How to choose the right sleeping bag

How to choose the right sleeping bag

When it comes to backpacking, not all sleeping bags are created equal. Due to the high variety of sleeping bag types and fill-materials, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what makes a great sleeping bag. Besides obvious factors including material quality and price, there are other traits you need to consider when selecting the right sleeping bag for your situation. Here are a checklist of ideas that can get you started:

1) Activity: Camping vs. Backpacking

Camping in your vehicle or indoors can allow you to get away with an inexpensive and lower quality sleeping bag without any real loss in comfort. Flannel, cotton, or wool sleeping bags can be used in these situations at a low cost and with little hassle.

With backpacking however, it’s definitely a great idea to invest in a high quality, light, and durable sleeping bag. It can make the difference between a fun or miserable trip.

2) Shape and Size: When «Mummy» is a Good Thing…

Mummy-shaped bags are definitely the best option in shape for many reasons, including being easier to pack and their ability to provide the greatest amount of insulation for your body heat.

Rectangular bags are roomy but really only useful in indoor or highly-sheltered camping environments. There are also mummy-rectangular hybrid (semi-rectangular) bags that give a little more room but are usually heavier than traditional mummy-shaped bags. If you feel too cramped in a mummy-shaped bag, this may be an option to consider.

The best way to determine the size of the bag you need is to try it, though as a general rule a «Regular» is designed for people under 6 feet while any height above that may require a «Long.» Also a more recent development are bags designed specifically for women in both terms of shape and comfort levels.

Most stores allow you to try a sleeping bag prior to purchasing, given the amount of profit they should make from a sale of a high-quality bag. So if a store refuses to let you do this, be assured there are plenty of stores out there that will. Don’t feel awkward about doing this either. It’s better than being cramped in a bag too small or loosing heat in a bag too big. You’ll also want to consider the size of the bag when it’s compacted compared to other bags at similar prices.

3) Materials: Down vs. Synthetic Fills

In deciding between a synthetic or down-filled sleeping bag, both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Down-filled bags are very lightweight

There are several differences between the performance of down filled and synthetic filled sleeping bags.

The advantages when choosing a down sleeping bags are they are built to be the lightest, warmest, and most compressible sleeping bag available. The disadvantages of choosing a down filled sleeping bag are, when wet the bad tends to lose its loft. Manufacturer’s tried to fix this problem by using water proof shells. This can cause even more problems. The bag can get wet from moisture inside. Using a water proof shell reduces breath ability so moisture can build from the inside causing the insulation wilt from this. This would not cause a major problem when taking short trips, but taking longer trips this problem may occur.

How to choose the right sleeping bag

There are also many advantages and disadvantages when it comes to synthetic sleeping bags. Some of the advantages when choosing a synthetic bag are they cost allot less than a down sleeping bag. When wet they dry allot faster than a down sleeping bag. If the insulation does get wet, the loft is not effected much so your bag will still insulate. One of the best advantages about the synthetic sleeping bag you can dry wet cloths out over night inside the bag. There are also disadvantage of the synthetic sleeping bag. The synthetic sleeping bag weighs a lot more than the down sleeping bag. So if your are going to carry your sleeping bag around for a while you would rather carry something with a lot less weight. You can purchase synthetic bags that do weight less such a the Primaloft, Polarguard, or the Climashield. The synthetic bag does not last as long as the down bag. The synthetic bag lasting only 5-6 years while the down can last up to 20 years if taken care of well.

So when choosing a sleeping bag it depends on the situation and how often you use to know witch one would be best. Say you where going trailing and only gone for a few days usually the synthetic bags are used. Now if you where going trekking and will be gone for a long period of time usually the down filled sleeping back would be used. It also depends on the weather and type of climate you will be in to choose witch sleeping bag would be best to take with you. If you are staying in a wet environment you best bet would to choose the synthetic sleeping bag would most likely be you best bet. Knowing you are in a wet environment you have a high chance of your sleeping bag getting wet and if it does get wet you synthetic sleeping bag will dry fast so after settling down

It used to be that purchasing a sleeping bag was as easy a quick trip to the local sporting goods store and there between the baseball bats and hockey sticks you could find the choice of blue, gray or green cloth bags. It didn’t matter what you chose because most the time you ended up cold or wet by the time your night of camping was over.

Nowadays when it comes to selecting a sleeping bag, there are a number of questions to consider, to make sure you choose the right one for your needs. It’s good to keep in mind that honesty is the best policy when answering those questions, so you don’t end up with sleeping bag overkill or something with a cartoon character’s face on it that’s suitable only for a kid’s sleepover.

How do you plan to use the sleeping bag?

This is the most important question to ponder in the selection process. It’s good to plan ahead here and consider not only how you would currently use a sleeping bag, but also to consider if there was a type of situation or environment that you may want to use the bag down the road. Meaning if you currently only utilize the bag for warmer or moderate climates, but you’ve always wanted to give full blown winter outings or higher elevation hiking a whirl then you may want to consider a bag geared for heavier, colder duty.

Sleeping bag comfort ratings generally fall into four categories:

+ 35 degrees and higher- summer season bags

+10 to +35 degrees- 3 season bags

-10 to +10 degrees cold weather bags

-10 and lower- winter extreme bags.

You should ask yourself what is the coldest nighttime temperature in which you will be utilizing the bag. This is also a question of personal comfort. If you have a tendency to be a warm sleeper and end up kicking off the covers in the middle of the night then a lower comfort rated bag may get the job done for you.

If you tend to run on the cool side at night then, you may want to kick the comfort level up a notch and go for the lower temperature rated bag. Often this boils down to a question of gender or metabolism, with women tending towards being colder sleepers.

Keep in mind your personal approach to camping as well. Are you the kind of person who insists on having a roof over your head, even if it’s only a tent or are you the type that needs to see the stars in the sky in order to truly be camping? Tents will add another layer of protect from mother nature, while great outdoors types may want to step up a comfort rating.

Not to confuse the situation, but keep in mind the use

Writer: Miller, Hulley


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