If you’ve ever left home for a camp out with a less-than-stellar sleeping bag, you know how crucial a warm, comfortable sleeping bag is to the camping experience. And if you haven’t had this opportunity, we hope this post will help prevent it.
Choosing a Sleeping Bag
If you understand what a sleeping bag’s job is, you can better determine which bag is best for you. Also, be aware of the materials used in the bag’s design and understand how it is constructed. Dual layer construction with offset stitching makes a great barrier between you and the cold because the air around your body can’t escape through the stitching. This dead air gets trapped and heated by your body’s radiant heat and keeps you warm—protected from the chilly night outside your tent. See our post on “How Your Sleeping Bag Keeps You Warm” for more details.
Other features to look for are shoulder and zipper baffles that don’t allow cold air to easily seep in through small openings like the areas around your neck and shoulders and the small gaps in a zipper.
What’s in the bag?
Look for a bag with high quality fill. The choice here comes down to a decision between a synthetic fill or, well . . . down. Down is the under plumage of a goose or duck’s feathers. It is highly compressible, light, and if kept dry exceptionally warm. If you run into rain on your outing, be sure to keep the bag covered in a waterproof compression or stuff sack or in a leak proof tent. Down can take days to dry out if it gets wet, and wet down won’t keep you warm. It’s also an expensive option.
Look for synthetic fill if you want to save a little money, but buy higher quality in this category. High quality synthetic fill can keep you warm, even if it gets wet. It may not be as warm pound for pound when compared to down, nothing is, but it will also dry out fast compared to a wet down bag.
What kind of sleeper are you?
Get a bag that suits you. If you toss and turn, a little more wiggle room may be in order. But if you wake up just as you fell to sleep, you may want a nice fitting mummy bag. It’s important to know that mummy bags are made gender specific. Men and women have different natural cold spots. Mummy bags are filled differently for men than women to accommodate this. It’s also important to purchase a sleeping bag that is rated ten to fifteen degrees lower than the lowest temperature you’ll encounter on your adventures. At TETON, we remind campers that temperature ratings are survival ratings, not comfort ratings.
Consider a sleeping pad. This extra layer between you and the hard, cold ground will boost your ability to stay comfortable as well as warm. Most seasoned campers don’t leave home without one.
The sleeping bag’s job is simply to reduce heat loss and insulate your body heat. You are the energy source. The bag’s job is to protect that resource from the surroundings, so choose wisely and you won’t be left shivering instead of sleeping.