MANY of us have a warm and cozy relationship with our sleeping bag that we hope will last for many years to come. With these care and cleaning tips, you can make sure you and your bag stay together for the long haul.
1 Down products, whether they are garments or sleeping bags, have the same embargo on dry cleaning as waterproof/breathable products. Dry cleaning strips the all-important oils from the down and will destroy it. Fortunately, just like jackets and pants, a little knowledge will take you far and you’ll find down products quite easy to take care of.
2 The good thing though is that down products do not have to be washed all that often. Normally the shell fabrics will be at least water resistant so if you have happened to get the shell dirty you can often just wipe in clean with a little soapy water.
3 Using products like liner bags can dramatically reduce the amount of times you need to wash your sleeping bag however there does come a time when you will notic loft decreasing and smells increasing with down products and that means it’s time to wash. When done correctly washing down products and drying them usually brings noticeable loft back to the product.
4 It’s best to use a front-loading washing machine – in fact, some warranties can be voided if you use a top-loader, because the delicate garments and long sleeping bags can get wrapped around the agitator and destroyed. If you don’t have a top-loader, find the local laundromat! Use a gentle wash with warm or cool water.
5 Use a mild powder detergent, or (preferably) a specialised cleaner from Nikwax or Grangers. Absolutely no fabric softeners! If the garment or sleeping bag has a waterproof face fabric, treat it afterwards with a spray-on treatment from Nikwax or Grangers – don’t use a wash-in waterproofing which could adversely affect the down.
6 If you can, line-dry the garment or sleeping bag until it is at least mostly dry. However, we realise this can take many hours (and much space), so it is acceptable to tumble dry it. Use a medium setting and when the product is nearly dry, add a couple of tennis balls or a clean shoe; in addition to the delightful racket this makes, it serves to break up any clumps of down and help restore the loft.
7 Don’t forget that sleeping bags shouldn’t be stored in a stuff sack – it causes them to lose loft. Hang them up from the footbox, if you can; alternatively store them lying flat under your bed or loosely packed into the large cotton storage bags many of them come with.
8 If the garment or sleeping bag has a waterproof face fabric, treat it afterwards with a spray-on treatment from Storm or Grangers – don’t use a wash-in waterproofing which could adversely affect the down.
9 This used to be quite a long and intensive task – drying out a down product. Thankfully the recent improvement of DWR coating the down feathers has made drying and re-lofting the down a lot more enjoyable process.
10 Be patient with zippers. A common frustration is using a two-way zipper; sometimes it’ll snag or come apart down by the toe. Get to know your bag’s zipper at home and practice using it, so when it’s time to zip up in a dark tent, you won’t end up yanking on it and causing a fabric tear.
Need to know: For more info on gear maintenance visit mountainequipment.com ■