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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Gear School 2009: Sleeping Bags

Save your down, seal up tears, and get ready for wet weather with the all-inclusive guide.

by: Marcus Woolf, Illustrations by Supercorn

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Fast Fixes ... At Home
Problem Grungy bag
Solution The repair pros at Sierra Designs say to use a large, front-loading washer (never a top-loader), the gentle cycle, cold water, and a mild soap. Try Nikwax Down Wash for down bags ($9, or ReviveX Synthetic Fabric Cleaner for poly fills ($8, For down bags, add a few tennis balls to the dryer to break up sodden insulation clumps. Be patient: It might take a few hours. Go to for a video tutorial.

Problem Loss of loft
Solution You'll never fully refluff a flattened bag, but you can prevent loft loss. "Don't store your bag in its stuffsack," says Chris Hilliard, Mountain Hardwear product manager for bags. "Compression will degrade the performance over time." Between trips, store it in a large cotton sack or pillowcase, hang it in the closet, or lay it under your bed.

Problem Shell wets out
Solution If your bag's DWR (durable water repellent) treatment has worn off, spray it with ReviveX Water Repellent for Outerwear ($8), then give it a spin in the dryer on low heat to help the spray set.

Fast Fixes ... In the Field
Problem Escaping feathers
Solution "Don't pull them out; it'll create a bigger hole," says Hilliard. "Gently push the quill back in and massage the shell so it will self-seal."

Problem Dampness
Solution "Air out your bag each day," says Phil Mesdag, Sierra Designs product manager. "Your body generates moisture, so turn the bag inside out and expose it to air and light while you pack up."

Problem Wet weather
Solution Short answer:waterproof stuffsack. Other options: Use a pack cover or stuff bag into a heavy-duty garbage sack.

Problem Tears and holes
Solution Use nylon repair tape, such as Kenyon K-tape ($3, "Avoid duct tape–the sticky glue makes permanent repair more difficult," says Mesdag. Once back home, send your bag to the manufacturer for a permanent repair.
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