Sleeping bags aren’t cheap and can often be one of the more expensive items to buy when taking up camping as a hobby. Something I have often wondered is how long you should keep a sleeping bag for and how long it is expected to last.
A sleeping bag with down insulation can be expected to last approximately 5-10 years with proper care, storage and usage. The life of your sleeping bag will ultimately depend on how often you use it, how rough you are on it, how you wash it, and how you store it.
In this article we are going to break down the different elements that go into making a sleeping bag last longer, how long you should expect it to last and whether down is better than synthetic.
How Long Does a Down Sleeping Bag Last?
Sleeping bags with down insulation are a popular choice due to their warmth, quality and longevity.
A sleeping bag with down insulation is expected to last between 5-10 years with appropriate care, storage and use. The life of a sleeping bag will depend on how often it is used, how it is used (bare floor or on a foam mattress or tent floor), how it is washed and how it is stored.
Obviously, if you use your bag 365 days a year it won’t last as long as a properly stored bag that is only pulled out for that annual camping trip every summer.
Down sleeping bags can actually last for many decades without ripping or tearing if they are treated with care.
However, your down sleeping bag can begin to lose its heat rating over time. After about a year or 2, your down sleeping bag will probably begin to flatten out and lose some of its insulation power. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to revive your bag, get back some of its warmth, and help it last longer.
How To Make A Down Sleeping Bag Last Longer?
1. Restore Your Bag’s Fluff Factor
When you notice that your bag has begun to flatten out and could use some new life, there are thankfully some steps you can take to bring it back to its former glory.
Although it can be done by hand, the easiest way to fluff up your bag’s insulation once again is to throw it in the dryer with a few tennis balls and run on tumble dry or low heat. If you don’t have tennis balls, you could use a few clean pairs of shoes or improvise with other (dryer-safe) household objects you have on hand.
2. Consider Reapplying Waterproofing
Some down sleeping bags are specially treated with waterproofing materials that can wear out over time. Another way to get more life out of your bag is to reapply this material by using a DWR spray like Gear AID Revivex spray.
3. Avoid Washing Too Often
To get the most life out of your down sleeping bag, you will also want to avoid having to wash it too frequently.
Try to keep it from getting too dirty on your trips and keep it clean in-between trips by laundering it and packing it away immediately upon your return.
4. Wash It Properly
If it all possible, try to avoid washing your bag or try to spot clean it in between trips. Sometimes, though, a complete washing is unavoidable. While you want to avoid washing too often, you also want to avoid storing it away when it is covered in grime!
When you do wash your bag, be sure to check your bag’s tag or instruction manual for proper laundering instructions. Some bags will need professional laundering (but not dry cleaning) while others can be washed at home using your machine’s gentle cycle. You may also consider handwashing your bag in a tub or basin.
Typically, you will want to wash your bag while it is turned inside out and completely zipped up but check your specific bag’s instructions to be sure.
When you wash your sleeping bag, be sure to use a gentle soap that is formulated for down products and be sure not to use add-ons like bleach or fabric softener.
Avoid using a top-loading washing machine with an agitator or wash on delicate if you do have this kind of machine. The agitation can rip and tear your back during the wash cycle.
Drying will take several hours if you use a machine, and even longer if you chose to hang or air dry. You will want to use your dryer’s low heat or tumble dry setting and add a few tennis balls for fluffing near the end.
However you choose to dry it, be sure to check that your bag is completely dry before storing it away, as down bags can easily grow mold if not allowed to throughout dry out first. Allowing for proper drying time is absolutely critical to your down sleeping bag care.
5. Protect Your Gear While Camping
When you are tent camping, the simple act of placing a blanket or pad on the ground can help save your bag. As you sleep and move around, your weight shifts, and you can put wear or tear on your bag if it is sitting directly on the ground.
Simply having another layer between you and the earth will go a long way towards helping prevent tiny rips and assaults on the integrity of your bag from rocks and dirt.
As tempting as it may be, try not to crawl into your bag with dirty clothes. Sweat, body oil, and dust and dirt from hitting the trail can all degrade the integrity of your bag over time. You can also use a sleeping bag liner to give your gear another layer between you and the bag.
In the morning, try to lightly shake out your bag and let it air out during the day. The more you can avoid moisture from setting into your bag, the better.
6. Store It Properly
The way you choose to store your sleeping bag matters. In order to keep your bag from experiencing too much compression, store it loosely and don’t try to stuff it in a tiny sack or container.
The more you crush your bag in order to store it, the less chance of it retaining its shape and heat rating for more than a year or 2. Instead of using a compression sack, you can use a large pillowcase or other cotton bag that is not too small or tight for your bag.
In addition, while watertight storage containers and bags may sound tempting, they can actually hold moisture in and backfire on your good intentions. When it comes to storing sleeping bags, especially of the down variety, the rule of thumb is to “let it breathe”.
7. Store Indoors If Possible
After laundering, try find a place where your bag can breathe but also won’t be too exposed to the elements like dust and dirt. Most people tend to store their sleeping bags in their vehicle, garage or attic, but this is not the best place to store them.
Exposure to rapidly changing temperatures, dust, dirt, bugs, and other critters will quickly take the life out of your sleeping bag. After all, you don’t want to pull out your camping supplies for a cozy night burrowed in your sleeping bag only to find that some other little creatures have beat you to it!
Instead of storing your bag outside your home, you could put it up high on a closet shelf or at the very least place it in a large airtight storage bin before taking up to the attic.
Does a Down Sleeping Bag Last Longer Than a Synthetic Sleeping Bag?
So with all of these considerations, you might be wondering if there are some types of sleeping bags that last longer than others. Is a down sleeping bag really the best choice? The answer is yes.
The down material used in down sleeping bags is considered to be one of the best insulation materials on the market. Down is typically sourced from goose or duck feathers. As long as you don’t have allergies, a down sleeping bag is a great choice for your camping adventures.
Synthetic sleeping bags degrade much more quickly than down sleeping bags and will begin to lose their heat rating much sooner. In addition, once a synthetic bag begins to deteriorate, there is not much that can be done to revive its warmth.
Synthetic bags can only be expected to last a year or 2 with heavy use, and up to 4 or 5 years with moderate use.
Down also has a better warmth-to-weight ratio, meaning that down sleeping bags can provide more heat at a lower weight than other types of sleeping bags. This can make a huge difference when you are packing your gear for a camping trip.
On the other hand, down sleeping bags will not be as water-resistant as other synthetic materials, so use with caution around water and be sure to store away from moisture.
Of course, you get what you pay for. If you are hoping to buy a bag that will stand the test of time, you should expect to pay more than $30 for a bag from your local big box store.
Your sleeping bag can last for many years (and even decades) if stored and cared for properly. As long as it still keeps you warm, you feel comfortable in it, and there are no major rips or tears, there is no reason to toss your bag out and get a new one. By following the tips above, you can rest assured that your investment will be protected for many adventures to come.