Sleeping bags are great for keeping you warm and comfortable in the outdoors, but if you don't take good care of them, they can lose their quality and fill. Follow these care, storage, and cleaning tips so you can have a cozy relationship with your sleeping bag for years to come.
How to Care for Your Sleeping Bag
Sleep in Clean Clothes
After spending consecutive in the backcountry, you may notice that a fair share of dirt, sweat, and oil gets built up on your body and even your hair. This means that when it's time to hit the hay, all that grime can also get on your sleeping bag. Over time, this oil, sweat, and dirt can rob your sleeping bag of its insulating power, thus leaving you with a less lofty, sad excuse for a sleeping bag.
Since you likely won't be taking a shower outdoors, you might want to consider cleaning yourself up a little and sleeping in clean clothes to reduce the amount of grime that might get on your sleeping bag.
Consider Using a Liner
Sleeping bag liners are one way you can make sure you're keeping your sleeping bag clean because they act as a barrier between your skin and the bag. Liners can be made from cotton, silk, wool or polyester and are fairly lightweight so they won't add much to your pack. They also add 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit to your bag's temperature rating (you’ll remain comfortable if the air temperature drops another 5-15 degrees more than what your bag’s temperature rating is).
Pro Tip: Cleaning a liner is much easier (and quicker) than cleaning a sleeping bag. Simply throw it in the wash and you're good to go.
Be Patient and Protective
Be patient with your zippers, as they often break or get stuck on the material.
Pro Tip: Practice using the zipper before you head out for the trails -- it can be more difficult to zip up your bag in the dark, so get to know your bag and become acquainted with your zipper.
Protecting your sleeping bag from the cold, hard ground of the backcountry will ultimately extend the life of your bag and keep it in its best condition (free from snags and holes).
You should also be picky about who you lend your sleeping bag too, and make sure they know how to take good care of your backcountry comfort!
Air Out Your Bag
It's important to air out your sleeping bag after each use to dry out any moisture. Make sure you don't leave it in the sunlight too long. UV light slowly degrades the fabric.
Pro Tip: Wet, down insulated sleeping bags won't keep you warm, but a synthetic bag insulates even when damp. Make sure you do your research to see what works best for you before you buy!
How to Stuff a Stuff Sack
Learning how to stuff a stuff sack properly helps keep your sleeping bag in pristine condition.
First, start with the foot of the sleeping bag with the zipper partially closed. Then, push the foot of the bag firmly into the bottom of the stuff sack and stuff the rest evenly as you go up. This helps release the air out of the top of the bag and puts an even amount of stress on the stitching.
How to Store Your Sleeping Bag
Believe it or not, how you store your bag can affect its lifespan. After airing out your sleeping bag from a camping trip, store it loosely in a cotton or mesh storage sack (often included when you buy a sleeping bag, but they are also available separately). You can also use a large pillowcase, or if you're feeling crafty, sew your own cotton bag.
Pro Tip: Do not store your bag compressed in its stuff sack, as it will eventually damage the fill. You should also stay away from watertight storage bags because condensation can build up inside and result in unwanted mildew.
How to Clean/Wash Your Sleeping Bag
Spot cleaning should be your first line of defense if your sleeping bag gets a little dirty. You can make a paste out of a little non-detergent soap and water and use a toothbrush to gently clean the area.
Pro Tip: It’s best to focus on the hood and collar area where your skin and hair oils tend to accumulate.
If it so happens that you’ll be spot cleaning every inch of your sleeping bag, then give it a good full washing, especially if it’s losing its loft.
First, look to see if the manufacturer’s washing instructions are printed somewhere on the bag. It’s usually on a tag or a draft tube. If you find it, follow those instructions.
Many people also prefer to have their bag professionally laundered. However, you should never dry clean your bag.
If you'd rather wash your bag yourself, here's what we recommend:
- Keep in mind that drying alone takes at least 2-3 hours (down takes longer than synthetic).
- Washing and drying in the large commercial machines at the laundromat will probably be the easiest way to go.
- Use gentle, non-detergent soap that is made for washing down and synthetic filled items and use as little as possible to prevent oversudsing.
- Wash on a gentle cycle in warm or cold water.
- Try adding other damp items that need washing (like a towel or a couple of t-shirts) to balance the spin of the machine.
- Dry on low heat but check often. If it gets too hot, the fabric or synthetic fill can melt.
- When a down bag is almost dry, add 2-3 clean tennis balls or a lightweight pair of clean sneakers to the dryer. This will help break up any clumps of down that might form and it will help restore the loft altogether.