As an outdoor enthusiast, I’ve been hiking and backpacking for over 10 years and I love sharing my experiences with fellow outdoor lovers. In this article, I will cover every factor you need to consider before purchasing a sleeping bag.
There are several essentials when it comes to camping, but a sleeping bag is the one of the most important, especially in cold weather. Having a durable 4-season tent is important as well, but only if you have the right sleeping bag. The same goes for the warm weather as well: if you choose a very insulated sleeping bag, it would be a nightmare to sleep in it on a hot night.
Shapes of sleeping bags
There are four types of sleeping bags, and each one is superior to others in different conditions.
Rectangular sleeping bags: They are the most common type of sleeping bags, they’re roomy and symmetrical. Rectangular sleeping bags are not the best when it comes to warmth, but for those who are willing to sacrifice on weight and pack size, they are the best option for comfort.
Mummy sleeping bags: They are the perfect type of sleeping bags for cold weather camping, they’re called mummy because they have a tapered design to wrap all body just like a mummy, and this design helps to reduce the airflow and heat transfer, therefore, mummy sleeping bags offer the highest warmth to weight ratio. They’re perfect for backpacking.
Semi-rectangular bags: These sleeping bags are a mixture of rectangular and mummy sleeping bags, they also have a mummy shape but they are not as tight as mummy sleeping bags and they strike a pretty ideal balance between weight and warmth.
Double sleeping bags: Double sleeping bags are the perfect choice for those who travel with their partner. They’re suitable for car camping but too bulky for backpacking.
Note: Some rectangular sleeping bags can be zipped together to make a double bag, so if you’re going camping sometimes alone and sometimes with your partner, look for a rectangular sleeping bag that can be zipped together.
I personally own two sleeping bags: one rectangular (for car camping) and one mummy (backpacking).
For more thoughts on choosing the right sleeping bag shape, click here.
Down or synthetic
There are two types of insulation for sleeping bags, synthetic and down-filled. The best choice depends on your needs.
Synthetic bags are insulated with man-made material such as polyester, therefore, they are cheaper, durable, and keep you warm even when they are wet, and no animal gets harmed during the manufacturing processes. Down sleeping bags (filled with bird feathers) are better for weight, warmth and size compression. The downside is that since they’re insulated with actual animal feathers, they lose their insulation properties when they get wet, they’re not as durable as synthetic bags, and they are more expensive.
If you opt for a down-filled bag, consider the fill power. It’s a measurement to determine the loft, or amount of puff from the down feathers and it used to measure how insulated a sleeping bag is (the higher the fill power number, the greater the insulation.) My mummy sleeping bag is down-filled insulated. I used to have a synthetic mummy sleeping bag, but I had some very cold nights and decided to go with down-filled. But if you’re not an extreme camper like me (I mean if you don’t go camping below 30°F), you don’t need to spend hundreds of bucks for a down-filled bag, if that is the case go with a synthetic sleeping bag.
For more thoughts on choosing down or synthetic, click here.
Temperature ratings are the lowest temperatures at which a sleeping bag can be safely used. If you check the weather where you will be camping and have determined that the lowest temperature will be 10 degrees F, make sure your sleeping bag is rated to withstand it. Conversely, if you are going to be camping at a time when it will not get below 50 degrees, a sleeping bag designed for extreme cold will be uncomfortable and likely add more weight to your backpack than necessary.
Two-way zipper: Even if you’re into cold weather camping, not every night is going to be freezing cold. A sleeping bag that features a two-way zipper allows you to unzip only the bottom side of the zipper for venting.
Since we’re talking about zippers, I should also mention the time when I destroyed one of my sleeping bags, one day my sleeping bag’s zipper’s teeth caught the fabric and the fabric has torn off when I tried to save it. Therefore don’t forget to look for a bag that features a snag-free zipper as well.
Cinchable Hood: If you’re into cold weather camping, a cinchable hood adds extra warmth.
DWR Coating: Durable Water Repellent is a treatment that manufacturers put on the outside surface to make the sleeping bag more water-resistant.
Zip-together Feature: If you’re not only camping with your partner but go solo camping as well, then getting a zip-together sleeping bag might be more efficient. This feature allows you to zip two sleeping bags together to make a double sleeping bag.
I’m a long time outdoor enthusiast. Ever since my dad took me to my first camping trip I’m in love with the outdoors. And I love sharing my experiences with the other fellow outdoor enthusiasts and I hope this article has helped you to increase your knowledge about sleeping bags, you can visit my website Outdoor Eager for more information about camping and backpacking.