What Sleeping Bag is Right for You?
Your search for the best sleeping bag does not end at price or brand name, but instead includes several factors that must be considered before choosing a sleeping bag. The more you understand the when, how, and why it is being used, the better choice you will make in buying a sleeping bag that works best for your needs.
Sleeping bags are temperature rated, which means that they will provide protection from the cold down to a pre-set temperature. For example, a sleeping bag that is rated at +25F means that you should stay warm and cozy when the temperature dips to 25 degrees F. While sleeping bags come in all types of ratings for temperature, the three main ones are summer, winter, and three-season.
– Summer: +35F & Higher
– Winter: +10F & Lower
– Three-Season: +10F to +35F
So, you would be best suited by finding a sleeping bag that will keep you comfortable at least 5F lower than the lowest temperature you expect when outdoors. This means that if you expect the lowest temperature to be +40F, then choose a sleeping bag that has a rating of at least +35F so that you stay comfortable.
One thing to add is an interior liner which brings and additional layer of warmth to the body. A typical liner can increase the comfort level by another 8F to 15F degrees depending on the brand. This means that you may be able to extend a three-season bag into winter thanks to the additional liner.
Not all insulation is alike, so you’ll want to choose the one that is best for your needs. You will want to choose the type of insulation that provides the best protection from colder temperatures, but also fits in the type of climate you’ll be experiencing.
Goose-Down: This traditional form of insulation is durable and warmer compared to its synthetic counterpart. However, it is also heavier and does not do well when it gets wet.
Water-Resistant Down: This is goose-down that has been treated so that it does not suffer the consequences of getting wet. However, it is also heavier and costly compared to standard goose-down sleeping bags.
Synthetic: Overall, synthetic may be the best overall type of insulation because it provides excellent warmth, comfort, and is lightweight. Plus, it is less expensive compared to goose-down and non-allergenic to boot.
Basically, the closer the sleeping bag is to you, the less heat will escape which means that you stay warmer. You’ll want to reduce the empty or negative space in your sleeping bag by choosing a shape that best suits your body. There are four basic types of sleeping bags;
– Rectangular: Comfortable and can be combined to create a two-person bag. Plus, it’s large enough to store a mattress inside. However, the extra room means it’s less warm during the cold season.
– Double-Wide: Like the rectangular bag but made for two-people. You’ll have enough room for an air-mattress, but there will be plenty of empty space.
– Barrel: It is more tapered compared to a rectangular mattress, while still providing plenty of room. Perfect for camping or hiking, it offers more interior room compared to a mummy-style sleeping bag.
– Mummy: If space and weight are the most important factors, then the mummy sleeping bag is perfect. The fit will be tight, so it is not for everyone, but it does work exceptionally well in colder temperatures.
It’s best if you can try out the bag in person so you know if it’s a good fit. Otherwise, you may want to use your measurements so that ordering a sleeping bag online will be easier. A proper fit means extra warmth during the cold months. However, if most of your camping or hiking happens in the warm months of late spring, summer, or early fall, then you may want to opt for more room for a more comfortable sleep.
Now that you have narrowed down the type, size, style, and comfort-rating, the next step is adding necessary features when buying a sleeping bag. There are several features to choose from, but keep in mind that they will add weight to your trip if hiking in the outdoors.
Hood: If you are camping in the winter, you’ll want to add a hood which will prevent heat loss from your head. Some hoods offer a pillow-pocket, so you can stuff clothes inside and create a comfortable pillow.
Shell & Lining: Usually made from polyester or ripstop nylon, the shell provides waterproofing to protect your sleeping bag from getting wet. Remember to choose the shell that has durable water repellent (DWR) for maximum protection. In addition, the lining offers an excellent way to pull your body’s own moisture away from your skin. Both are perfect for warm, wet climates.
Sleeve: This is to store the sleeping pad which stays in place as you slumber. Thanks to the sleeve, you will not roll off the pad in the middle of the night.
Stash Pocket: This is a handy storage pocket for your small items, like a watch, music player, smartphone, or even your glasses. However, you don’t want to roll on it in the middle of the night.
In addition, you can add accessories that makes your outdoor adventure easier, such as a stuff sack to store your sleeping bag between uses. Plus, you can go with a full storage sage that will help keep your sleeping bag intact for longer compared to the standard storage choices.
Keep in mind your own metabolism which varies from person to person when buying a sleeping bag. So, if you find yourself kicking off the covers at night when others are under the blankets, you may want to choose a sleeping bag with a higher temperature rating. Remember, the best sleeping bag is one that meets your needs, so keep that in mind when choosing a sleeping bag for you.
So down is more compactible than synthetic but down is warmer? Which would I want on a mountain backpacking trip?
a lot of this answer might depend on the time of year and how far and how high you may be going. Do you need more room or is weight the deciding factor?