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How to Store a Sleeping Bag Properly

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to store a sleeping bag so that it retains its shape, insulation, and increases the life span of you bag.

Storing your sleeping bag in a stuff sack in between camping trips might seem like a good idea. After all, doing this saves space, which is something we all could use more of; especially if you have other camping gear to store such as tents, lanterns, flashlights, and more.

With that said, simply tucking your sleeping bag away until the next trip isn’t the smartest idea. This can actually decrease the longevity of your sleeping bag, which can end up costing you money in the long run when you need to replace it.

Woman in a Sleeping Bag

If you want to maintain the structure and comfort of your sleeping bag, it’s important not to place it in a tight stuff-sack when storing it and follow these simple rules:

The Rules of Storing a Sleeping Bag

Properly storing a sleeping bag in between trips entails:

  1. Removing it from its bag or stuff sack
  2. Thoroughly drying it
  3. Storing it loosely inside a big and breathable mesh or cotton sack
  4. Placing it in a dry and cool place

If you have a sleeping bag specifically for backpacking, these steps are even more important, as you likely compress your bags regularly before hitting the trail. These rules are also applicable for bags that feature synthetic or down insulation and bags of all sizes (including large, boxy camping sleeping bags).

How to store a sleeping bag - Rolling up the sleeping bag

Why You Shouldn’t Overdo it When Compressing Your Sleeping Bag

In order to keep cozy while snoozing, an insulated loft is necessary.  Body temperature is kept at a higher level when the down and synthetic fills expand (or loft) to retain the heat.

Without a sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag, the filling cannot expand under the weight of a person.  Because of this, your sleeping bag will feel cooler underneath you.

Down and synthetic sleeping bag fillings do have limitations, even though they do a good job of bouncing back from being flattened.

Being cooped up in a stuff sack for long periods of time will cause down and synthetic fills to lose elasticity.  This especially happens to synthetic fills.  

Thoroughly Drying Your Sleeping Bag

Without leaving your bag directly in the sun, which will ruin the material, completely open the bag and leave it outside to dry for no less than 6 to 8 hours.  This will prevent mold and mildew from building up if you do this after each use.

Turning your bag inside out for the first half of the drying time will speed up the process.  If your bag is waterproof, this is an even better idea because waterproof materials hold in moisture longer.

However, not everyone has outside space available.  If this is the case, a dry indoor space that is temperature controlled will work just fine.  Adding a dehumidifier or fan will help as well.

Adding tennis balls to a commercial dryer will help dry and loft your bag evenly, if you have washed it and want to dry it thoroughly.  Keep in mind that a standard, home dryer usually won’t be big enough for this.

When you do use a dryer, always use a low heat setting and check on your bag often to prevent damage.

washing a sleeping bag

Washing Your Sleeping Bag & Keeping it Clean

Be sure to only wash your bag when it smells, gets dirty, or stops lofting.  One wash a year will do for average users.  And do not dry-clean, as the chemicals used will deteriorate the material. 

Standard, home washing machines can also put your bag in jeopardy because of the agitators.  This can be avoided by using the larger, front-loading washers at a nearby laundromat.  

Moving the slider to the middle of the zipper, after fully unzipping the bag, before throwing it in the wash will prevent the slider from detaching while in the wash cycle. A quarter cup of mild powdered detergent in a warm, gentle cycle is all you need.

Additional Tips For Drying Your Sleeping Bag

It gets tricky when moving the bag to the dryer, as the materials can tear more easily when they are wet, so make sure to use a rolling cart and lift gently when taking the bag out of the washer.  It is also important not to pull on the bag in any way.

The same level of caution applies to removing the bag from the rolling cart to place it in the dryer.  Also, look for a dryer you could crawl into (hypothetically speaking, of course) to make sure it is big enough to handle your bag.  Remember that tennis balls in the dryer can keep your bag in tact.  6 to 12 of them should do the trick.

Please set the dryer to the lowest and coolest setting.  You should have a clean and dry bag in about 2 to 5 hours once you feed your quarters to the dryer.

You also want to be sure to check on your bag throughout the drying cycle.  If you notice extreme heat, bunches, or clumps, hang it out to dry instead.

Where Should You Store Your Bag?

Find a location that has humidity and temperature control

When it comes to bag storage, choose a closet corner rather than a basement, garage, car trunks, or attic.  The moisture and harsh temperature changes in these areas can be damaging. 

Stow it inside a large, breathable sack

Choosing a closet corner will require you to find one that has plenty of space for the most common jumbo cotton storage sack.

If you don’t have one of these sacks, a king-size pillow case or a 90L cotton or mesh sack are other storage options.  However, the king-size pillow case will be much smaller making it the less desirable option.