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Done with WM
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Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Done with WM on 12/04/2010 20:35:13 MST Print View

So I have this Caribou Long. I noticed the down inside of it started bunching up after about 60-70 nights over a year and a half and about 6 washes. I tried for a whole weekend to wash, rinse and dry but it just got worse. So I sent it to WM. Gary Peterson said that I needed to dry it more after he took a small bit out and tried it in his home dryer. I asked if they could but they said they didn't have the facilities and that someone would take it home. I said, great and thanks. They ended up shipping it back to me over a month later with the down bundles still in the chambers, they just added more down. I washed it again. Rinsed it. Dried it for a long time. Even added some anti-static sheets. Still balls. I don't care about WM anymore.

Lee Davis
(m.lee.davis) - F
Done with WM? on 12/04/2010 20:39:47 MST Print View

Why would you wash your bag 6 times in 18 months? I sleep out 120+ nights a year for work and fun and my WM bag isn't that crusty.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Done with WM on 12/04/2010 20:42:16 MST Print View

Should a down bag be washed that much over a year and a half to begin with? Could this be the issue?
How often should they be washed?

That said, I have a Summerlite and Antelope. The Summerlite has been used about 60 nights without any washing (I don't foresee washing it anytime soon). The Antelope has been used less (winter only), so no wash yet either. Neither has issues.


Brian Senez
(bsenez) - MLife

Locale: New England
re: washing technique on 12/04/2010 20:58:23 MST Print View

I usually wash my down around every 80-100 nights. The laundering is typically an all day procedure done at the laudromat. In my experience eight hours is the absolute minimum time for drying in a large commercial dryer. I usually dry a bag for 12-14 hours.

It is possible that the down clumps formed from down that was not completely dried. I have had good experiences with long term use of Western Mountaineering bags.

b willi jones
(mrjones) - F

Locale: NZ,,, best place in the world !?
Re: Re: Done with WM on 12/04/2010 20:58:56 MST Print View

what kind of soap/washing stuff did you use? did you dry it in a dryer with a couple of tennis balls to help break up the down?

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
up on 12/04/2010 21:03:12 MST Print View

12 tennis balls. down soap but WM said that I might want to use dreft the next time. I dried it for 3 hours when I got it back and it didn't help. washed it and have it in the dryer for 4 hours now. taking it out now and breaking up all the small balls and we shall see what happens. i am a bit of an oily guy. the problem now i am having is that the down is forming up in some of the chambers so i am pulling it all apart an beating it by hand

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
down on 12/04/2010 21:07:09 MST Print View

and i am glad eveyone else's bags are doing great but mine is not. never had this problem with marmot. never had to dry a bag 8-12 hours either.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Done with WM on 12/04/2010 22:09:52 MST Print View

I've never had a high fp down bag or quilt dry completely in less than 6-8 hours.

But if you washed it multiple times in a row you may have seriously stripped the natural oils in the down.

You should have washed it once with down wash, rinsed it twice or three times, and dried it until the clumps were gone, however long it takes. It should have only been washed in a commercial or front loading washer.

How many times over said "weekend" did you try to wash/rinse/dry?

Sean Staplin
(mtnrat) - MLife

Locale: Southern Cdn Rockies
Maybe Try Runners on 12/04/2010 22:50:11 MST Print View

If the bag looks a bit down the road, try throwing in a couple of light weight runners. A little more aggressive in the tumble. Might help break the clumps. Worked on a Marmot down coat I had that dried clumpy. Be careful though, my coat is made of dryloft which is relatively strong.

Tyler Hughes
(catsnack) - F

Locale: Smoky Mountains
washing down on 12/04/2010 23:25:39 MST Print View

I have had a 650 Fillpower north face "ultralight" 0 deg bag for 11 years now. I have never washed it even once! It probably sees 30 nights a year, average, in the summer and winter. It has never looked, smelled, or felt oily or dirty, and it still gets full loft quickly when unpacking at camp. I have gotten this bag completely soaked before on trips, too, and it completely dried out clump-free by hanging it in the same room as a space heater for a couple days. maybe the lower fill power of mine has something to do with this?

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
going to dry it some more. on 12/04/2010 23:49:48 MST Print View

And all of these are very good considerations. I might just be an idiot. I am going to try and dry it quite another few hours to get to 8 and see how it is then. I will probably pull apart some of the balls and dry it some more. I just find it odd that after 4 hours there are just these little balls and the rest of it is puffed out nice and ready to go.

Over a weekend I tried to wash it three times with much rinsing and drying and each time I tried the balls got worse. The balls don't feel wet but rather like feathers and other bits of stuff got wrapped around each other lke the way hair and lint does in a dryer.

Thanks for the help everyone. I am just surprised that WM doesn't have facilities to even test this to make sure that is what is going on.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: going to dry it some more. on 12/05/2010 00:15:57 MST Print View

Can't speak regarding WM, but I think it may just have gotten a bit over-washed Brett.

I've seen what you describe on the Highlite I abused for a long time. It took two washes, a full bottle of Nikwash, about 5 rinses, and literally around 10 hours of drying before it would all loft properly, but once it did, it was puffier than new.

In that particular instance, there were parts that were nearly bursting at the seams after the first hour or two, and others that took the full 10+ to finally finish drying.

Those clumps are just the most tangled/saturated/gunked up of all. They wont break up until they dry enough to slip apart.

Be very gentle if you break them up by hand, don't get aggressive with it, if they still feel hard or tough they're wet inside.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: "Done with WM" on 12/05/2010 06:35:19 MST Print View

Hmmm...I think simply letting it dry out really well might solve the problem.
Down that is old and abused is not a detriment. The down cluster will sometimes break a barbule off. This is GOOD. Rather than being compressed by the core, it is now free to loft. Soo, you can pick up a bit of better performance with old down.
The protiens, similar to your finger nails, have the oils embedded in them. Unless you used a detergent instead of a soap, it is almost impossible to wash these out. I generally wash my bags after a couple weeks of use.
Generally, soap mixes with oils and water helping to remove dirt. It does not break the bonds where it is embedded in the down feather. Detergent will encapusulate oils, pulling them out...along with the dirt. Also, ruining the down feather. Sort'a like washing your hands in acetone. It will dry the skin. As far as I know, there is no way to replace the oils that have been removed by a chemical process(detergent.)
Even the detergent left in comercial washers is bad. You should scrub down everthing visable before washing your bag. Over time, this stuff will destroy downs effectiveness.
Once the lanolin-like oils are gone, the feathers get dry, brittle and break easily. They tend to clump up as you are experiencing. I sort'a doubt that this is your case, but beware of commercial washers, especially if they have a rind of detergent anywhere.
Anyway, I got a good top loader, with no mechanical agitator (water jet only. Front loaders can shake the house!)I use a warm water setting. I use about 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of Nikwax recommended. Then rinse it two to three times. Drying is medium, but check your fabric shell periodically. The heat can damage it. Down is good right on up to 180F, but, the *shell* can be damaged with any heat.
2-3 hours is pretty good with 3 or 4 "dryer" balls. These are short spikey urchin-like thinks than do a bit better than tennis balls. Then let it hang for about a week (at least here in NY.) Do not play with it over much. The clumps will loosten with drying...

My thoughts only . . .

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
shoes on 12/05/2010 08:37:25 MST Print View

I recommend highly against using shoes in the dryer with your bag. I did that once and blew out the internal baffles in the bag.
You might consider using a sleeping bag liner to help keep your bag clean.

Tyler Hughes
(catsnack) - F

Locale: Smoky Mountains
bag liner on 12/05/2010 10:12:53 MST Print View

Good comment about the bag liner to keep it clean. Maybe why I have never felt the need to wash mine is because I always sleep in full legs/sleeves long underwear year round regardless of season. Do you guys think my bag is in need of washing after 10 years if it smells fine and lofts good?

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
balls on 12/05/2010 10:34:35 MST Print View

The more I dry it, the more the down balls up. What is with that?

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Done with WM on 12/05/2010 10:34:47 MST Print View

Tyler, iff the bag doesn't stink and fully lofts, no need to wash! Brett, I do think you're overwashing. At this point, maybe you should consider a sleeping bag washing service to see what they can do with it. Maybe some of the good folks here can recommend one? At this point, the important thing is to save your initial investment.

After 4 seasons, the loft on my WM Ultralight isn't quite what it used to be, so I'll be washing it soon. We'll see what happens! Fortunateiy my DIL has an extra-large front loading washer and dryer (they have 3 kids), so I won't have to spend the day at the laundromat. I'll be following exactly the instructions on the WM website.

Next time I go on a trip that requires 2 days' driving between home and the trailhead, I will take my sleeping bag in its storage bag and not in my pack. I'm sure it was a bit damp when I came out of the mountains, and I didn't get it out of my pack until the day after I got home. Not smart! I strongly suspect that's the source of the loft problem. It certainly isn't dirty or smelly! I've had about 80 nights in it.

I always wear top and bottom base layer (long sleeves and legs), socks and a cap inside the bag. I also wash my face, neck, ears and hands before bedtime (usually with leftover hot water from dinner, although it's lukewarm by that time).

I do know that anti-static sheets (i.e., fabric softener) reduce the breathability of fabrics and probably don't do any good to the down, either. That might be part of the problem. I'm very careful not to use them on any of my hiking clothes.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/05/2010 11:01:14 MST.

Scott Lehr
(lehrscott4) - F

Locale: Louisville - KY
i never wash on 12/05/2010 10:49:16 MST Print View

I never wash my down bags, never. I have a 10 year old WM Irquois that has over 500 nights in it and its never been washed. I ALWAYS wipe down before climbing in and always use a bag liner.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
wm on 12/05/2010 11:07:51 MST Print View

I don't think I am going to wash it ever again if I can get it to work with a professional service. Actually if I can get it back to its loft without the balls, I am just going to sell it off. I am done with it and WM. I may have overwashed it but I have always tried to follow the instructions on the site and it was doing fine until recently. I have never had this problem with another bag. If the bag can't take 10 washings over its life, I don't want it. My down comforter isn't even this touchy.

I only used the dryer sheets for about an hour and a half and stopped when it didn't work halfway into the process. It did the same thing when I didn't use them the previous time before I sent it to WM.

Edited by bpeugh on 12/05/2010 11:10:23 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Done with WM on 12/05/2010 11:10:57 MST Print View

"If the bag can't take 10 washings over its life, I don't want it. "

But those 10 washings should be spread over 30-40 years, not 18 months!