Cool, Dry, and Dark: Proper Sleeping Bag Storage

Backpack and sleeping bag on ground outdoors. Camping equipment

Key Points

  • Understand how to store down versus synthetic sleeping bags.

  • Follow expert tips for proper sleeping bag storage.

  • Learn about sleeping bag storage sacks; they're helpful for transport and storage.

  • Many companies sell sleeping bag storage sacks, but if you're thrifty, make your own.

If you're not using something, then you store it somewhere. Cars stay parked in garages, workout machines have their place in the crawl space, and kitchen cabinets have their designated gadgets. The same thing goes when you store a sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags are a key piece of camping equipment. When camping, they keep you warm within your tent, even when the world outside is frigid and frosty. Sleeping bags are where you store yourself at night, and to repay the important service they do for you, take the time to store your sleeping bag the right way to ensure it lasts for many years.

Down vs. Synthetic Sleeping Bags

A little Sleeping Bag 101 is in order. The first and only thing on the syllabus: down vs. synthetic sleeping bags. These are the two types of sleeping bags, and both come with pros and cons. Know what type of sleeping bag you have before cleaning, drying, or storing it.

First, down sleeping bags. Ducks and geese grow light plumage under their feathers, keeping them nice and cozy in the cold months. Nature outdid herself when she made this insulator. Down is the name for this plumage when used in gear like sleeping bags.

Down sleeping bags last for years with the right care, and you can't do better for warmth on those chilly nights.

One online Q&A site includes a reply from a specialty outdoor retail associate who says, "With regular weekend use, a down sleeping bag can often last 10-15 years, especially for higher fill power down. In comparison, a synthetic bag might begin to feel colder in as little as 3-4 years."

Synthetic sleeping bags come from manufactured products made by some scientists in a laboratory. They're cheap, don't compress as much as down sleeping bags, and are a great option for recreational campers during warmer seasons.

They don't pack up as easily, making them harder to store. They're also heavier and less warm.

Storage Differences for Down and Synthetic

Given the different insulating properties, down and synthetic sleeping bags require different considerations for storage. Know what type of sleeping bag you're rocking and how to store it.


Given their bulkiness, it's surprising how compressible a down sleeping bag is. Even if you roll it up lightly, it will get pretty small. Store a down sleeping bag in a much larger sack or storage container to give it room to breathe. Take it out, shake it, and hang it occasionally to get the loft up.

Synthetic sleeping bags don't compress as much, but they're often much smaller. This means smaller storage areas are fitting since the chance of them getting damaged from compression is lower. Plus, they're able to stay compressed for much longer.


Down sleeping bags suck in moisture like a parched Saharan camel in August. They need airflow to prevent moisture build-up and keep the insulation healthy.

Synthetic sleeping bags need to breathe, too, though they're less affected by moisture.

Expert Tips for Proper Sleeping Bag Storage

If there were an International Committee for Sleeping Bag Storage, the notes below would make the top tips list. The following tips are universal, applying to all sleeping bags of every variety.

Sunlight Exposure

Whether your sleeping bag is down, synthetic, or created from some other mystical, modern material, every sleeping bag needs to be kept out of direct sunlight.

Clean Your Sleeping Bag

Stop for a moment and picture how dirty you get when camping. Now imagine that filth transferring to everything you touch. Sleeping bags are items you don't just touch but lay in for hours at a time.

No doubt, zillions of microorganisms live in your sleeping bag after a camping trip. That's just nasty. Eliminate these unwelcome neighbors by cleaning your sleeping bag. It's a pretty straightforward process and well worth the effort. Cardinal sin number one of sleeping bag storage is storing a dirty sleeping bag.

Ensure It’s Completely Dry

Your sleeping bag must be bone dry before storage.

If it's wet, use a front-loading commercial dryer. That's the best way to dry it. Commercial driers provide the tumbling space your sleeping bag needs so it's fluffed up before you store it. Don't put anything else in the drier; let it go for a couple of cycles. Your dryer works just fine, though it takes longer than your average load of laundry.

During those cycles, use low heat. High heat melts the sleeping bag's lining, while the low-and-slow method keeps it in shipshape. Check on it every half an hour to ensure it's not overheating.

Feel like it's not going fast enough? Add a few tennis balls. They add some extra agitation to increase fluffiness and speed up drying.

If you don't have access to a dryer, don't worry. A dryer isn't necessary. The air drying method works well, though it takes longer. Hang it in a shaded, well-ventilated area, or lay it flat on a clean surface.

Decompress Your Sleeping Bag Before Storing

When you're storing your sleeping bag, keep it loosey-goosey instead of rigid-frigid. A tightly bundled sleeping bag inevitably loses its loft, thus sapping it of its warmth and comfort.

Loosen the drawstrings and fold the sleeping bag loosely. It's okay to compress a sleeping bag for short sips but not long swallows. A short sip is when you're camping and compress your sleeping bag so it's easier to lug around. A long swallow means compressing it and then storing it for five months.

Whenever you compress your sleeping bag, follow up with a fluff-up session to increase the loft to its maximum fluffiness.

Put It in a Large Sack

Store your sleeping bag in a sack large enough to accommodate it. A lot of sleeping bags come with a sack. If yours doesn't, use a breathable material like cotton.

Don't store it in garbage liners or other plastic bags. There's no airflow, thus allowing mildew and mold to grow wild. No one wants that.

Store It in a Dry, Cool Area

Dry, cool areas are the best place to store your sleeping bag. Your closet and cellar are solid choices, though you can conjure up some other ideal areas in your home for storing your sleeping bag. You live there, after all.

The garage is the largest storage area for many people, but it may not be the best choice if it isn't climate-controlled. Garages suffer a whole host of problems that might damage your sleeping bag. Wildly fluctuating temperatures and pesky rodents are not uncommon and might ruin your sleeping bag.

If the garage is your only choice, store your sleeping bag in a sack or sealed container. Don't store on the ground; opt for an elevated area instead. Throw in some moisture-absorbing packets, take it out once in a while, and see how it's doing. Sleeping bags have feelings, too.

Take It Out and Hang It Occasionally

Hanging your sleeping bag decompresses it and helps fluff up the insulation. If you're not convinced, here's a poem to drive home the importance of hanging your sleeping bag:

Five months of storage is much too long

Be a good owner and right this wrong

Fluff your sleeping bag and make it right

To give it volume and lofty might

Roll it out and give it a shake

So that in the future, your body won't ache

When you keep it fluffed, it keeps you warm

Then you can weather any storm

Now your sleeping bag is ready to go

So get ready to sleep with a cozy glow

Poetry haters might've just let out a collective groan.

Don’t Hang It by the Loops

There are loops on a sleeping bag, allowing you to hang it on a tree branch or other protruding objects. This is great for in-between campsites, but loops are best used as a temporary measure.

Don't store your sleeping bag like this. Months of hanging lead to stretching and tears.

Other rules for hanging a sleeping bag are quite simple and similar to storage tips. Hang it in a cool, dry area. Use a clothes hanger or throw it over a bar, like a shower curtain rod.

Store It in Dark Areas

UV sunlight damages sleeping bags. Keeping your sleeping bag in the sun for a few hours is fine if you're drying it. However, endless months of sun exposure is a surefire way to damage your sleeping bag's down, fabric, and insulation.

This means it's best to store your sleeping bag inside and avoid outdoor storage. Even if it's not sunny, the weather is going to chip away at your sleeping bag. You've seen what happened with the Grand Canyon. That magnificent hole in the ground came about from thousands of years of moving water, and the timeframe to damage a sleeping bag is much smaller.

If you absolutely must store it outside, put it in a waterproof storage container to protect it from rain, snow, hail, typhoons, etc. Set it away from the sun's rays and keep it off the ground to protect it from pests.

Other heat sources wreak havoc on your sleeping bag as well. Keep it away from heaters, stoves, and campfires.

Storage Tips for Camping

You're going to use your sleeping bag every night. During your waking hours, it's important to store it properly. It may seem unnecessary, like making the bed when you're just going to crawl back in that night, but camping care will prevent it from getting damaged.

Air It Out

When you're cooking a delicious breakfast over the campfire for the whole family, hang your sleeping bag out to dry. Sweat and moisture accrue overnight. Set it over a tree branch to get rid of these unwanted by-products.

The point of air drying is to ensure the sleeping bag is completely dry. Mold and bacteria love moisture, but you probably don't love mold and bacteria. Never give them a chance to grow by airing out your sleeping bag during your next camping trip.

Keep It Clean

You're free to do what you want in your sleeping bag. If you want to feast on croissants, Nature Valley Bars, or potato chips, go right ahead. Just be sure to give it a quick clean before storing it.

Don’t Leave It Outside and Unattended

Uninvited guests and sleeping bags are not a good fit. If you leave it outside and unsupervised for long enough, some woodland creature could poke its head in and think, "Oh, this is nice."

It's less nice to return to your sleeping bag and find a raccoon trapped inside.

Bug and pest deterrents serve as a force shield for any critters interested in squatting in your sleeping bag.

Be Gentle When You Store It

Your instinct might be to shove your sleeping bag into its sack and head off on your next adventure. Stop and smell the roses. There's no need to rush. Store it gently. Opt for the 'Fold and place' method instead of the 'I'm just going to shove it in' method, or you may find damage to your sleeping bag's insulation.

Water and Sleeping Bags Aren’t Friends

Keep your sleeping bag away from water. Rain bogs down your sleeping bag, making it hard to dry and uncomfortable to sleep in. Both down and synthetic materials lose their insulating properties when wet, and water makes storage a nightmare.

Check weather forecasts before heading off, and come prepared. Bring a waterproof sleeping sack, and set up your tent's rainfly so your sleeping bag stays dry when you're using it. Camp on high ground, doing your best to avoid areas where water accumulates and flows.

The Skinny on Sleeping Bag Sacks

Sleeping bag sacks allow you to transport and store your sleeping bag. Nylon, polyester, and cotton are durable and lightweight. They make excellent materials for sleeping bag sacks.

The main purpose of a sack is to compress your sleeping bag so it's easy to carry. Many sleeping bags come with a sack to store them in. If yours doesn't, here are some things to consider when buying one.


Get a sack made from quality materials that provide breathability, are lightweight, and are able to withstand both the wild outdoors and long bouts of storage.


Consider the level of compression you need. If you're only using the sack to store your sleeping bag, don't worry about compression since it's best to let your sleeping bag breathe in storage.

If you want to use it for storage in the off-season and transport when camping, you'll want to get a sack with compression straps and drawstrings.


Get a sack capable of holding your sleeping bag. If the sack is too small, it might get damaged when you store it. If it's too big, it's still useful for storage but not for transport.


To fend off moisture, get a waterproof sleeping bag sack. It's less breathable, so you need to air it out more often. It's a perfect storage area for when you're camping but not when you're storing your sleeping bag at home.

Sleeping Bag DIY Sacks

Crafty, frugal folks worldwide might refuse to fork over their hard-earned cash for a sleeping bag sack. In 2023, inflation is high, the economy continues to bob and weave like a washed-out boxer, and energy prices are astronomical. These are great conditions for some DIY action.

Here are some ideas for DIY sleeping bag sacks.


Give an old pillowcase another shot at life. Fold up your sleeping bag and store it inside. Ensure it's big enough for your whole sleeping bag. If it's not, cut up a few old pillowcases and stitch them into a larger sack.

Cinch it up or hold multiple pillowcases together with rope, yarn, twine, or cord.

Mesh Laundry Bag

Mesh laundry bags allow air to circulate freely, ensuring your sleeping bag stays dry. They're cheap and available at your local home goods store or a college dorm near you.

They come in various sizes, so there's no problem finding one that fits your sleeping bag. While it's not a great storage sack for when you're camping, it's perfect for when you're at home.

Duffel Bag

If you have a duffel bag, use it to store your sleeping bag. Fold it to fit, and keep the duffel halfway zipped to allow airflow. The straps make it easy to carry around.

Best Sleeping Bag Sacks on the Market

Look no further if you're not the handy type and want to peruse quality sleeping bag sacks at reasonable prices.

Sea-to-Summit's Ultra-Sil Compression Sack

Sea-to-Summit's Ultra-Sil Compression Sack is lightweight and made of nylon fabric.

Storage sizes vary in size, including five, eight, 13, 20, and 35 liters. A 35-liter sack is a perfect extra-large storage area for your down sleeping bag. A five-liter sack suits a smaller, synthetic sleeping bag.

These sacks are perfect if you're going to compress your sleeping bag for transport. Every size comes with a four-way compression system that cinches down and provides maximum compression.

ALPS Mountaineering's Compression Stuff Sack

ALPS Mountaineering's Compression Stuff Sack has polyester fabric, meaning your sleeping bag stays safe in storage, in the woods, and everywhere in between.

Current sizes available for purchase go from ten liters up to a gigantic 45-liter option. This sack is, as the New Yorkers say, YUGE. You're able to store several sleeping bags in it.

The top lid makes it easy to stuff the sleeping bag back in the sack, and the straps connect to the tops and bottom, meaning you can cinch down as much or as little as you need. There's also a nifty little, zippered pocket on the top lid, which is a great place to store any gadgets or gizmos.

Therm-a-Rest's Stuff Sack Pillow

Therm-a-Rest's Stuff Sack Pillow is both a stuff sack and pillow. You're killing two birds with one stone, or for the PETA folks, filling two needs with one deed.

The material is a soft fabric, a perfect resting spot after a long day in the bush. The drawstring closure keeps it secure when used for storage. This 12-liter sack gives you ample space for storage and resting your noggin at night.

Properly Stored Sleeping Bags Equal a Good Night's Sleep

The decluttering expert Geralin Thomas said, "Proper storage is about creating a home for something so that minimal effort is required to find it and put it away."

Your sleeping bag provides a comfy, warm nest to sleep in when camping. When you wrap up your camping season, giving your sleeping bag a proper home is only right. Proper storage in a cool, dry, and dark area ensures a long lifespan for your sleeping bag. This saves you time, money, and headaches.

Giving your sleeping bag, hammock, camping pillow, and air mattress a dedicated home makes locating them so much easier at the start of every camping season. Instead of rummaging through your junk, you can make a quick getaway to the woods to enjoy yourself.

Storing your sleeping bag properly will keep you snug as a bug for many more years of camping.

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