Investing in good quality camping gear in an expensive investment and the last thing you want is to have to replace it earlier than you should. To make sure your camping gear lasts, you’ll need to look after it and this goes for everything from your boots and hardshell to your tent and your sleeping bag.
While using your sleeping bag, it will naturally absorb any of your sweat and the oil off your skin and hair plus any moisture that is hanging around. Once all this dampness and grime stars moving to your insulation, you’ll notice your sleeping bag becoming less and less effective and keeping you warm, which is the last thing you want.
How often you need to wash your sleeping bag depends a lot on how much you use it. There is certainly no need to wash your sleeping bags after every trip but the more you use it the more oils and dirt are going to build up in it. If you use your sleeping for around 2-3 weeks a year, then an annual wash will suffice. But, if you’re going camping every weekend from spring to the end of autumn, then you’ll need to double up to twice a year or more.
If you only need to wash your sleeping bag annually then the best time to wash it is once the season is over and you’re not going to use it again fora while. This means you can store it fresh for next season and not have a horrid surprise when you take it camping for the first time the following year.
If you’re washing it twice a year or more, still do your end of season wash and throw a few more in before it. The key, as you can see, is to make sure it goes into storage clean so the dirt doesn’t get into the insulation.
You don’t always need to fully wash your sleeping bag and a regular spot clean is a great way to keep it in shape during the season. The lining of your sleeping bag will tend to collect the most amount of dirt and these are the areas to focus on. When spot cleaning, remember to pull the lining away from the insulation while cleaning it to avoid the insulation getting wet.
The first thing to do is to buy some down or synthetic detergent for your sleeping bag. Then apply a small mont of detergent to your spot and use a soft toothbrush to clean it. Once clean, use a wet cloth to rinse it off, making sure not to get the insulation wet.
Your sleeping bag will either have a down fill or a synthetic fill and each one should be cleaned a little differently. Whatever you do, don’t send your sleeping bag to be dry cleaned as dry cleaners use intense products that can damage the shell or insulation.
The first thing you should always do is to check your sleeping bags cleaning instructions. If you have lost them, you’ll easily be able to find them online. Not all sleeping bags are machine washable, so don’t just assume you can throw then into the washer. If your sleeping bag is machine washable, here are the instructions for both down and synthetic-filled sleeping bags.
The instructions for a synthetic sleeping bag are exactly the same, just make sure you swap out the down detergent for a synthetic sleeping bag detergent like this one
You can hand wash either a down or synthetic sleeping bag and here is how. You’ll need a bathtub and the right detergent.
This is where the process gets a bit technical and we start using tennis balls, yes that’s right, tennis balls. IN general, down sleeping bags take a lot longer to dry than synthetic ones and you should allow and hour for a synthetic and 2-4 hours for a down bag.
The idea behind the drying process to not only to remove all the moisture but to also fluff up the insulation to give if maximum efficacy to keep you as warm as possible. This is where the tennis balls come into play. By fluffing up the insulation you create pockets that trap heat, the more pockets the warmer the bag.
It’s best to use a laundromat for this as their dryers are a lot larger than home dryers which will give your sleeping bag the space to move and puff up.
If you don’t have access to a dryer, then you can dry it at home by either laying down flat on a smooth surface with little humidity and no direct sunlight. Or you can hang it to dry, again not in the sun, making sure the weight is distributed evenly.
This is a much longer and less reliable option and you should use a dryer if you can find one.
In the end, it’s quite simple to wash your sleeping bag but you do need to be careful not to damage it. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, get the right detergent, find a good dryer, oh, and don’t forget the tennis balls.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!