Down Bag Storage

2:57 p.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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There has been a lot of words typed out in regards to cleaning down bags, but I haven't read a lot about best practices with down sleeping bag storage. 

REI has a pretty good article, that covers down sleeping bag care, but I wanted to get a second (or third or fourth) opinion from the Trailspace community.

So, how do you store your down sleeping bag? 

What has worked well for you? What hasn't worked so well? 

5:38 p.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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All Barb's and my down bags (and Primaloft, along with my down parkas and overpants, plus 2 pied d'elefant) are stored in either the large cotton bags that the quality manufacturers (FF, WM, MH, Montane, ...) or the similarly sized large cotton laundry bags, and have been since the 1980s. These breathe well, keeping the bags dry and clean (always thoroughly open the sleeping bags and down clothing in a clean, dry area of your house to air out and completely dry after use). Also, the large storage bags allow the down (and Primaloft) to be stored with full loft, not compressed, which eventually loses loft). We have a few bags and parkas that we stored hung in a dedicated closet, which has worked well. If you have the room to hang the bags, parkas, and pants, you might use that approach. However, we currently have 12  sleeping bags between us (covering all seasons from Death Valley Summer to Antarctica), plus a 3-season down bag that I tested for Trailspace with a waterproof cover, and the down and Primaloft parkas and pants that cover the cold seasons.

All our down and Primaloft bags, parkas, and pants obtained and stored this way measure the same loft as new. This includes the ones that have been washed according to manufacturers' recommendations - we are blessed with having a laundromat that is properly equipped with washers and very familiar with how to clean down gear.

I also have an Eddie Bauer Karakoram bag that I got in 1963 that I stored in its stuff sack (not a compression sack, though) for about 5 to 7 years before I learned better - originally a -40° bag, but after the extended compression, it is now more like a 0°F to maybe -20°F bag. Barb has an REI bag she got in 1964 that got similarly mistreated. It, too, has lost loft since new. Some of the pre-1980s bags and parkas have lost noticeable amounts of loft - that was from before we learned the right way to deal with down gear.

Some people I know store their down bags flat on shelves. But that takes lots of room to store.

The REI article is quite comprehensive and agrees with what I had to learn the hard way. The REI storage sack is basically what the top manufacturers provide (except they say "Feathered Friends", Western Mountaineering", "Mountain Hardwear", "Montane", etc. on the bag).

8:11 a.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill. Very helpful.

If a bag comes with a storage-specific sack, but it isn't cotton (it's a combination of polyester and mesh) should I assume it is safe for the bag, or should I just purchase a cotton one? 

The reason I'm so curious about down bag storage is because my wife recently acquired her first down bag (lucky her, I'm still stuck with synthetic) and I've received conflicting storage ideas from some seasoned hiking friends who use down bags.

I have one friend who keeps her down bag laid flat underneath her bed. She says hanging causes weaknesses in the bag, the down will eventually bunch up due to gravity, and the only reason that stores hang them is to save space.

Another friend swears by hanging his down bag and says any sort of stuffing, evening in a cotton bag is awful for the bag.

Now you see why I needed some additional advice.

At the end of the day, all I want is that to ensure we are treating her bag with care and that it will last a long time. 

9:47 a.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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My down quilt came with a good sized, mesh hang bag for storage but I usually store it loosely draped over some other gear stored in my office. If it was going to stay there more than a few weeks at a time I'd probably flip it over once in a while, but lately I've done a good job of getting it out of the house often enough :)

12:02 p.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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I do have one of the bags stored in a mesh bag. Main idea is to not compress the bag, allow plenty of breathing, and reduce the amount of dust and dirt. And I do have one stored in a synthetic bag of similar size, which doesn't seem to be causing any problem.

I believe that you can be safe in using the manufacturer-supplied storage bag.

The storage bags and large cotton laundry bags have plenty of room and give only minimal stuffing. I once measured the volume of a couple of our bags as laid out to sleep in, fully fluffed up, and compared to the volume in the supplied storage bags - the volume was so close that I have to conclude that there is very minimal stuffing.

As for hanging, I don't hang the bags myself (not enough closet space), though many of the down parkas are hung. My Lionel Terray down parka, bought at SnellSport in Chamonix in 1964 is still in reasonable shape after 50 years, still hanging in the closet. I do know people who have lower quality bags that have hung their bags and found that the fill tends to clump. But not with well-cared for bags from the top quality manufacturers. We did have a bag for our son when he was about 13 or 14 (and like most teenagers, hard on everything) that had some of the inner baffles separate. The manufacturer made good on the warranty, though.

I am a bit surprised by your friend keeping her bag under the bed - to borrow from one of the TV ads for a mattress company, there are lots of "dust-bunnies" under the bed. In the comments in Consumer Reports, that's also a place that bedbugs like to breed.

I can only go on my experience - 50+ years of having to buy and take care of my own (and Barb's) bags and down clothing, plus a lot of talking to the manufacturers over the years. What I get from the manufacturers and personal experience is very close to what the REI article said.

Keep in mind that "everyone" is an expert, especially when posting on the Web (I consider myself "experienced", but not an "expert", having made the occasional rare misteak {8=>D). Check multiple sources, especially the manufacturers with the best reputations, and look for consistencies.

1:39 p.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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I always store down sleeping bags in the cotton storage bags provided or I make my own out of old sheets. This has worked well in maintaining the loft in my 30+ year old winter sleeping bag. As Bill has stated, never store a sleeping bag, down or synthetic, in a compression bag. This is a sure way to take the life out of it. So is storing it wet. I always dry my down gear thoroughly before putting it away for the season. When I am without the storage bag, say in a hotel room after a trip, I lay my sleeping bag flat on the floor. It really is amazing how resilient down is when given a little TLC.

Down filled parkas and pants get the same treatment.

6:24 p.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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I have always hung my down gear in a closet or put it in a storage bag. My three down bags are all Mckinley bags, circa 1963 and they are still like new. As our my Karakorum down jackets. As the others have said, storage will prolong the life and my down bags are now 50 years old. On the older bags, UV degradation of the material is also an issue.

8:44 p.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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To add a bit to Kiwi's question, what are folks thoughts on the temperature of the location at which the bag is stored?

I ask because my wife and I will be moving soon and I have my bag in a mesh bag, but the question is, do I keep it in storage (non-climate controlled) or find a way to keep it inside? Any issue with 100+ degree temps for prolonged periods of time on loosely stored down bags.

(Again, not to veer off from your original question, Kiwi!)

9:16 p.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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I was just noticing that the discussion was largely leaving out temps, and humidity. In addition to uncompressed and some ventilation, down is best stored roughly below 80F, and on the dry side. Prolonged 100F+ could damage the down.

8:12 p.m. on May 20, 2015 (EDT)
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All our down gear is stored inside the house, just as all our clothes are. Same with synthetic gear.

OTOH, there is no choice when on expeditions, where sometimes you encounter snow, ice, rain, direct sunlight, etc, although you do have some control over critters that might take a liking to those feathers for nest building.

10:24 a.m. on May 21, 2015 (EDT)
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Great question, Daniel Oates. 

What about the flip side of the thermometer...could down be damaged if stored in freezing temps for prolonged times (i.e. in a storage shed or uninsulated garage during the winter months where temps are regularly below freezing for months straight)?

May 20, 2019
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