There are several things that you should consider when looking to buy a sleeping bag. A quality sleeping bag is a big investment that, if you choose the right one, should last you many years and help you create wonderful memories.
However if you do not choose wisely then your sleeping bag could lead to a miserable night’s sleep on your trip which can ruin the entire thing. That is why it is very important to do your research on what you should be looking for in a sleeping bag so that you can make an informed decision when it is time to buy. I will be going over the following in order to help you understand some of the qualities that you should be paying attention to.
- Temperature Rating
- Fill Type
- Fill Weight
- Shell/Liner Fabric
I will go over each of these for you so that you have a better idea of what you are looking for.
What Will You Be Using It For?
This is one of the most important things to consider when looking for a sleeping bag. It will influence many of the qualities that you should be searching for such as weight and temperature rating.
So you need to form a general idea of what you will be putting the sleeping bag through so that you can pick the right one.
- Car Camping
- Primitive Camping where you have to hike less than 5 miles
- Cold Weather Capming
- Warm Weather Camping
- All Seasons Capming
- Through Hiking/Hiking More Than a Few Days Back to Back
- Backyard Camping
All of these are common situations that all require different qualities in a sleeping bag. If your situation involves several that is another thing that you will have to consider, and although some situations can be covered by a single sleeping bag, some sleeping bags for things like ultralight backpacking are going to be more expensive and you may not want to use them for things like car camping so that you do not damage them.
This one is a big one. If you are camping in a cold environment you will obviously want a bag rated for very low temperatures, although the sleeping pad and tent that you choose will also play into keeping you warm and comfortable. Those are topics that I cover in other posts though.
One of the major things that play into picking based on temperature rating is adjusting for your personal body. Women naturally sleep colder, meaning that they feel colder at the same temperature than a man does.
Also, the rating for the bag is the minimum safe temperature which the bag should be used for. So if a bag’s rating is 0 F then you should not use it in the negative degrees because you will not be able to maintain your body temperature properly and may be subject to getting sick or even worse things like hypothermia and frostbite. This does not necessarily mean that the bag will be comfortable at 0 degrees, in fact you may feel very cold at the minimum rating and that does not make for a pleasant night.
The common ratings in F for sleeping bags are -50 to 0, 1 to 14, 15 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 and above. These are not always listed as a range, they can also be listed as a specific temperature. If that is the case it usually is the minimum temperature.
Fill Type: Synthetic, Natural, Mixed, Hydrophobic?
Fill type means the insulation type used in the sleeping bag. There are many types but in general they are divided into two categories: synthetic or natural. There are also sub categories such as mixed fill or hydrophobic down.
Synthetic as you can imagine is in general polyester that is sometimes shaped to mimic down and sometimes in sheets. The advantage to synthetic is its ability to still insulate even if it gets damp and its price point. Synthetic is generally less expensive that natural down is.
Down also has many benefits though. It is warmer and weighs less. It also compresses into a smaller size. The downside is as mentioned above: it does not insulate well if it becomes damp. This is where hydrophobic down comes into play. Hydrophobic down is chemically treated so that even if it becomes damp it still has loft and thus still insulates. It is also supposed to dry faster than regular down
This is a number rating that is applied to down bags, comforters, jackets etc. It indicates the quality of the down more so than the quality. A higher rating near 800 indicates a down that lofts more which makes for a warmer bag. A lower rating means less loft and less heat retention. Ultralight bags generally have a higher fill weight which makes them warmer at a lower overall weight, but also more expensive.
The shell and liner fabric are the fabrics used on the outside of the bag and the inside of the bag respectively. This is important for not just comfort, but also durability, ease of cleaning, and corresponds to the fill type as down bags use a lighter weight and thus less durable shell and care must be taken to ensure that they do not come into contact with anything sharp or abrasive.
Choosing the right size is important because if it is too big there is more space for your body heat to warm up which can make you feel colder when sleeping. It is also important to go to a store that carries the type of bag that you are looking for if there is one near you and try some bags out, especially if you are getting a mummy bag.
Sleeping bags can range anywhere from 20 lbs to under 2 lbs. It is important to pick a sleeping bag with the appropriate weight for your activity. A 10 lb sleeping bag would be inappropriate for long distance hiking and may be better or even overkill for someone how is only planing to go car camping.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to explain why this is important. Usually you have to look at the manufacturer’s warranty info rather than the seller’s as it will be better and possibly longer. One of the exceptions is REI. This store has a one year any reason return policy and is one the many reasons that I love doing business with them.
And That About Covers It
There are also other aspects to consider but these are the most important to know about when looking to buy a sleeping bag.
If you want a more in depth guide for buying a sleeping bag go check out REI’s site. You can jump straight to the page I am taking about HERE.
Thank you all for visiting. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.