Storing your Sleeping Bag

What do you do with your sleeping bag when you arrive home from your camping trip? Do you leave it in its stuff sack and forget about it until the next trip? If so you are not alone – most people would probably answer yes to the above question, wrongly assuming that as most good quality sleeping bags come with a stuff sack then this is the best way to store them. But did you know that by doing so (and this applies to synthetic fill and down-filled sleeping bags) you are considerably shortening its life span and probably greatly reducing, if not negating completely, any of its insulating properties?

Most people will take care not to damage their sleeping bag when out and about, especially where a higher end of the market bag has been invested in, but it is actually incorrect storage which is the most likely cause of damage to and subsequent deterioration in a sleeping bag's effectiveness.


Understanding how a sleeping bag keeps you warm

A sleeping bag has no heat generating abilities until you climb inside it. It is your own body heat which starts off the process. However, once the warmth has been generated it is up to the sleeping bag to keep hold of that heat and move it around your body effectively. A cheap or low quality sleeping bag won't do this particularly effectively however a good quality sleeping bag will ensure the maximum heat retention, elimination of any cold spots and a warm as toast sleeping experience for you. How well your sleeping bag will insulate you will depend on its shape, its fill material and its overall construction which are discussed in other articles on this site.

Where care of your sleeping bag is concerned you will often hear the word 'lofting'. Lofting is the term used to describe the even distribution of a sleeping bag's filling, consequently the amount of air which is trapped between components and ultimately how well it keeps you warm. This applies whether a sleeping bag's filling is either synthetic fibres or feathers/down. The lofting in down-filled bags is more durable and recovers better than synthetic fill but prolonged compression will damage both resulting in cold spots at best to a complete loss of heat retaining properties at worst and a completely useless sleeping bag.

When you get home from a camping trip.....

Remove the sleeping bag from its stuff sack as soon as possible – manufacturers typically recommend that neither down-filled or synthetic fill bags should be tightly compressed for longer than 24 hours. Prolonged compression will affect the lofting. If you are lucky this may be only temporary or you may only notice a problem for the first couple of nights of your next camping trip. Much more likely is permanent damage and then you'll have to accept cold nights camping or  buy a new sleeping bag.

Furthermore, tight compression will put extra stress on your sleeping bag's seams and baffles (the term used to describe the 'pockets' of material and consequently air chambers created when the the sleeping bag's layers are stitched together in a particular way). This in turn will also affect the lofting.

Make sure your bag is completely dry before storing it away to avoid mould which once started is extremely difficult to eliminate. It's always good practice to get into the habit of airing your sleeping bag for a day even if it is bone-dry.

Storing your sleeping bag between camping trips

Put simply, your sleeping bag needs to be stored somewhere which is cool and dry, loosely contained and where the air can get to it freely. Ideally this would mean spreading it flat somewhere (under a bed is one solution) but of course few people have the space in which to do this. The next best thing is to roll it or fold it loosely or alternatively hang it loosely somewhere. Quilt covers make excellent storage for sleeping bags as they allow the bag to breathe without being compressed. Don't store your sleeping bag in an airtight or water-tight container.