Caring for your Sleeping Bag
Down lofts best when it is clean. It is possible to wash your sleeping bag, but it must be done carefully.
7. Prepare a clean, dry area out of direct sunlight and carefully lay the bag out flat.
8. Pat the down from both sides of the bag to help minimise down clumping.
9. A down bag may require several days to dry completely. Hot, non-humid days are best.
An alternative method of drying your bag is to carefully load it into a large tumble dryer. Select low heat and the lowest speed. Don't use dryers without heat settings. Adding a tennis ball helps to break up the clumps as it bounces around the drum of the dryer. Be aware that the bag will still take a long time to dry.
Dry Cleaning: The solvents used in dry cleaning can cause a reduction in the down's loft, and they are generally not environmentally friendly, so we suggest dry cleaning as a last resort. If dry cleaning is your only option, check with your local outdoor store for a recommendation, and ensure the cleaner uses only clean fluids and clear distilled solvents for the rinse. After cleaning, hang up the bag to air for at least a week to ensure any hazardous and toxic fumes have evaporated.
Synthetic-filled sleeping bags may be washed in a front loading washing machine using a mild detergent and the gentlest spin cycle. If using a dryer, choose the lowest temperature and speed. Before the bag is completely dry, remove it from the dryer and place outside to air dry.
In the Field
- Always use either a self inflating or closed cell sleeping mat. Cold ground will conduct warmth away from a sleeping bag, and the down on the underside of your bag will be compressed when you lie on it. A sleeping mat provides insulation and helps prevent heat loss. If you are using a 3/4 length mat, use a rucksack or spare clothes as ground insulation for your feet.
- As soon as you have set up camp, remove your sleeping bag from its stuffsack and lay it out to give the down time to loft fully before you get into it. A gentle shake will also help ensure the down lofts to its potential.
- Using a sleeping bag liner will protect the down from perspiration, grime and body oils which can inhibit loft. Liners can also act as another layer of insulation, making the bag a little warmer.
- Down loses much of its insulation value once wet. It is therefore crucial to protect your bag from dampness by using a good waterproof stuffsack, rucksack liner, groundsheet and tent or bivvy bag as required. If you are likely to encounter wet conditions frequently, consider a sleeping bag which has a weatherproof fabric like Dryloft¨ on the outside to help protect the down from moisture.
- Free moving air will conduct warmth away from a sleeping bag. If your bag does not have a windproof outer fabric such as Dryloft, a windproof shelter or a bivvy bag may be necessary to ensure maximum warmth.
- If your bag does not have a weatherproof outer fabric and the foot of your bag is in contact with a moist surface, such as a condensing tent wall or a snow cave, keep it dry by zipping up your Gore-Tex jacket and slipping it over the foot of the bag.
- Reduce heat loss through your head by wearing a warm hat or snuggling into the collar and hood of your bag. Up to 50% of body heat loss can occur through the head.
- Sleeping with your feet slightly down hill increases blood circulation to these extremities and keeps them warmer.
- Eating a nourishing meal, or having a high energy snack or drink before bed will also help to keep you warm, by increasing your metabolic rate.
- Always stuff your sleeping bag back into its stuffsack. Never roll it as this can damage the baffles (the internal walls which separate the down into panels).
Whenever possible, leave the bag free to loft. This is vital if the down clusters are to retain their springy shape. So rather than leaving your bag tightly compressed in its stuffsack, store it loosely in the top of a wardrobe, or in a large breathable storage bag. Alternatively, put it in a quilt cover and use it as a doona on the spare bed. Make sure it is stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Most modern sleeping bags use nylon coil zippers which are 'self-repairing'. This means the teeth can move about a little so they are less prone to damage if snagged. If a snag occurs, carefully ease cloth out of zip teeth. Coil zips have rounded teeth that are less likely to chew your sleeping bag fabric.
When opening or closing a zipper it is best to use the pull tag inside the bag. Placing your hand between the cloth and the zip as you slide it will virtually eliminate snagging of the fabric. When joining zips back together make sure both sliders are hard up against each other before inserting the bayonet prong.
Quality sleeping bags use down-proof fabrics which effectively prevent the down fill from leaking out. The majority of the warmth-trapping down consists of soft, spidery clusters that cannot poke through the fabric, and thus remain safely contained inside. However, there is often a small percentage of feather quills in the down mix, which can occasionally pierce the cloth and escape. This minor leakage from a new down sleeping bag is no cause for alarm, and some of the escaping quills can be pulled back inside simply by feeling through the fabric and easing them in from the other side.
Sometimes a small amount of down may appear on the surface of a new down sleeping bag, particularly where the fill is a very high quality down. This is quite normal and will cease after the bag has been used a few times.