Sleeping bags are a very important part of any camper’s gear as they allow a person to stay warm in spite of bitter cold on the back countries, without taking up too much space and without weighing a person down too much.
What is a good sleeping bag?
The basic idea behind knowing how to choose a sleeping bag does not rely on a set of rules or categories, primarily because there is a wide variety of options to choose from and whether they will be good or bad will depend on where you will be using the sleeping bag. However, there are 3 key factors that must be considered when looking for the best sleeping bags for camping:
When looking at different sleeping bags, you should choose the one that is rated for the coldest temperature that you expect to encounter during your camping trip. This rating will usually be part of the product’s name (e.g. in Men’s REI Lumen +25, the +25 in the name means it is rated for a minimum temperature of +25F). The ratings are fairly accurate due to the existence of the EN standard.
Weight versus roominess
This one is obvious. If you’re camping out, you want to keep the weight of the things you’re bringing along as low as possible, but on the other hand, the available room in a sleeping bag usually correlates to its weight. This means you have to find the perfect balance between the two, or at least decide whether the ability to carry a light sleeping bag is more important than a good night’s sleep.
Type of Insulation
There are three common types of filling used in sleeping bags. The down, the synthetic, and the DriDown. Downs are very light and breathable, but they can be very expensive. The synthetic, on the other hand, will excel in damp conditions because they have more résistance to sticker shock, but slightly heavier and do not compress well. DriDown is the best of both worlds as it’s basically down that’s been treated in order to increase resistance to moisture.
Things that affect overall warmth
Instead of relying solely on the sleeping bag, you should also consider several other factors that can have an influence on your warmth and comfort during camping. These include the following:
This is the item that acts as insulation between the space beneath your bag and the ground. It also adds cushioning and therefore comfort. In some sleeping bags, having a sleeping pad completely negates the need for insulation on the bottom side of the bag. If you’re going to be sleeping on really cold or even frozen ground, you should use at least two pads stacked on top of each other.
Not only will a camping tent help protect you from flying insects and minor annoying animals, it also traps a layer of dead air around you, which can warm you up by as much as 10F. Additionally, it can serve as a place for changing clothes if you are camping with other people and you want to maintain your privacy.
There are people who are considered “cold sleepers,” as they prefer extra insulation when sleeping. On the opposite end are “warm sleepers,” who kick off the covers during sleep in order to get more comfortable.
Biologically speaking, women tend to prefer warmer sleeping bags than men. So you need to take your gender into account when shopping around for sleeping bags.
This may seem like common sense but you’ll be surprised to know how many people forget this part. The clothes that you are wearing inside the bag will make a lot of difference, so if you’re expecting really cold nights, you should be wearing thicker layers of clothing under the bag. Additionally, insulating your body from the bag prevents your body oils from accumulating on the bag.
During cold nights, you should drink a warm glass of water or milk before going to bed, as the state of hydration of the body has a significant effect during sleep, sometimes becoming the deciding point on whether you’ll go to sleep warm or not.
Shape and fit of the bag
The shape and fit of the sleeping bag will have a significant effect on sleeping comfort. Ideally, the bag should be mummy-shaped in order to provide the maximum comfort. However, size and weight considerations usually affect the final shape of the bag. As a rule of thumb, you need to try and get a feel of a bag before trying it.