Sleeping Bag Care
- What are the major differences between Goose Down and Synthetic insulation in sleeping bags?
- How do I clean my goose down bag?
- How do I clean my synthetic sleeping bag?
- How should I store my sleeping bag?
- What's the difference between the two stuff sacks that came with my Sierra Designs sleeping bag?
- How do you determine your temperature ratings for sleeping bags?
- Does Sierra Designs sell kids' sleeping bags?
1. What are the major differences between Goose Down and Synthetic insulation in sleeping bags?
Down is a more expensive insulation than Synthetic. It is lighter and more compressible than Synthetic. It also has a longer lifespan—if you take care of a down bag, it can easily last you 20 years. Synthetic is more affordable, and has the advantage of staying warm when it gets wet. As Down feathers collapse when they get wet, they loose loft and will not keep you as warm.
2. How do I clean my goose down bag?
Send it to a cleaner experienced in cleaning down products that will guarantee their work. A quality service will launder your bag, rather than dry cleaning it. Solvents used in dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from the feathers that help the bag retain loft.
Or, if cleaning it at home, use a mild soap (there are soaps available designed especially for cleaning down products) and a large tub or a large, commercial front loading washer. Never use an agitator-style top-loading machine, as the sleeping bag shell may be damaged. Machine wash on the gentle cycle in cool water.
Rinse, making absolutely certain that all of the soap is removed from the feathers by rinsing multiple times in clean water. When you are sure that all of the soap residue has been removed, drip dry or tumble dry at a low heat setting. It may take several hours to completely dry your bag. Do not attempt to speed the process by drying at a higher heat level. Nylon sleeping bag shells will melt if exposed to high heat in a dryer. Check your bag frequently throughout the drying process. The addition of a couple of tennis balls will help to break up any clumps of down, and make sure your bag regains its maximum loft. Never steam, press or iron a down sleeping bag.
3. How do I clean my synthetic sleeping bag?
Machine wash, gentle cycle, in cool water with a mild soap, in a large front loading washer. Never use an agitator-style top-loading machine to wash your sleeping bag, as significant damage can occur to the shell and the insulation. Do not use bleach or fabric softener.
Tumble dry on a low heat setting. Note that heat levels in dryers are not always consistent. Check your bag frequently during drying to make sure that no "hot spots" are developing which might melt the shell or insulation. Heat should never exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If in doubt, air-dry your bag, or use a no-heat setting in the dryer.
Funk!Off™ is a visible light activated, self cleaning, deodorizing, antibacterial finish that is applied to the lining fabric. The primary ingredient is Titanium Oxide, which is widely used in toothpaste. Just expose the lining of your bag to any visible light (indoor, outdoor, indirect) and the fabric will self clean, eliminating odors and bacteria.
Between trips it's best to store your bag in a large cotton sack. All Sierra Designs bags come with a cotton storage sack. Never use a plastic bag since it can trap moisture and encourage mold, mildew and bacterial growth. Never store your sleeping bag in a small stuff stack since, over time, this will reduce your sleeping bag's loft.
5. What's the difference between the two stuff sacks that came with my Sierra Designs sleeping bag?
One is the "storage sack." This is a large orange, yellow, white or black cotton bag that is used to store your bag for long periods of time. The bag should loosely fit in the storage sack. If your bag is filled with goose down, don't ever roll it when you store it. However, if your bag is synthetic, it is better to roll it when you are storing it.
The other is the "stuff sack." Use the stuff sack for storing your bag while camping, but never store it in the stuff sack for extended periods of time. It takes quite a bit of pushing to cram the bag into the stuff sack. Work a little of the bag into the sack at a time, starting with the bottom of the bag. If this is too strenuous for you, you can purchase what is called a "compression sack." This bag has cinch straps that help you squeeze down the bag as small as possible.
6. How do you determine your temperature ratings for sleeping bags?
Temperature ratings in sleeping bags are intended as general guidelines, but not as absolutes. One misconception about sleeping bags is that they generate the heat necessary to keep your body warm. Of course, this is not the case, as a sleeping bag is an insulator—it will keep hot things hot and cold things cold.
For several years, the sleeping bag industry worked to develop ASTM (American Standards for Testing and Measurements) standards for temperature ratings that would be accepted and used. After four years of effort, it was finally agreed that there's no way to do it and that instead, sleeping bag manufacturers should spend more time educating sales people and consumers.
Some of the problems with coming up with manufacturing standards come from the wide variety of materials used (down, Polarguard, LiteLoft, MicroLoft, Quallofill, etc.) and construction techniques employed (shingled, layered, slant-walled baffles, trapezoidal baffles, etc.) These variables combined with variations in bag lengths and girths make for almost endless combinations. To determine one set of standards to cover all of this was deemed very challenging, though not impossible.
The impossibility came from the end user. As noted earlier, the bag does not generate heat, the user does. Ultimately, the user determines whether they sleep warm or cold within in a bag. Here are a few of the user-controlled variables and how they can affect the apparent warmth of the sleeping bag:
- Metabolism: Everybody's metabolism is different. Some one in their teens or twenties who exercises 3 times a week will generate much more heat than your average weekend-warrior. Sleeping bags are designed to accommodate the middle ground, so there are some who need warmer-rated bags to stay warm. Additionally, it is clinically documented that women's metabolism differ greatly from men's. A woman's body shuts down circulation to the extremities (hands and feet) sooner than in men, as it tries to protect the body's core.
- Food consumption: Your body needs fuel to stay warm. Eating a high-carb meal prior to going to bed will provide your body with plenty of energy to burn through the night. Going to bed on an empty stomach is a sure path to a chilly night.
- Alcohol consumption: Alcohol will reduce the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and will dehydrate you quickly. Water and oxygen are vital elements of your body's engine and it can't run without them.
- Full bladder or empty bladder: When you have a full bladder, you effectively have a heat sink in the middle of your body. Water can absorb over 20x the amount of heat energy that air can before it will raise 1 degree. So if you're trying to warm the air in the bag around you, it's best to do so with an empty bladder.
- Radiative heat loss from you head: Your head is naturally poorly insulated: 40% of your body's heat loss goes out of your head. Sleeping with your head covered with either a hat or the hood of the bag will go a long way towards insuring your warmth.
- Keep your bags separate: While James Bond is correct in his theories of shared bodily warmth, it will only work for you if you are both in one bag. If you sleep with two bags zipped together, neither bag will be as insulative as originally designed. The large opening created around your shoulders will lose a lot of warmth being generated by your body.
- Conductive heat loss through the ground: Our bags are rated with the assumption that a 1.5 inch pad is used. Pads are both for comfort and insulation!
So you can see here that temperature ratings are general guidelines, but not absolutes.
7. Does Sierra Designs sell kids sleeping bags?
Yes, we have added the Big Dog and Dragonfly as our Youth Series.