Get The Most From Your Sleeping Bag
Tips on storing, transporting and using your sleeping bag
After spending a great deal of time and money choosing which sleeping bag is best for you, it is worthwhile spending a little time and effort making sure you get the best out of your bag.
When you are sleeping in a proper bed and not using your sleeping bag, it is worthwhile storing a bag properly. Leaving the sleeping bag in its compression bag for long periods of time will seriously affect the level of insulation provided by the bag. The way in which sleeping bags work is by trapping air in and around the down or hollow fibre filling. If the bag has been compressed for a long time, the bags filling will not loft as well, meaning less air is trapped and the level of insulation reduced.
The best place to store you bag is somewhere warm, dry and out of the way, such as under the bed, or at the top of a wardrobe. Some sleeping bags come with a storage bag, which is much larger than the sleeping bag itself. If your bag does not come with one, you can buy separate storage sacks, alternatively you can use an empty pillow case. Be sure to make sure the sleeping bag is not damp when you store it away. Leaving out to air for a several hours before storage it won’t hurt.
When it comes to packing your bag down to take on your next adventure, most sleeping bags come with their own compression bag. When it comes to getting the sleeping bag back in the compression bag, don’t try and fold and roll the bag neatly into it. Firstly, this is a time consuming and often frustrating, as the smooth polyester outer of most bags have very low friction levels. Secondly, it does the fibres of the bag’s filling no good at all to compress it consistently in the same way. The best thing to do stuff the bag in the compression bag feet end first, allowing any trapped air to escape as you go.
If you are carrying your sleeping bag in a rucksack, it is worthwhile protecting it from the rain. This is particularly true if your bag has a down filling, as wet down looses about 90% of its insulation when wet. You can do this either by getting a waterproof stuff sack for your sleeping bag, or a liner for your whole rucksack.
Diet & Exercise
You sleeping bag will not actively warm you, merely reduce the amount of heat lost from your body as you use it. This being the case, if it is cold outside and you are freezing cold when you go to bed, you will stay cold through a fitful, restless night’s sleep.
There are a couple of things you can do to avoid this situation. Firstly, make sure you are well fed. If you have had a busy day on the hill, make sure you have had a decent meal to replenish your body’s energy levels. Secondly, raise your body’s temperature through exercise before you get into your sleeping bag. By doing this, when you get into your sleeping bag, you will warm the bag up, allowing it to insulate you better throughout the night.
Dressing For The Occasion
If it is a chilly night, and you are worried about feeling the cold in your sleeping bag, a common idea is to go to bed in your clothes for extra warmth. Don’t! By wearing lots of layers inside the sleeping bag, you will prevent it the bag from warming up, meaning it will not be working to its full potential. If the clothes are at all wet, or are made of cotton this problem is accentuated as your body heat will be lost more rapidly.
If you find yourself in a position where the sleeping bag is not keeping you warm enough, layer clothing on top of the bag as this will work with the bag, not against it.
It is not just what you are sleeping in that keeps you warm, it is what you are sleeping on. As we said earlier, your sleeping bag keeps you warm by trapping air in and around the bags filling. When you lay down, the part of the sleeping bag underneath you will not be working as efficiently as the part to your sides or on top of you. A great deal of your body heat can be lost through to the ground during the night, so sleeping on a good insulating mattress is important. Find out more in our guide to camping mattresses.
A good way to help keep your sleeping bag clean is to use a liner inside the bag. The liner will absorb much of the dirt, grease and salts that would have previously been imbedded into the sleeping bag itself. These can easily be removed for washing, which is a much simpler task than washing the sleeping bag itself. These liners are commonly made from either cotton or silk. Cotton liners are relatively cheap, and are easy to machine wash. Silk liners are much smaller and lighter, as well as being a much better wicking material, keeping you dryer and more comfortable in the sleeping bag.
Keeping you sleeping bag clean can make a big difference to how the bag performs. For a information about how to wash your sleeping bag, please see our sleeping bag washing guide.