There are some products that you can’t just buy on a whim. They’re either too expensive or so complex that you have to do all sorts of research before determining which one is right for you. When it comes to sleeping bags, both apply: Not only can they be unbelievably expensive, but there is quite a bit you need to take into consideration before buying one. After all, you want it to last, right? Right.
But how? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In the following, we’re going to tell you how you can get the most out of your sleeping bag.
First, it is important to know what kind of sleeping bag you have. There are two basic types: Down and synthetic sleeping bags. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of functionality and care, but each works in the same way: They trap your body heat, thereby keeping you warm.
The most important rule of all: Do not store your sleeping bag compressed. That way, you won’t reduce the bag’s loft, and the bag will be able to return to its lofty self when in use. This applies to down sleeping bags in particular.
A sleeping bag usually has two sacks to its name: a storage sack and a stuff sack. The storage sack is larger and made of mesh, cotton or a different lightweight, breathable fabric. This is the size your sleeping bag can be packed down to. The great thing about storage bags is that they double as transport bags if you’ve got a vehicle and aren’t not worried taking up extra space. The stuff sack or compression sack, on the other hand, is much smaller, constructed from a durable material and often has external compression straps to compress the sleeping bag down even more. As long as the bag isn’t kept this way for long periods of time, it won’t have a negative effect on the insulation.
A tip from a professional
Hang your sleeping bag up in a dry place by the loops at the bottom end. Do not expose it to direct sunlight. That way, you won’t compress the insulation at all when the sleeping bag is not in use, guaranteeing a long lifespan! If you don’t have a lot of space to work with, store your sleeping bag under your bed. It will stay lofted and won’t get in your way.
Try to keep your sleeping bag clean and protect it from wear and tear. Presumably, you’ll be using your bag in your tent for the most part, so that bit shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure to keep your dirty boots away from it and never step on it with shoes on.
If your sleeping bag happens to get wet (regardless of the source), be sure to dry it thoroughly. Otherwise, it could develop a funky smell, and nobody wants that!
Again: try not to expose your sleeping bag to direct sunlight because the UV rays could damage the material. Yeah, but sometimes, laying it out in the snow is the only way, especially if you’re camping in the snow! We get that, but don’t make a habit of it! Don’t compress the bag when it’s wet. This is particularly important for down sleeping bags because compressed wet down can’t loft out until it’s dry.
How to wash your sleeping bag
Let’s face it: Your bag is going to get dirty, regardless of the pains you take to keep it clean. After all, what do you expect after a long day of walking? It’s going to get dirty, stink and eventually need to be washed. As down and synthetic sleeping bags aren’t washed in the same way, this is where it really does matter what kind of bag you have.
For down sleeping bags, you’ll need a special down wash, such as Nikwax Down Wash. Down has a special natural oil coating for protection and allows it to loft out in order to trap air. If the down gets dirty, it loses its ability to fully loft. When that happens, your sleeping bag will lose the warmth you need for a good night’s sleep! Using special down wash is crucial, for even though normal detergent will get your sleeping bag clean, it will strip the down of its oils in the process, causing it to get dirtier more quickly and to lose its ability to loft as it did before. Down wash helps the down maintain these oils as well as its insulation properties. If you’d like to more about how to wash down, you’ll find a detailed guide here.
For synthetic bags, it’s best to use Nikwax base wash, which is made for cleaning synthetic fabric. It will clean both the inside and the outside of your bag, whilst simultaneously increasing its lifespan.
So, you’ve got a hole in your sleeping bag? Fortunately, there are several different options to rectify such problems. One such solution is using Renovative Self-Adhesive Tape from Sir Joseph. This tape adheres well to nylon and is so flexible that you won’t have to worry about ruining it after pulling it in and out of your stuff sack.
Duct tape is always a good quick fix, but it won’t stand the test of time. Because it loses its stickiness over time, you’ll need to keep replacing it, which in turn can result your inadvertently enlarging the hole every time you stuff it in or pull it out of your stuff sack.
The best – and, unfortunately, most expensive – thing you can do is send it back to the manufacturer for professional repair. They’ll charge you for it, but it’ll be worth your while. If you buy a high-quality sleeping bag and take care of it, it will last for years!
This article was not written by your friends at Alpinetrek. The original was written by Matt Park for our partners at Backcountry.