2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – February 2001

Sleeping Bag Care: A Lofty Goal

Keep your sleeping bag up to fluff with proper care and handling.

by: Kristin Hostetter

My first sleeping bag was a rectangular, slumber-party special with horses and flowers adorning the yellow flannel lining. After my first backpacking trip, I retired it (too cold, too heavy, too bulky) and bought a down mummy, which I proceeded to store in its stuff sack for an entire winter. When I pulled it out the following spring, my cozy cocoon was flatter than a day-old pancake and offered less warmth than my old flannel job.

Regardless of whether you opt for down or synthetic fill, give your sleeping bag the TLC it deserves.

  • After each trip, air dry your bag for at least 24 hours before storing.
  • Never store your bag in its itty-bitty stuff sack! The longer you compress the insulation, the more loft it loses. It's fine to use a stuff sack-even a compression stuff sack-on the trail, but the minute you get home, get your sleeper out of that confined space, give it a good shake to fluff up the fill material, then store it in a cool, dry place. Spread it out under your bed, hang it in a closet, or put it in a big, breathable storage bag (often provided by the manufacturer). If you don't have such a sack, use a king-size pillowcase.

  • Wash your bag when it gets stinky, dirty, or loses a noticeable amount of loft, but not after every trip. For most people, this means once a year. Don't dry-clean your sleeping bag, because the harsh chemicals wreak havoc on the materials.
  • For safe and thorough cleaning, head to your local laundry and use a jumbo, front-loading washer. The agitators that churn clothes in most home washing machines can twist and damage insulation fibers and baffle materials (baffles inside your bag hold the insulation in place).
  • Before washing, unzip the bag and bring the slider halfway up on e side of the zipper. This ensures that the slider won't come off during washing.
  • Use warm water, the gentle cycle, and ? cup of a mild powdered detergent.

  • "The key here is transferring the wet bag from the washing machine to the dryer," says Bob Upton, president of Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle, Washington. "When a bag is wet and heavy, the stitching and baffling materials are prone to tearing. Gently lift the bag onto a rolling cart, being careful to support the entire bag. Don't pull on any part of the bag," he cautions. Exercise the same caution when lifting your bag into the dryer. Opt for the largest dryer you can find-"preferably one you could crawl into," says Upton.
  • For a down bag, toss in 6 to 12 tennis balls to help fluff it up.
  • Turn the dial to the lowest/coolest setting, and start feeding in the quarters. Sleeping bags take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to dry completely.
  • Check the bag periodically to make sure the fabric isn't scorching hot and the insulation isn't bunching or clumping. If it clumps, line dry it instead.

    Special Considerations
  • If your bag is an heirloom inherited from Great-Uncle Jeb, it might be unwashable. To check the integrity of an old bag, reach inside and grab a handful of lining material. With your other hand, grab the opposing shell material and tug gently. If you hear threads popping or ripping sounds, the baffles are damaged and will need to be repaired before washing.
  • A bag with a waterproof or water-resistant/breathable shell will hold a lot of water, so use extra caution when transporting it from washer to dryer. And prepare yourself for the 4 to 5 hours it will take to dry completely.
  • Detergents reduce the water-resistancy of shell materials. Treat your bag's shell after each washing with a spray-on waterproofing agent, available at outdoors shops.
  • If you'd rather have professionals wash and dry your bag, contact one of the bag specialists listed at

      Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
      Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
      Address 1:
      Address 2:
      Email (req):
      Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Anybody going to watch Bear Grylls tonight?
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: desert dweller
Quebec Run Wild Area BAckpack -TR
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: vdeal

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions