Sleeping Bag Lifespans: Getting the most bang for your buck
Down sleeping bags aren’t cheap, especially when you happen to be purchasing an expedition bag that has a rating of-40F/-40C.
Though you may not use your expedition bag often, it always something you can’t do without when you are traveling to altitude or extreme climates.
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When you want to trade or sell an old sleeping bag, you want to make sure that it is the best shape you can make it, so make sure to follow these maintenance tips to make sure that you get the most out of your investment.
Upkeep on the Trail
The secret of sleeping bag maintenance is keeping it as clean and dry as humanly possible, but that is easier said than done when you’re on the trail. Whether or not you like to admit it, after a few days on the mountain or trail, you’re probably a dirty and sweaty mess.
The dirt, sweat, and grease on your body transfer on to your bag and causes the down of the sleeping bag to clump and makes the material breathe less effectively, trapping moisture inside the bag and making you feel colder and more exposed to the elements.
To keep your bag clean when you are dirty, sleep in cleaner clothing, wear head protection on your head, and use a sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bag liners are affordable, easy to wash, and they come in a variety of materials from cotton, silk, and even fleece.
As long as you’re going somewhere cold, take into consideration a fleece liner, which can raise the warmth rating by a couple of degrees. Liners are also a great choice for folks who don’t like to wear much clothing to bed.
You also want to ensure your bag is as dry as you possibly can make it when you are on the trail. Tents become humid overnight because when we exhale, we emit warm air that lingers inside the tent and condenses on the cold tent walls.
At high altitudes, you breathe faster, and therefore, even more, moisture accumulates in your pack and on the tent walls, respectively. If you can, air out your bag by putting it in the sun or wind to dry before you putting it inside your pack for the day.
Airing your bag out at lunch or right before you place it inside your tent is another fine alternative. Rainy and humid weather will make airing your bag out more difficult but do your best. Your bag will continue to function when it is damp, be certain to maintain it well when you get home or when the weather improves.
Finally, place your bag carefully into the stuff sack. Make sure to use the stuff sack that came with the bag or use a compression sack.
When you try to fit your bag with a sack smaller compared to what it was designed for, you wind up putting stress on the stitching, which can harm the bag. Begin with the toe end on the bag and try to stuff the sack evenly all the way through. Zipping the zipper on the bag will be sure to make it easier.
Also, make sure that the sleeping bag will stay dry while it is inside your pack. Wrap your stuff sack inside a plastic bag or line your pack with a plastic liner to keep water from coming into your bag throughout the day. Pack covers work too if you aren’t worried about weight.
The most important step for prolonging the life of your sleeping bag is home maintenance. Storing a damp and dirty bag is a recipe for mildew and clumpy down, which will drastically reduce the warmth and loft of the bag.
Make sure to hang your bag outside in the wind or indirect sunlight until it is completely dry. Leave it out both right-side-out and inside-out to ensure that it is completely dry all the way through.
Also, keep in mind that direct sunlight will slowly degrade the fabric and cause the down to lose effectiveness. Sun damage can make your sleeping bag lose years on its life!
If air drying is not an option, you can put the bag in your drier at home. Make sure the temperature is low (hot temperatures can degrade or even melt the fabric) and check on it often, it’s almost like a cake baking in the oven that needs to be constantly checked on.
Put a few tennis balls in the drier with the bag to keep the down from clumping and pull it out every so often to manually pull apart clumps as you would any other bedding or blankets that clump in the middle.
Storage at Home
This is the most simple and yet most commonly ignored tip. Do not store your sleeping bag in a stuff sack or compression sack! Keeping your bag compressed for long periods will decrease the loft in the down.
Also, stuff sacks are usually not very breathable, which means that any remaining moisture will be trapped in the bag, causing mildew and mold in some instances. Instead, store your bag in large, cotton, or mesh bags that do not compress your sleeping bag. Most sleeping bags come with a storage sack, but if yours does not, a cotton laundry bag will work.
Just remember to store your bag in a dry place. In case your basement storage room is damp and dank, consider storing it on the top shelf inside your bedroom closet or someplace else dry and cool. If you find that you have to wash your sleeping bag after every camping trip, you are doing something wrong. You should only need to wash your bag when it starts looking flat or lumpy, or if it smells bad.
Just be sure to follow these tips, and you will get the most value out of your sleeping bag while you own it. The best deals are always made when both parties feel that they are coming out on top, so make sure that you come to a deal with the best items to trade.