It’s just a sleeping bag, but it’s not just any sleeping bag. It was my first “real” sleeping bag. It’s down. And it’s absolutely lovely.
This piece of important gear gets its own entry mostly because I’ve hemmed and hawed over it for a year. Should I take it? Should I bite the bullet and buy a new one? What should I do? I came to the comfortable decision with just keeping it. It’s been around this long and on so many trips already — it’ll work for the PCT, too. It’s a wee bit heavier and packs down a little bigger than what most people carry, but whatevs. It’s going with me.
I bought it in 2005. I named after my husband, because it was warm and cuddly and I would be sleeping with it for a 9-month journey across America. It might sound silly, but I was instantly attached to it. And for how much I paid for it, it deserved a good name.
So way back in 2005 when I went to the store to buy it, the salesman laid it out on the floor for me and told me to crawl in. I looked at him kind of funny, but thought, “alright… he’s a cool guy, I’ll trust him.” I got down, unzipped it carefully and crawled inside. My first reaction was how wonderfully soft and fluffy it felt. The salesman asked me, “it’s warm, isn’t it?” I looked up at him and said, “I don’t know… wait. Wait a second! Holy crap, it’s like someone just turned on a furnace!”
I was in love.
It didn’t take much else to sell me on it, but the salesman continued. After crawling back out of the bag, I looked down at how huge and puffy it was and said, “okay, but how the heck am I going to roll this thing up and put it into a small bag so I can carry it in my backpack?” He looked at me, knowing I was a rookie. He gave me a small compression stuff sack and said, “Give it a shot.” I bent down and started to fold the super-lofty bag and then tried roll it. The salesman giggled and said to me, “Do you know why they call it a ‘stuff sack?’” I looked up at him as if to say “Ooooh, I get it, now!” I grabbed the end of the bag and just started to jam it in the stuff sack. It fit just fine, and when I cinched the bag down, it wasn’t much bigger than a Nalgene bottle. Amazing.
But it didn’t stop there. After pulling it back out of the stuff sack to demonstrate how it lofts back up, and after showing me how to beat on the back to move the down around in the continuous baffles to control where I want the most heat, he laid it back out on the floor and said he’s be right back. When he returned, he had a bottle of water with him. “You don’t want down to get wet because it’ll just be heavy to carry and won’t keep you warm.” Then he dumped the entire bottle of water on the bag. It all beaded off and rolled onto the floor. Dry as can be.
I didn’t care how much that sleeping bag cost, I was going to buy it. I did buy it, I still have it and still love that bag.
Want to hear the crazy part? I’ve only washed it a handful of times, and I’ve let it get pretty stinky. I’ve just always been afraid I’d ruin it. Well, the time has come to wash it once again, and with the big PCT hike coming up, I needed to treat it with a water-resistance spray, too. Last weekend I took it to the Laundromat. I was nervous. I’m not lying when I say that my hands were actually shaking when I was spraying the waterproofing all over it. If something happened to this sleeping bag, I’d be shopping for a new one. Not only would it be hard to let it go, it would be expensive.
I washed it with my special down detergent, then ran it through a 2nd cycle with no detergent to be sure all the soap was out. After it came out of the wash, I sprayed it down with the water-resistant spray (hands shaking) and gently placed it in the dryer with 12 clean tennis balls. I dropped my quarters in, took a deep breath and started the machine up. It tumbled and dropped, tumbled and dropped, and I probably watched it for a full 2 minutes to make sure it wasn’t sticking to the drum or something weird.
After about an hour, it was super-poofy, dry and looked like new again. Whew! Mission accomplished! And I only had to chase one tennis ball across the Laundromat floor! Bonus!
I woke up the next morning feeling brave, so I laid it on my kitchen floor, grabbed a glass of water and dumped it on the bag. It pooled up right in the center, and the splashing beaded right off the bag onto the floor. I absorbed the pool of water up with some paper towel and guess what? The bag wasn’t wet at all! The water didn’t seep through – at all! I was back in business, baby!
Adam the sleeping bag lives on for yet another epic trip! Let’s go to the PCT!
(Western Mountaineering Antelope 5° Sleeping Bag)