Considering it’s filled with such delicate little filaments, a down sleeping bag is surprisingly durable. You can squash it and wash it, get it dirty and wet in the great outdoors — and with a bit of TLC it’ll soon be ready for another adventure.
Which is a good thing, really, because decent sleeping bags are big-ticket purchases — and will often be the most expensive piece of gear in your backpack.
Oddly, lasting damage to down bags is often less about rugged life on the trail and more due to the way they’ve been stored at home — so if you want to eke out your gear for as many years as possible, there are two simple rules for down sleeping bag storage:
- Always make sure sleeping bags are put away dry and kept in a dry place.
- Avoid storing your sleeping bag compressed.
Down Sleeping Bag Storage Rule 1: Put It Away Dry
To avoid this, you need to make sure the bag is absolutely bone-dry before storing it away — and that it’s not going to get damp in storage.
Air Your Down Sleeping Bag
When you get back from a camping trip, the first thing you’ll want to do is get the sleeping bag out of its stuff-sack and hang it up somewhere for an airing.
Outdoors on a clothesline in sunny weather is ideal, but otherwise any warm and well-ventilated spot will do.
Some people recommend airing your bag for a minimum of 24 hours, but obviously it all depends how wet your camping trip has been. In some cases, you might even need to use a dryer.
Remember that even if you haven’t had a drop of rain, moisture from your sweat and breath will still have gotten into the down while you sleep.
Find a Dry (and Rodent-Free) Place for Sleeping Bag Storage
There’s no point in making sure your sleeping bag is completely dried out, only to end up storing it away somewhere damp — yet so many people choose to stash their expensive down gear in dank basements, lofts, or garages.
A nice dry closet or shelf is usually a better option.
The other potential problem if you store your sleeping bag in the garage is that down is not only a miracle insulator for camping gear — it also makes ideal nesting material for mice.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re animal lovers here at Effortless Outdoors, but we’ve got our limits!
A Word on Washing
There’s no need to launder your sleeping bag after every little camping weekender, but if you do decide it’s time for a wash, remember that they take an absolute eternity to dry.
You could be sitting by that dryer down at the neighborhood laundromat for five hours or more, but you’ve got to be patient — if you pack your bag away slightly damp, you might as well not have washed it in the first place.
Alternatively, you can have your down sleeping bag professionally cleaned by a service like Rainy Pass.
Down Sleeping Bag Storage Rule 2: Don’t Compress It
One of the incredible things about down is how much you can compress it. It’ll pack down into a tiny stuff sack, but when you lay it out for the night, those feathery filaments puff up into cozy, pillowy insulation.
Alas, if you keep it compressed for too long, the down loses its ability to loft up, making it colder and less comfortable.
It’s fine while it’s in your backpack on the trail, but back home you need to make sure you stow your down bag more loosely.
Hanging the Bag
An ideal way of storing sleeping bags is to hang them up in a tall closet. There’s often a hanging loop at the end of the bag for this, but otherwise you can just sling it over a hanger.
Laying It Out Flat
Some people like to store their sleeping bags laid out under the bed. The downside of this is that it can get quite dusty under there, but it’s a decent option if you’re short on space.
Using a Storage Bag
Most down sleeping bags will come supplied with a large cotton or mesh storage sack, but you can also make one easily yourself or use an extra-large pillowcase. Just make sure you use something breathable — rather than plastic garbage bags.
Follow these tips for sleeping bag storage, and your pricey gear purchase should give you many years of service.
What Is the Best Way to Store a Sleeping Bag?
The best way to store a down bag is to hang it up somewhere dry and ventilated, but you can also use a large cotton or mesh storage bag.
Should I Store My Down Sleeping Bag Compressed?
No, you should not store your down sleeping bag compressed, especially if it is dirty. While down can be very compressed for short periods of time, if it is compressed for a long time then the down will become damaged and become less effective at insulating.
How Long Can You Keep a Down Sleeping Bag Compressed?
It’s best not to leave a down bag compressed for more than a day or two, and you shouldn’t use a stuff sack for long term storage.
Can Sleeping Bags Be Stored in the Garage?
It’s fine to keep a sleeping bag in the garage or loft if it’s warm and dry in there — but many aren’t.