July 30th, 2012
You spend a lot of time asleep on holidays and expeditions so it pays to take good care of your sleeping bags, airbeds and mats. On a camping trip, common sense should ensure that bedding is aired each day and that twigs and other potential puncture-causing debris are cleared off and under airbeds. Packing away bedding to go home is simple. Roll up the camping mats and airbeds, jam the sleeping bags into stuff sacs and head for home. It is often done in a hurry with gear stashed away without much thought. To make the most of your camping gear for many years, a little more care when you get home is in order. Between trips, try to avoid dumping everything in a corner of the garage or loft. Before it slips away to the back of your mind, unpack, clean up and store properly to ensure your comfort on the next outing.
Down sleeping bags will last for decades with care. Down or synthetic , the overall advice for sleeping bag storage is more or less the same. If you keep bags in stuff sacks, the filling will lose its loft and insulation value over time. As soon as you can, hang up your bags to air off properly over a few days; moisture will dry out and the bag will feel fresher the next time it’s used. Once aired off, store them loose in a large breathable sack.
Using sleeping bag liners helps to avoid the build up of the sweat and dirt that erodes performance over time. It is also a lot easier to wash and dry a liner than to tackle cleaning a sleeping bag.
If you decide to wash a down sleeping bag, try to use a big machine at a laundrette to minimise the risk of damage and definitely not using detergent or fabric conditioner. Once spun dry well, a long tumble on a low heat in a dryer, with pauses to break up clumps of fill, should produce a good result. Synthetic fill bags can also be washed fairly easily at home in a washing machine or in the bath with reasonable care. Lift wet bags carefully to avoid tearing stitching.
These are fairly cheap, simple to use and simple to look after. Closed cell foam mats are best stored flat, preferably wrapped up to avoid dust build up. Rolling tight for storage will not damage them but it is irritating trying to get them to lie flat on site. To clean them, a quick wipe down with warm water and drying off is all that is needed. If you need to use soap, make sure it is rinsed off completely.
The main element in an airbed is the air chamber itself – repair is the only potential action needed. Tough materials make them durable and need only occasional wash and wipe treatment. Self-inflating airbeds (link) should be stored with the valves open and the mats flat. Stored rolled up, the compression foam will eventually lose its memory and will not expand properly, reducing the essential benefits of warmth and comfort.
Compression Stuff Sacks
To the uninitiated, getting sleeping bags into their stuff sacks can be a nightmare. When you buy a new bag, it will have been rolled by a machine to squeeze it into its sack. By hand, it is next to impossible and, anyway, not recommended. By stuffing it in (hence the name), you avoid potential damage caused by compressing the filling the same way each time and, simply, it is easier. Using a larger stuff sack with compression straps to reduce the packed size solves the problem.