- Find expert tips to help you get a good night’s sleep
- Picking the right sleeping pad, bag liner, pillow or cot
- How to minimize smelly sleeping bag odor
A good sleeping bag can make the difference between comfort and a long, miserable night. Follow these tips on choosing the right sleeping bag for your adventures.
KNOW YOUR BODY
If you are always wearing a T-shirt in camp when others are wearing a fleece — and you’re not cold — get a bag rated about 10 degrees lower than the lowest temperatures you encounter on trips. If you’re one
of the first people to put on an insulated jacket while hanging around camp, get a bag rated 20-25 degrees lower than the coldest nights you anticipate.
KNOW YOUR BUDGET
Prices vary depending on factors like type and quality of insulation, as well as materials used. For instance, a bag rated to zero degrees uses much more insulation than a 30-degree bag.
Sleeping bags usually are rated for the lowest temperature used. Many manufacturers use the EN or ISO rating system, a standardized measurement of warmth.
SYNTHETIC VS. DOWN INSULATION
There are two main types of insulation: down and synthetic.
Down is generally warmer, lighter and more packable than synthetic insulation — especially higher-quality down (rated 800-fill and above). But it’s typically more expensive and loses its ability to keep you warm if it becomes wet. There is some water-resistant down.
Synthetic retains its ability to trap heat if the bag gets wet. These sleeping bags are usually heavier and less packable than down bags, but they are also less expensive. They’re the best choice for wet adventures.
This matters when you’re backpacking, but less so when car camping.
Lighter, higher-quality insulation costs more, but you can also reduce weight and bulk by not buying a 15-degree bag when you need only a 30-degree bag.
MUMMY VS. RECTANGULAR SHAPE
Mummy bags taper from head to foot for thermal efficiency (less space to heat up) and to minimize weight and bulk, but some can feel claustrophobic.
Rectangular bags are more spacious, but are generally heavier, bulkier and sometimes have cold spots.
Treat a bag like boots: Try it on before buying.
Less expensive, yet lightweight, bags have sewn-through baffles, which can create cold spots along seams. Higher-quality horizontal baffles are typically warmer. Also look for a draft tube (along the zipper), collar (inside the hood) and no-snag zipper guard.
GEAR GUY’S ADVICE?
Get what you can afford. With an inexpensive bag, you can still get outdoors, which is what’s most important, right? If and when you have the dough for a nicer bag, it will make your wilderness adventures a little more luxurious.
CARING FOR YOUR BAG
Properly cared for, a sleeping bag can last 10-20 years. Body oils can compromise insulation, so to prolong your bag’s life, you should sleep in clean base layers. Air out your bag after each night of camping, but don’t leave it exposed to sunlight for long periods.
Post-trip, hang the bag to dry for a day or two, and then place it in a big storage sack or an old pillowcase. Be sure to store it in a dry place. If your bag gets really dirty or starts losing loft, follow the manufacturer instructions for washing it.