Sleeping Bags: How to buy the perfect sleeping bag

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sleeping bagI’ve seen people spend all sorts of money on the latest and greatest outdoors gadgets; but for some reason when it comes to sleeping bags, these same people seem to pick the cheapest bags on the market, totally ignoring the importance of choosing the right bag.

Sleeping bags shouldn’t be looked at as a last minute thing you grab on your way out of the local sporting goods store. Picking the right sleeping bag can mean the difference between having a good adventurous expedition, or suffering through a cold miserable camping trip that you just want to forget.

Things to Consider when Buying a Sleeping Bag

  1. Consider the Weather: One thing you need to keep in mind is the weather, and how cold it might get when you’re camping. Keep in mind, it’s harder to stay warm in an insufficiently insulated bag, than it is to cool off by venting a bag made for colder temperatures.
  2. Consider Your Comfort: Your sleeping habits need to be considered when picking the right bag. A bag that’s too snug can make your body feel constricted, and can actually compress the filling making the bag less effective.
  3. Moisture Proof Bags: If the area you plan on camping is a moist environment, you need to take that into account. When picking your bag, you need to find one that can help wick moisture away from your body. More often than not, these bags are made with synthetic materials.
  4. Weight:  If you’re hiking, then the weight of your bag should also be a major consideration. The last thing you need is to carry any extra weight, especially if there was a lighter option available.

Sleeping Bag Fillers

  • Down Sleeping Bags
    • The Good – Down Bags are often used on high mountain expeditions, because it’s often warmer than synthetic options. Down is one of the lightest, and most compressible insulation available. It’s also an excellent option to keep your pack weight down.
    • The Bad – If you’re going to be in an area where moisture’s a problem, you should know that Down is very poor insulator when it gets wet.
  • Synthetic Materials
    • The Good – Synthetic materials are probably a better option, especially if you’re going to be in wet environments. Synthetic-filled bags also cost less and are a good alternative for those who are allergic to down.
    • The Bad - Synthetic materials usually weigh more, and will take up more room in your pack. They’re also not as warm as Down filled bags.

Temperature Ratings

A temperature rating is given to each bag to let you know how cold you can go. Just be aware that this rating can differ from manufacture to manufacture, and can also depend on the person using the bag. The Temperature Rating of a bag should only be used as a rough guideline.

Other Features and Considerations

  1. Bag Hoods – 50% of your body heat is lost through your head. A sleeping bag hood can trap heat and hold it in.
  2. Draught Tubes – Draught Tubes are filled with Insulation, and usually run along the side of the sleeping bag zipper to keep warmth from escaping. This is a must for Cold Camping environments.
  3. Vents – Some bags have vents that can be opened when the temperatures start to rise. If you’re camping in an area that has wild fluctuations in temperature, then a vent is something that you probably want to consider.
  4. Draft collar. Make sure you Bag fits securely around your shoulders. This will help prevent your body heat from escaping. A draft collar is designed to prevent heat loss from your neck and shoulders. These are usually in colder weather bags, and not seen in most summer bags.

Responses to " Sleeping Bags: How to buy the perfect sleeping bag " Please share your thoughts...

  1. hermitjim says:

    Very good and useful information…thanks!

  2. Clive says:

    Thanks for the information. I do believe that a mistake was made in printing that 50% of your body heat is lost through your head. When learning wilderness first-aid we were taught that heat loss depended on the surface area exposed rather than the location. Heat loss through the head is more likely around 10-15%. I would agree that a hooded sleeping bag is far better because it will stop heat from escaping around your shoulders.

  3. Thanks for the informative post!

  4. Jarhead 03 says:

    Great post. Spent many nights in snow caves and cold environments. A good sleeping bag is essential. I acquired my current sleeping bag while in the Marines; the 3 level system of a light patrol/moderate weather bag, cold weather bag and Goretex bivy sac.

  5. Larry Cliver says:

    Just bought a “Slumberjack” from Cabela’s. Rated for -20. I like it.

  6. Iseewhy says:

    I was just recently on a camping trip and we had inadequate sleeping was a harsh reminder that being prepared makes the world of difference…this was just a short few days if it was longer it would have worn us down or even gotten more serious if the weather was not as good…Prepare or perish is my new motto!

  7. Tim | Adventure Strong says:

    Yeah, unfortunately moisture is still a big problem for down bags. However, some companies have come up with a synthetic water repellent coating for their down. So that may be changing in the near future. It’s probably good to avoid a down bag if you’re using a bivy as condensation is more of a problem than in a tent. Great tips!

  8. william says:

    All great info! But wish you could name some companies to keep an eye out for.

  9. Michael says:

    When I was in the Army years ago we were issued a heavy olive drab canvas down filled sleeping bag kept u warm no matter what the weather conditions were I believe I would try and find one for any suvival situation nylon bags are lighter but they snag and tear to easy

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