Caring for a Down Sleeping Bag

Down bags are light and mighty. Nothing can match the warmth to weight ratio of down insulation. If you’re looking for the warmest, lightest sleeping bag, then a down sleeping bag is the way to go.

While down bags require more care than synthetic sleeping bags, if you treat them well they’ll last for years to come. Here are a few care tips for your down sleeping bag.

Before your trip

Examine your bag

Inspect your down sleeping bag before and after each trip. It’s easier to make small gear repairs than to fix big blowouts.

For example it’s easier to reinforce frayed stitches with a little seem grip than sew up a popped seam. Make sure zippers are on track, stitching is in tip-top shape, and the fabric is holding up like it should.

Make sure you have a stuff sack to keep your bag safe, secure, and compressed if you’re taking it backpacking. Consider a waterproof compression sack.

During your trip

Take care of your bag

The quickest way to ruin a down sleeping bag – or any sleeping bag for that matter – is by misusing it. A stray ember from your campfire can melt through your bag like a hot knife through butter. Dragging your sleeping bag through brambles, laying it directly on the ground, or scuttling around the campsite in your sleeping bag can all cause serious damage.

Lay your sleeping bag on a sleeping pad in your tent or hammock, and leave it there.

Keep the moisture away

Not only will moisture from condensation, fog, dew, or precipitation render your down bag useless (down can’t insulate when wet), it can also mildew. Make sure your bag performs at its best and prevent the risk of mold or mildew by keeping your sleeping bag dry.

Wear clean clothes and use a liner

You can’t always hose off before bed in the backcountry, but you can keep your sleeping bag clean by sleeping in clean clothes and using a sleeping bag liner.

After your trip

Let your down bag breathe

Air out your sleeping bag after every trip, ideally out of direct sunlight. This can help prevent mold and mildew and also reduce odors. Letting your bag dry out of direct sunlight prevents damage from UV radiation.

Keep it cool, dry, and dark

Store your bag in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.


Never store your down sleeping bag compressed. Leaving your sleeping bag uncompressed helps preserve loft. This is especially important for a down sleeping bag because down insulation can lose its loft more quickly than synthetic insulation.

Store your sleeping bag in a loose stuff sack. Many down sleeping bags come with one of these storage sacks. If you have the space lay your bag flat (like under a bed), or hang your sleeping bag in a closet.

Washing a down sleeping bag

Sometimes all your bag needs is a little spot washing. Of course, you may eventually have to thoroughly wash your sleeping bag.

Sleeping bag liners can help extend the time between washes, but it will eventually need to be cleaned. Dirty down just doesn’t insulate like it used to, but you can revitalize your sleeping bag with a washing.

Never dry clean a down sleeping bag. Use a special solution for cleaning down insulation – like Nikwax down wash – in  a front loading washing machine without a center agitator. Think laundromat. Here are some tips for washing a down sleeping bag.

Looking for a place to buy a down sleeping bag in Northwest Arkansas? Visit Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for synthetic and down sleeping bags.

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