Whenever I go camping it is important that my equipment is in perfect shape for the trip. What a lot of people don’t know is that if you don’t store things like your sleeping bag the right way, it may not function as well as it should.
So, how should sleeping bags be stored?
Here are the most important things to know about storing your sleeping bag.
Make sure your sleeping bag is clean and dry before storage.
Choose a space that is dry and has little humidity. A garage or attic is a great place.
Store your sleeping bag laid or hung up as straight as possible.
If you can not lay your sleeping bag then roll it, don’t fold it. We do not recommend this type of storage.
If you roll your bag, try to roll it loosely and not in it’s carrying bag.
Need a little more detailed information on just how to take care of your sleeping bag? Here’s what we will cover to keep you sleeping tight.
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Why is it important to take care of your sleeping bag?
Sleeping bags are as essential to avid outdoorsmen as shelter. That is unless you truly enjoy sleeping on hard rocks and itchy grass, and have a passion for cuddling with insects and wildlife.
Storing sleeping bags correctly, both in your home and on-the-go, will keep them lasting as long as your passion for outdoor living!
When you get into your sleeping bag, do you notice flat spots? Maybe it has a dingy smell to it (such as exactly like your basement at home smells). Maybe the fabric feels greasy to the touch?
That’s probably because it’s been flattened out by years of heavy objects on top of it, acquired the smell of its surroundings (aka, the basement), and probably hasn’t been spot washed in ten years.
Maybe you’re thinking it’s about time to get a new one. Well, if you do, here are some care tips crafted by outdoor-living experts on keeping your sleeping bags like new, even 20 years from now!
Yes, storing our sleeping equipment in dingy and humid spaces like attics, basements, and garages is a thing of the past. It’s time we treat our sleeping bags as we cherish our many memory-filled nights within them.
How to clean your sleeping bag for storage
It is a good idea to wash your sleeping bag occasionally as moisture, dirt, sweat, oils, and spills can build up.
The first and most important step is checking the bag’s tag for the manufacturer’s instructions. Both synthetic-filled and down-filled bags can be washed but may slightly different cleaning methods.
Dry and freshen it thoroughly after each use, wash it if necessary.
○ Hand Washing instructions:
- Remove the sleeping bag from its stuff sack and fully unzip it.
- If all it needs is a spot clean, simply combine non-detergent soap and water into a paste and gently scrub with a toothbrush, sponge, cloth or your hands.
This is the recommended method of washing and you should hand wash your sleeping bag when possible.
- Machine Washing Instructions
If you’re going to wash it in a washer, read the manufacturer’s washing instructions thoroughly and carefully and follow these instructions.
Typically, you will want to wash your sleeping bag fully unzipped and on a gentle cycle with warm or cool water. You can use a minimal amount of soap or whatever product is specified on the tag. Be sure to use an extra rinse cycle to fully remove any detergent.
Once cleaned, you will want to put it in a large (often commercial-sized dryer). Through in a few tennis balls to help the bag re-loft. You might need to run it through quite a few cycles as down can take an extremely long time to fully dry.
The dont’s of washing a sleeping bag
- Never wash in a top-loading washer. This can rip and damage your sleeping bag.
- Do NOT use fabric softener, bleach, or alternative bleach products or methods.
- Do NOT leave the sleeping bag in direct sunlight. This will damage the fabric.
- How to store your sleeping bag
Drying Out Your Sleeping Bag Before Storing
Drying out your bag after use is equally important no matter the type of fill. A variety of factors can create dampness in your sleeping bag when camping, including precipitation, dew, sweating inside your bag, and spills.
Left to their own devices, these moisture pockets can turn into mold and mildew. If saturation gets to this stage your bag might be permanently compromised.
Once you return from your trip, fully unzip your bag. Next, locate an area indoors or outdoors where you can either hang it over a drying rack or clothesline. If outside, make sure the area is covered so that additional moisture won’t be an issue and away from direct sunlight.
You will want to leave your bag to hang dry for eight hours, flipping it over halfway through. A dryer can be used but is usually not recommended unless you are washing your bag, which we will discuss next.
How to store your sleeping bag
- Loosely stow the sleeping bag in a large, breathable cotton or mesh sack. Alternatively, you may use a king-sized pillowcase.
- Store your sleeping bag in a cool, dry space that is far from humidity and extreme temperatures. Find a closet with some space and clear a corner designated for your sleeping bag.
- Make sure not to place anything overly heavy on top of the sleeping bag, otherwise, you may cause flat spots.
Why proper storage is important
Properly storing your sleeping bag will keep it lasting much longer than you think. Have you ever gotten into a sleeping bag and noticed that there are flat spots that leave you achy in the morning?
Or, maybe, it just feels downright slimy because someone decided it was a good idea to sleep in it after swimming in the lake.
Whatever the case, caring for your sleeping bag ensures that you, or whoever uses it next, get a good night’s sleep.
Some of the main reasons that caring for your sleeping bag is so important to include:
- It prevents flat spots and promotes optimal lofting (fluff).
- Wet sleeping bags left undried and balled up lead to mold, mildew, and bug infestations. It’s recommended for regular campers to wash their sleeping bags every couple years, and avid backpackers to wash them every season.
- It keeps them cleaner and lasting longer so that you can use them for years and years.
How to maintain your sleeping bag on-the-go
It’s equally important to keep your sleeping bag safe and sound on the open road.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of don’ts when it comes to traveling with your sleeping bag.
For starter’s, you should never travel your sleeping bag in the trunk, especially with tent poles and other heavy, odds-and-ends objects on top of it. It’s also unwise to sit, stand, or sleep on your sleeping bag while wet or covered in dirt (because who wants to sleep in a dirty and damp sleeping bag?).
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your sleeping bag clean and safe while on-the-go.
- Keep your bag from getting damp or dirty as best you can. Experts recommend storing your sleeping bag in a waterproof sack, while not in use, in a designated area. This could be a designated corner of your sleeping area or in your car (if you parked close to your campsite).
- Air dry daily to refresh your bag. This will help promote lofting, prevent flat spots, and potentially eliminate some odors (such as B.O. and overnight gas).
- Wear only dry clothes while using the sleeping bag. This will prevent your bag from getting damp and musty.
- No eating or drinking in your sleeping area. This will keep your sleeping bag far away from crumbs and leftover food (which may also attract little night critters to your tent while you’re sleeping) and nasty spills that can potentially stain-up and smell-up your bag.
- Use a sleeping bag liner – Sleeping bag liners have a variety of benefits. They protect the inside of your sleeping bag from dirt, sweat, body oils, and grime. They also have the added benefit of added insulation, meaning it could raise the temperature inside your sleeping bag by up to 15 degrees!
How To Store Your Bag On the Trail
As previously mentioned, when you are camping you will typically stuff your sleeping bag into a very compact sack. This makes it easier to haul around and store.
Rolling your sleeping bag and then stuffing is not particularly helpful as it can create creases and flat spots. It is better to almost fully zip your sleeping bag, then starting and the bottom begin stuffing it into the sack.
Try to compress it evenly so that the air is uniformly forced out of the top of the bag. If the bag has a waterproof exterior turning it inside out prior to stuffing can help air escape instead of being trapped by the shell.
Stuff sacks may come with drawstrings or straps to help your bag compress even further. Additionally, they may have a waterproof outside to keep the bag dry. Both of these things are very helpful, just be sure not to store your sleeping bag this way long term.
When using your sleeping bag while camping, do your best to keep it dry. Don’t drink liquids or eat foods while in your sleeping bag to avoid the possibility of spills. Furthermore, change into dry clothes before getting into your bag.
Keeping it dry while camping will reduce the likelihood of having to dry it for an extended period or wash it when you get home.
Bug prevention while in storage
Bugs are a terror in general. But, how terrifying would it be if they actually burrowed in your sleeping bag?
Bed bugs, roaches, spiders, ticks, mites… Fibers and fabrics are an optimal place for these ugly little annoyances to make their home and really ruin your entire camping trip.
I mean, really, who can sleep with bugs crawling all over them?
Luckily, some experts have created some pretty innovative methods for keeping these hidden monsters at bay during your wilderness experience. Not only can these methods help prevent bugs while camping, but you can use these methods in everyday life, too!
Here are some of the expert-approved and tested methods for keeping the creepy-crawly’s away.
- Spray pesticide, use insect tape, sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth, or combine these in a perimeter around your tent. Diatomaceous Earth is also safe enough to be able to be used directly on your sleeping bag, and you can even place insect tape on the perimeter of the inside of your tent as well (because you can never be too careful with bugs).
- If chemicals aren’t your style, you can alternatively create a simple, natural spray by combining 2 cups of water and 2-5 drops of any of these essential oils; cinnamon, tea tree, lavender, peppermint, clove, and eucalyptus. These essential oils have been proven to repel insects as well, if not better, as most pesticides. This is also safe enough to use on your sleeping bag as well as around the tent, as it’s made from essential oils and water.
- Use a sleeping bag liner with InsectShield. InsectShield is actually a brand of insect repellent commonly used on clothes and sheets. Recently, it’s made its way into the area it’s needed most: sleeping bags.
- You can also purchase sleepwear, clothing, linens, and a whole line of gear on their website. [ref. http://www.insectshield.com ].
The two most commonly known sleeping bag liners with InsectShield are labeled below:
- Sea to Summit Coolmax Adaptor Liner with InsectShield
- Cocoon Silk Sleep Sheet with InsectShield
Sea to Summit [ref. http://www.seatosummitusa.com ] is a company that sells high-quality gear for all types of travelers (hence the name ‘Sea to Summit’). Aside from their many other products, they’ve introduced a Coolmax adaptor liner with InsectShield to their line of products.
This liner is made from light nylon fabric and is soft on the skin. It also has the added benefit that we’re all looking for; insect repellent.
Cocoon [ref. http://www.cocoon.at ] is another company that sells all sorts of high-quality gear for the avid and passionate traveler. This sleeping bag liner, along with InsectShield, is made from silk (they also have ones made from cotton, Egyptian cotton, and Coolmax technology).
These sleeping sacks are amazing to sleep in by themselves or with your sleeping bag. But, if it were me, I might just sleep in it every night.
Though there is no “right” way to store a sleeping bag, there is most definitely a wrong way, if you want them to last, and there are definitely guidelines to be heeded if you want it to last as long as your memories.
Keep your sleeping bag dry, store it in a cool, dry environment away from humidity and extreme temperatures, don’t place heavy objects on top of your stored sleeping bag, pack it loosely to prevent flat spots, and treat for insects regularly (okay, maybe this last is optional, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind and is highly recommended… by me)
A Dry and Decompressed Bag is a Happy Bag
Storing your sleeping bag at home should look the opposite of how your bag is stored while camping. In order to retain loft and decrease moisture take follow pre-storage procedures. Then, store it in a well ventilated and temperature controlled space so it can be ready for your next adventure!