Your sleeping bag will undoubtedly become one of the items you’re most glad to have, no matter how long you’re spending outdoors and where you’re heading. Caring for it is essential so it lasts as long as expected and performs consistently well with every use. Here are some smart but simple things to keep in mind.
Unroll and Fluff Your Bag After Reaching the Campsite
Your sleeping bag’s stuff sack is handy when you need to cut the bulk inside your pack, but it’s not a great place to store it when you’re not using the bag for sleeping. That’s because prolonged and unnecessary compression can damage the fill.
Unroll and fluff your sleeping bag as soon as possible after pitching your tent or getting set up for car camping. Doing that keeps the sleeping bag in good condition and helps you create a cozy place to slumber after busy days spent outside.
Air Out Your Bag After Use
Get in the habit of airing out your sleeping bag for a few minutes every day of your trip by putting it in the sun. Then, once you’re back home, choose a sunny day and air out the bag for about an hour before storing it.
Check the Bag for Dirty Spots
A good rule of thumb is to only wash the entire sleeping bag when necessary. However, an easier and more targeted option is to spot-clean the bag’s exterior with a toothbrush and soap paste. The top part of the bag where the neckline connects to the bag lining often gets stained from exposure to oils in the hair and skin.
You’ll need a small bowl, non-detergent liquid soap (castile soap is a popular and widely available choice!) and a toothbrush. Get started by combining a teaspoon of the soap with a quarter-teaspoon of warm water. Mix them until you have a thin, runny paste.
Then, dip your toothpaste into the substance and work the brush over the bag with gentle circular motions. Keep doing that over all the stains until they fade. Then, use a clean, damp and soft towel to wipe the soap from the areas you scrubbed.
Follow the Manufacturer’s Washing Instructions
Most sleeping bags have stain-resistant outer layers, so you shouldn’t need to wash them often. However, if you find your sleeping bag needs a full washing instead of just spot treatment, the best thing to do is always abide by the manufacturer’s care instructions.
Never put your sleeping bag in a washing machine or tumble dryer or take it to the dry cleaners. Doing those things could damage the zippers or make the bag less able to provide the expected warmth later. The exception is that some down bags can get dried in machines. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidance to make sure.
If drying your down bag is an option, add tennis or dryer balls to the dryer drum to help separate the fill. The down material gets clumpy when wet, and the balls will help it get back to the right shape.
Wash in the Bathtub By Hand
Hand-washing your sleeping bag in the bathtub is the safest way to clean it. Use warm water and a bit of soap. Then, agitate the bag with your hands and let the soap do the rest. Let the bag soak for about 20 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly.
Hang the Bag to Dry
Find a large open area where you can hang the bag up to air dry. One of the easiest methods is to attach the sleeping bag to a clothesline and put it out in the sun. Alternatively, try carefully spreading the bag across an outdoor railing.
Store the Sleeping Bag Loosely
Just as you don’t want to keep the sleeping bag in its stuff sack for too long after reaching the campsite, you shouldn’t store it in a compressed shape for the long-term. Keep the bag stored loosely — and preferably in a breathable container, such as a mesh bag — until you’re ready to use it again.
Caring for your sleeping bag, and even washing it, isn’t hard. However, it requires following some straightforward steps to keep your bag performing as it should for years to come. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or about to catch some Zs outside in a few weeks for the first time, let these tips set the stage for peaceful outdoor slumbers in a well-maintained sleeping bag.