Sleeping bag maintenance


Sep 30, 2014
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.

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014

There are so many times that I get into my sleeping bag and say "eww." The hassle of washing is such a drag but is so worth it, and then the process of making it filthy again repeats... sigh.


Auribus Teneo Lupum
Dec 27, 2012
Washing a bag has added anywhere from 1-4 inches of loft to my old bags. One of my winter bags is now 12" thick and at least 35 years old.


Dec 30, 2015
my mom used to put a soft tennis shoe in the dryer with my dad's bag to help it fluff. Any one hear of that? Or is it outdated and no longer considered the right thing to do?


Oct 31, 2014
I wash my down bag (NF Blue Kazoo) in a front loader on delicate. Dry on delicate or low with a couple tennis balls and a couple bounce sheets. It takes several dry cycles to dry but turns out nice and fluffy every time. I'm sure it does wear out the bag a little but worth having a clean smelling bag.
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