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Caring for Your Sleeping Bag: Tips for Proper Storage, Cleaning and Maintenance

Caring for Your Sleeping Bag: Tips for Proper Storage, Cleaning and Maintenance

Your sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of gear for camping and backpacking. Follow this guide to learn how to care for your bag properly. We'll cover fluffing the filling, washing the shell, repairing damage, and best practices for storing your sleeping bag so it lasts for years.

 

Fluffing the Fill 


Over time, the insulation inside your sleeping bag will compress and clump together. This reduces loft and warmth. Fluffing the fill restores loft so your bag can properly trap heat. 


For down and synthetic bags:

- Fully unzip the bag and shake it vigorously to break up clumped filling. Target areas that feel compressed.

- Use your hands to gently massage and loosen packed down spots. Fluff all channels and baffles. 

- For stubborn spots, use a dowel or tent pole to carefully poke and fluff the filling. Be cautious not to tear the fabric.

- Once the fill looks evenly distributed, lay the bag flat on a large surface. Let it fully loft for at least 4 hours before packing. 


For wool blankets:

 

- Shake out and gently brush the blanket with your hands or a soft brush to raise the nap.

- Hang or lay flat to allow the wool fibers to fully re-fluff. Rotate and flip periodically.

- Use a fabric shaver to safely remove pilling or damaged fibers, revealing fresh fluffy wool underneath.


Washing the Shell


Over time, body oils, dirt and grime can build up on the exterior and lining of your sleeping bag. Follow these tips to wash it properly:


- Always check the manufacturer’s care instructions first. Not all bags are machine washable.

- For machine washing, use a front-loading washer on the delicate cycle. Wash in cold water with a mild detergent. 

- Add a couple tennis balls to the wash to gently break up the fill during the cycle.

- Rinse twice to remove all soap. Avoid fabric softeners as they can impact water resistance. 

- Tumble dry on low. Add wool dryer balls to fluff the filling. Air dry if possible.

- For hand washing, submerge the bag in cool water in a bathtub. Use a mild soap and gently scrub straps and the shell. 

- Drain dirty water and refill to rinse thoroughly. Press water out but do not wring or twist. 

- Lay flat across towels or a drying rack. Air dry out of direct sunlight.

- Spot clean messes as needed with a damp sponge and mild detergent. Dab dry.


Repairing Damage


Inspect your sleeping bag before and after each trip for rips, tears or holes. Repair minor damage right away to maintain insulating efficiency: 


- For small holes or tears under 3 inches, an adhesive patch kit works well for quick repairs. Follow instructions to patch on the inside of the bag.

- Larger tears will require stitching. Use nylon thread and sew by hand or sewing machine using a tight zigzag stitch.  

- Broken zippers should be replaced. Cut away the damaged portion and sew in a new zipper of the same length using strong thread.

- For damaged straps or hanging loops, simply stitch back in place by hand or machine using sturdy nylon thread.

- If the shell fabric is heavily soiled or worn, it may need to be replaced. This is best left to professionals.

- Take your sleeping bag to a specialty repair shop annually for an inspection and professional repairs.

Proper Storage


Storing your sleeping bag correctly when not in use will keep it clean, dry and in optimal condition:


- Allow the bag to fully air dry after trips before packing away to prevent mildew.

- Store loose in a large breathable storage sack. Avoid compression for long-term storage.  

- Keep in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can damage materials.

- Wash sleeping bags before long-term storage to remove oils and dirt that attract moisture.

- For compression sacks: pack lightly, never for more than a few weeks, and unpack and re-fluff before using.  

- Consider using a giant plastic bin for storage. This lets the bag lie flat and loft fully.

- Mice and insects can damage sleeping bags. Use cedar chips or moth balls to repel them. Store in sealable plastic totes or bins.

- Hang sleeping bags on a wide hanger during camping season for convenience. Just be sure to give the fill a regular fluff!


Restoring Loft


Sleeping bags lose warmth over time as the fill becomes compressed and clumped. Regularly restoring loft improves insulation:


- Down bags: Fluff by shaking out and massaging areas that feel flat. Use a soft rod to gently poke compressed spots. 


- Synthetic bags: Fluff the same way. Also tumble dry with tennis balls to re-loft fill.


- Wool blankets: Freshen nap by brushing gently. Use a fabric shaver on damaged areas. Hang to let fibers fully re-fluff.


After fluffing, lay flat several hours so fill can fully loft before re-packing.


Washing the Exterior 


Follow these tips to wash sleeping bag shells and liners:


- Always check label for washing instructions. Not all materials are machine washable.


- Wash in a front-load machine, delicate cycle, mild soap and cold water. Add tennis balls to agitate fill.


- Rinse thoroughly. Skip fabric softeners - they affect water resistance. 


- Tumble dry low with wool balls. For down, use low heat. Air dry if possible.


- Hand wash by soaking in bathtub with gentle soap and cool water. Rinse well. Don't wring or twist. 


- Lay flat to air dry, out of direct sunlight. Rotate occasionally.

 

Keeping It Stored


Properly storing sleeping bags preserves quality:


- Fully air dry after trips before packing away, to prevent mildew.


- Keep bag loose in a large, breathable storage sack. Avoid compression.


- Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


- Before long-term storage, wash to remove oils and dirt that attract moisture. 


- Lightly pack compression sacks and never store compressed for more than a few weeks. 


- For best results, store flat in a large plastic bin so fill can fully loft.


-Use cedar or moth balls to deter insects from damaging fill and fabric.


With the proper care, cleaning and maintenance, your sleeping bag will remain cozy and durable for many seasons out in the wilderness. Follow these tips to get the most out of your investment and keep enjoying restful sleep under the stars. Sweet dreaming!