, this can damage the baffles (the internal walls which separate the insulation into panels). Make sure to take out of stuff sack when home.
Washing your sleeping bags:
Any time you wash a sleeping bag you subject it to wear and tear and decrease the loft a little. Spot cleaning the shell with a damp cloth, mild laundry detergent, water or a toothbrush is advised before washing the whole thing.
For down sleeping bags hand washing in a bathtub works best
- Undo zippers and soak the bag in a bath or large tub of lukewarm water.
- Hand wash using a non-detergent soap or one of the specially formulated down soaps. Gently knead the suds through the bag.
- If the bag is really grimy, leave it submerged in the soapy water for a few hours.
- Rinse with fresh water to remove all traces of soap.
- Let the bag sit for 15 minutes in the bath/tub and leave the water to drain. After 15 minutes gently squeeze out any remaining water.
- Carefully lift the soggy bag, placing your arms underneath it to support its entire weight, and place into a washing basket. Down is very heavy when wet and can cause damage to the internal baffles, so be very careful when moving the bag.
- Prepare a clean, dry area out of direct sunlight and carefully lay the bag out flat.
- Pat the down from both sides of the bag to help minimise down clumping.
- Your down bag may require several days to dry completely.
It's also possible, (according to some bag manufacturers) to machine wash a down bag, as long as a front-loading washer is used. Never use an agitator-style machine as the motion can damage the stitching and insulation. Make sure to wash on the gentle cycle in cool water with one of the aforementioned down soaps.
Synthetic bags can be washed in the same way as down sleeping bags. Hand-wash in a bathtub, or use a large, front-loading washer with no agitator. Use cool water and mild soap. Rinse several times to make sure all the soap is removed. An extra spin cycle or an extractor may be used to remove excess water.
Tip: Dry cleaning is not appropriate for sleeping bags, especially down. Solvents used in dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from down that help it retain loft.
When you arrive home from a trip, first air out the bag inside-out to make sure it's dry. Then store loosely in a large mesh or cotton storage sack. Do not store your bag compressed in its stuff sack as this will eventually damage the fill.