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Christine Thuermer
(chgeth) - F

Locale: Germany
Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 11:02:16 MDT Print View

During several long trips I have had my sleeping bags in constant use.
Overall I have slept in each my WM Ultralight and Summerlight at least 360 days in a row. Both sleeping bags have suffered. There is not much loft left and the down has clumped together. Shaking the sleeping bag does not help a lot any more.
I am back home now preparing my next trip and wonder what to do with the bags:
I could dry clean the bags and hope to get much more life out of them or save the money for dry cleaning and buy a new bag. In other words: Dry cleaning only seems to make sense if I have not reached the end of the bag's life expectancy. I do not want to waste money for dry cleaning if there is no hope of improving the situation.
What is your experience? How much use can a high quality sleeping bag stand before it is beyond repair?
Thanks for any input,
Christine

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 11:08:35 MDT Print View

I have never used my Ultralight to that extent, but as far as my reading has taught me, you should be able to wash the bag in your bathtub or front load washer than put it in a big dryer with some tennis balls and it should be as good as new. check out the western mountaineering site for care instructions. Good down bags should last like 10 years or so. I think you just need to clean yours to remove the oils and such that are causing the down to clump.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 11:10:27 MDT Print View

Have you tried putting the sleeping bag in the dryer with 2-3 tennis balls and running it on the "no-heat" cycle? This seems to work like a charm in getting that loft back.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 11:34:06 MDT Print View

Christine, your bags are fine... just need a good washing. They'll last 20 years, easy. Don't dry clean, the chemicals are generally too harsh for down. The reason your down is all clumped up is that you have too much of your own body oils built up on it.

My WM Antelope had lost a lot of loft; I washed it once, dried it thoroughly, and it still didn't loft well, still a bit clumpy. I called WM; they said to wash it a couple more times. I washed it in one cycle, left it in the machine, washed it another cycle, then dried it thoroughly again. As good as new! You don't want to overwash a down bag, but you do need to wash it every now and then!

Use a down soap, get a few rolls of quarters, and go to your good local laundromat. Use a front loader only, triple loader. I throw in a couple towels to weight the bags a bit (they tend to float on top of the wash water otherwise). Leave the bags unzipped to allow water to penetrate easily. Run the wash. Since your bags are so bad, you might want to cycle it three times, fresh soap each time. Very gently take the bags out of the washer, put in a centrifuge. From centrifuge into dryer on low heat. I like two big tube socks with two tennis/racquet balls in each. Dry thoroughly. You'll be there just short of forever... I do encourage thorough machine drying; I've seen many partial dries that end up with the down still clumpy.

Down is really great stuff, but you do need to take care of it and maintain it.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 13:33:57 MDT Print View

I finally decided my Ultralite needed decon after perhaps 150-200 nights since new (far fewer than yours, to be sure). I washed it in our front-loader using down soap and it rebounded quite a bit, not to mention smelled rather better. I can't verify loft versus new, but it's still a legitimate 20-degree bag and the shell is fine.

It's likely your bags can recover much, if not most of their initial loft with proper cleaning. It can definitely be a DIY task but if you're nervous, there are commercial outfits that safely clean down gear. WM bags certainly warrant the effort.

http://www.featheredfriends.com/Picasso/Headmenu/DownCare.html

Good luck!

Rick

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - M
Life expectancy of down sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 13:46:25 MDT Print View

As long as you take care of them and its a quality bag it should last a lifetime. That said, I could see some of the newer ultralight nylons failing before the down, maybe the Montbell elastic thread might fail.

I have a top of the line Snowlion sleeping bag, 850+ down, V baffles etc, that I bought in 1977. It still has 10" of loft in the chest area. A bit less in the legs, but its been rolled for quite a while.

Also it has better/heavier YKK zippers and heavier 1.9 oz ripstop.

Wash your bag with the proper soap and it should spring back.

I also have a Snowlion polargard parka that I bought in the 70's Its still 100%, but I dont stuff it. Got a lot of snags in it, that I just patched. Just repaired the pockets and other misc stuff. Its good to go too.

Christine Thuermer
(chgeth) - F

Locale: Germany
Washing of sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 14:36:51 MDT Print View

Thanks for the quick replies! I have to admit that I was not aware of the fact that the cause of clumping is a build up in body oil. I had assumed that the down has been damaged by too much use.
I had heard of the tennis ball washing procedure but had also read that the tennis balls might damage the down. Putting the tennis balls in socks seems a very good idea. It is good to get advice from someone who has actually tried it - with success.
I will try washing the bags now and hope for equally good success.
Christine

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Washing of sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 14:44:05 MDT Print View

I've got about 800 nights on my Marmot Helium and I've washed it two or three times myself and once professionally. I find washing the bag myself to be a huge pain in the ass. I requires being around the dryer for six or so hours. One time I sent the bag back to Marmot and they washed it before they repaired it. It came back lofted like it was new. Their professional washing service was MUCH better than what I achieve doing it myself. For ~$15, I'd let a pro do it.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Washing of sleeping bags on 09/26/2009 15:01:57 MDT Print View

I don't find washing/drying bags to be a pain at all. Quite simple and easy. As to how long it takes to dry, I just make the best of the time. It gives me an excuse to play those inevitable old arcade games at the laundromat. Or read a book I keep putting off because I have other things to do. I do like a nice stout decanted into my coffee mug, though ;)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Dry Cleaning - Nooooooo! on 09/26/2009 17:50:24 MDT Print View

Never dry clean a down bag. Dry cleaning strips ALL oils off the downplumules, including the natural oils from the original owner of the down (the goose) and you permenantly lose loft.

Washing with a soap specifically made for down is the best route(not a detergent of any kind). Even the largest home dryers are not big enough. Use a laundromat drier set on LOW. Toddler's clean tennis shoes are better for breaking up damp clumps of down than tennis balls but you can use both. Take a lot of quarters and good book like War and Peace to read while the bag is drying.

In the future always wear a "sleeping only" T shirt or long johns, weather permitting,in the bag to keep (most of) your body oils from getting into the bag and exend the time between washings.

Eric

Edited by Danepacker on 09/26/2009 17:54:54 MDT.

Willem Jongman
(willem) - F - M
PHD advice and pyama's on 09/27/2009 02:09:25 MDT Print View

See PHD's page on cleaning: http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/cleaningdown.php
How about silk pyama's for the future? They are ultralight, add warmth, and protect the bag.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/27/2009 03:54:57 MDT Print View

> How about silk pyama's for the future?
Too right.
Buy or MYOG

Cheers

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/28/2009 17:22:54 MDT Print View

Just a comment... I also use and recommend body covers to keep sleeping bags cleaner. I'm always either in my silk sleeping bag or in long johns. But they don't eliminate dirty bags for me. Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease. This is pretty disgusting to talk about :)

Cesar Garcia
(crgowo) - F

Locale: Desert SW
Re: Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/29/2009 10:41:25 MDT Print View

Do silk pjs or bag liners really work? Since they are pretty thin, I would think the body oils would go right through them.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
North Face Superlight - 30 years on 09/29/2009 20:19:26 MDT Print View

I finally sold mine on eBay after thirty years. Some guy in France bought it. Not sure why he wanted it. I couldn't get the 550 cubic inch loft to rebound and the 1.9 ounce nylon shell felt like tissue paper after my sister in law dry cleaned poison ivy from it; I'd loaned it to my nephew.

Many fond memories with that bag...sometimes I wish I'd kept the thing.

scott Nelson
(nlsscott) - MLife

Locale: So. Calif.
Washing a down bag on 09/29/2009 21:14:11 MDT Print View

I have wshed my own bags and have had other bags cleaned professionally. If there is someone who knows what they are doing, I think it is worth paying to have it done right. I one dried a bag in a laudramat machine that had small burrs in the metal drum. It left tiny cuts in the fabric. I was pretty disapponted.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim)

Locale: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Re: Re: Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/30/2009 13:46:41 MDT Print View

Jack H wrote: >

Just a comment... I also use and recommend body covers to keep sleeping bags cleaner. I'm always either in my silk sleeping bag or in long johns. But they don't eliminate dirty bags for me. Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease. This is pretty disgusting to talk about :)

A lightweight balaclava does wonders. I sleep in socks, long john top and bottom and a fleece cap or better still a balaclava. I minimize the amount of skin to bag contact as much as is reasonably possible.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/30/2009 13:58:10 MDT Print View

"A lightweight balaclava does wonders. I sleep in socks, long john top and bottom and a fleece cap or better still a balaclava. I minimize the amount of skin to bag contact as much as is reasonably possible."

This is fine in cold weather, but not comfortable in warmer weather. In warm weather I just count on my pillow keeping most of my hair off the hood, and not cinching the bag around my face to keep the rest of the bag clean. In colder weather my head and face are usually covered with something to keep me warm, but this also protects the bag when cinched tight. A very light base layer (top and bottom) is always worn, though for seriously warm weather I have a 3 oz bivy bag that I just lie on top of my bag and sleep on that, minus the base layer!

I also just plan on washing my bags ~ every 2 years. It definitely revives it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: PHD advice and pyama's on 09/30/2009 16:44:48 MDT Print View

> Generally it's the head region of the bag that gets grody and looses loft. It comes from my face, beard, neck and sometimes uncovered head grease.

In summer my quilt doesn't cover my head, but my silk PJs have a hood anyhow.
In winter I often wear a fleece cap covering head and ears, and my quilt goes lightly over the top.
My pillow has a very light poly-cotton cover over it - that cover gets washed after every trip.

The way a hood on a SB gets dirty is when your head lies on it, squashing the down flat. Seems like a waste of down to me anyhow.

Cheers

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: washing a down bag on 09/30/2009 17:12:05 MDT Print View

"The way a hood on a SB gets dirty is when your head lies on it, squashing the down flat. Seems like a waste of down to me anyhow."

Certainly a waste of down in warm weather. However when the weather turns unexpectedly (or even predicatbly) cold, it's nice to have the option of placing the pillow (actually a neck roll in my case) underneath the hood rather than inside, and bundling up into one warm package. When a neck roll is used like this, the only down that gets compressed is under the neck. The rest of the head gets unimpeded loft. Of course, if you don't sleep on your back, or use a whopping big head engulfing pillow, this won't work!