how to select the perfect sleeping bag?

 When shopping for a sleeping bag, consider finding a balance between weight, warmth and cost.

To find a great sleeping bag for you, think about the following:

1. Insulation type?
2. How cold is the night going to be?
3. How much weight are you willing to carry?
4. What type of sleeper are you?
5. What features do you want?

 

1. Insulation type

Generally there are two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. This is usually the biggest choice when it comes to selecting a sleeping bag. Each has it’s pros and cons.

1. Down sleeping bag:

PRO: ♦ Lightweight
          ♦ Durable
          ♦ Compact
          ♦ Warmer

CON: ♦ Doesn’t insulate when wet
          ♦ Usually more expensive
          ♦ Sometimes unethically sourced

Image: Enlightened Equipment

Down sleeping bags use FP (fill power) rating to help with the temperature ratings. The higher the fill power, the more air gets trapped by the down inside the sleeping bag. This not only means that you will be warmer with less filling, but also that the higher the fill power, the lighter the bag will be

For example: a down sleeping bag with a 600FP (fill power) will have the same level of warmth as an 800FP bag. However, the difference is that the 800FP will keep you warmer with less down, making it lighter and thus often more expensive as well.

2. Synthetic sleeping bag:

PRO: ♦ Dries quick
          ♦ Can handle getting wet

CON: ♦ Not compact
          ♦ Heavier

Image: Sea to Summit

2. Temperature rating

Web photo (47)

An important factor to consider when shopping for a sleeping bag is the temperature rating. In other words, how low can the temperature drop while it will still keep you warm?

Step 1: check the conditions of your trip.

To figure out which temperature rating is good for you, you need to know how cold the nights will be where you are planning to hike. Once you know that, you can eliminate a lot of sleeping bags that will not be comfortable for your specific needs.


Step 2: play it safe.

When you do decide on the temperature rating that is right for you, it is recommended to choose a sleeping bag that has a slightly lower rating than the one you intend to select.


Step 3: which rating to look at?

Right, so you decided on the temperature rating, but why are there different temperatures mentioned on the sleeping bag? It is basically an indication between which temperatures you might expect to sleep comfortably.

To find out which rating to look at, you need to analyse what kind of sleeper you are

If you are a cold sleeper, always choose from the comfort level temperature rating. If you are a warm sleeper, select from the lower limit temperature ratings.


Step 4: what rating do I need?

It can be super confusing when you try to select the perfect sleeping bag for your hike. Here is a little guidance to get you on your way:

CONDITIONS

WARM

COOL

COLD

EXTREME

Expected Nighttime Temperature

50F / 10C

32F / 0C

20F / -6C

0F / -18

Sleeping Pad R-Value

<2

2 – 3.9

4 – 5.4

> 5.5

Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating

Min 30F / -1C

Min 20F / -6C

Min 15F / -9C

Min 0F / -18C

Step 5: other factors that impact warmth

A temperature rating alone is not a guarantee to keep you warm in a tent. Other factors will also impact your comfort and warmth. For example, the R-value of your sleeping pad will have an effect of how much warmth will get through the sleeping pad and onto your sleeping bag. More on that later.

 

3. Weight

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An important factor to consider when buying a sleeping bag is the weight. How much are you willing to carry? And how much space will you need?

Most sleeping bags are pretty lightweight, but there is one critical factor that will determine the weight and size of your sleeping bag: the insulation type. Down sleeping bags tend to be much lighter than their synthetic counterparts. However, as we mentioned in the previous section, there are a few downsides when you select a down sleeping bag (doesn’t insulate when wet, more expensive).

When you choose an ultralight sleeping bag or quilt, you will often pay a premium for it. It is up to you whether it is worth the extra money or not. From my personal experience, I prefer a sleeping bag that is both light, warm and compact. But of course that is probably what everyone wants, right? Here are a few recommendations, based on my research. 

I personally prefer to spend a little more on my tent and sleeping bag if it means that my hike will be more comfortable. After all, having a good night sleep will make your hiking experience so much better!

Of course, we all want the best quality for the cheapest price. For the best lightweight sleeping bags on the market right now, click here to go to my other blog post!

4. shape

Something to ask yourself is whether you sleep on your back, side or tummy? Depending on the answer you might choose a completely different sleeping bag than your fellow hikers.

Side sleepers tend to be more comfortable sleeping in a quilt. A quilt is basically the same as a sleeping bag, but it doesn’t have a zipper all the way up. Instead, you can attach it to your sleeping pad. This means that you have a little more wiggle room to move around or sleep curled up on your side. For the best quilts, click here.

Aside from the quilt option, sleeping bags come in a variety of shapes. The most classic model is probably the mummy sleeping bag. This model has a hood and zips all the way up. Mummy sleeping bags are most efficient to retain warmth.

Then you can also choose a semi rectangular sleeping bag. These are usually better for warmer weather and they provide a bit more space on your feet.

5. Features

sleeping bag selection

Lastly, you need to figure out what features you want your sleeping bag to have?

For example, do you want a hood? Do you want the zipper to be in the front, left or right position? What about pockets?

With so many options to choose from, sometimes we loose sight of the most important features, which are warmth and insulation. So keep in mind that, even though it is nice to have all the luxuries, sometimes we need to make a trade-off to stay comfortable on our hike.

***Did I miss anything in this article or would you like to add something? Please use the comment section below or send me an email on dorishikingadventures@gmail.com***

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