We ultimately develop an intimate relationship with our sleeping bags. As we embark on a backpacking trip, we always look forward to bedtime when we can snuggle up inside and enjoy the comfort. A sleeping bag is a very important piece of gear, but we often neglect to care for them properly.
Essentially, there are two things to keep in mind when it comes to caring for a sleeping bag. Keeping it clean, and proper storage. The best way to store a sleeping bag is to always make sure it is clean first before an extended period of putting it away. (Learn What is Car Camping)
Caring For the Fill Material
A stuff sack is great when you are backpacking. You indeed want to get your sleeping bag compressed to as small an item possible for easy transport. A stuff sack however is not a good idea when you keep a sleeping bag at home for an extended period.
The fill of your bag could lose its ability to expand when it is packed much too tightly. Packing a sleeping bag into a stuff sack compresses the fibers, which causes damage to them over time.
How Sleeping Bags Keep Us Warm
The simple science behind sleeping bags is they warm us by trapping heat inside the fill. Regardless of whether the fill is synthetic or down, they work the same way. The fill material traps hot in the air pockets released by the body.
This body heat would otherwise simply be lost into the air. These air pockets and their role to keep in body heat is known as the loft.
It is what makes your sleeping bag function so well against cold. If you compress a sleeping too long, those vital pockets loss their capacity to retain heat since they become smaller.
What you are left with is a sleeping bag that does not keep as much heat. (Learn How to Insulate a Tent for Winter Camping)
Cleaning the Sleeping Bag
Surprisingly, you do not have to wash your sleeping all that often. If ever you do, make sure that you follow the care instructions as not all bags can tolerate a washing machine and dryer. Some models may require a hand wash in a large basin. Always wash your bag as instructed by the manufacturer.
Otherwise, a good airing inside out will usually suffice for cleaning and disinfecting. Once you get home from your trip, take out the sleeping bag from the stuff sack and unzip it entirely. This will allow it to relax from the compressed state it was in. Reverse it and hang it outdoors in an area with good ventilation.
It is important to expose the inner part first, since this is where certain odors can get trapped. You need to hang it for around 5-6 hours long, and a little sun exposure will not hurt either. Once you have done this, hang the bag on the opposite side, or right side out and allow it to ventilate for another 5-6 hours.
This process will also dry your bag if there is any moisture
Sleeping Bag Storage
Method 1- Hang Your Bag
One of the best ways to store a sleeping bag long term is by hanging it. You need a dry closet or storage room that is not damp. This is an ideal way to keep a sleeping bag so they can breathe and to retain the functionality of the loft in the fill.
You will notice that most sleeping bags come with a small loop on one end. Ever wonder what those are for? They are there so it easy for you to hang them on a hook.
The only downside to this method is that some sleeping bags are made in such a way that the fill tends to travel downward because of gravity. Observe your sleeping bag if that happens, so you can use method 2 instead.
Method 2- Store a Sleeping Bag in a Breathable Bag
This method will need a large breathable bag that can take the volume of the sleeping bag without it being compressed. A breathable storage bag will probably resemble a large pillowcase, so you can loosely fold the bag and tuck it inside.
A good storage bag should be constructed of very breathable fabric like a fine mesh. This will guarantee that air can circulate even when you put it away.
Such mesh material will also prevent the growth of mold and mildew during long storage periods.
Of course, when you do this, select a dry storage cabinet or shelf. The basement is usually not a good place, so look for another part of the house that is not damp and has lots of ventilation.
Proper Care for Sleeping Bags
When you are out camping, the sleeping bag is perhaps the single most important piece of gear that will protect you and keep you comfortable. (Read Camping In the Rain Checklist)
This why you should take the extra effort to store yours properly. Doing so will ensure that you will enjoy many warm nights tucked inside it for years to come.