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Fern on the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Full


Washing an old bag

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Washing an old bag
March 24, 2016 07:21AM
We've owned our REI Sub-Kilo sleeping bags for about six years now, and that means that we've used them on about 750 miles of backpacking trips. Since we usually hike about 7-8 miles a day, that's about 100 nights in the bag, not counting some of our car camping trips. Ewww.

So as you can imagine, the bags had started to look a little grimy in places. We've meant to wash them for a couple of years, but it's such a major process that we never got around to it. Until now.

A visit to REI got us the NikWax soap for down bags, and Ifilled up the tub and away I went, first washing the bag, then soaking it for a while, washing again, and then seemingly endless cycles of rinse and rinse and rinse and repeat. Then the delicate process of slowing squeezing most of the water out of the bag, and about 3 hours in the dryer on the delicate cycle. But it worked.

What was a grimy old sleeping bag now looks more or less fresh and new. And we were surprised to see how well they filled out their big "pillow case" storage bags once we had washed them. Before washing, they were not nearly so fluffy--although it's possible we could have fluffed them up a bit in the dryer even without washing them. At any rate, they are now clean! I can hardly wait to get mine packed away in its stuff sack and on the trail again.

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 24, 2016 08:59AM
I've used the same process but I would carefully place the wet bag in the washer (top loader) and spin it for a bit to get most of the water out. When I say "carefully" I mean to position the bag around the wall of the tub so that when the spinning begins the bag is in place and there won't be any strain on the seams or baffles. Spinning cuts the total wash and rinse time down to about an hour. Drying is a separate time block. Tennis balls or sneakers in the dryer aren't needed as the vanes in the dryer will do just fine to knock sense into the down.

Old Dude
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 24, 2016 09:15AM

Chick-on is looking at you!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/24/2016 09:16AM by chick-on.
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 24, 2016 09:18AM
Old Dood. maybe that is why your yellow bag is not yellow anymore.

I never wash my sleeping bags. I use them a gobzillion times a year.
Ain't nobody got time for that.

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 24, 2016 08:39PM

It hasn't been washed. It's color is pumpkin or better yet orange.

People, Chick-on is color blind. He insists he's yellow.

Old Dude
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 25, 2016 03:20AM
So he's really just a gray chicken?
Re: Washing an old bag
March 26, 2016 10:58AM
Sort of in the middle here - wash my down bag after every 500 bag-nights, whether it needs it or not.

Washing a good down bag - WM? - many possible disasters/ soaps to use/ drying hassles...
Here in Mammoth, I went down to Mammoth Mountaineering (the best gear shop in town) - asked them who does their rental bag cleaning/ who they trust... experience counts.
Go there.
Cost me $25 and a week's wait... Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Re: Washing an old bag
March 26, 2016 03:09PM
I tend to wash my down bags after a year of use regardless of nights spent. Used to wash them myself but ended up just going down tot he local mountaineering shop (adventure 16) and fork over $15 for a nice wash. Takes about 10 days but I'm ok with that!
avatar Re: Washing an old bag
March 27, 2016 01:41PM
I wash my 40 and 20 degree sleeping bags each year with Nikwax, instead of using my own top-loading washer I use the front-loading washers at a neighborhood laundromat.

Drying the down 20 degree bag takes a bit of time, I've had folks at REI suggest putting an old sneaker in the dryer to break up the down and help it dry, I may try that next time, not sure.

My 0 degree bag doesn't get as much use so I wash it less often.
Re: Washing an old bag
March 27, 2016 07:19PM
How large does a washer machine need to be to wash a 0 down bag? Thinking of doing it at home!
Re: Washing an old bag
March 28, 2016 12:24AM
How large does a washer machine need to be to wash a 0 down bag? Thinking of doing it at home!
Re: Washing an old bag
March 28, 2016 11:18AM
Some wise nuggets from your REI link:

Keep your sleeping bag clean and dry. Accumulated body oils, sweat and dirt can rob your sleeping bag of its insulating power. Tips:

Sleep in clean clothes. Best is long underwear, socks and a hat. If it's warm out, wear clean cotton clothes to bed. Just don't fall into bed in the same clothes you hiked in. You'll drag dirt into the bag with you, and you're likely to sleep colder because of accumulated perspiration.
Any time you wash a sleeping bag, you subject it to wear and tear and decrease the loft a little. Spot cleaning the shell with a paste of laundry detergent, water and a toothbrush is advised before washing the whole thing.

Focus on the hood and collar where hair and skin oils tend to accumulate. By holding the shell or liner fabric away from the insulation, you can wash and rinse the area without getting the inside wet.


The only part of my sleeping bags that ever really need cleaning are around the hood where my face and hair is against the nylon shell. And per above the shell there can be reasonably cleaned per above without submerging into water. We tend to keep our sleeping bags clean by never getting into them while grubby. I'm rather notorious for almost always jumping into streams and lakes every day regardless of weather as unlike the majority of backpackers that seem to revel in being grimy, dirty, smelly, grubby, while on trails, I strongly dislike it. Also have relatively dry skin with a high threshold before starting to sweat so don't have to worry about sweating inside a bag like many do.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/2016 11:19AM by DavidSenesac.
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