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Unstuffed: Store Your Sleeping Bag The Right Way

A sleeping bag will be with you on every overnight adventure. How you store it will determine if it’s a longtime friend, or a flat, fluff-less mess.

sleeping bags stuffed in sacks

Sleeping bags will last many years if treated right. But the insulation inside, be it down or synthetic, can be damaged if incorrectly stored. Keep your bag healthy and usable for the long term with these tips.

Stuff Sack

To keep the loft (and thus the warmth of the air-trapping fibers) a sleeping bag should be stored at home outside of its compression stuff sack. A stuff sack is for travel or backpacking purposes only; whenever your bag doesn’t have to be in it, let it breathe and unfurl.

When on a trip, soon after arriving at a campsite, un-stuff the bag and let its fibers loft inside the tent, ready for bed later that night.

Storage Bag = Happy Bag

A storage bag is a loose, breathable sack that makes storing a sleeping bag between trips easy. It won’t compress or deform those precious insulating fibers over the long term. Many bags come with a larger storage bag in addition to a backpacking-ready stuff sack.

sleeping bag hanging on door
Hang your bag to store it at home

An alternative: Hang a sleeping bag in a closet or lay it out somewhere in your home where it won’t get stepped on or otherwise abused.

Air It Out

While on the trail, air out your sleeping bag as often as possible. This removes moisture the bag collects from your body, clothes, or anything else.

After an adventure is over and you return home, hang the sleeping bag before storing it – preferably for 24 hours. If hanging it outside, mind the weather.

Keep It Clean

Before storing the bag, make sure it’s clean and dry.

On the trail, avoid jumping into the sleeping bag when you’re wet, sweaty, and dirty. When you are clean and dry, your bag will be, too.

Another option: Use a sleeping bag liner to help keep it clean – it’s easier to wash a cotton/silk/merino liner than a sleeping bag.

When the bag does need to be cleaned, refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations. In general, never dry clean or throw a sleeping bag into a top-loading washing machine; the agitators in top loaders can tear the sleeping bag and damage zippers. Wash by hand if you can, or, if you must machine wash, use a front-loading, laundromat-style washer. 

Outdoor stores like REI sell down-specific soaps that are ideal for washing a sleeping bag.

Storing your bag is not difficult. But it is crucial to its longevity. Protect your investment – and your restful night’s sleep – by keeping the bag clean, dry, uncompressed, and aired out, ready for use on camping trips for years to come.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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