Cleaning Your Sleeping Bag & Down Gear

Proper care and storage of your Western Mountaineering sleeping bag will provide you with years of service. Your bag should always be placed on a waterproof ground cloth to keep dirt and other forest litter from soiling the outside shell. You can protect the inside of the bag from sweat and body oils by wearing a tee shirt, shorts and socks. This will do the same as sheets on a bed.

When you store your bag put it into a large breathable storage sack. Do not leave it stuffed in its stuff sack or in a plastic bag for long periods of time. Air dry your bag in the sun or in a tumble dryer before storing it.

At some point you’ll need to clean your bag. Don’t let this frighten you! The best way is to hand wash it in a bath tub or you can use a front loading washing machine. Never use a top loading or agitator machine as this can damage the baffle construction. Only use a soap especially prepared for down products. Dry cleaning is not recommended since the solvents can strip away natural oils contained in the down.

When you hand wash, fill the tub with warm water, add down soap and put the bag in the tub. A tip here is to keep your bag in its stuff sack and put the whole thing underwater. That way air has already been forced out of the bag and you won’t have to fight air filled baffles floating to the surface. A Gore Windstopper bag should first be turned inside out before being put into the tub. Carefully pull the bag from its stuff sack and gently knead the soapy water through the bag.

It may be necessary to change the soapy water more than once, but don’t over do it. When you are satisfied that your bag is clean be prepared to rinse it with clear water several times. It is important that all of the soap is removed from the down before it is dried. If in doubt rinse again; five or more rinses are not uncommon. Do not wring water from your sleeping bag, instead drain the tub and then roll the bag up tightly and carefully to remove all of the water.    Use both hands (and caution) when picking the sleeping bag up, as it may be heavy from any water still trapped inside the baffle chambers.    A washing machine that will allow you to select additional spin cycles will remove more water and save dryer time. Find a large dryer with good heat control, and set to low heat. Be sure there are no nicks, burrs, or other sharp items inside the dryer that may damage the shell fabric on your bag. Feel around inside the dryer with your hand to be certain. Once you begin drying, watch for hot spots on the dryer drum that could melt the nylon shell. If in doubt use the no heat setting. A couple of clean tennis balls tossed in with the bag will help break up clumps of down and give you something to look at. Be careful! Don’t just tumble your bag till it feels dry, that may not be enough. Carefully feel the down insulation. If you still feel lumps, no matter how small, then your down is still wet! Break a twenty and add more quarters. It may take two or more hours depending on your bag, but you will have a clean sleeping bag back to its original loft.

Re-Waterproofing Your Down Gear

At some point it may become necessary to re-treat the outer shell fabric of your sleeping bag or down apparel to restore water repellency. We have been the most impressed with the performance of ReviveX Durable Water Repellent. The instructions for applying ReviveX call for the product (sleeping bag, garment, etc.) to be placed in a dryer on medium heat after applying the spray. A small amount of heat in the dryer helps set in the treatment without diminishing the fabric’s breathability. Please be cautious, however, whenever you use a dryer for lightweight down products with specialized shell materials. Check for small burrs inside the dryer and make sure there are no safety pins or other small pins/items that could damage your valuable gear. Based on the different heat levels, sizes, and settings available on various commercial and residential dryers, its always best to remove your bag or garment periodically to make sure it isn’t overheating.

Note: You can find ReviveX products (ReviveX Down Cleaner and ReviveX Durable Water Repellent) at your nearest Western Mountaineering dealer. While there are other great DWR treatments available, we have found the ReviveX DWR spray to work quite well on Western Mountaineering products.

Maintenance of Down Leakage

By its very nature, the shell fabric of a sleeping bag is porous. This is what allows the fabric to be breathable and as a result, it is possible for the small spines of feathers and down clusters to work their way through the fabric. It is important to realize that the fabric is not torn, but that the spines are passing in between the threads. The best maintenance in this situation is to reach behind the fabric and pull the offending down cluster BACK INTO its down chamber. The small space between the threads will close and reposition themselves. You may also gently massage the area to promote this “self sealing”. Do not attempt to pull the cluster OUT OF THE BAG! Two things will happen if you do, 1) that cluster will be tangled with another cluster and it too will follow out of the bag in an endless fountain of down, and 2) the space between the threads will become larger and take longer to reseal.

The fabrics we use were selected with considerable research and most of our textiles were designed exclusively for and in partnership with Western Mountaineering.  A majority of our fabrics were not purchased as a stock item we found in a collection of standard downproof textiles.  We have suppliers weave our goods with more threads, a balanced construction, and we work directly with each supplier to find the perfect finishing settings for each fabric we use to insure that our shell materials should remain downproof for several decades.   The textiles used on our products are made with extremely high thread counts, mostly balanced constructions and we work with our suppliers to carefully determine and control the finishing standards for maximum longevity and performance.