Q: We keep four sleeping bags at our cottage for those weekends when we have a lot of guests. My friend who shops at REI told me about storage bags for sleeping bags that are supposed to prolong their life. Are there such things? If so, are they useful for extra blankets and pillows too?– Amanda Lundeen, via e-mail
A: Yes, and yes. Many sleeping bags, when sold, come with over-sized cotton storage bags, but you can buy them after-market too. The bags work because they are big enough to hold your bag without compressing the insulation, which is essential to extending the sleeping bag’s life and quality. The storage sacks also provide general protection from dust and bugs, but because they are cotton, they are extremely breathable, meaning your sleeping bags can “breathe.”
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The breathable storage bags become much more important if you’re an avid camper/hiker and are continually putting your sleeping bag into a stuff sack. If you leave sleeping bags in stuff sacks for too long, the insulation becomes compact, and the bags don’t function as intended. And if sleeping bags are just the slightest bit damp (or even if there is a lot of moisture in the air when you put the bag in a stuff sack), those tight quarters can become a mildew factory.
Some people choose to hang their sleeping bags from hangers, instead of placing them in a storage sack, but then that part of the bag over the hanger is still going to get compressed. It’s not likely going to make a noticeable difference for your guests, but since the typical cotton sacks run around $10, they’re not a huge investment, and then the sleeping bags are protected from insects, spiders and dust too.
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As for storing other blankets and pillows, the bags will definitely help. Even if the blankets aren’t the type to need fluffing, breathable bags will keep them fresh, and they won’t smell all musty like they tend to when you store them in those large plastic bags or containers. Another option would be to buy a cotton/canvas type storage bag that fits neatly in the closet or under the bed, unless of course, you have the space to accommodate a cedar chest, which is still one of the prettiest and nicest smelling storage options out there.