Your sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of gear for any camping trip. In addition to a tent and sleeping pad, this is one thing that no one should go camping without.
But just having a sleeping bag isn’t enough. You’ll have to ensure it stays clean and dry so it functions properly to keep you warm at night. Taking good care of your bag will also extend its life so you get more value out of it. So how do you keep your sleeping bag dry?
So, how do I keep my sleeping bag dry?
To keep your sleeping bag dry when camping, use items like a sleeping bag liner or barriers. These items will help prevent sweat and moisture from your body from getting into your sleeping bag. There are other steps that can help keep your sleeping bag dry, like keeiping it covered in plastic during the day. This helps prevent moisture from the enviroment from leaking in. Another little tric is to treat your sleeping bag with scotch guard on the outside before your trip. This will help create an extra barrier against moisture.
Keeping a Sleeping Bag Dry While Camping and Sleeping
Once you set up your tent, you may be tempted to unpack your back and get your sleeping bag set up immediately. If you are worried about it getting too compressed, you probably don’t want to keep it in the stuff sack for too long.
But if the weather is particularly damp, you shouldn’t unpack too soon. Instead, keep your sleeping bag in your backpack up until you are ready to climb inside. This will prevent any moisture in the air from getting in contact with the bag and it will be dry at night while you sleep.
The inside of the bag can also get wet from sweat, condensation, or if something leaks or spills on it. Try to avoid eating or drinking near the bag so liquids don’t get on the bag.
To prevent sweating, dress appropriately inside the bag and ventilate if you start to overheat. Unzip the bag or take off some layers to prevent sweat from building up inside.
For an additional layer of protection, use a sleeping bag liner to keep a barrier between you and the bag. That way, even if you sweat, your bag will remain dry and you can just remove the liner in the morning when you get up.
Another option is a vapor barrier liner (VBL). This is a waterproof and non-breathable liner that will block any moisture or sweat from getting into the sleeping bag’s insulation.
Don’t sleep with your face toward the bag either. Breath can cause condensation to build up and if you breathe into the bag, it could become moist inside during the night.
If you are concerned about the exterior shell of the sleeping bag getting wet, you can cover it with a variety of materials to protect it from moisture. Try putting a tarp on top like a blanket so dew does not start to accumulate.
You can also use a waterproof jacket on top of the bag or zip it up and wrap it around the foot box of the sleeping bag. Make sure your bag also has a waterproof shell to resist moisture and prevent it from penetrating deeper into the bag.
If you wake up and find the bag has droplets of water on top, resist the temptation to wipe them off. This could push them deeper into the bag’s protective inner layers. Instead, hang the bag to dry in the sun until the water has evaporated.
Your tent or shelter should also be well ventilated so there is a minimum of condensation. If possible, open the vents and keep screen portions open.
Check the seams of your tent to make sure they are sealed before your camping trip. Look for any holes or damage to the tent that could let water leak in.
Put the rain fly on if there is even a small possibility that it will rain so all your gear does not get wet. Don’t forget to stake the vestibules either so any rain will run off the tent and away from it.
In the morning, air out the sleeping bag and hang it in the sun to dry out, weather permitting. On cold mornings, pack the bag up immediately so the warm air left inside doesn’t cool off and start to condense inside.
Keeping a Sleeping Bag Dry While Hiking
Backpackers who will be traveling with their sleeping bag in their packs for extended periods of time should also take care to keep their bags dry. After sleeping in the bag, air it out and dry it before putting it in your backpack.
Never pack a wet or damp sleeping bag. If it’s raining outside and you can’t dry the bag in the sun, put a sleeping bag liner inside to absorb some of the moisture.
Put it in a stuff sack that is waterproof to keep it protected, especially if you will be backpacking in the rain. Make sure to cover your backpack too by putting its weatherproof shell on top or draping a poncho over the pack while you’re wearing it.
When packing the bag, try to put it at the bottom of your bag so it will be protected from rain or other moisture. Don’t pack any liquids such as water or toiletries in with the bag because they could leak.
If you have other materials such as dirty clothes, you can put them on top of the bag so they can absorb moisture should water get through. Putting a pack liner inside the backpack before you start filling it will also help make the bag more water-resistant.
Sleeping Bag Dry Storage
Once you get home from your camping trip, take the time to make sure your sleeping bag is thoroughly dried before storing it. Lay it out in the fresh air and sun for a few hours.
Don’t let it stay in strong sunshine too long or the material could get damaged. Just putting it outside where the air and wind can help it dry and air out any odors.
If you are concerned about the filling being damp, you may be able to dry it in the dryer on low heat. Check the tag or the manufacturer’s website for instructions to ensure you don’t melt the bag.
For down bags, make sure to fluff the feathers up and check to see that none of them are clumping or clustering together. Small drops of moisture could get hidden in chunks of down and lead to mold or mildew.
Once you are sure the bag is completely dry, you can put it in a breathable bag to be stored. Always store the bag in a cool, dry place. Avoid putting it in an attic or garage where the temperature is variable.
You can also open it up and store it lying flat on a shelf or under a bed. If you are putting it in a bag, don’t use plastic bags which aren’t well ventilated.
Even if you use a mesh bag, you can add in moisture absorbers as an additional means to keep it dry. Before your next camping trip, make sure the bag remained dry in storage or else it will be useless when you use it again.
Other Sleeping Bag Tips
- Type of Sleeping Bag
Most sleeping bags are filled with either down or synthetic filling. While neither of these is more prone to staying dry, a bag with synthetic filling will be warmer when wet.
Down is known for its poor insulation if it becomes damp, so if you think the chances of your sleeping bag getting wet are high or unavoidable, opt for a synthetic-filled bag instead. That way you will still be warm even if the bag gets wet.
Although the weather when camping can be unpredictable, try to plan trips when seasons are drier. Rain and snow are the biggest culprits that can contribute to a wet bag.
Avoid the rainier months when storms and showers happen regularly. Winter camping is not something many people usually take part in, but having a warm sleeping bag is vital during this time. So keeping it free from snow, rain, and sleet will be essential for survival.
As tempting as it may be to sleep outside under the stars, this is one way to get condensation or morning dew to build up on your sleeping bag. Even if temperatures are mild, the water can cause damage to the bag, especially if it is not thoroughly dried afterward.
- Camp Far From Water
When pitching your tent, make sure to use a tent pad if it is provided at the campground. For backcountry camping trips, choose a location that is slightly elevated and is far from lakes, streams, and rivers.
This will ensure any flooding will not reach the tent and get the sleeping bag wet. If it rains, your tent’s location on higher ground will also mean the water will flow away and not into the tent.
- Don’t Sleep on the Ground
Not only is sleeping on the ground uncomfortable, but it can cause your sleeping bag to get wet, dirty, or damaged. If you are in a tent, there will be a layer of protection between the ground and the sleeping bag.
But if you sleep under another type of shelter, make sure to put a groundsheet or tarp down first before laying the sleeping bag down. Always use a sleeping pad underneath the bag to provide both insulation and act as an additional moisture barrier.