Ultimate Guide On How To Care For Your Sleeping Bag

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Most of us are having an intimate relationship with the sleeping bag that we hope will last for many years to come. But, does your sleeping bag smell foetid like smelly feet? There is good news that you can get rid of the stink and dirt with a good washing. 

Although, unnecessary washings, whether by hand or in a washing machine, can destroy your sleeping bag to lose loft and warmth. Here is the Ultimate Guide On How To Care For Your Sleeping Bag! 

Table of Contents

1. No Dirty Clothes

Never sleep in dirty clothes while sleeping into your bag. No matter how irritated, tired, or exhausted you are. Always avoid going on all fours into your bag wearing the same clothes you hiked in. 

Over time, body oils, sweat, and dirt can rob your sleeping bag of its insulating power. Make a habit of changing clothes into clean long underwear and socks for sleep. If in summers you are hiking, at least wear a clean tee and long johns. A beanie or clean bandana will help in keeping oily hair off the bag’s hood. 
[ Make sure to check out our 10 Hiking Essentials For Beginners ]

Always wash your face and neck before sleeping because sunscreen from your face and neck will soak into your bag and cause bad smells. Over and above that, another reason to change your clothes before sleeping is that clothes you cooked especially if you’re in cold countries where bears are present. 

You should not risk life by your sleeping bag to absorb cooking odors, attracting the attention of wild animals such as bears and lions. 
[ Also Read: Our detailed guide on How To Camp Safely In A Bear Country ]

2. Always Use Liners

Liners are great lifesavers to your sleeping bags. Liners are made up of cotton, silk, wool, or polyester, and they are fairly lightweight. They don’t let your sleeping bags get dirty because they are a barrier between your skin and the bag. 

Also, they increase about 5 to 15 degrees in temperature to your bag’s temperature rating. At the end of the trip, you just have to wash the liner simply, and here you go again. 

3. Zippers

 A common problem people face is using a two-way zipper of a sleeping bag. It becomes an obstacle sometimes. It snags or comes apart down by the toe. Always get to know your bag’s zipper at home, and a little practice will save your sleeping bag. So, when it’s time that you have to zip up in a dark tent, you won’t end up jerking on it and causing a fabric tear.

4. Storing Or Stuffing Of The Bag

While you are going on hiking, storing a sleeping bag should never be ignored. During the backpacking trip or while driving to the camping destination, people carry their sleeping bags compactly in a stuff sack. They also come in varying sizes; one comes with a sleeping bag. 

The compression and waterproof stuff bags are also options to store your sleeping bag. Waterproof stuff sacks are the best choice for backpacking when the rain is expected, and your destinations also vary, like if you are going to China or America. To a large extent, if you are carrying the bag on the outside of your pack. 


We have an amazing guide on the Best Waterproof Backpack to store your sleeping bag.

There is also a hack that you can cover a regular stuff sack (entire backpack) with a plastic garbage bag and then stuff the sleeping bag inside it. A wet down bag is a sorry sight and won’t keep you warm. A synthetic bag insulates even when damp. Also, a wet bag is going to stink after drying.

5. Spot Cleaning Of The Bag

Your bag doesn’t need a complete wash every time; for it, a little TLC is enough, not a full-blown bath. Because constantly washing a sleeping bag puts it through to wear and tear and also decreases the loft. Spot cleaning or sponging is your first line of defense. Make a paste of a little non-detergent soap and water, and use a cotton bud or toothbrush to clean the spot gently. 

Keep your focus on the hood and collar where hair and skin oils tend to gather. By holding the spot or liner fabric away from the insulation, you can also wash and rinse the area without wetting the whole tent. 

6. Machine Washing Of The Bag

If your bag is losing its height and is getting dark with the mess, then it is time to give it a full washing. But, First, look to see if the company has given washing instructions and they are printed somewhere on the bag, could be on a tag, draft tube, or anywhere else. It is important to follow those instructions. 

A lot of people prefer to have their bags professionally laundered. This is a great way to protect what you love. But if you are unable to take your sleeping bags to the laundry or you can’t afford them, another option is to choose to wash and dry your bag yourself. 

Keep this in mind that drying and washing will take at least two to three hours or maybe take a little longer. Washing and drying in the large commercial machines at the laundromat may be the easiest way to go. 

7. Tips To Protect Bag

Another great tip that can be used to save your sleeping bag is that you should never dry clean your sleeping bag. The solvents which are used in dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from down that help it retain loft. 

Also, you should not use fabric softener, any kind of bleach, or alternative-bleach products. It is not a good idea to wash a sleeping bag in a top-loading machine with spindles. These spindles or vanned can strain or rip seams. A top-loader without an agitator is fine. But the new technology has brought washing machines whose agitators are not hard on clothes. 

8.  Hand Washing Of The Bag

The method to wash your sleeping bag is: Firstly, fill the tub with cool or warm water and add the appropriate soap for your down or synthetic bag. Do not use too much soap because if it gets too foamy, it will be harder to rinse out. 

Spread the bag in the water and gently work in the soap throughout the entire bag. Rub together the most heavily soiled areas. Allow it to soak for up to one hour. Then wash it out. 

9. Drying Of The Bag

Dry the sleeping bag with the hairdryer. Set the dryer on low heat. Machine heat can vary from high to low. So, keep a check if it’s too hot. The fabric or even the synthetic fill can melt or burn. Keep it in the air dry for a whole night. Check then stuff it in the bag. Otherwise, it will smell very bad. 

10. Protection from Holes And Tears (if any)

Suppose any tear or hole occurs in the sleeping bag while you’re in the field. Sew up the hole by hand (keep a needle and thread in your repair kit) when out. After reaching home, sew it by sewing machine. 

Utilize the above mentioned tips and tricks to evidently extend the life of your sleeping bag by applying these ideas.

Jules and Ken

Jules and Ken

We are outdoor lovers, travellers, and writers all rolled into one. You have seen our posts here reviewing lots of different types of outdoor gear, camping equipment, RV equipment, kayaking, to cycling. Our reviews are guided by our years of experience being outdoors. We are happy to share our knowledge with you to make a better choice when you are outdoors.

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