11

I just looked at our sleeping bags, which we bought in 1972. They are in pretty good condition, with only a few small patches.

Is it unusual for a down sleeping bag to give service for 45 years and still be in good condition? Or is this par for the course?

I estimate that the sleeping bags have been used for a minimum of 1,500 nights. Between trips, they have always been stored unstuffed on a large shelf with nothing on them or pressing against them. We dry-clean them probably every second or third year -- I'm not sure. Also pertinent: we sleep in them lightly but fully clothed.

They are the only pieces of our original backpacking equipment that we have not replaced several times.

  • 1
    They last as much as you take care of them :) – Desorder Feb 4 '17 at 7:50
  • I cannot answer the question, but I would like to point out that this is a big difference to how synthetic bags behave. In them, the insulation material will deteriorate no matter how you take care of them and is likely not usable at a similar perfomance much longer than 10 years. – Paul Paulsen Feb 4 '17 at 15:04
5

Per Western Mountaineering, American manufacturers of high quality down sleeping bags,

Down also is known to have the greatest longevity, and it will outlast any other insulation by 3 to 5 times, making it the most economical choice after its initial investment.

Having worked in specialty outdoor retail, I would describe your situation as unusual but not rare (if that makes sense). If properly cared for, as you have described, high quality down will last for numerous sleeping & compression cycles. When a sleeping bag is being stored uncompressed, there is very little degradation that occurs to the insulation. Instead, it is the repeated compression cycles of being stuffed and unstuffed, as well as oils and dirt, that degrade the insulation.

With regular weekend use, a down sleeping bag can often last 10-15 years, especially for higher fill power down. In comparison, a synthetic bag might begin to feel colder in as little as 3-4 years. In professional use (e.g. a mountaineering guide), where the bag is being slept in every night and frequently stuffed and unstuffed, a down sleeping bag will begin to feel colder somewhere around 300 nights. All of this, of course, depends on the particulars of the situation. Also consider that a sleeping bag generally encounters low amounts of wear and tear when compared to almost any other piece of gear--it will spend its time outdoors almost always either safely inside a backpack or inside a tent / bivy sack.

As a parting thought, the difficulty for manufacturers to source high quality down has actually increased over recent decades--fewer people are eating geese. However, manufacturing tolerances, sorting & grading methods, and shell fabric quality have all increased over the same time period.

  • My dad still uses US Army World War II surplus down sleeping bags in his camping kit. i have never found a modern bag that I like more than these surplus bags. Careful fluffing and airing them out when done has done wonders for these bags and they show no signs of slowing down. – David Feb 14 '17 at 1:49
-1

I would simply go by the loft. More specifically the minimum loft. If some baffles have blown out the bag is not as effective.

I don't have source but I read lumberjacks that use the bag year round go for 3-4 years.

If you lose some loft you can just use it as a heavy summer bag.

  • Clearly the initial quality of the bag makes a large difference. – paparazzo Feb 6 '17 at 22:05
  • It is not my downvote, but think the reason is that your answer did not answer my question: "is this unusual?" Your lumberjack info, if referenced (or If you had been a lumberjack) would have. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Feb 7 '17 at 4:09
  • @ab2 Cheers. Bag life will vary. – paparazzo Feb 7 '17 at 11:51

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