How to Care for Your Sleeping Bag

A few easy tips for sleeping easy out on the trail

A little preventative maintenance after the adventure ends can go a long way

A clean, soft sleeping bag is almost a guarantee of comfortable sleep on the road. The alternative—sliding into a damp, sticky nest of nylon and praying for morning to come quick—can be downright unthinkable after a long day of conquering trails. But keeping your bag fluffy and fresh demands a little care. Follow these tips, and your sleeping bag will be campsite- and slumber party-ready for years to come.

  • The most important thing you can do to extend the life of your bag is keep it dry. Obviously, your gear will come into contact with moisture every once in awhile, but the sooner you can restore your bag to a puffy, dry state, the better.
  • Don’t hang-dry in the sun—UV rays will wear down the material in your bag. Air out your bag whenever possible by hanging it inside-out in the shade.
  • Don’t keep your bag in its stuff sack—when you’re not dragging it along on some epic adventure, store it flat so it has a chance to breathe. If you don’t have a place to lay out your bag when not in use, keep it in an oversized pillowcase.
  • Use a sleeping bag liner—They’re much easier to clean and can add 10-15 degrees to your bag rating. And, if possible, change into clean clothes before sleeping.
  • To clean your bag, don’t use a top-loading laundry machine. Use a front-loading washer and warm water, adding a small amount of soap (down bags) or a mild detergent (synthetic bags). Scrub the head area before starting the cycle, and rinse on cold. To hand-wash, knead with warm water in the bathtub and be sure to rinse thoroughly with cold water so that no soap or detergent remains on the bag.
  • Tumble dry in a large commercial dryer (large enough that the bag can be tossed around freely) on medium-low heat. Allow at least two hours for the drying cycle. This can be a frustrating process if attempted on the road, but the reward—a clean bag that will guarantee cozy, burrito-like sleeping conditions for years to come—is worth killing a few hours and quarters at the laundromat.