When it comes to getting a good nights sleep while camping, your sleeping bag is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. To ensure it performs like new each and every time, there are a few things you can do. From using a liner to airing it out, and from washing it with care to storing it correctly, there are many things that affect its longevity. Here we fill you in on what you need to do to ensure you sleep snugly when camping.

Caring for your sleeping bag while camping

In order to ensure that your sleeping bag lasts, there are a few practices you can put in place that help while in camp.

Use a sleeping bag liner

Sleeping bag liners help keep your sleeping bag clean by keeping your skin from contacting the inner section. They are generally made from cotton, silk or polyester and once you’re inside, you won’t even notice them. When you return from your camping trip, you can simply wash the liner. One note worth mentioning is that you can expect to experience a slight increase in temperature of approximately 3-6°C with the use of a sleeping bag liner.

Take care with zippers

Many a sleeping bag zipper has been damaged by yanking it over aggressively in a dark tent! Every sleeping bag may have a different configuration, so it’s important to become familiar with yours before you take it out camping. The last thing you want is to try and sleep in a sleeping bag that you can't close on a frigid night.

Air out your sleeping bag

When the sun gets up, it’s always good practice to turn your sleeping bag inside out and expose it to the air. If left under a strong sun, the UV rays will help kill any bacteria in the fabric. But don’t leave it out for too long as the UV light will degrade the fabric over time.

Don’t sleep in dirty clothes

If after a long hike you’re caked in mud and dirt, try and refrain from collapsing into your sleeping bag regardless of how tempting that may be. Sweat and dirt will degrade the insulation properties of the sleeping bag.

How to store a sleeping bag

Upon returning from any camping trip, make sure your sleeping bag is completely dry. Never store it away wet as mildew will quickly form.

Once dry, the sleeping bag can be loosely placed in a sack (most sleeping bags are sold with one). Watertight bags are not recommended as depending on the humidity, condensation may form, and moisture is the last thing you want.

How to clean a sleeping bag

If you’ve been using a sleeping bag liner and taking the associated precautions, then there should be little need for a thorough cleaning.

Any stains on the shell can be easily removed with a non-abrasive sponge and non-detergent soap. You may also want to focus on the upper section where the liner will have come into contact with body oils from your hair and face.

If, however, your sleeping bag has been used for some time and is in clear need of a complete wash, then the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed. This is particularly important in the case of down sleeping bags when compared to those which are synthetic.

Most sleeping bags can be safely washed in larger washing machines with nondetergent soap. It’s important not to use fabric softener or bleach as they degrade the fabric. Nor should you ever wash your sleeping bag in a top-loading machine with an agitator, as this often leads to ripped seams.

Hand washing a sleeping bag

Hand washing may be the best course of action for those worried about damaging the fabric in any way. To do it, place the sleeping bag in warm water with some non-detergent soap. Avoid using too much as it will be time-consuming to rinse out the soap afterwards.

Gently work the sleeping bag with your hands and spend more time working areas which are soiled. Allow it to soak for 30-60 minutes before draining the water and rinsing out the sleeping bag. Depending on how much soap you used, you may require several iterations of the latter.

The sleeping bag can be dried in a home dryer. However, if the drum is so small that the sleeping bag remains in a ball, then you may want to dry it outside in warm weather or, alternatively, take it to the laundrette.

Some additional maintenance techniques

Ensure your sleeping bag stays water repellent

Given enough time, the DWR finish (durable water repellent) on a sleeping bag will wear out. Restoring the coating helps aid in repelling water as well as making the sleeping bag much easier to clean. A solution can be purchased and easily reapplied to the outer shell when the time comes.

Repair tears before it’s too late

With time and heavy use, it’s natural that holes or tears will appear in your sleeping bag. If you do happen to notice a small tear, it can be sewed up by hand or with a machine. Alternatively, you can use some repair tape to patch it up. It’s important to use a rounded patch as this will stay in place longer.

Now that you know how to care for one, why not head over and check out our selection? At Decathlon we stock a wide range of sleeping bags for all seasons in all shapes, sizes and ratings. Happy camping!