Cleaning Your Sleeping Bag
If you’re planning an outdoor trip and you don’t have a sleeping bag, go get one now. Sleeping bags are essential for any camper, hiker, or baker that wants to protect him or herself from the rain, wind, and snow. But before you learn how to clean a sleeping bag, you must first know about what its made out of.
Different Shapes And Sizes
Sleeping bags now come in all shapes and sizes. Think of them as your own personal cocoon that helps protect you from the elements when you’re on an outdoor adventure. You can either get a square sleeping bag, a mummy sleeping bag, or a sleeping pod. Considered as the most basic of the bunch, square sleeping bags are also the ones which provide the most room, especially for leg movement. This would probably also be the first thing that pops into a person’s head when they are asked to think of what a sleeping bag looks like. Square sleeping bags could also come double in size to allow two people to sleep in a single bag, making it a double sleeping bag.
Up next we have the mummy sleeping bag, whose name comes from its shape, which resembles the tomb of an ancient Egyptian mummy. They are shaped this way – wider at the top and tapered at the bottom – to keep warm air as close to the body as possible. This type of sleeping bag is a favorite among those who like to camp in colder climates. Lastly, we have the sleeping pod, which was the latest of the type to be introduced to the market. They are wide and long – perfect for those who toss and turn a lot in their sleep. This type of sleeping bag is perfect for summertime sleepovers. There are also wearable sleeping bags – a combination down jacket and standard sleeping bag that allows you to move about the campsite in cozy comfort.
Down vs. Synthetic Insulation
Insulation is one of the first things people check when they want to buy a good-quality sleeping bag. In fact, some even consider this as the make or break point in purchasing one. There are sleeping bags that contain down feathers as insulation, while there are those that use synthetic materials to keep the warmth in and the cold out. Sleeping bags insulate by trapping a layer of warm air near the user’s body.
Down sleeping bags are more durable compared to their synthetic counterpart, but they are also much more expensive. Looking at the price tag right now, you may be tempted to sway in the direction of synthetic insulation. That would be fine if you don’t have the money on you, but if you do, you should think more of it as an investment. Down sleeping bags can last you over ten years even with regular outdoor use within that period. If you plan to go hiking or camping often, getting a down sleeping bag will cost a lot less down the road.
Aside from being more durable, down sleeping bags are also more compressible. This makes them perfect to bring on a backpacking trip, seeing as you’re trying to pack as light as possible. Down sleeping bags can easily fit into one of the compartments of your hiking backpack. However, not everyone is a fan of using down for insulation. Some don’t like how it loses most of its insulation properties when it gets wet, although waterproof bindings and coatings are now being developed for this type of sleeping bag. Meanwhile, others are wary of the ethical issues that using goose feathers brings to the table.
On the other hand, most synthetic insulation comes in the form of either short staple fibers or long continuous filaments. The former allows synthetic sleeping bags to be compressed well but reduces longevity. The flatter, meanwhile, allows the sleeping bag to last long, but not be as compressible. Each sleeping bag manufacturer has their own proprietary blend of these materials. If you’re looking at compressibility as a primary selling point, no matter what mixture of these materials you may use, it still won’t compare to the performance of down.
However, what synthetic sleeping bags excel at, and where down ones fall short, is how they perform when they get wet. Unlike down sleeping bags that lose almost all of their warmth when they come in contact with water, synthetic sleeping bags keep at least some of the heat. Of course, you’d want to keep your sleeping bag as dry as possible at all times, but you never know what may happen out in the wilderness. Take all these things into consideration, as you would benefit from using different types of sleeping bags for different scenarios.
How To Clean A Sleeping Bag
Now that we’ve talked about the different shapes a sleeping bag could come in as well as the types of insulation it could have, let’s now discuss how to properly clean and care for them. The shape of a sleeping bag doesn’t matter much when it comes to cleaning it. What matters more is what its insulation is made out of. You would use different methods when washing a down sleeping bag and when washing a synthetic one. If you use the same method for both, then you might end up damaging one or the other. You could machine wash or hand wash both types of sleeping bag. Let’s start off with how to wash a sleeping bag with down insulation.
Machine Washing A Down Sleeping Bag
When machine washing a down sleeping bag, you’ll need a bunch of clean tennis balls, a large front-loading washing machine with at least a 10-kilogram capacity, and a specialist cleaner. If you’re missing just one of these things, move on to the hand washing instructions. Before you put your sleeping bag into the spin cycle, make sure that all soap residues from previous washes are gone. Run your machine through a rinse first. You should also do up all the zips and Velcro straps to make sure that none of them get damaged.
It is now time to put your down sleeping bag into the washing machine along with a special cleaner – regular detergents can damage the down insulation. Set your machine to around 86ºF or just use a delicate cycle. Afterward, rinse the bag thoroughly. To check if it has been completely rinsed, step on it. If suds come out when you do, it should go back in for another rinse. Place towels on the floor, along with the length of the bag, to give it support as you move it to the dryer and to soak up any excess water. Dry it with your dryer’s lowest heat setting. Add a few tennis balls into the dryer to prevent the down from clumping up. This may take a few hours.
Hand Washing A Down Sleeping Bag
When you plan on hand washing a down-insulated sleeping bag, you’ll need something as big as a bathtub to do so. Start by rinsing your tub completely before filling it up with some lukewarm water. Mix in some of the specialist cleaner until it is evenly distributed. After the cleaner has been properly distributed, completely submerge the sleeping bag for an hour. After that time has passed, drain the water and fill it back up again. There’s no longer a need to add soap at this point.
Remove the remaining soap from the sleeping bag by gently massaging it or by walking up and down the length of the bag. If there is still soap remaining, drain the sudsy water and fill the tub back again with a fresh batch. Continue doing this until every last bit of soap residue has been cleared from the sleeping bag. After draining the last of the water, push down on the sleeping bag to remove the excess water from it. Tumble dry on low heat similar to the machine-washing instructions. If you choose to air dry your sleeping bag, it will take a lot longer so you need to be patient.
Machine Washing A Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Cleaning a synthetically insulated sleeping bag is a lot easier compared to cleaning a down one. For starters, you don’t need to use a special cleaner for this type of sleeping bag. It can live with using commercially available detergents and softeners, as long as they’re mild. You should avoid bleaching, ironing, or dry cleaning your synthetic sleeping bag, as this may cause premature damage.
When you’re machine-washing your synthetic sleeping bag, make sure that all of its straps and zippers are secured. Use a large, front-loading washing machine on a gentle cycle. Set the temperature to 86ºF and let the spin cycle do its thing. Afterward, you can air dry it or put it in the dryer on the lowest setting possible. If you notice, washing a synthetic sleeping bag is quite similar to how you would wash a down sleeping bag, just without all the hubbub involved.
Hand Washing A Synthetic Sleeping Bag
To hand wash a synthetic sleeping bag, fill a tub with around 6 inches of warm water, then add mild soap or detergent. Submerge your sleeping bag into the water and gently massage it into the bag. Do this with open hands to make sure every nook and cranny of the bag gets a thorough clean. When you’re sure the entire bag has been patted down, leave it to soak for one to four hours depending on how dirty it is. After soaking, drain the existing water, add a new batch, and massage it in. Keep repeating this process until no more soap suds come out. Press as much water out of the bag as possible then air or tumble dry on the lowest setting.
Now you know how to clean your beloved sleeping bag. If you do this properly and as often as needed, you can be sure that your sleeping bag, whether it is made from down or from a synthetic material, will last a long time. Now go out there and enjoy your next great, outdoor adventure!
- Down vs. Synthetic: Understanding Sleeping Bag Insulation, Gear Junkie
- How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag, Mountain Warehouse
- How to wash a synthetic sleeping bag, Kathmandu