old down worth saving?

9:41 p.m. on November 10, 2010 (EST)
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Is there any sense in saving an old down bag?  Its an Alpine designs "High loft" series (boulder, CO)that i bought back in '74' for maybe $200. Seems a bit clumpy or sparse in some areas.  Not sure if it's from being packed away for 30 years or just needs some cleaning. Worth the bother? Was a great bag back in the day.

Maybe i should just toss it in a cool dryer and let it tumble for a couple of days? Back when i bought it I was told never to wash it, but it could use a fresher smell... lol 

any insight appreciated.



10:27 p.m. on November 10, 2010 (EST)
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OK, after reviewing some cleaning videos, i'm going to try Nikwax and see if it gets restored any.

Next question... anyone recommend a brand of zipper to replace the one on this bag? I loaned it out to a brother years ago and he melted a section so i need to replace it.  Thnx!

3:05 a.m. on November 11, 2010 (EST)
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Don't toss your old bag if it is no longer of use to you.  Give it a second life

I have donated my old worn out down bags to the equipment seamstress who repairs my damaged gear.  She uses it to restore lost down in other damaged items.  As an alternative you can always donate it to the Goodwill.  I figure what goes around comes around.


1:23 p.m. on November 11, 2010 (EST)
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clean it with nikwax and toss it in a cool dryer with a couple of tennis balls. The tennis balls will "beat" the down around so that it won't clump up when drying, and it will maybe knock around the clumps that you already mentioned.

10:46 p.m. on November 11, 2010 (EST)
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YKK makes very good zippers. I think they are pretty much the standard for things like bags. My two bags (MacPac and TNF), both my parkas (TNF) and my EMS vest all have YKK zippers. Even my little no name, no label at all, backpack has a YKK zipper.

If you don't want to wash it yourself, some outdoor stores, like A16 in LA for example, do it.  If you do it yourself, be sure to use a big commercial front loader, like you'd find at a launderette, not your typical washer with an impeller in the center. I presume the video explained that.

Never wash it? They probably meant never dry clean it.

If it's been in a stuff bag for 30 years, it may be damaged beyond repair, but you'll never know until you try to revive it.

12:13 a.m. on November 13, 2010 (EST)
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           By all means give it a shot. Will only cost you about $8.00. I too have an old Alpine Designs "High Loft" series bag. Back in the day they made 3 of them. The Arctic, the Whitney and the Everest.They were rated -15, -25, and -35 respectively. Colors were royal blue, wine/burgundy and orange. Mine (Arctic) was made from 1.9oz ripstop. Pretty sure the others were as well. The zippers were delrin#10. Not the best as compared to the coil zippers of now days." They were designed by Harry Hunt who came from Moor and Mountain in Maine. Each bag was signed after inspection. They were by all means top quality at the time.Utilizing "V" tube baffeling and the best down available, prime white northern goose down (no fill power count was used at that time). Sure my bag has lost a little loft but it has kept me quite warm at 0 degrees. Ok...enough history, on to the cleaning!

        Here is what I suggest. Use your Nikwax or any good down soap.Stuff the bag in it's stuff sack You can use your bath tub but I prefer to use my washer. Yes, it is a top loader but hear me out. Run one cycle of the washer empty to clean it out. Then fill the washer with warm water and pour in the down soap as instructed on the bottle.Feed the sleeping bag out of the stuff bag into the washer. Then proceed to HAND WASH the bag in the washer. Advanced the washer to drain then rinse cycles bypassing any agitation.Knead out any soap. Repeat the entire process again since I have the feeling your bag has not seen a good bath in years. Repeat the drain and rinse cycles bypassing agitation. Finally put your bag through several spin cycles laying the bag out evenly around the washer tub.This step takes more water out of the bag than by squeezing it out by hand and makes for less lifting of a heavy wet bag.  Then on into the dryer at low heat....very low heat. This my take several hours . You can use the tennis ball trick but I just prefer to take the bag out and separate the clumps of down by hand every hour or so. Your call! Good luck and hope this helps!

1:37 a.m. on November 13, 2010 (EST)
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..hen on into the dryer at low heat....very low heat. This my take several hours...


I found all of my cold weather bags were too bulky to dry properly in a home dryer.  Before washing try stuffing your bag into your dryer.  If it takes up more than 75% of the dryer's volume, it may not dry and fluff up properly.  In that case visit your local coil-op Laundromat and use their roomy units.


5:06 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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Schlockmyr tell me more about the Alpine Designs, High Loft series of bags.  I have two bags, both of which I picked up second hand.  I believe I have the royal blue, -15, version.  I also have an Alpine Designs High Loft bag which is only good to about 20 degrees F (based on the bag's loft).  The tag says the bag is made with duck down (somewhat common in that era on lower cost bags) and was made in Taiwan.  My guess is this bag must have been made later in the product run.

The only information I have on the High Loft series is from a couple of magazine ads.  Do you have any more information on this product line?  Product brochures or a catalog?  I also didn't know that Harry Hunt came from Moor and Mountain, I had their catalogs back in the day.  The company is still around, stumbled upon them on the web not long ago.

My blue bag is quite a monster, heavy, but a LOT of goose down inside.

8:23 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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       All I can recall is that Alpine Design's "High Loft" series were 3 bags. They may have indeed expanded their line to include a few others. I can't say nor disclaim that part. As for old catalogs...sorry. But I do have the original hang tag from my bag to this day!I could send a copy via e-mail. Cost was $112.50. Loft was 8.5" and weight was 4lbs 4ozs for the long. I did however add my own snow collar to it .One feature bags did not have back then. Another design feature that I thought was backward was that the zipper tube was attached from the bottom and not hanging off the top part of the bag.Even so, those bags were top of the line back then and lofted incredibly high for the weight. As for Duck down, I do remember a few manufacturers using it. If I'm not mistaken EMS had a bag or two utilizing what they called "Super Duck Down. Extremely light in weight.

11:10 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I'd love a copy of the hang tag, thanks.  Lots of firms used duck down for several years when goose down got really expensive.  Firms could make a bag within a certain range of specs by using duck down which reduced the cost.  The only downside was these bags were heavier as duck down doesn't loft quite as well so they compensated by using more down.  For a warm weather bag the extra weight was not that great since you don't need as much insulation as a cold weather bag.

Backpacker advertisement.


9:26 p.m. on November 16, 2010 (EST)
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10:52 p.m. on November 16, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks so much, great information!

12:36 a.m. on November 17, 2010 (EST)
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Few pics of the bag. I bought this in 1974 If I can remember. These pics are from winter Jan 2010


10:30 p.m. on November 20, 2010 (EST)
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If you scroll the photos in this album you can see my two high loft bags plus a few others I have accumulated - a bit like rabbits, them seem to multiply.


5:00 p.m. on November 26, 2010 (EST)
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I gave her a wash and while she'll never look like new again, she did fluff up nicely! Took her out with the scouts and even with the bad zipper i was toasty at 22 F.

Now i just need to find a decent zipper as the kids want to camp in January.

FYI - the tag is worn off so i don't know which model it is but i do remember it being goose down.  It's the purple bag with the orange interior. I seem to remember it being rated to -5 but I can't say for sure it was so many years ago.

Thanks for all the input!

6:54 a.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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..Now i just need to find a decent zipper as the kids want to camp in January...

 You may be able to find a equipment seamstress in your area that can do this repair for you.  I have also found a good shoe and leather goods repair shop will replace zippers, but I'd advice chatting with them before giving them the job, just to make sure they understand what they are doing with your sleeping bag.


10:28 p.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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This was a great read. Thanks guys

6:59 p.m. on December 2, 2010 (EST)
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Good post.


10:33 p.m. on December 2, 2010 (EST)
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A local shop will replace a zipper for $40-$50.  Not that bad considering a winter weight bag of that quality will cost a lot of money.

3:57 p.m. on January 19, 2011 (EST)
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Get the proper zipper if one is to be replaced. A metal zipper adds weight and is cold!

2:14 p.m. on January 23, 2011 (EST)
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I have always used my sleeping bags as backcountry quilts and only zipped in when absolutely necessary, so when the zipper quit on one of our older bags, I cut the teeth and pulls off rather than opening the seams to remove the zipper backing and having to deal with loose down.  I learned how to handle down years ago when I was involved in gear manufacture, but I'm not set up for it at home.  Then, instead of re-zippering the bag onto the old zipper backing, I decided to set it up as a backcountry quilt.  I did leave the "foot-box' intact, and added a few velcro tabs down the side -- so that I can wrap it closed around me if and when I want.  Works great!

I see there are now several companies, such as Nunatak, offering backcountry quilts.

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