Millions of people have known for many years how fun, relaxing, and restorative family or solo camping trips can be. It’s honestly one of life’s best-kept secrets, but there is still a large group of people who haven’t been camping yet. But, have no fear! We are here to help you out!
If you’re one of those people who have recently decided to take yourself or your family out on the road and start camping, then you’ll need some gear. One of the first pieces of gear that you’re going to need is a sleeping bag.
After you find the perfect sleeping bag that fits your size, preference, and local climate, you will then need to know what to do with the bag when you’re not using it. To learn how to properly pack and store your sleeping bag, read on.
Packing Your Sleeping Bag
Storing your bag is actually step #2, which we’ll get into shortly. Obviously, the first thing you’ll have to do, as you wake up in your tent, bleary-eyed and desperately hoping that there’s coffee somewhere, is to gather up your bag and pack it together.
Many campers get pretty frustrated at this point because, especially if you’re inexperienced, because sleeping bags expand to be quite puffy. They’re difficult to ball-up and fit back into the packaging.
Not to worry. With the proper technique and some practice, bending the bag to your will and closing it into a condensed package will become an easy, routine process. Just remember these few points as you get ready to put your sleeping bag away:
- When you take it out to use it next time, you want it to be as painless as possible.
- Don’t bother packing it if you’ll be using it the next night. Avoiding unnecessary work while camping is always a plus.
- Zip it all the way up to help the bag and zipper keep its form while stored.
- For old-school sleeping bags that only have elastic straps, you may want to buy a bag for it, too.
- Make sure it’s completely dry before you pack it.
Here are some additional, very helpful tips from TrailSense:
- Don’t roll your sleeping bag. Stuff it.
- To reduce trapped air, flatten out your bag as much as possible before packing it.
- “Stack” your bag with accordion-style folding, bottom first.
Remove It from the Container Bag Before Storing at your home
This is a fairly important step to observe when you store a sleeping bag, and it is contrary to what you think. Once your camping trip is over and all the gear is being put away until next time, your instinct is probably to leave your bag as-is and simply throw it in a closet somewhere.
Though a closet may be fine, as long as that closet is clean and free of moisture, you don’t want to leave your bag tightly compressed in its original sack. As REI advises in the expert panel of their website, too much compression over long periods of time is actually one of the worst things you can do for your sleeping bag.
They refer to “insulation loft” as the element that makes a sleeping bag effective to keep you warm, which is, of course, diminished significantly when the fabric and structure of the bag are compressed. When you pull your bag straight out of the car and throw it into the closet, that means it’s going to remain fully compressed until you pull it out the next time you use it.
Since it could be months or even years before you go camping again, it would be unable to unfurl and regain its loft for all that time, causing the bag to be potentially permanently flattened. In the same way that you have to wear layers of clothing with air in between layers to stay warm when it’s cold outside, your sleeping bag also needs that insulation loft to keep you warm.
Store Sleeping Bags as Loosely as Possible
The experts at REI also recommend using a large, breathable bag (such as cotton mesh) in which to store your sleeping bag while it’s not being used. Your sleeping bag may have come with one of these, and it may have not come with it when you bought it.
If you don’t have one, you’ll find them readily available on Amazon and other vendors. You obviously probably want your sleeping bag to be contained in something while stored; however, the sack in which you store it until your next camping trip has to allow the sleeping bag to be as loose as it can possibly be.
As we just discussed, the idea is to be sure your bag is not tightly compressed while stored, to avoid a flat sleeping bag that doesn’t insulate you anymore. Storing it loosely also promotes airflow around your bag, making mildew and odors less likely to form. You’ll thank yourself for storing it properly.
Dryness is Paramount
When it comes to sleeping bags, there is nothing that can wreak more havoc than moisture. First of all, if your bag becomes completely soaked for some reason, then it’s imperative that you dry it out as quickly as you can, preferably before you stow it in the car for the ride home.
Once your camping trip is over, you’ll probably want to wash it, too, especially if it was soiled with dirt or mud, as well as body sweat and oils, which can accumulate over time. You can machine-wash it, but you’ll want to use an industrial drier at a laundromat because domestic driers are often not big enough. The reason eliminating moisture is so critical is mostly due to the mold, mildew, and odors that can result if your bag is stored while containing any moisture at all. No matter what, it’s a good idea to hang-dry your bag outside for 8 to 12 hours, away from direct sunlight, or inside a climate-controlled space, if the outdoors is not ideal.
Ultimately, it’s not too complicated to properly store your sleeping bag. Just remember to dry it out completely, keep it loosely packed in a large, breathable sack, and store it in a space that is free of moisture and extreme temperatures. If you have a good-quality sleeping bag and follow those basic guidelines, you’ll be extremely grateful when you pull it out to sleep in your tent on your next exciting camping trip.
See you at the campsite!