I’ve always felt queasy about the bedding in hotels and Airbnbs, no matter how fancy the place. All I can think about is the mystery of whose head has lain on the pillow and whose dirty feet have been at the end of the bed. At first I thought I was just an irredeemable germaphobe, but then I read that there is no law that says hotels or Airbnb hosts have to wash the bed linens between guests. And it’s not just cheap hotels that cut corners when it comes to cleanliness: I watched an episode of Inside Edition that used a black light to prove that multiple upscale hotels didn’t change sheets and pillowcases between guests — and during the height of the pandemic. (This may have been due to staffing issues, but I’m still skeeved out.)
Packing an entire set of my own bedsheets everywhere I go felt like a bridge too far (and my friends are already horrified when I pull out a plastic grocery bag to sit on movie-theater seats), so instead I did an extensive amount of Googling, searching for things like “travel sheets” and “hotel bedding gross.” I was thrilled to finally happen upon this light-as-air Mulberry silk sleep sack, which is exactly what it sounds like: a portable sheet set that rolls up into a tiny pouch the size of a burrito. It comes with a handy pocket for a pillow, because if the sheets aren’t clean, the pillow probably isn’t, either. Mulberry silk is prized for its durability, comfort, and temperature-regulating properties, and I can confirm that it keeps you a little warmer in the winter and works as a great top-sheet replacement in the heat of summer.
I now keep my sleep sack in my suitcase at all times (it weighs less than an iPhone). When I travel, I simply unroll it, pop a pillow into the pocket near my head, and slip into a whisper-thin, cozy, and — most importantly — clean cocoon. When my dad and I landed late one night at a not-so-well-kept motel on a cross-country road trip to see relatives, I was deliriously happy to have a barrier between myself and the bedding. (My dear dad was wildly jealous of it, so I’m tucking one into his Christmas stocking.) The sack is wide enough to turn over and roll around in, so I never feel mummified the way you sometimes do in a sleeping bag. It comes in ten jewel-toned colors (I got “aqua”), and you can toss it in the washing machine and tumble-dry without fear: Mine’s held up through more than 20 wash cycles.
After crowing about my find to half a dozen equally neurotic individuals at a dinner party, a camping enthusiast among us pointed out that my “find” was also widely used as a sleeping-bag liner, meant to provide a little extra warmth to the camper while also keeping the sleeping bag clean and dry inside. He washes his in a basin at the campground and claims it dries in the sun within an hour, making it the perfect clean-freak travel accessory whether you’re staying at the Waldorf Astoria or roughing it in the wilderness.
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