Recent Comments

How to minimize sleeping bag odor

Q. Whenever I go on a camping trip my sleeping bag gets all smelly from me sweating all day. How do I make it smell better — besides taking it into the cleaners?
— Conrad Stank, Dellrose, Tenn.

A. Ever hear of soap and a washcloth? Just kidding, well, sort of. There are a few things you can do to minimize the odor of your sleeping bag.

On the trail:

  • bring along an extra pair of clean clothes to sleep in
  • before going to bed each night, wash your feet, face and underarms
  • no water? No problem. Bring along a pack of baby wipes or WetOnes.
  • let your sleeping bag “air out” every morning before breaking camp for the day

Back home:

  • “air out” your sleeping bag again
  • if it’s really stinky, wash it. Use a front-load washer and avoid regular detergent. Instead, for down sleeping bags use something like ReviveX Down Cleaner ($9; mcnett.com) or Nikwax Down Wash ($9; nikwax.com). For synthetic bags, try a cleaner like Granger’s Performance Wash ($9; grangers-usa.com). Be sure to run it through the rinse cycle twice. Air drying your bag is safest, but if you’re in a hurry, check the bag’s care tag and tumble dry it on low heat.

Ask the Gear Guy

Not sure which gear to buy? Need tips for maintaining your equipment? Click here to send in your questions for the Gear Guy. Selected questions will be answered here and in the printed magazine.

15 Comments on How to minimize sleeping bag odor

  1. Beware with Febreeze, Dryer Sheets, and Carpet Fresh because those products are toxic. The products will illiminate the odor but if you sleep in the bag right away you may wake up with a fever and flu like symptoms because the chemicals will be inhaled and absorbed into your skin. Soldiers used these products on their unforms because of the lack of shower facilities…eventually many developed “Persian Gulf Syndrome.” A word to the wise: use this stuff once in a while then rinse it with fresh water; turn the bag inside out towards the fresh air and let it be exposed to fresh, dry air for at least a week.

    • I suggest Fabreeze Natural, but be aware that you want to thoroughly let it dry (about 2-
      3 days) because Fabreeze has toxins that soak into the skin. If you dont let it “air out” you will get influenza (flu) symptoms. Remember to be safe around chemichels

  2. why cant you just use those stink balls that you use for shoes,gym bags,and lockers?

  3. Just deal with it! Oh yeah sorry I forgot im not a paratrooper any more! what ggear guy suggest is a good idea.

  4. I hang my sleeping bags in the rafters of my garage when not in use. It allows them to air out over time and also stay far less compressed than storing them in the stuff sack. To prevent snagging the bags on the wood beams I cut a 2″ groove in a piece of 6″ Pvc and slipped it over the 2×4, it acts like a roller.

  5. Follow the advice from above. But at home, you could also place a few pouches of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda or sache pouches to absorb residual moisture and keep the bag smelling fresh.

  6. Have not really had this problem but my first thought is to simply open the bag and allow it to air out. 2nd thought: Place 1 or 2 dryer sheets (Bounce or other brand) inside the bag when not in use. 3rd thought: Make sure your body is clean (bath, shower or wash up) before use.

  7. Put a tennis ball in the dryer with it.

  8. If you are in a set base camp, hang the bag out on a line strung between 2 trees during the day to ‘air out’ also be sure all the vents on your tent are open and that the dirty clothes are either in a plastic bag or stored outside of the tent. If you are on the trail and sleeping in a different place each night then i would carry a few drier sheets with you and stash them in the sleeping bag just prior to rolling it up for the day.

  9. In between trips. Try baking soda or carpet fresh for pet odors, sprinkle in bag let set for a bit then sweep it out with a vacuum really well.
    For storage make a soda ball (fill a small cotton sack with backing soda and tie, about the size of a baseball), safety pin several balls into bag from top to bottom then hang bag in cool dry place.

  10. Scoutmaster Troop 1 // February 22, 2012 at 9:41 am // Reply

    Febreeze works.
    Also, you said camping trip, not a hike. So the easiest things to do are:
    1) Go to bed clean. Washup before you hit the hay.
    2) In the morning, take your sleeping bag out of your tent, open it up all the way and let it hang on a line or a branch inside out in the sun and breeze.
    3) Febreeze it when you get up and let it air out.
    4) Buy a new one for every outing and donate the stinky one to a new scout. (LOL!!)

1 2

Leave a Comment

Please do not use your real name.