Caring For Your Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags may seem pretty simple to use right? Use it, bring it home, stuff it, and store it until your next trip is some logic I’ve heard quite a bit over the years. I suggest adding one step to that routine: care for it. 

Keep on reading to find out how to clean your sleeping bag properly, how to do some simple repairs, and find some other tips to keep your bag alive and well for years to come!

Cleaning Your Sleeping Bag

Keeping the bag clean can add years to it’s life and revitalize the warmth and loft. Also, most of the time you don’t really need to wash your bag after every outing. Here are a couple things you can do, every time, during and after your trip to keep your bag as clean as possible:

  • Clean Yourself – One thing some people forget about is that cleaning themselves before getting in the bag can do wonders. Just removing this little bit of oil, dirt, and grime can save you time cleaning when you get home.
    • Go jump in a creek, take a shower, or use baby wipes! It will also help you feel much better when you hop in your bag a little bit cleaner than you were earlier in the day.
  • Spot Clean – There’s no need to wash your bag after every time you get home from a trip. Not only is it a waste of time, but submerging it in water and exposing it to soaps can damage the fabric and insulation of the bag.
    • Use some non-detergent soap and water and scrub the spot(s) with a soft cloth. You can use a toothbrush for stubborn areas too.
    • Try to separate the insulation from the fabric of the bag. It’s best to avoid getting the insulation wet whenever possible.
Cleaning the Zippers

A sleeping bag is incredibly hard to use if the zippers on it don’t work properly. If it’s ever tough to open or exposed to sand, dirt, and/or mud, then just give it a thorough wipe down with a damp cloth. You can even take it a step further by applying a silicon zipper spray. You can find this spray at some outdoor stores and especially in dive shops.

Washing Your Sleeping Bag

As Big Agnes puts it, “even dirtbags wash their bags.” Eventually, your bag will need to be washed. It may seem intimidating, but it’s actually very simple. Again, if your bag isn’t that dirty, just spot clean it and/or wipe it down as noted in the last section.

But if there is excessive oils and dirt on it, we recommend doing the following. This process and take 2-4 hours (down takes longer):

  1. You’ll always want to wash your bag on the most gentle cycle with at least a double-rinse option. Also, it should be in a front-loading machine with no agitator.
    1. A laundromat is a great choice for having oversize washers and dryers, which is perfect for sleeping bags.
    2. You can even run a quick load of just water to make sure any leftover, damaging, detergent in your washer or the laundromat’s washer is completely cleaned out.
  2. Use technical wash made for washing sleeping bags, like Nikwax Tech Wash or Nikwax Down Wash Direct for down sleeping bags. Read the directions carefully on those bottles.
  3. Make sure to tumble dry on a low setting in a large dryer. You can throw in some tennis balls or dryer balls to help aid in drying your bags. They also help fluff the insulation back up! 
    1. Again, it may take a few hours to dry completely.
  4. Lastly, shake your sleeping bag from all sides to help restore the loft that is lost when washing.

Other Important Notes to Consider

  • Do not iron or dry clean. Don’t use bleach or harsh detergents. Never use a high heat setting; which can melt the delicate fabrics that make up the bag and damage the insulation.

Repairing Your Sleeping Bag

With enough use, your bag will eventually develop some sort of hole; and it may or may not be your fault! Depending on the size of the hole and the complexity of it, you can repair it yourself at home using Tenacious Tape. It is a clear tape that you place over the hole that can hold up to almost any condition you throw at it. So it’s perfect for on the trail repairs or when you get back home.

How do you use Tenacious Tape? Check out the steps below:

  1. Spot clean the area you are going to be repairing. You’ll want to make sure it’s completely clean and dry.
  2. Peel the Tenacious Tape off and stick it over the area that you’re working on patching. Let it sit for a few minutes to make sure the tape has properly adhered to the bag and you’re good to go!

Some companies, such as NOSO Patches and Gear Aid, make tape for repairs like this in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors too! If you like showing off your repairs or want people to see that your equipment is tough, then these patches are perfect for you!

If your bag has any hole that you’re not comfortable with repairing or is very badly damaged, then chances are that the manufacturer can repair it for you. Sometimes it is covered by their warranty and can be free, other times it’s just a small fee. Just make sure you look it up ahead of time to avoid any surprises.

Other Tips to Care for Your Bag

Avoid storing your sleeping bag in its tight stuff sack. Store your sleeping bag, instead, in a loose breathable sack. Most manufacturers include these with your bag. If they don’t, you can store it by hanging it in a closet. Storing it loose or hanging lets it breathe and air out. It also prevents the insulation from losing its loftiness like it would if it were tightly packed in its stuff sack.

  • Before you head to bed, make sure you change into some clean clothes. You don’t want to sleep in dirty and sweaty clothes, which easily transfers everything to the bag. Plus, doesn’t it just feel better to sleep knowing you’re clean? Well, as clean as you can be since you’re outside getting dirty!
  • Using a liner inside the bag adds an extra layer of protection for your bag, hopefully soaking up the dirt and grime before it makes it to your bag.
  • Make sure to lay on a sleeping pad when you are inside your bag. Not only will the pad keep you warm throughout the night, but will also act as a buffer between you and the ground. This way, the bag is protected from rocks, sticks, and pine needles that easily puncture through your tent and into your bag!
  • Keep your sleeping bag in your tent. Don’t walk around camp with it and definitely don’t sit around the campfire with it! Embers can easily melt the delicate fabrics that sleeping bags are made of.
  • Make sure you air out your bag daily, even when you’re on a multi-day trip. Leave the bag unzipped inside the tent when you’re not in it. Hang it over the tent or on a branch on a nearby tree. 
  • If cleaning your bag seems like too much of a daunting task, there are professional cleaning services out there for your sleeping bag; such as Rainy Pass. There are lots of these out there, so make sure to do your research to see which one you like best or might be close by.

And there you have it! Keeping your bag clean and repaired after each trip can extend it’s life. When you do need to give it a thorough washing, use the tips above to help you through the process. It’s really simple to do.

See you out there!


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