Sleeping Bag Basics: Storage, Cleaning, & Maintenance

Rilor Staff
Update: July 22, 2021
Table of Contents

How to take care of a sleeping bag? 

Most of us tend to bring our sleeping bags during our overnight trips. And it is a reasonable thing to do since this utility is the one that gives us comfort and warmth while we are lying inside and outside our tent. 

As much as possible, we would want to preserve the quality of our sleeping bags. Fortunately, you can achieve this feat through proper and regular care. Just follow the tips below. 

How To Take Care Of A Sleeping Bag

Interestingly enough, there are a plethora of ways you should be able to protect your sleeping bag from damage and quality deterioration. But in a nutshell, your due diligence and responsibility as an owner are the most important here. 

A. While Camping

Just because you are using your camping sleeping bag doesn't mean that you can just leave it unattended. Of course, just like other outdoor tools and equipment, the correct usage of sleeping bags can ensure that they can withstand any conditions. 

Specifically, you should keep your sleeping bag clean and dry while you are camping. Regardless if you have an insulated or down bag, their insulation would be more efficient if they are free from moisture, water, and other unwanted debris. 

You should also do the following things:

  • Wear clean clothes - Hygiene is always important, even if you are in the wilderness. Never ignore simple practices like cleaning yourself and wearing new clothes before entering your sleeping bag. I know it is tempting to just insert yourself in the bag without changing clothes. But that will cause your sleeping bag to lose its insulation. The sweat, grime, and oil accumulated in your body can deteriorate the loft's insulating capability. 

Also, don't forget to change the clothes you wore while cooking. You don't want animals and critters to feast on you while inside your sleeping bag. 

  • Opt to sleep with a liner - A liner is beneficial when it comes to extending and preserving the quality of your sleeping bag. After all, they serve as a layer that separates your skin from the interior of the sleeping bag. Liners made from wool, silk, polyester, and cotton are all acceptable choices. Aside from keeping your bag clean, these liners also improve the bag's temperature rating. For winter camping, these liners are handy.
  • Put a ground defense - If you are not going to sleep inside your tent, your sleeping bag needs some extra protection. Before you lay the sleeping bag on the ground, make sure that you put a pad first. There are suitable options for outdoor pads, such as those that have been tailored from rugged fabric. These pads don't only protect your sleeping bags from being dirtied; they can also protect them from punctures and holes due to stray branches and stones. 
  • Be careful with the bag's zippers - I've noticed that most damages on sleeping bags occur within or around the perimeter of their zippers. Specifically, it is common for these zippers to snag, especially if the sleeping bag has a two-way zipper. However, you can no longer change the structure and assembly of the bag. Hence, the best thing that you can do is to practice using the zippers and be extra careful when it comes to zipping and unzipping.
  • Use the bag gently - I don't understand why some outdoor goers get rough on their sleeping bags. I am sure that most of these bags have a durable construction. Still, this doesn't mean that you can abuse them intentionally. Don't step or stomp on them. Don't bring them too close to campfires, either.
  • Don't lend the sleeping bag - I know that many of you are generous folks, and I genuinely appreciate that. But at the same time, you should put limits on your kindness, especially when it comes to your outdoor equipment. You may care deeply for your sleeping bag, but your friend or colleague may not treat it the same way. Hence, think twice before you agree on lending the bag. 
  • Puff out the air - Your sleeping bag should never have air inside it. That's why you need to turn the bag inside out so that you can remove the excess air and moisture. You may air-dry the bag, but don't prolong its exposure to sunlight. After all, UV rays can deteriorate its fabric and loft. If your sleeping gets wet, it requires hours of drying. Furthermore, you will need to dry it as immediately as possible to avoid further damages to the insulation.

B. Proper Stuffing And Storage

Of course, you also need to take care of your sleeping bag even if you are not using it. Don't just throw it around or squash it like you don't care about its price at all. 

It's common for these sleeping bags to be stowed inside a stuff sack while you are traveling to your destination. To ensure that the sleeping bag is free from any damages while inside the sack, I suggest that you do the following things:

  • Proper stuffing - Whenever you stuff a sleeping bag, make sure that you begin with its foot--with the zipper partially closed. Gradually press the sleeping bag's foot on the bottom of the sack as firmly as possible. Continue stuffing the bag until it fills the entire sack. Doing this will release the air inside the stuff sack and prevent the stitches of the bag from getting worn. 

If your sleeping bag features a waterproof exterior, turn it inside out first before you stuff it into the sack. If you don't do this, the shell becomes an air trap, which can make stuffing a lot difficult. 

  • Use a large stuff sack - Don't settle with a small stuff sack, especially if your sleeping bag is adult-size or bigger. The more space your stuff sack can offer, the easier you can push your sleeping bag inside it. 
  • About compression and waterproof sacks - A compression stuff sack works well for lightweight applications since it reduces the bulkiness of the sleeping bag. You put the sleeping bag inside the sack, then have the straps compress and downsize it even further. Just don't let the sleeping bag be compressed for extended periods because that would reduce its loftiness. 

Meanwhile, the waterproof stuff sack is the ideal choice for backcountry and backpacking expeditions. As long as there is an element involved, these weather-proof storage systems are needed. Again, you don't want your sleeping bag to be drenched by water!

  • Storing the sleeping bag when not using it - It is essential that your sleeping bag is stored correctly every time you are not heading to the wild. The first thing that you need to do is to unzip the sleeping bag and dry it. Once you are sure that it is completely dry, store it inside its storage compartment, which should come together with the sleeping bag upon purchasing it. Of course, you are also free to buy a new storage sack if you find the current one lacking. 

Let me remind you that you should never compress the sleeping bag inside its container. Otherwise, its loft will be affected. Don't use watertight sacks, too, as they are prone to condensation build-up.

C. Other Essential Care Tips

  • Wash the sleeping bag - Of course, sleeping bags have to be washed regularly. I have made a detailed guide on how to wash a sleeping bag properly in a separate post. You better check it out. Don't let your sleeping bag remain dirty. Otherwise, it will lose its insulation and loftiness. Eventually, it will become smelly, too. 
  • Waterproofing - Most sleeping bags have durable water repellent integrated into their construction. They are applied to the bag's shell to protect it from water and moisture. Over time, this application wears off, especially if you are using the bag regularly. Fortunately, there are third-party DWR treatments that you can buy in the market. Use them in the sleeping bag shell to restore its water defense. 
  • Damaged zippers and fabrics - Even the most durable sleeping bag is not immune to damages. You should be prompt in repairing them to ensure that the bag will work the way it is intended to be. If there are holes in the sleeping bag, sew them right away with the use of a sewing machine. But if you are not confident when it comes to hand skills, then you can opt for professional repair services. 

In Summary

You need to take care of your sleeping bag to ensure that it can give you the warmth and comfort that you need during your overnight camping trips. Proper care combined with responsible usage can help your sleeping bag last for many years.

That's it for now. If you have other related inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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