You spend a lot of time asleep so it makes sense to take good care of your sleeping bag. When camping, try to air off your bag each day if the weather allows. Chances are that it will be jammed into its stuff sack for the trip home and then slung in a corner and forgotten. Shame, really, as a little effort will help in keeping you warm for years.
As soon as you can, hang up your bag to air off fully; moisture will dry out and the bag will feel fresher the next time you snuggle down. There really is no need to become obsessive about washing your sleeping bag - over washing can damage the fill and seams. After all, how often do you wash your bedding at home? A sleeping bag liner will help in keeping your bag clean and is much easier to wash and dry than the bag itself.
If you decide to wash a down sleeping bag, try to use a big machine at a laundrette to minimise the risk of damage, preferably using a cleaner such as Nikwax Tech Wash and definitely no detergent or fabric conditioner. Once spun dry well, a long tumble on a low heat in a dryer, stopping it regularly to break up clumps of down, should work well.
Synthetic fill bags can be washed fairly easily at home in a washing machine or in the bath with reasonable care. Read the instructions on the bag before getting stuck in but, unlike down-filled bags, synthetics can be washed safely with your usual washing powder and fabric conditioner. If you're not sure, check the manufacturer's website or brochure. Use a front loading machine as the paddles of a top loader can cause damage to the synthetic fill. When wet, your bag will be much heavier so lift it carefully to avoid strain on the stitching.
For storage between trips, pack your bag loosely in a large mesh or cotton bag. Over time, being tightly compressed can reduce the ability of the fill to loft properly for insulation. Popping a couple of silica gel bags inside will help avoid a musty smell later.
Pack that sack
Until you've tried it, getting a sleeping bag back into its stuff sack can seem harder than cramming a genie into a lamp. A massive bag in one hand and a tiny sack in the other are an unlikely combo. When new and first packed, bags are rolled tightly by machine neatly and quickly but doing the same by hand won't work. Stuffing it in means you avoid any damage caused by crushing the fill the same way every time and, in reality, it is simple and easy. Hold your bag at the foot with one hand and the mouth of the stuff sack with the other and push the end inside. Throwing the bag over your shoulder helps to avoid picking up dirt and debris on the outer and keeps some control over it. Once started, keep stuffing and don't lose heart!
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