Thru-Hiker: Gear and Resources for Long Distance Hikers
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Kits Fabrics And Materials The Workshop: Make Your Own Gear Projects Articles for Lightweight and Long Distance Hikers

Bear Canister Bias

Thru-Fishing the JMT

5 x 8 Poncho as Shelter and Raingear

Esbit Stove Height vs Efficiency

Stoveweight vs Time Over 14 Days

Stoveweight vs Time Over 28 Days

Repairing Gear on the Trail

Washing Down Gear

Common Choices for Alcohol Fueled Stoves

Flying With Fuels

Resupply Options for Long Distance Hikers

MSR Pocket Rocket Tests

Pack Light Eat Right

Debunking Cookware Myths

For a Few Calories More: the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Trail Foods

Water Purification for Long Distance Hikers

Washing a Down Sleeping Bag

Down bags can, and definitely should, be cleaned when they start to accumulate oils.  Body oils, hair oils, and sweat are all acidic and will slowly decompose down.  Moreover, washing your bag restores lots of loft!

Do not dry-clean your sleeping bag. Dry-cleaning fluids remain in the bag for weeks. You do not want to be zipped up inside a bag giving off carbon tetrachloride or perchlorethelene.  These solvents also strip the down of oils that are important to its function. For this reason, whenever you wash your bag use a down specific detergent.

Down bags that are baffled can be safely washed in a front-loading washing machine, but hand washing is safest of all. In fact it is nearly impossible to damage a bag in hand washing.  Use a down cleaning product or a mild shampoo.  Use a bathtub, or sometimes you can get away with washing your bag in the laundromat sink.  It can be hard to soak your bag, especially if you have a DWR finish on the fabric.  I recommend filling the sink and putting the bag into the soapy water in its stuff sack.  Slowly work the water and soap into the bag as you pull it out of the stuff sack.  Leaving it to soak for up to an hour helps to remove more thru-hiker grime. Rinse the bag several times until no more soap comes out.  Be very gentle when you lift out the bag.  Don't wring it out!  Your bag will be really heavy, and it can tear the delicate baffles under its own weight.  If your Laundromat has an "extractor", use it to remove most of the water left in the bag.  Alternatively you can carefully arrange the bag in an upright washer for a spin cycle.  If you skip this step it will take forever to dry out your bag.

Use a medium heat.  Be skeptical of public Laundromats.  I nearly cooked a bag because the dryer was stuck on High no matter what the knob said.  Some tennis balls thrown in with the bag will help to break up the down clumps.  When I'm on the trail I use rocks stuffed into sock rolls.  Take the bag out every dry cycle to feel the bag over.  Gently breaking up the clumps a little helps to speed up the drying process.  Dry it over and over again until it is bone dry.  Now revel in the sweet smell and high loft of your clean sleeping bag!


Recommended Soap: Down Cleaners or mild shampoo

How often: Whenever you notice a degradation of loft or it starts to stink

Don't use an upright washer except to spin an already washed bag to remove water.

Bags with baffles can be safely washed in a front loading washer.