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mrkstvns

Cleaning and Drying a Sleeping Bag

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I try not to wash my sleeping bag very often because it's kind of a pain, and it always seems to feel a bit lumpy afterwards.  Still, there are plenty of times where a good wash and dry is the only thing to do, short of buying a new one.

GENERALLY...
After each campout, I open it up, spray it with Febreze and hang it over the rail of my deck to air out.

WHEN IT GETS TO SMELLY/WET/SWEATY/DIRTY...
I hand-wash it in a tub using laundry soap, then I lay it out on the deck to dry. Usually, I wash it in the morning and leave it out all day in the sun.

I NEVER...
Wash it in a washing machine and I never dry it in a clothes dryer. 
I don't take it to a cleaners.

What do you do to keep the sleeping bag clean and fresh and lasting as long as possible?

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Roughly the same, but no fragrances/fresheners. I will leave them out a couple of days if the weather is nice.

I will put my tech fabrics in a washer. Dry on low.

My son's down bag: the tub, then dry on high briefly. I throw in a tennis ball to fluff it.

My synthetic fleece blankets seem to go through the wash cycle well.

Wool requires a little more care, but they don't smell-up as quickly either. That's probably because I don't pull them out unless I'm bracing for bitter cold.

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Sometimes the large industrial washers and dryers do a good job.  I have washed some of my synthetic bags that way.  Did a down one hand wash and tumbled at the laundry

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Most of the time, just setting them out to air dry for a couple days is good enough.

For tech fabrics, I wash in the washing machine using a detergent called HEX Performance.  Then I put in the dryer using the no heat / air dry setting with a tennis ball or two to fluff it up again.  Afterwards, can hang it up for a couple days to make sure it is completely dry before putting it away.

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Down or synthetic?  First step is to find the manufacturer's web site and see if there are instructions there.

For down, Nikwax Down Wash on a front loader with a "hand wash" or gentle cycle is what I do.  Low spin speed.

I use a very low heat setting on the dryer and put in a clean tennis ball or flip flop to break up clumps of down.  If your down bag has clumps due to moisture on a trip or if you've stored it compressed, you can put it in the dryer on no heat with the tennis ball or flip flop to restore the loft.

With proper care, a quality down bag will last longer than a comparable synthetic.

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42 minutes ago, 69RoadRunner said:

Down or synthetic?  First step is to find the manufacturer's web site and see if there are instructions there.

For down, Nikwax Down Wash on a front loader with a "hand wash" or gentle cycle is what I do.  Low spin speed.

I use a very low heat setting on the dryer and put in a clean tennis ball or flip flop to break up clumps of down.  If your down bag has clumps due to moisture on a trip or if you've stored it compressed, you can put it in the dryer on no heat with the tennis ball or flip flop to restore the loft.

With proper care, a quality down bag will last longer than a comparable synthetic.

I haven't camped in the wilderness for a while, but I agree, my down bag is a much preferred when take care of properly. The bad side of down is that it dries slower, so they need extra care in protecting them from moisture. We set up camp in the rain more often than not, so I developed the habit of unpacking my down bag last when I knew it the tent was dry. One other trick I learned with any sleeping bag is use a sheet. Even cotton sheets are a good barrier to absorb most of the dirt. Sheets don't weigh much, dry quickly and are can make hot summer night more comfortable next to a tent mate when the sleeping bag is too hot. Noncotton sheets are common today. 

Barry

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11 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

One other trick I learned with any sleeping bag is use a sheet. Even cotton sheets are a good barrier to absorb most of the dirt. Sheets don't weigh much, dry quickly and are can make hot summer night more comfortable next to a tent mate when the sleeping bag is too hot. Noncotton sheets are common today. 

Good advice!

I've seen "sleeping bag liners" for sale in outdoor stores, but I'm not sure I really see the point since I have a lot more choices in fabrics and weights if I just go to a department store and buy some sheets off the shelf.  Another advantage to doing that is it can provide more warmth in winter months, probably adding an extra 5 degrees or so to the temperature rating of a typical bag. 

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6 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

Good advice!

I've seen "sleeping bag liners" for sale in outdoor stores, but I'm not sure I really see the point since I have a lot more choices in fabrics and weights if I just go to a department store and buy some sheets off the shelf.  Another advantage to doing that is it can provide more warmth in winter months, probably adding an extra 5 degrees or so to the temperature rating of a typical bag. 

The advantage of sheet over a liner is sleeping on the top of the bag when it's hot. Liners are to confining. And as you stated, sheets make a 30 degree bag into a 25 degree, or even more with the right choice of a Walmart liner. And not just winter, it is an early summer advantage in the Rockies where the common temps are still in the 30s. 

Barry

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I've switched to quilts from Feathered Friends and Enlightened Equipment.  When it's cold, I use the attachment strap on my sleeping pad.  If it's warm, I can open it up.

The underside of a sleeping bag provides no insulation because your body compresses it, eliminating all loft.  All insulation comes from the pad.

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12 minutes ago, 69RoadRunner said:

I've switched to quilts from Feathered Friends and Enlightened Equipment.  When it's cold, I use the attachment strap on my sleeping pad.  If it's warm, I can open it up.

The underside of a sleeping bag provides no insulation because your body compresses it, eliminating all loft.  All insulation comes from the pad.

I laid my clothing between the bag and ground pad for a little extra loft and comfort.

Barry

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15 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I laid my clothing between the bag and ground pad for a little extra loft and comfort.

Barry

That will still compress the part of the bag where your body presses against it.  The vast majority of your insulation underneath you comes from the pad's R value.

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2 hours ago, 69RoadRunner said:

That will still compress the part of the bag where your body presses against it.  The vast majority of your insulation underneath you comes from the pad's R value.

True, but layers are layers and are better than just the pad. As thicker pads work better than thinner pads, so will your clothes. Not all your clothes, just the ones you are wearing that day.

Barry

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3 hours ago, Eagledad said:

True, but layers are layers and are better than just the pad. As thicker pads work better than thinner pads, so will your clothes. Not all your clothes, just the ones you are wearing that day.

Barry

I'm sure it helps some.  I just think the safe thing is to know your pad has the right R value for conditions and not rely on anything else.

With comparable quality, a quilt will be lighter and cheaper than a bag, but not everyone will like it.  There are hybrids that fully unzip to quilt mode, too.

I liked my Feathered Friends quilt at Philmont this year.  It was actually warmer in quilt mode than in bag mode.

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My down bags are first soaked in cold water in a weak solution of Dreft liquid baby laundry detergent for several hours before chucking them into the washing machine (more Dreft, cold water, gentle cycle).  Drying is done in the dryer (air only, no heat) along with a dozen tennis balls to beat them into a state of fluffiness..... 

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I put mine in the washing machine (delicate) and hang it afterwards.

(all my bags are synthetic) 

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