How To Wash And Care For Your Sleeping Bag

June 20, 2019 by

When you are always on the go, on every adventure for every possible reason – it can sometimes hard to remember to do things like washing your sleeping bag (of all things, right?). Properly washing and caring for your sleeping bag can drastically increase its lifespan, helping you get more for what you paid for and cutting out the stress of having to buy and choose a new one. Of course, a sleeping bag made from high quality material should last you years but with some tips and tricks, you could very well have your sleeping bag the rest of your life.

The easy way to do it is to just throw it in the wash a few days before your trip but sometimes washing machines can damage the material, wearing it out way sooner than it would have gotten naturally worn out. Some sleeping bags do have specific instructions for washing machines and may never experience wear and tear from it but there are a few tips for giving your sleeping bag some TLC instead of just washing and drying it.

Tips For Sleeping Bag TLC

When camping it can be difficult to keep your clothes clean all the time but sleeping in clean, fresh clothes will surely help protect your sleeping bag from any bad smells or stains. Due to the nature of a sleeping bag’s material and colour, generally, it tends to hide dirt and stains well until it is too late, making cleaning it way tougher than it should be.

Don’t wring the water out
After cleaning your sleeping bag, in which ever way you have become comfortable with doing it, it is very important to remember never to wring the water out. By doing this you will end up stretching and wearing out the fibres in the material, compromising the quality and durability of your sleeping bag. Not to mention, it will leave nasty wrinkles in your sleeping bag that can be hard to get out as you obviously cannot iron them out.

Spot washing is better than washing the entire thing
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping bags are better “spot washed”. Unless your sleeping bag has absorbed a bad smell or has a big area that has been stained – it is not always necessary to wash your entire sleeping bag and wait days for it to dry. There is a simpler solution, by taking a small amount of washing powder and mixing it will and equally small amount of water you can make a paste. You can apply this paste directly onto the stained areas and rub it in or you can use a toothbrush to properly scrub out whatever has stained your sleeping bag. Rinsing out what is left of the washing powder paste should not require a lot of water and will be easier to dry.

Ventilation goes a long way
We are usually very quick to get up in the morning, pack up our sleeping bags and put our heads to the wind for adventure – this is a bad habit and is one of the biggest reasons sleeping bags will start smelling musty. Ventilation is very important for the durability and quality maintenance of your sleeping bag so it is recommended that you air out your sleeping bag in the morning before packing it back into its sack. You can achieve this by unzipping it, turning it inside out so the part where you slept is on the outside then hanging it over a branch or a rock for about 30 minutes.

Use liners
Sleeping bag liners are one of the most effective ways of protecting your outdoor bed. All of the dirt left from your clothes, hair, hands or feet will end up on your liner instead of on the inside of your actual sleeping bag. Another benefit is that the liners are way easier to take out, wash and dry than it is to wash and dry your entire sleeping bag.

For those who have the space for it, maybe in an attic or garage, letting your sleeping bag loft (puff up again) after your camping trip is highly recommended. This will prevent the material from getting stiff and flat, preventing it from losing all insulation and warmth. You can achieve this by not keeping it in its sack but simply letting it lay open with a light mesh or plastic covering over it for protection from things like grime or dust.

Sleeping bags are strong, but be gentle
Be gentle with your sleeping bag. This is very important to remember and very easy to forget as we automatically assume that outdoor equipment is made for anything rough and tough. More often than not, this is true but in this case it really isn’t. The synthetic material sleeping bags are made of can rip and tear very easily, is very flammable and can’t be sewn or stitched back together properly once it has ripped so being gentle is the key to your sleeping bag’s longevity. In addition to that, not being gentle enough with your sleeping bag and other camping equipment can lead to problems like broken zippers – which are very hard to get back onto something as big as a sleeping bag once broken.

6 Main Reasons Why Sleeping Bags Get Damaged

There are many reasons why or how your sleeping bag can get damaged in many ways but not all of them are nature related and can be prevented beforehand. Damaged camping equipment can set you back thousands so it is always recommended that you look out for the main causes of damage caused to your sleeping bag.

1. Frustration or Impatient Behaviour
We all get frustrated with a zipper that just won’t get passed a snag or a thread that keeps hooking on your jacket or shirt that you just want to rip out of the seams. Sometimes instead of just getting frustrated we will then end up tugging or yanking on the zipper and breaking it. When struggling with something like this – take a break, take a breath and try again after you have calmed down a little.

2. Inappropriate Camping Grounds
Making the right choice on where to make camp and lay your sleeping bag is just as important as finding fire wood for the campfire. If your campsite is on wet soil, the pressure from you sleeping in the sleeping bag all night will work the mud into the material of your sleeping bag without you even knowing it, leaving stains that could be near impossible to clean if left too long.

3. Continuous Use and Store
By using and then directly rolling up and packing away your sleeping bag without letting it fluff or air out can cause the material to lose its durability after a while. In doing this you are keeping the fibres in the material compressed, basically “reshaping” them to a flatter, thinner natural shape. Folding and unfolding your sleeping bag without giving it time to loft will also be a major cause of the material getting worn out over a shorter period of time.

4. Too Much Moisture
It is almost impossible not to get your sleeping bag wet at some point in your hike but it is important to remember that even the smallest amount of moisture getting into your sleeping bag can compromising the quality of its insulation. By letting moisture get trapped in your sleeping bag, and other camping equipment, you could also face bigger problems like mold that can jeopardize the health and safety of you and your family.

5. Over-washing
Keeping your sleeping bag clean and fresh should be one of your top priorities when it comes to camping but washing it too many times can be equally as harmful as not washing it enough or at all. When washing any sort of material, the fibres are exposed to sudden changes in climate, various spinning and tugging movements and then there is pressure applied to it to press the rest of the water and dirt out. This process can be very stressful on the material so try keep full washing and drying to an absolute minimum.

6. Being Exposed While Hiking
It can save you a lot of time and money to remember to roll up and pack away your sleeping bag properly after letting it air and dry out. If your sleeping bag is not rolled or folded up properly it could stick out of the sack while you are on your hike and get snagged and ripped by branches or sharp rocks. Not only should ripping be a concern but also the friction on the material from the natural factors around you could cause it to tear way faster than it should.

Camping and hiking is a sport, therefore the equipment that comes along with it should be treated and cared for like you would your football or tennis racket. Looking after your camping equipment means that it can properly look after you. It is the only thing standing between you and the raw, unforgiving elements of the wilderness outside.