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Part II. Cleaning gear POST Active Vacations

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You may be able to wash you sheets or even comforters with one hand tied around your back... but a sleeping bag may seem a little less familiar.  Seasoned AGC guide, Jan Latham, shares a few tip on how to handle your outdoor gear with care...


The following guidance applies to both down and poly fill sleeping bags. Be sure to know what the manufacturers recommendations are (translate – read the labels OR google your brand/product).

The best care of a sleeping bag actually starts while you are using it! Consider your sleeping bag to be the ‘clean area’ of your backpacking experience. That means:

  • No food in or around the bag

  • No shoes

  • Wear clothing when in the bag to reduce body odors and soil to the sleeping bag

  • Have something between the bag and the ground when in use

  • Keep your bag as dry as possible!!

  • Whenever possible air/sun out your bag before placing in your tent—even if you are amazing at keeping your bag dry from the weather our bags absorb moisture through the air and from our bodies as we sleep

  • When taking out of the compression bag, give it a shake to help with decompression

  • Always stuff your bag rather than folding or rolling when backpacking

Upon returning home:

  • Put sleeping bag outside in sunshine to dry and air out. Turn inside out and right side out

  • Shake out to remove any dust, dirt or other debris

  • Store in large bag (never compress your bag for storage, this reduces the loft sometimes permanently) hang in as cool and dry an environment as possible.

  • Some women like to store their bags with a fabric softener sheet enclosed in the storage bag to help with odors and to smell nice and fresh next time they go out.


There will be times that your bag will need cleaning. Body oils, odors, insect repellant, etc. will eventually build up and a thorough washing is all that it needs to restore the cleanliness of your bag. The number of times you use it per season will dictate how often it gets washed.

  • Check out the manufacturer labels, be sure you know the recommendations for cleaning and the fabric content.

  • For most bags you can either take to the dry cleaners or you can wash yourself at the Laundromat.

  • If washing yourself:

  • Use a front loader---no other items in the washer except the sleeping bag.

  • Use a mild detergent, one designed for your sleeping bag or one recommended by your local outfitter.

  • Dry in the commercial dryer on low heat. This will take a while but it is better to dry with low heat to eliminate any damage to the bag materials. There are two schools of thought on drying. One is to allow the bag to dry in the dryer alone and one is to add tennis balls or tennis shoes to add a bit of agitation to ‘fluff’ up the material inside. I use the tennis ball method.

Now you've got a clean place to lay your head under the stars! Sweet Dreams!

Note: For tips cleaning tips on hydration systems and backpacks see Jan's last post Part I: Cleaning gear POST hiking trips.

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