A sleeping bag for camping is a vital piece of equipment for any camping trip. Whether camping for the first time or being an experienced camper, picking the correct sleeping bag is essential for comfort and safety outdoors. In this blog post, we will explore how to choose the right type of sleeping bag, the features to look for, and the importance of comfort and temperature ratings.
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- Types of Sleeping Bags for Camping and When to Use Them
- Sleeping Bag Comfort and Temperature Ratings
- Camping Sleeping Bag Features to Consider
- How To Care For and Store Your Camping Sleeping Bag
- Common Mistakes When Buying a Sleeping Bag for Camping
- Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag for Camping
Types of Sleeping Bags for Camping and When to Use Them
There are so many brands and features to consider when choosing the right sleeping bag for camping, all of which can be daunting. Before purchasing, ask yourself how many seasons will your sleeping bag be utilized. Now that you have your answer let us dive in and explore the different types of sleeping bags available.
Sleeping bags fall into three different categories:
0° C (32° F)
-6.5 to 0° C
(20 to 32° F)
-6.5° C (20° F) and below
These temperature ratings for sleeping bags are not universal and serve as a guideline only. It is for suggestion and will vary by manufacturer. We also all feel cold differently, so add or subtract some degrees as you see fit.
Sleeping Bag Comfort and Temperature Ratings
Shopping for the best sleeping bag can be overwhelming. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides comfort and temperature ratings. Unfortunately, not all brands follow this rating system, which provides campers with helpful information. With this knowledge in hand, it will guide you to make the best decision for your sleeping needs.
Here is a summary of the three ratings that you may find listed on a sleeping bag cover.
Comfort Rating: based on the air temperature at which the average female can sleep comfortably throughout the night without curling up into a ball. This rating system applies to cold sleepers.
Limit Rating: the temperature at which the average man can maintain thermal equilibrium in a curled-up position. This limit rating would apply to warm sleepers.
Rated Extreme: gives an idea of how cold the air could be before there is a significant risk of death from hypothermia in a matter of hours.
When shopping for a camping sleeping bag, opt for an EN/ISO-rated bag to give yourself the best chance of keeping warm. Your internal thermostat plays a huge role in selecting the right bag. If you are a person who tends to run cold, choose a sleeping bag rated for lower temperatures. But if you are not bothered by colder temperatures, you can take a chance with a sleeping bag rated a bit higher. Before purchasing a sleeping bag, do a bit of research. Reviews and ratings can offer tremendous insights into the quality and warmth of a bag. Do not just focus on the EN/ISO rating, though – look at the down fill power (the quality of down) and fill weight (the total amount of down).
Camping Sleeping Bag Features to Consider
Getting the right fit in a sleeping bag can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent shivering in your tent. Fortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleeping bags.
All sleeping bags are technically unisex and come in two main sizes: regular and long. In addition, and new to the market, many brands now offer specific sleeping bags designed for both men and women, with variations that account for the differences in body shape. Women sleeping bags around the hips are wide and narrower around the shoulders, with extra insulation at the feet. Sleeping bags for men are slightly larger. No matter your size or gender, choose a sleeping bag that fits you and keeps you comfortable. Uncomfortable people fidget, which leads to sleepless nights and miserable mornings!
The values in the chart above are approximate, as many sleeping bag brands differ in size.
When shopping for the best sleeping bag, it is essential to consider the weight. Backpacking sleeping bags needs to be lightweight. The warmer the bag, the bulkier and heavier it will be. Also, ensure that you can pack the bag back into its stuff sack.
Look for two-way YKK zips that open the length of the sleeping bag. That way, you can open the bottom end to vent your feet if necessary. Check that there is a good size baffle of fabric and fill behind the zips to keep out drafts and prevent zipper snag.
Camping sleeping bags usually come in two classic shapes: a tapered ‘mummy’ or a rectangular shape. The rectangular bag offers more space and easily unzips to form a duvet, whereas the mummy shape is intended for maximum heat retention.
Think of a sleeping bag as a thermos: the closer it fits your body, the more efficient it gets at retaining heat. Too much empty space in your bag can make it hard to stay warm. When shopping for a sleeping bag, opt for one that fits you snugly but still allows movement. That way, you can be sure your camping trips will be cozy and comfortable!
Some brands like NEMO have designed a spoon-shaped model for side sleepers, which allows room to toss and turn. NEMO has designed separate sleeping bags designed specifically for women and men.
Sleeping bags come in two types of insulation: down (eider, goose or duck) and synthetic (a mixture of human-made fibres).
Down insulation is famously light and offers a superior warmth-to-weight ratio, so you get plenty of cozy warmth without extra bulk. The down content determines the quality of the bag: higher percentage, more insulation and higher cost. Look for the fill power rating—the higher the number, the better the efficiency. Down sleeping bags are also easier to pack.
Synthetic insulation may not be as light but can prove just as warm, and unlike down, it even works when wet. Synthetic insulation also dries quickly and is non-allergenic. When shopping on a budget, be aware that the cheaper the fill and bag, the lower the performance.
Some bags offer extra quirky features such as – zippered stash pouch, an attached torch, a built-in mosquito net, a hood, and pillow pockets. Consider whether these features are essential to you. Remember that extra features add to the price of the sleeping bag.
How To Care For and Store Your Camping Sleeping Bag
Proper care and storage should be a priority for the optimal life of your sleeping bag. After your adventure is over, start by taking it out of its stuff sack and drying it thoroughly.
- Keep it loosely stowed in a large breathable cotton or mesh sack. Store it in a cool and dry place.
- Air it out daily, turning it inside-out to dry out any moisture.
- Avoid direct sunlight, as UV light will degrade the fabric. If your sleeping bag gets wet, air it out for several hours.
- Never store a sleeping bag compressed, as the compressed insulator reduces its effectiveness.
- Instead of washing, try alternative cleaning techniques as a first option. Ie. Spot cleaning when applicable.
Common Mistakes When Buying a Sleeping Bag for Camping
Before you go ahead and purchase your sleeping bag, make sure you avoid these common mistakes.
- Remember to avoid a lightweight and snug bag for camping, which may lead to chilly nights! These types of bags are designed with backpackers in mind.
- Do not solely rely on the sleeping bag to keep you warm. Sleeping bags are intended to be part of a sleep system. Incorporate a proper sleeping pad with your sleeping bag for insulation from the cold ground, and remember that sleeping pads also come with their own ‘R-value.
- Avoid choosing the wrong shape and size, which leads to uncomfortable and miserable nights.
Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag for Camping
Choosing the right sleeping bag is essential for any camping trip. By understanding the different types of sleeping bags, shopping for comfort and temperature ratings, looking for features that fit your needs, and caring for and storing the sleeping bag properly, you will have a much more enjoyable and comfortable experience.
Now that you know what to consider, it is time to go and shop for your perfect sleeping bag!
What do you look for in a high-quality sleeping bag? Comment down below.
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