I know from experience that the most difficult thing about being on a camping trip is getting a good night’s sleep. You can shield yourself from the elements with a good tent but only a well-chosen sleeping bag can help you get a good night’s rest. This is why knowing how to pick a sleeping bag matters.
You’ll most likely not find a sleeping bag that is a “cure-all” for all conditions. However, it is certainly possible to find a bag that will keep you comfortable on most trips, if not all.
Choosing a sleeping bag that’s right for you is as important as choosing a tent. When making your choice, take into account your needs. Your choice should be appropriate for the trips you most often make. Being aware of the types of sleeping bags available will help you make a good decision regarding your purchase.
The Main Factor to consider in how to pick a sleeping bag
The biggest factor to consider when choosing a sleeping bag is whether your bag should have a down fill or synthetic fill. Down is unbeatable for warmth and comfort and is the type most recommended for camping trips. However, if it should rain and your down-filled sleeping bag gets wet, it will take a really long time for it to dry. On the other hand, synthetic-fill bags provide good warmth and dry fairly quickly after getting wet.
In comparison, synthetic-fill sleeping bags are also a bit heavier than down-fill.
If your needs revolve around general-purpose camping trips, you will want to consider buying a three-season sleeping bag. These generally have a temperature-comfort rating of 10 – 20 degrees F. If you prefer to go camping in specific seasons, you’ll want to purchase a bag that caters for that particular season.
For camping during the cooler seasons, aim for sleeping bags that offer more warmth. Conversely, if you need a bag for warmer conditions, go for a breathable bag that will keep you cool even in the warmer seasons.
Before you purchase your bag, check its temperature-rating guide so that you can choose the bag that’s best suited to your needs. Most winter sleeping gear should be rated for -15 to -40F, while summer sleeping bags should indicate a 10 to 20 degree F rating. As a general recommendation for 3-season use, I would suggest a bag rated to at least 15-20 degrees.
Here are a few more tips on how to pick a sleeping bag that’s right for you:
1. Material used – Most sleeping bags are made of nylon or polyester. If you are a serious camper, try to avoid cotton sleeping bags, especially the printed ones. They would take ages to dry, if you should experience rain or flood conditions.
For added comfort while sleeping, look for bags that have a lining of taffeta or some other non-cotton material. These fabrics, compared with plain nylon or even some cotton lining, are more comfortable, are more breathable and warm more quickly.
2. The shape of the bag – Mummy-shaped sleeping bags have become quite popular of late. They warm more quickly and some people find them to be snug and comfortable. However, others find them too restrictive, especially if they like to have a lot of space to wriggle around while sleeping. Rectangular sleeping bags are good if you like a larger space to sleep in.
3. Zippers and accessories – Make sure the zippers are double-sided and allow for zipping open at both ends without any problem. You may want to look out for zipper hooks as well, which prevent the bags from opening up accidentally. Also look for insulated draft collars that help retain the warmth around the shoulders and neck.
Furthermore, remember that dark-colored bags absorb more heat and therefore dry out more easily than light-colored bags.
While these tips might come in handy, you may still want to test a bag to see if it suits your style. Some stores will allow you to test before you buy. If you get the chance, don’t hesitate to jump in and try one out.
You should now have a good idea of how to pick a sleeping bag that will give you comfortable nights on your camping trips. If you’re still unsure, see the sleeping bag buying guide on Amazon.com for further insight.