Dear Kristen, I have a down sleeping bag that I forgot to place in my "storage" bag. I left it in my "stuff sack" for about 2 years. How will this affect its performance, and how do I remedy this situation? Do I just "air it out" for a few days?
Submitted by - Scott - Sacramento, CA
OK, lets start with the first question: How will this affect its performance? The reason that down is a great insulator is because it traps a ton of air between all those little plumules. After a long stint crammed into a stuff sack, the plumules will be compressed and limp. The bag will appear flattened and the lack of loft will mean a colder bag. But the good news is that down is extremely resilient, and you can likely restore it to it's former lofty glory, which leads us to the second part of your question. Airing it out is a good bet between trips, but you likely need to take more extreme action to bring your bag back to life… a trip to the laundry mat. (Don’t try to do this at home…you need the giant commercial machines to accommodate a sleeping bag and prevent damage.)
And while you’re at it, you may as well give it a new waterproof coating so it will repel rain and tent condensation more effectively. For this step, use a treatment like McNett Spray on Water Repellent, applied once you remove it from the washer but before you put it in the dryer.
Follow these steps and your down bag should be as good as new. But don’t make the same mistake again: Between trips, always store it in the big cotton sack it came with or a king size pillow case.