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Old 26 Oct 2008
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Can you wash down sleeping bags?

Hi I am about to buy a new bag for a long trip around the world- about 5 years. Down obsiously has the advantage of weight/sopace warmth. But as I don't get along with liners. I know you can wash synthetic bags (I have washed mine a couple times, never with any percivable problems. Can you wash Down bags? Dry cleaners?

Thanks alot George
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Old 26 Oct 2008
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Hi, yes but. Down can be washed using a specific to down cleaner. But the down forms lumps which are heavy and strain the outer fabric as you knead the bag in the required bath. It is then hellish to dry! The fabric dries while the down needs to be teased often over four or five days. Obviously depends on sunshine etc but it is a laborious job. Down also gets grubby very fast with no liner if the occupant is too hot ie the bag too good for the conditions. Much as I love down myself I'd probably go for synthetic if the trip is to be over many months and varied conditions. Linzi.
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Old 26 Oct 2008
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Dem Down Bags.

I've had 3 down sleeping bags over the last 20 odd years and have always just put them in the washer and straight into the dryer with no probs at all.
No special detergent.
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Old 27 Oct 2008
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Hi, that's interesting. I've done the hand wash method twice and it took 18 years to forget that it really was too much effort. Never risked a machine. I am surprised the drier worked. Not questioning you, just surprised, as by hanging the bag up it takes days of sunshine and frequent tufting and turning for the bag to puff up again. Hand washing teaches respect for the bag though! Linzi.
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Old 27 Oct 2008
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Thumbs up Go for synthetic.

Originally Posted by bikerfromsark View Post
Down obsiously has the advantage of weight/sopace warmth.
Hi George,

Down only has the advantage of taking up less space.

You can get synthetic bags now which are more or less the same weight and warmth (some synthetics have a much better warmth rating). Also you can easily wash and dry synth bags, and they even keep you warm when they're wet (if rain got into you gear or whatever), whereas a down bag is utterly useless when wet. Depending on the type of material used, synth bags smell much less than down and don't need washing very often.

Also, synths tend to be a bit cheaper for the equivilant warmth rating. I use a Snugpak military Special Forces Combo ( Special Forces combo system Sleeping Bags - Special Forces combo system Code Green - Special Forces combo system Military - Leading Suppliers of Clothing & Sleepingbags - snugpak.com ) It's not the cheapest, but you get two bags in one - so you've got a light summer bag, a warm three season bag, and when you combine the two the survival rating is -20 degrees (they do an Antarctica bag rated at -50) which, when you're in a tent is more than enough for most places.

They also do standard civvy type bags which are also excellent - I've been using Snugpak for years and I don't think they can be beaten.

Have fun.
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Old 27 Oct 2008
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snugpak do a jungle bag that squeezes down to a coconut size, fantastic but not much use unless your in a jungle obviously! but they do loads of other bags and liners and they alter length for you and sell a v-shaped fillet bit in case your slightly wider than a broom, which most bag manufacturers like to forget.
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Old 28 Oct 2008
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I have both types of bags and find myself using the synthetic bag most of the time. I think synthetic bags are so good these days that they are the way to go if buying a new bag.

If you do go DOWN, then Nikwax do some good cleaning products, but they dont make it easy to wash and dry.
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Old 28 Oct 2008
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Originally Posted by djorob View Post
I've had 3 down sleeping bags over the last 20 odd years and have always just put them in the washer and straight into the dryer with no probs at all.
No special detergent.
Have done the same.. but did use extra gentle detergent (like for baby clothes.. much cheeper then Nixwwax and works great) and when in the dryer, I used the biggest machine in the shop with only my bag in it and the 2nd coldest setting, the constant movement stops the clumping the lots of space means it can move easily and with low heat you have little chance of burning anything.. I am sure it has shortened the life of my bags by a year or two (i dont "Do" liners) but when walking for days with out showering. my bags get a bit wiffy AND Dirty down does not work as well as clean down (it literally lowers the fill ratio). So if i were to get it drycleaned everytime it was gross I would have paid for a new bag severtimes over before replacing it... I still use the same down bag that i slept in every night for 5 months... almost 10 years ago...
2000 Africa Twin
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Old 28 Oct 2008
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Thumbs up Down!

Hi George, if you're in the neighbourhood in the next 5 years don't forget to look us up!

We've used down bags for decades for both backpacking and motorcycle camping. We used the same bags on our first year-long trip through Europe (85% camping) and just recently on the cross-Africa trek. There is just something about how a down bag drapes over your body that I haven't found in a synthetic bag that makes them so comfortable. I've worn out a couple of synthetics but never a down bag.

We use bag liners so we don't need to wash as often but when we do it is always machine wash and dry. We did it by hand once but that was enough! Basically you should rinse the bag until it is so clean that you could drink the rinse water. Way too much work.

You can get liners in various shapes (mummy and square) as well as materials (cotton and silk) so maybe there is a liner for you out there!

Have fun planning the next trip and hope to meet up again!
Ekke Kok

'84 R100RT 141,000 km (Dad's!)
'89 R100GS 250,000 km (and ready for another continent)
'07 R1200GS Adventure 100,000 km (just finished Circumnavigating Asia)

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Old 28 Oct 2008
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I've had my down bag since 1995 and used it constantly for 6 years, nearly every night. Now not so often at all.
I'd wash it in a normal washing machine and then put it in the dryer, but only on warm and every fifteen minutes or so I'd take it out and really give it a shake.
It is still fine, maybe not as warm as it used to be, or maybe I'm getting older, but it's not clumped up or anything bad.
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