How to care for your sleeping bag: 5 easy tips to get the most out of your bag

If you own a sleeping bag, you want to treat it right.   You may have paid a bit of money for it, and you don’t want to wreck it too soon do you?   You need to know how to care for your sleeping bag!

Like anything you purchase for camping, a little bit of care and love will make your gear last longer.

Now that you own the perfect sleeping bag (and maybe you read our 5 tips to help you choose a sleeping bag so you know you got the one just right for you), here are  6 tips to help get the most out of your sleeping bag.

1.     Use a liner or wear PJs

keep sleeping bag clean; wear pjs
photo credit: erix! via photopin cc

Using a sleeping bag liner keeps it clean.   It’s a lot easier to wash a liner than a sleeping bag.   Still put on clean clothes or PJs before you get the in the liner (because odour and body oils will get on the liner if you don’t).

And if you don’t want to use a liner, then remember the clean pyjamas/clothes are a must for keeping the bag clean!

Make the effort to get changed every night before you climb into bed.

2.     Ventilation

If the weather is good, when you climb out of your bag in the morning and get up for the day, bring that bag with you!

Unzip the bag, turn it inside out and hang it over something for a short period of time.    Doesn’t have to be whole day airing, but an hour or two if time and weather permits.

Despite using a liner (if you did), your body has produced moisture vapour during the night, and it could get trapped in the insulation of the bag.

A good airing will allow that moisture to evaporate.

3.    Zippers

zipper  how to care for your sleeping bag

The zippers on your bag are your friend.  Treat them kindly.

Don’t yank and pull at them madly.   You want the zip to work smoothly and whilst its a little annoying if they snag or don’t work as quickly as we would like them too, you need them.

Replacing a zip isn’t easy and not something you want to worry about on a trip.

Got 2 zippers on your bag?  Don’t let 1 zipper do all the work and all the zipping up!    Utilise both zippers, and get them to meet halfway.

4.    Wash your bag

how to care for sleeping bags

Sooner or later you need to wash your bag.   Washing the sleeping bag will help not only clean it but rejuvenate the insulation.

Synthetic sleeping bags are so much easier to wash – read the manufacturers guide on how to wash your bag.

Down bags are much trickier and need extra care.     Once again, read up on the manufacturer's instructions.  But a step by step guide on how to wash a down sleeping bag is here.  If you have a down-filled bag, this story is a must-read.

Whatever your bag, don’t send to the dry cleaners.    The chemicals they use can ruin your bag.

5.   Let it loft

After your camping trip is over, as tempting as it may be, don’t stuff your bag back into the little stuff sack it comes with.    If possible (and I know that space can be hard to come by), store your bag in a large cotton stuff sack/mesh sack, to allow the insulation to loft.    A large laundry bag will also work.

Placing in a plastic bag, make sure some air can get in – any moisture in the bag will then have a way to escape.  But don’t put it in a bag that is watertight/airtight.

See our story on how to store a sleeping bag for more detailed advice

6.   BONUS TIP (I know we said there were only 5 tips)

Care for your sleeping bag isn't hard. Most of it is common sense.  But take care of the bag, by checking not only zippers (tip 3), but look for fraying seams or rips.  Those small holes could prove a problem if you put the bag in a washing machine - the wash cycle could make all the stuffing come out. If you are sleeping rough, make sure there is nothing underneath you that can make rips in the bag. Fix any rips/tears promptly before they grow.

There you have it – 6 tips that will make your bag a longer-lasting, less smelly and warmer bag to sleep in.

(and if you want to know about choosing a sleeping bag, read here)

This story was first published in 2014 but has been edited to maintain accuracy and information.