How To Choose The Perfect Sleeping Bag For Your Next Trip
After an action-packed day of adventuring, you’re ready to crash and have a good night’s sleep.
11:47 11 October 2021
Sleeping bags come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures –– but how do you know which is best suited for your travels? For example, you can also consider an inflatable sofa if you are looking for comfort.
There are five important pointers to note when choosing a sleeping bag. Firstly, the type of conditions you’re going to camp in, such as the temperature, weather, etc. Secondly, your preference for a sleeping area –– do you like a large area to sprawl about, or a snug, toasty one? How long and wide do you need the bag to be? Thirdly, the differences between down and synthetic insulation, and which material is best suited for your surroundings. Fourthly, pay extra attention to the specific features of each sleeping bag, such as its level of warmth and comfortability. Lastly, consider whether extra sleeping accessories are needed for your sleep outside. With that in mind, let’s delve right into the guide, and figure out which sleeping bag is for you!
Step One: Temperature Ratings
The temperature rating for your sleeping bags refers to the coldest temperatures that your bag is designed to withstand and keep you warm. This is the most general way of measuring and comparing the quality and performance of sleeping bags –– granted, if you don’t take into account the external weather conditions.
Sleeping bag temperatures differ from season to season. In summer, temperatures are set at zero degrees and above, whilst winters see temperatures from negative fifteen and below. For sleeping bags designed for three seasons, they range from negative fifteen to negative one degrees.
Here’s a tip: Get a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating designed for a cooler climate than your intended destination; the extra warmth provided won’t hurt anybody. If you’re feeling warmer than you’d like, just unzip the sleeping bag. Remember: the higher you’re camping at, the colder it will be!
Step Two: Shapes And Sizes
There are three main shapes to look out for: rectangular, barrel, and mummy. Some are bulky and hug your body warmly, while others are thin and give ample space for you to stretch your limbs.
Rectangular Sleeping Bags
Similar to your bed at home, these are spacious and allow you to sprawl about. In the summer, it doubles up as a blanket when unzipped. Rectangular bags are mostly inexpensive and usually used for front-country camping in the summer. However, they can be bulky and less thermally efficient, as they have a lot of air space.
Barrel Sleeping Bags
These are slightly more compact than the rectangular ones and may contain a hood for additional comfort and warmth. Barrel bags are relatively spacious and affordable, though not as well as rectangular bags, but are lighter and more compact than their counterparts. These are suited for both summer and three-season use and are good for both front and backcountry camping.
Mummy Sleeping Bags
Known for their tight cuts and snug hood, these mummy bags provide the most warmth out of the three sleeping bags. Designed to maximize warmth, these bags are extremely snug, lightweight, and compact. Though costly, these are the best for backcountry camping, three-season, and winter use.
Optimally, you should get a sleeping bag that is slightly longer than your height by an inch or two. Extra space can result in heat loss and may result in you feeling colder. If yours happens to have a lot of extra space, try stuffing the gaps with your extra clothing.
Women’s Sleeping Bags
These are shorter in length and are designed to fit a woman’s slimmer shoulders and broader hips. There may be more insulation around the body and feet area to provide extra warmth.
Kids’ Sleeping Bags
Kids’ bags are smaller, narrower, and shorter than adult bags. They use less insulation and thinner fabrics to keep costs down and make them more durable.
Step Three: Insulation
The insulation in a sleeping bag helps to keep the warm air within the bag and keeps you warm. By far, the most common materials used are either down or synthetic.
Down insulations are made from thousands upon thousands of fluffy plumules, derived from goose or duck feathers. They are lighter, more compressible, and fluffier than synthetic insulations. Down fill-power is a good indicator of quality, and whilst anything above 500 is good, a down fill-power above 700 is best. However, take note that down insulations aren’t suitable for damp climates and require careful and specialized washing, so be prepared for extra care if you’re planning to invest in them.
Synthetic insulation comprises long filaments of polyester thread spun with staples, which forms pieces of different lengths and thicknesses. This variety of sizes maximizes insulation and warmth, as thinner strands are better in trapping warm air, whilst thicker threads are more durable. Synthetic insulations are considerably heavier than down, but they’re more affordable, better suited for damp climates, and are much easier to take care of. However, they may not be as easily compressed nor as comfortable as down insulations, so take note of that!
Step Four: Sleeping Bag Features
For cold climates, keeping your head warm is crucial to a good night’s sleep. Most sleeping bags designed for three seasons or winter climates have hoods that seal in heat keep your head toasty warm. This might just be the thing you need for the rainy and cold camps out!
Otherwise known as face muffles, yokes, or neck baffles, these are insulated pieces that wrap around your head and neck to prevent heat loss. Again, it’s often found on bags designed for cold weather climates.
Attachable Sleeping Bags
These are bags that can be zipped together to form double sleeping bags. It’s a cute idea if you like snuggling up to friends or partners, but it may not be the best option in cold climates. To zip two sleeping bags together, ensure that the zippers are of the same type and length. For mummy sleeping bags, make sure that one bag has the zipper on the left, and the other on the right.
Step Five: Extra Accessories
Sleeping pads are ideal if you want that extra cushion and insulation from the cold, hard ground. Also, do note that the sleeping bag ratings mentioned earlier take into account that a sleeping pad is used.
Sleeping Bag Liners
Designed to be an outer layer to your sleeping bag, these liners provide extra warmth and keep your sleeping bag clean and dry. Pro Tip: If you’re camping during the warm summer nights, you can opt for the liner instead of a sleeping bag altogether!
If you’re concerned about your sleeping posture, try investing in a camping pillow to protect your neck from soreness. These vary from inflatable air pillows to soft foamy ones and even down-filled ones.
Most sleeping bags already come with a standard stuff sack, but if you’re thinking of carrying your sleeping bag in canoes, panniers, or backpacks, you might want to try a compression sack to save on space. Once you’re back home, remember to take out the sleeping bag and place it in a large storage area to give your insulation time to breathe!
Having a proper night’s sleep is the secret to a successful, memorable camping trip. No one can sleep cold, and being unable to get sufficient sleep can be detrimental to your body for the next day’s activities. We hope that our tips have given you some insight into choosing the perfect sleeping bag for your next adventure!