When you are going to be sleeping outdoors, a sleeping bag provides comfort and security from your surroundings. To ensure you are going to be as comfortable as possible, here are a few tips and things to look for in your new sleeping bag.
- Down Bags – Down sleeping bags are made from the feathers of geese and ducks. These feathers are found beneath their main layer of feathers and are very soft and excellent insulators. These feathers are the same ones they use for building soft, warm nests.
- Synthetic Bags – Synthetic bags are made from small hollow threads of plastic.
Synthetic or Down? Well it depends on how you will be using your sleeping bag. If you require a highly compactable bag that you will be carrying into the backcountry, don’t mind paying a little more and don’t plan on getting it wet then a down bag is right for you. If you have a lot of allergies, don’t want to pay quite as much, and don’t mind the weight then a synthetic will work.
Typically the best fit for the beginning camper is synthetic, but down usually works the best for everyone if there is less of a chance of it getting wet.
The coldest outside temperature that a sleeping bag can keep you warm is called the comfort rating. So for example, if a bag were rated to +10 degrees, then, according to the manufacturer, you should be comfortably warm inside your bag at that temperature or above.
These recommendations are not for everyone though. Some people tend to be colder than others at night and visa versa. If you are the one that has cold feet and hands while you sleep then you will want to be safe and buy a bag with a comfort rating many degrees less than what you think your coldest camping night might be. If you are the type to kick off the blankets at night then the manufacturers comfort rating is probably right for you.
Consider the following, you should always have a lower rated bag than you think you will need. If you think that the coldest weather conditions you will ever encounter will be no less than say 20 degrees, I recommend, no matter how you sleep, buying a bag that will keep you warm down to at least 10 degrees. You can always unzip the bag a tad to help you cool off but it is a bugger getting up in the middle of the night to put on more clothes if you get cold.
Shape and Fit
There are two general shapes that sleeping bags come in. The first is a mummy shape. These bags can be found throughout the comfort rating but are very popular shapes for colder rated bags due to the fact that they can encompass your whole body, even your head, leaving you a small hole to breathe out of. (Tip – Never breathe inside your bag. That can cause moisture to build up inside your bag, thus making the insulation less effective.)
The second general shape is a rectangular shape. Since these bags do not cover the head and have more space inside the bag for the body to heat up, it is generally the shape for warmer climates. If you are like a lot of people you have one of these you got for Christmas many years ago that you use when guests come over or for the kids in warm weather. I have found that these bags make an excellent extra layer to your mummy style bag if you encounter conditions that are a little colder than you expected. Simply slip your mummy style bag inside your rectangular and slide in!
Things to Consider
Well there you have it. Now that you know how to choose the right sleeping bag, see our full selection of sleeping bags.