During your camping trip
Keeping your sleeping bag dry and clean while you are away is the first step. Accumulated body oils, dirt and sweat will reduce your bags insulating power so protect your bag where possible by sleeping in clean thermals or pyjamas or using an innersheet – it’s much easier to wash clothes or an innersheet when you get home than your sleeping bag. On an extended trip, get your sleeping bag out of your tent and air it in the sun every couple of days to keep it dry and fresh.
Stuffing your sleeping bag into its compression sack is much better for the bag than rolling and is also much easier. To stuff your bag start at the foot end of the sleeping bag and push the fabric down the sides of the stuffsack turning it as you go. The compression sack allows you to make the bag as small as possible to fit into your bag while you move from place to place but don't leave it compressed for long periods.
When you get home from your camping trip get your sleeping bag out of it’s stuffsack and air it out thoroughly. Every time you wash your sleeping bag you subject it to wear and tear and it decreases the loft a little. This can reduce its lifetime so keeping it clean during you trip and regular airing should allow you to do many trips before your sleeping bag needs washing. Spot cleaning with a sponge and warm soapy water is another way to keep your bag clean without a full wash.
It is best to store your sleeping bag at home in between trips, loosely packed in a large stuffsack or pillow slip. This will extend the life of the bag and it will loft quicker when you arrive at camp.
Eventually, no matter how careful you are, the time will come to wash your sleeping bag. You have two options - have it professionally cleaned or do it yourself. If you choose professional cleaning you should look for a cleaner who specialises in cleaning bedding or quilts or go to an outdoor gear specialist.Your sleeping shouldn't be dry cleaned - the solvents used for dry cleaning will damage your bag. Washing your bag yourself isn’t hard but it is important to follow these guidelines.
Washing Down filled sleeping bags
Buy a specialist down cleaning soap from your local camping store or use a mild non-detergent soap (wool wash is recommended). Your bag will take several days to dry so warm weather with low humidity is the best time to wash your down bag. Fill your bath or laundry tub with enough warm water to cover your sleeping bag and add a small amount of soap. Submerge your bag and gently massage the water through it and leave it to soak for a while. Drain the water then add more fresh water again massaging it through the bag - repeat this rinsing process until all the soap is gone. It might take a bit of time, but you’ll need to do it at least three times. Once the rinse water is clear, drain the bath or tub and carefully press down on the bag until you have squeezed as much water as possible out of the bag then fold the bag into a bundle and lift it out of the bath or tub. Try not to let any of the bag hang down as the fragile baffle walls inside the bag that keep the down in place can be damaged very easily while the bag is wet and heavy. Dry your sleeping bag flat in a warm place, regularly massaging the down to separate it and restore its loft.
Washing Synthetic filled sleeping bags
Synthetic filled bags can be hand washed in the same way as down bags (detailed above) to maximise their lifespan. However they can also be carefully machine washed in a large front loader on a gentle cycle with a specialist sleeping bag soap or mild non-detergent soap. We strongly recommend to not wash your sleeping bag in a top loader with an agitator, as it will destroy your sleeping bag. Air drying is the best way to dry your sleeping bag and a synthetic filled bag will dry a whole lot faster than a down bag. It's not quite as fragile when wet but care should be taken to support the bag so the stitching is not damaged and it should be dried lying flat in warm place.
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