Tips for Sleeping Bag Care

A few common sense sleeping bag care practices will keep your bedroll relatively clean and intact.

| March/April 1983

sleeping bag care - cartoon of man on sleeping bag

Sleeping bag care tip #1: don't spread your bag directly on the ground. Protect it with some sort of waterproof layer or padding.

Illustration by Fotolia/caraman

A down bag is of little value if the sack spews fluff every time you snuggle into it. Since a down-filled bag is one of the most delicate items of camping gear, it must be treated with respect if it's to give you years of use. I’ve compiled these sleeping bag care recommendations to help you have those years.

For Outdoors...

The nylon shell of a typical down bag is sturdy but thin, so it should be protected from wet weather and snags. When you camp outdoors, always place a waterproof layer (such as a groundsheet or foam pad) between the sack and the earth to prevent the bag from soaking up moisture or ripping on a stick. (If a snag does occur, don't be caught unprepared: always include a roll of ripstop tape in your hiking kit)

Be leery as well, of snuggling too close to the campfire. And if your bag gets wet, don't try to steam the dampness out. Down does take an inconveniently long time to dry, but if you move closer to the blaze to speed the process, you'll likely scorch the covering fabric and ruin your bag.

...and Indoors

Besides keeping an eye on the outer surface, you'll want to give your sleeping bag's innards some attention. The warmth of down is a result of its lofting ability. Air trapped by the fluff provides insulation. Therefore, be sure to shake your bag out and place it under shelter immediately after making camp to allow the down to attain its maximum loft. (This rule holds true at home as well. Never store the snugsack in its small carrying bag, as this can cause the tiny feathers to break and mat together.)

It's also a good practice on the morning after the sleepout to let the bag air-dry before you pack it up. (If you're unable to dry the sack when you first get up, do take a moment later in the day to stop and shakeout the bedding. You'll thank yourself when you crawl into a dry, well-lofted down sleeper in the evening!)

The Cleaning Controversy

By far the biggest controversy concerning sleeping bag care involves how best to clean the feather-filled sacks. Some enthusiasts vow that the sleepers should never be washed — and when the bag becomes too dirty for comfort, such folks just discard it!

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