Down offers a fabulous insulating material for sleeping bags. And if you’re planning to get away for a camping trip during the next two seasons, down is possibly the only choice for a sleeping bag. (You could double up on two man-made fibre sleeping bags but once you have slept in a two or three-seasons down bag there is very little chance of your going back to man-made options.)
The advantages of a down sleeping bag
Down is feathers. And feathers are very, very good at trapping warm air so as to give you’re an amazingly insulated sleeping bag. Just think about birds in winter and how their fluffed up feathers keep them warm and cosy. For a down sleeping bag to work best the feathers need to be evenly distributed in the sleeping bag and kept loose and fluffy. Clumped up feathers will not work as well as loose feathers.
Make sure you store your unused sleeping bag loose and not compressed. And if it gets wet, dry it thoroughly before storing it.
What is my down sleeping bag starts to whiff a bit?
Down sleeping nags can get a bit smelly after being used for a while. And then you face a bit of a headache – or cost – to get them cleaned. The best way to avoid a whiffy sleeping bag in the first place is to buy a sleeping bag liner – see here, which offers a protective layer between your body and the sleeping bag.
How to clean a down sleeping bag
There are a number of options and the choice will depend on your budget and time available. Normal dry cleaners are not a good option because they use detergents that can ruin a sleeping nag. So a specialist down cleaning company is your best commercial option. They will charge upwards of £60 per wash – and some will charge much more.
You could wash the bag yourself in cool water in the bath and make sure you use a specialist pure soap product bought from an outdoors shop. The washing isn’t really that difficult but the drying is. It’s vital that you avoid the feather drying in clumps (for all the above reasons!).
You could dry the bag yourself at the laundrette in one of the big drying machines, which allow the bag the space to start lofting and separating.
Ensure you set the drying machine to a low heat so as to avoid burning the outer shell of the bag. Put a clean trainer inside a separate bag and place it inside the sleeping bag and set the drier to a cool setting. The trainer helps break up the clumps of down, which is essential. The process can take three to four hours and you’ll need to interrupt the process once an hour to manually check the down clumps are breaking up and give them a bit of help where necessary.
Keep the sleeping bag in an airy place at home before finally storing away for its next use.