You’ve done it – you’ve pulled the trigger on a new sleeping bag. You take it home and wrap yourself up in cozy warmth while reading the latest Outside magazine, dreaming of your next adventure in the great outdoors. But most of the time, your sleeping bag won’t live in the great outdoors – it will live in your gear closet. To get the most out of the life of your new, cuddly friend, here are some Dos/Don’ts of bag care, taken from the brain trust around the Sierra Designs office.

  • How should I store it?

The best way to store your bag is the same way you store your nice clothes – hanging up in your closet. This allows the loft to be unhindered and free, rather than compressed. If you don’t have that luxury, the next best thing is storing in some sort of larger bag on top of other gear, rather than underneath it. Basically, the more compressed the loft, the more feather spines get broken, which reduces the life of the bag overall. Also, stuffing the bag can migrate the feathers, creating cold spots when the down is no longer evenly dispersed throughout the bag. The same rules go for synthetic bag, especially where storing it compressed is concerned – just don’t do it. Oh, and no matter how you choose to store it, every so often, give it a shake out to fluff it up a bit, and never ever store it wet, even when out on the trail.

  • How should I clean it?

As much as we are clean freaks when it comes to other pieces of apparel and gear in our lives, being overly zealous about this with your bag can actually shorten the lifespan. The easiest way to keep your bag clean is to keep yourself clean – when using it in the backcountry, always make sure you’re showered (or at least wet wiped) before turning in for the night. When you get home, unzip the sleeping bag or turn it inside-out and using a pan of warm (not hot) water mixed one part white vinegar to 3 parts water take a clean washcloth and wipe the bag down inside and out. Let it air-dry and that usually does it.

If your bag needs a deeper clean than that, then you need to use a bathtub. Use a sleeping bag specific cleaner like Revivex and let the bag soak in the tub with the sleeping bag cleaner per package directions. You can squeeze the bag while it’s in the water, but don’t get aggressive. Rinse thoroughly. When it’s time to take the bag out of the tub, roll the bag up like you were going to put it in a stuff sack. That will squeeze most of the water out of the bag. Lift the bag out of the tub like you would pick up a sleeping child – yeah, you are going to get a little wet. Don’t grab the bag at one end and lift it that way or you will damage the inner partitions.

That said, if the worst happens and you do need to machine wash your bag, you can do so in a non agitator, large front load style, on delicate, with very light, all natural detergent. Either method you use, you should lay it out to dry – if you need to get it started, you can put it on the delicate, no heat dry cycling first – add some tennis balls to get the fluff back up (then wear headphones to block out the sound).

  • How should I repair it?

If you find that your Sierra Designs bag has a little tear, or the zipper is starting to go, contact us! We’ve got a great repair program, and would love to help you get your bag in good-as-new condition. If you’re in a rush, or don’t own an SD bag, then there are two DIY options: Stitch it yourself, or use duct tape. While the former looks a little nicer, the latter is surprisingly durable and reliable for small tears. Just make sure that the bag is laying flat, the spot is clean, and that you put a heavy book (or two) on top of the tape for a day or so to really adhere the glue to the fabric.

  • What are signs that I need a new bag?

You can expect a well cared for sleeping bag to last you 10+ years – but that said, even the best things must come to an end. When you start to notice that your bag is no longer performing up to its normal standard, then it’s time to consider retiring it to the rec room as a TV blanket, and getting a newer bag. Other signs are repeatedly popped seems, entirely broken zippers, and a lack of POOFiness that all down in good condition should have. Even if your bag is still doing its job, after 10 or so years, fabric and technologies can change so much that a new bag could shave a pound or more off of your overall packing weight.

Still have questions on bag care, or having trouble choosing which bag is right for you? Don’t hesitate to hit us up! We love talking outdoor gear.