In ancient times, the great outdoors was home, and camping was a way of life. Whilst this is rare in modern society, camping remains an enormously popular form of recreation and holiday-making, providing a sense of freedom that is very difficult to attain in a city environment. A sleeping bag is an absolutely crucial piece of gear for any camper, no matter where or for how long they camp. Keeping sleeping bags clean, and in good repair, can often be a matter of some difficulty.
It is the intention of this guide to provide the reader with comprehensive and detailed information about sleeping bag cleaning and maintenance, so that they can keep their own sleeping bag in good condition. This guide will also provide information about how to buy a sleeping bag on eBay, exploring the reasons why it makes such a great place from which to do so.
Maintenance during Camping
This section of the guide will focus on the four main ways to keep a sleeping bag in good, sanitary condition whilst out “in the field”. This is very important, as a sleeping bag can deteriorate rapidly during periods of frequent use if it is not looked after properly. The four main techniques are as follows:
- Keep it dry
- Air it
- Line it
- Store it properly
Each of these is explained in depth below.
Keep It Dry
It is absolutely crucial that a sleeping bag is kept dry whilst not in use. Sleeping in a wet sleeping bag is an experience of almost unparalleled unpleasantness, as can be testified by many experienced campers. In addition, once the liquid settles in, the bag will begin to smell, adding to the discomfort. To prevent a sleeping bag from getting wet, remember:
- Don’t consume drinks in or around the sleeping bag
- Don’t take wet clothes into the sleeping bag
- Always store the sleeping bag in a sealed, waterproof outer layer when not in use
After every sleep, it is a good idea to “air” the bag for at least ten minutes before re-packing it. This means hanging it up, in a well ventilated place. This will dry out perspiration and allow smells to subside. In sunny weather, this can be done outside, but in more adverse weather conditions it is not impossible; use the inside of the tent, or the car (if one is available).
Lining the inside of a sleeping bag with a bed sheet has numerous advantages. Firstly it makes the bag warmer and more comfortable. Secondly, the internal sheet absorbs bodily secretions, protecting the bag. This means the bag will have to be cleaned less frequently, and thus will last longer (as the cleaning process often wears the bag out). Cleaning a sheet is also easier than cleaning the bag itself. Specially designed sleeping bag liners are available for this purpose.
Store It Properly
As counter-intuitive as this may sound, the best way to store a sleeping bag in its “stuff sack” (the outer bag in which it is stored) is to shove it in as randomly and haphazardly as possible. The ensures a fair and even distribution of creases and wrinkles, preventing “flat spots” form arising in unwanted areas.
Remember these four tips, and you won’t have any problems.
Cleaning the Sleeping Bag
This section of the guide will focus on the proper ways to clean a sleeping bag. It is always most important to clean a sleeping bag after using it, but before putting it into storage. Dirty or wet sleeping bags will serve as a breeding ground for bacteria and mould if stored away.
There are three main ways to clean a sleeping bag. These are:
- Dry Cleaning
- Bath Cleaning
- Washing Machine Cleaning
Before cleaning a sleeping bag, it is a good idea to check the washing instructions on the label. All sleeping bags feature these instructions, and serve as the only definitive indicator of whether it is okay to wash a sleeping bag in a certain way. Follow the instructions on the label closely; they have been carefully thought out and researched, and are included for the customer’s convenience.
Below are detailed instructions on how to perform each of the aforementioned cleaning methods, after deciding which one is right for the sleeping bag.
Dry cleaning is the easiest of these options; it requires no more input than taking the sleeping bag to the dry cleaner’s. However, it is also considered to be the worst for the sleeping bag; the chemicals used in the process fade colour, reduce structural integrity and otherwise create problems in the long run. Double check the label to see if this is an option; many sleeping bags will not be suitable for dry cleaning at all. If this is the option you take, make sure to air the bag thoroughly first to avoid contamination.
There are five simple steps to the bath cleaning method. These are as below:
- Place in the Bath – run a bath full of hot water and place the bag in it.
- Remove the Air – air bubbles are likely to form inside the bag; squeeze these out.
- Wash – use specially bought sleeping bag cleaning products; simply move your hands around the material, and wait.
- Rinse – ensure that all cleaning products are removed during the rinsing process.
- Remove – take the bag from the bath and proceed to the “drying” stage detailed below.
Bath cleaning is slow, but easy, fun and effective.
Washing Machine Cleaning
Using the right washing machine is important when using one to clean a sleeping bag. There are two important considerations:
- The machine must be big enough to hold the bag.
- The machine must not feature an “agitator”, as this will snag the drawstrings or other exposed parts, leading to damage.
Wash on a low temperature, with a rinse cycle included. Use a gentle, low revolution spin cycle, to avoid damaging the sleeping bag. Taking these steps should ensure that it survives the process.
Next, follow the “drying” instructions below.
There are four main ways to dry a sleeping bag. These are listed below, with brief descriptions of the methods and their advantages.
- Drip Dry – drip drying involves hanging the sleeping bag up indoors and allowing the moisture to drip out of the bag. This method is slow, and must be performed in a place both with enough space to hang the bag, and where it does not matter if water falls on the floor (such as a bathroom).
- Use a Tumble Dryer – this is the quickest and easiest option. However, it has some potential drawbacks. First, check the label to see if the sleeping bag is safe to tumble dry. Second, dry on a low heat, as nylon will melt if it gets too hot. Finally, do not put the bag in the dryer soaking wet – allow some drip drying first.
- Use a Hair Dryer – ensure that the heat setting is low. This is a time consuming and wasteful (in terms of energy) method.
- Dry Outdoors – weather permitting, of course.
There are only two important things to remember when storing a sleeping bag.
- DO NOT store it whilst wet. This is the most crucially important. The bag will moulder if it is stored wet, making in unusable. Check and double check the sleeping bag’s complete dryness before storage.
- Store the bag either hanging up, laid out or in a secondary, looser sack. Storing the sleeping bag in its tightly compressed travel “stuff sack” causes compression damage.
Things to Remember
There are a few hints and tips it is worth remembering:
- Check the label – some bags may not be dry-cleanable, or may require professional cleaning.
- Flat spots are areas where the down (or stuffing) of the bag has gone flat. Counter this by storing tennis balls in the bag, as they restore its shape.
- Shake the bag before use – this redistributes the padding.
- Use cotton balls – keeping cotton balls inside a bag will keep it fresh.
- Don’t wash unless necessary – washing is a damaging process for a sleeping bag; don’t do it unless absolutely necessary.
- Never tumble dry on high heat – the nylon will melt.
Camping is a fantastic hobby, and a great way to relax. This guide set out with the intention of informing the reader about correct sleeping bag maintenance and cleaning procedures. These can be summarised as follows:
- Keep it dry
- Air it out
- Use a liner
- Wash it correctly
- Check the label
This guide concludes that eBay, the online auctioning platform, is a truly great place to buy sleeping bags online, owing to its streamlined, user-oriented design and its top-notch selection of products.