Sleeping Bag Guide
How to Care for Your Bag

Sleeping Bag Care

Are you guilty of this transgression? Following a camping trip, do you throw your sleeping bag out in the garage or the basement, still stuffed in its tiny stuff sack? If so, you are guilty of sleeping bag destruction and should really attempt to mend your ways.

Down Sleeping Bags
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You see, keeping your sleeping bag in a stuff sack for an extended period of time compresses the insulation AND prevents that insulation from "bouncing back" once the bag is released from its imprisonment in the stuff sack.

Thus, rule #1 in sleeping bag care is to never, never, never keep your sleeping bag in its stuff sack when you are not using it. Instead, store your sleeping bag in its mesh bag (if it came with it, most quality bags do) or, failing that, inside a large trash bag that is NOT tightly closed up. The reason you want to trash bag to not be tightly closed is so that any moisture that happens to be in/on the bag doesn't get trapped inside the bag - thus molding over your bag!

Now, that's rule #1. It's a pretty simple rule and applies to ALL types of sleeping bags, whether they be synthetic or goose down. Let's move on to trickier things now.

How to Clean Your Sleeping Bag

Cleaning a sleeping bag is either exceptionally easy or a real pain in the you know what, depending on what type of bag you get and what type of insulation it has.

Synthetic Sleeping Bag
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If you have a synthetic fill bag (such as one filled with PolarGuard insulation), then cleaning the bag couldn't be simpler. Simply throw the bag in a front load washer - making sure that the bag is FULLY unzipped! Also, it MUST be a front load washer. Wash it in cold water with a scant amount of soap. Then tumble dry on low heat for about 10-20 minutes or until the bag is basically dry. You do NOT want to over-dry it, by the way. And presto, you now have a clean sleeping bag.

Sadly, goose down bags are far more "tempermental" to clean. Many goose down sleeping bags require you to actually wash the bag by hand in your bathtub and then air dry it! The reason for this is because down is far more "fragile" than synthetic insulation. Taking it through the rigors of a front load washer will likely compress the down beyond the point where it is suppose to be compressed and can remove the oils that are found on down insulation. The result is that, once the bag has been dried, it will neither be as fluffy nor as warm as it was before.

Now, some goose down bags CAN be washed in a washing machine. However, before you do, make doubly sure that your particular brand allows for it. And if so, follow these directions to the absolute tee!

  • First, use a front load washer ONLY
  • Secondly, use only a slight amount of soap - not the normal amount you would use for normal wash. And NO bleach or other additives, either.
  • Thirdly, use only cold water
  • Fourthly, you will need to rinse the bag MULTIPLE times. You have to do this in order to get the soap off the down feathers. If you fail to get the feathers clean of the soap, the soap will break down the oils of goose down insulation, leading to substantially degraded performance.
  • And lastly, tumble dry at very low setting. Because down is so darn slow to dry, it may take HOURS to dry out a down bag. So have plenty or quarters handy.

Because of the difficulty in cleaning down bags, most manufacturers suggest that you take a down sleeping bag to a commercial cleaner instead. Just make sure that they do NOT dry clean it. Instead, they will use special compounds and cleaning methods to clean the bag without ruining it. And be doubly sure to insist that they do NOT dry clean it!!

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