Tip #7 - Keeping your sleeping bag clean with a sleeping bag liner
Sleeping bags are notoriously hard to clean. But there’s a simple way to keep your sleeping bag clean and hygienic while keeping yourself warm - Use a sleeping bag liner.
What is a Sleeping Bag Liner?
A sleeping bag liner is a fabric that slips inside your sleeping bag. This fabric acts as a layer between your body and the sleeping bag. Using a liner means that your body oils are not transferred to the sleeping bag fabric and it keeps the sleeping bag free of dirt and debris.
Types of Sleeping Bag Liners
Just like sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners come in 2 shapes:
Mummy shaped liners
These are designed to slip inside your mummy shaped sleeping bag.
These are also known as travel sheets and are designed for use on their own or inside a rectangular sleeping bag.
The Need for Sleeping Bag Liners?
Keeps the bag free of dirt and body oils.
It's much easier to wash a liner than a sleeping bag.
A bag liner adds anywhere between 2 to 15°C of extra warmth to your sleeping bag.
You can use a bag liner or travel sheet by itself and forgo the sleeping bag.
On tea house treks a liner keeps you separated from bedding of questionable cleanliness or with possible bedbug infestations.
Materials for Sleeping Bag Liners
Sleeping bag liners come in various materials including
Silk is the king of sleeping bag liners. It is luxurious, soft and extremely comfortable against the skin. Silk wicks away moisture which makes it comfortable in humidity and summers. It is the lightweight sleeping bag liner material and usually weighs in at under 150 grammes. Besides being lightweight, silk is also extremely packable and folds to the size of an apple. Silk adds anywhere between 2 to 5 degrees of extra warmth to your sleeping bag. On addition to all this, silk is easy to wash and dries quickly.
- RAB Silk Sleeping Bag Liner - Buy on Amazon
Cotton liners are the most cost-effective sleeping bag liners. They do not add any significant amount of warmth but they do help keep the sleeping bag clean. Cotton is not as light or as packable as silk and these liners generally weigh between 300 and 400 grammes. Since cotton absorbs a lot of water, we do not recommend cotton liners for humid conditions. Remember that cotton takes the longest time to dry as well.
To get around the limitations of cotton e.g. water retention and weight, most new liners are made of synthetic materials like polyester. This choice of material makes these liners lighter than cotton and easier to dry. Some synthetic liners also come filled with with hollow-core, breathable fibre insulation. Yet these insulated liners are prohibitively expensive in India.
- Polyester sleeping bag liner at Decathon
- Coghlan's Mummy Sleeping Bag Liner on Amazon
- Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite Liner on Amazon
We recommend fleece liners for winter treks. They are the heaviest among sleeping bag liners but can add up to 15°C of warmth to your sleeping bags. This extends the usability of a regular three-season sleeping bag for a winter hike. Fleece liners usually come in a rectangular shape and double up as blankets. The other advantages of fleece are that it washes well, feels nice against the skin, does not retain water and that it dries out quickly.
Wool is the new kid on the block in the sleeping bag liner scene. Wool is a natural fabric that wicks moisture well, is odour-free, comfortable against the skin and breathes well. Wool liners usually weigh in between 500 - 700 grammes and add 5 to 7°C of warmth.
Care for Sleeping Bag Liners
All sleeping bag liners are machine washable using standard washing detergent. If you use a top-loading washing machine, put the liner in a pillowcase to stop the drawcord from getting tangled in the impeller. Do not use fabric softeners on your liner, they reduce its wicking performance. Air-drying a liner is the best as they damaged by high temperatures in a dryer.
As I said, I love silk sleeping bag liners. Wool would be a very close second choice, especially if I desire a little more warmth. The rest all work well, but just don’t feel quite as luxurious against the skin as natural fabrics do.