08 November 2008

Wet Down - how to cope

Category: Gear Bivy

If your bag does become wet far from home everything might not be lost. In most cases your bag only becomes damp, or one specific area wets out. Here are some tips on how to dry the bag.

* The more heat in the bag the faster the down will dry.

* Manipulate the wet down, breaking it up so it’s no longer stuck together. This down may have shifted in the baffle, so move it around so that it covers a wide area. Doing this will get the down working again with its efficiency increasing as it dries itself.

* Place clothing on top of the bag to boost the wet down to speed up the process and consider wearing nothing in the bag so your hot skin can help to dry the inner.

* Use the sun to dry the bag. A bag with a dark inner will absorb a lot of heat even if it’s cold and dry surprisingly quickly (put it on some rocks, on the top of your tent or even off your pack when on the move). Every five minutes shake the bag up to move the dry and wet around. The inside of a tent can get very warm in the sun so consider hanging the bag open in an erect tent all day.

* Remember to try and air out the bag whenever possible.

* The wind can also be a good ally in drying your bag as it helps shake the down around and unclump.

* If you get only a small area wet then use your stove to dry the area, moving the down around as you do so (you’ll see it steam).

* Remember not to get it wet next time.

A couple of times a year take your bag down to the launderette and stick it in a big tumble dryer on a medium setting (run it for a few minutes first to check it won’t melt the shell of the bag). This will help revitalize the down and shake it up. Always store your down bag in a large cotton or mesh bag (or big pillow slip) in a dry place like under your bed. Every few years it’s worth getting your bag cleaned by a professional dry cleaner (contact the bag manufacturer for their recommended cleaner). For long term use like a month-long trip, use a Pertex, silk or cotton liner to save your bag from getting too stinky. I don’t recommend home washing as this can lead to disaster as the delicate baffles of your bag can get damaged as they crash around within your washing machine.


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Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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