How to Keep your Sleeping Bag Dry
It's important to keep your sleeping gear dry when you are out in the woods. Despite claims that a sleeping bag is "warm when wet", nothing is more miserable than dealing with a sopping-wet sleeping bag. Beyond being just and an annoyance, a wet sleeping bag can lead to hypothermia if not kept in check. By keeping a few tips in mind, you'll be assured of having a dry night's sleep no matter the conditions.
When hiking or paddling, make sure you bag is always kept in a waterproof stuff sack. Stuff sacks that you get with your bag usually are only water-resistant and not waterproof. The easiest solution is to line your stuff sack with a plastic trash bag. Compactor bags work great for this, as they are both thicker and more durable than ordinary trash bags. You can usually find these at most larger grocery stores.
Put your compactor bag in the stuff sack, stuff you sleeping bag in, twist the top of the plastic bag and tuck to the side, then cinch the drawstrings of the stuff sack. With the compactor bag protected from punctures, you could throw your sleeping bag in a river and it won't get wet. One compactor bag lasted me for over six months when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, but small holes are easily repaired with duct tape if necessary.
You can also buy waterproof stuff sacks from a number of manufacturers. Lightweight dry bags used for paddling work great, and we've had good luck with the WxTec Pneumo series of dry bags made by Pacific Outdoor Equipment. Outdoor Research's Hydrolite Dry Sacks are also a good choice. These types of drybags have a roll-top closure that assures that no water will get though under normal conditions. Both these dry bags are available at
Now that your sleeping bag is safe during the day, there are a few things you can do while in camp. Most important is to choose a campsite with good drainage. Areas with hard-packed soil turn your campsite into lake when it rains. A campsite with porous soil on a slight incline is ideal. Next, make sure to tuck your groundcloth completely under your tent, otherwise rain will fall off your rainfly, collect on top of your groundcloth, then puddle underneath you. Also, use all your guylines to spread the fly out. This cuts down on condensation that can eventually get on your bag. Last, keep all wet clothing and gear in the tent vestibule cut down on moisture inside the tent.
A dry sleeping bag isn't just a matter of comfort-it's a matter of safety. Keeping your sleeping bag dry takes only a few precautions and will make your outdoor experiences much more enjoyable.
For more tips and tricks about backpacking and paddling, be sure to check out our Mississippi and Appalachian Trail Blog.