cleaning my Gerry sleeping bag

9:05 p.m. on September 30, 2003 (EDT)

I had my Gerry sleeping bag for 30 years and it's holding up great. I need to wash it. Can it be dry cleaned or washed . It's goose down filled.

11:49 a.m. on October 1, 2003 (EDT)
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MY 43 yrs old Karakoram (Eddie Bauer bag)


I had my Gerry sleeping bag for 30 years and it's holding up great. I need to wash it. Can it be dry cleaned or washed . It's goose down filled.

DO NOT DRY CLEAN ANY SLEEPING BAG!!!! Sorry to shout, but perclorethylene and other compounds used for dry cleaning are dangerous for 2 reasons -

1. they are poisonous - if for some reason you do dry clean a sleeping bag (or clothing, for that matter), it must be allowed to ventilate for an extended period to allow the fumes to evaporate. It's not so bad for clothing, since that will be worn in areas with lots of ventilation. But you are inside the sleeping bag, and hence immersed in the fumes. My local cleaner even has a sign that they refuse to dry clean sleeping bags because of the danger. People tend to store sleeping bags stuffed or tightly rolled, which prevents the fumes from evaporating. At the very least, leave the bag opened up in a well-ventilated area for several days after dry cleaning.

2. Dry cleaning fluids remove the oils in the down that allow the down to keep its loft. So you will lose a significant amount of loft even in one dry cleaning. I know, from experience. My Karakoram was originally a -40F bag. After the one and only dry cleaning, I was finding it a bit cool at -20, where it had been comfortable before at -35 (Sierra winter can get real cold at altitude sometimes, especially when you are not in a tent).

Best bet is to wash the bag with Loft or a similar soap intended for washing down garments and sleeping bags. Go to a laundromat with the large, industrial size drum-type washing machines (not the vertical paddle type). Choose the warm wash/warm rinse setting (since the bag has nylon fabric). After washing, the bag will still have a lot of water in the down (down absorbs a LOT of water). So lift it carefully, supporting it underneath, to a large dryer. Set the dryer on a cool permapress setting. It takes a loooonnnnnnggggg while to dry the down bag (take a huge bag of quarters). Some people recommend putting a few tennis balls or very clean sneakers in with the bag to break up the clumps of down that tend to form. Others, including some bag manufacturers, say do not do that under any circumstances. Take your choice - tennis balls or nothing. I usually toss in a half dozen fairly new tennis balls myself with both down and Primaloft bags and garments and have seen no evidence of damage over the 40+ years with the Karakoram, and my FF, Marmot, TNF, and other bags and garments (of course, being an Old GreyBearded dirtbag climber, I only wash the bags after at least 1000 hours of usage, so they get washed maybe once every 5 to 10 years ;>) ).

Gerry - lessee now. They make kiddie carriers, don't they? Sigh, the old-name manufacturers are pretty much all gone. Gerry, Eddie Bauer - gone to making yuppie clothing, kiddie carriers, and such, or putting their names on SUVs. Made the mistake of walking into an Abercrombie and Fitch the other weekend - A&F used to be the premier safari and expedition outfitter on the East Coast until the late 60s. Trailwise (Berkeley Ski Hut) is long gone, although the names from some of the brands started by former employees still survive - TNF, Sierra Designs.

Sigh..... Went into Neptune's a month ago when I was visiting Young Son in Colorado - all the wonderful old gear hanging on the walls. All the little specialty shops disappearing, buried by the megachain outdoor shops. Eric, with your 30 yo Gerry bag, you probably remember when REI was a little coop up in Seattle, selling only climbing gear and clothing suitable only for climbing, none of this yuppie junk, and all the clerks actually knew what the stuff was for and had used it.

4:48 p.m. on October 4, 2003 (EDT)
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749 forum posts
Re: MY 43 yrs old Karakoram (Eddie Bauer bag)

(of course, being an Old GreyBearded dirtbag climber, I only wash the bags after at least 1000 hours of usage, so they get washed maybe once every 5 to 10 years ;>) ).

Gasp - you _wash_ yer sleeping bags???... (:-> geez Bill I'm shocked. Can we even be seen camping together again?

When I was in Alaska I met a gal who said "Gear gets dirty, if you wash it - it gets dirty again, only its not as warm as it was. So never wash down gear, just replce it if its really bad." thats what she said...
I have only washed one sleeping bag ever - my old blue kazoo and it pretty much ruined it. I used special soap and tennis balls too. NOw I strive to keep them clean.

That said - If its 30 years old - buy yerself a new 750 or 800 down bag with a nifty waterproof breathable cover. Yer old one has served its purpose and paid for its self many times. That said - It might be a better idea to get a goosedown high altitude suit to wear in camp and then sleep in it in a smaller lighter bag that doesn't fill yer entire backpack. This is much more flexible of arrangement than a minus 40 bag and medium warm clothes. That said - I once spent a night out at -40 (Centigrade and Farenheit are equal at -40) in the Alps wearing a snowmobile suit and sleeping in a Plus 30 degree bag - cold yes - survived - nope - froze to death...
Jim S

10:12 p.m. on November 21, 2003 (EST)

Re: MY 43 yrs old Karakoram (Eddie Bauer bag)

We have a 33 year old Karakoram bag and it has been lightly used for winter camping and climbing for a few years after it was purchased. Since then, it has been stored, unstuffed, in a closet. No data on its temperature rating but the label states - Blizzard Proof - and my husband is sure he has used it down to -15 F. Never has been dry cleaned. Top half zip. "Mint" green.

We are downsizing and you all sound like you are interested in a replacement bag. Would you like to buy it? We're in Portland, OR, and our REI member number is under 100,000 ; - ) and yes we remember the old REI store in Seattle.

I only check my yahoo email once or twice a week, but I will get back to you if you are interested. Linda

2:47 p.m. on January 27, 2004 (EST)

Re: MY 43 yrs old Karakoram (Eddie Bauer bag)

I have had my gerry equipment for 30 years also.

My Parka is still awesome and i wash it in dilute woolite and lots of water, and dry with a dryer and a clean tennis shoe!

My sleeping bag has been washed 3 times in 30 yrs but gets aired out regularly in the summer. I wash it the same way.
I wish Gerry was stilll in business of outfitting I'd easily give them a tesitmony!



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