There is a plethora of choice in camping gear these days. This can leave the average person(me) breathless with indecision about which one to buy. Below are some things to consider before you buy your sleeping bag.
What season(s) will you be using your sleeping bag in?
The most important thing to know is what temperature rating your sleeping bag needs to be. Temperature ratings are given for how cold it can get outside for you to still be comfortable inside the bag. It assumes you are wearing insulating sleep wear such as long underwear. It also assumes that your sleeping bag is on an insulated sleeping pad. (An insulated pad will also protect your air mattress–click here for info on avoiding air mattress leaks.) So make sure that the rating is for a colder temperature than you think you’ll be experiencing.
Most people need a three-season sleeping bag. Even if they camp only in the summer, many camp in the mountains. It gets cold there at night any time of year! If you will be winter camping, get a sleeping bag specifically for winter camping.
By yourself or with a partner?
If you want to make one queen-sized sleeping bag out of two twin sized, make certain both are zipper compatible. This means that the left and right sides of the zipper fit each sleeping bag. It’s annoying to buy two bags and then find out at the campsite you can’t zip them together. It’s better to buy a queen-sized sleeping bag.
What kind of filling?
The two types you need to look at are down and synthetic. Down-filled sleeping bags are lovely and warm, and last about 3-5 times longer than synthetic filled sleeping bags. They are also twice as expensive and easy to get wet. Just try drying it out in time for the next night! Synthetic fillings are designed to dry faster and the sleeping bags are invariably cheaper than down. They also don’t flatten as quickly as down sleeping bags. Down sleeping bags also need to be professionally cleaned; synthetic sleeping bags can be washed and dried at home.
What features say “quality” in a sleeping bag?
Shingled construction in a synthetic sleeping bag is the best quality construction but it comes with a higher price tag. For a good quality, middle of the ground price, off-set quilt construction will do the job. It keeps the filling from forming cold spots because it overlaps insulation layers, just like the shingled construction does. Look for draft tubes–an extra layer of material that runs along the side of the zipper inside. this cuts down on cold air seepage. Better quality sleeping bags also have two-way zippers and generally have an outer shell of nylon–more durable than polyester.
Is the shape of the sleeping bag important?
Definitely. Some people opt for “mummy” sleeping bags. While these offer the best warmth for sleeping in, they can feel very constricting to some people. It’s also difficult to stuff your clothes that you will be wearing into the foot of your bag. (This is a great little hack because it keeps your feet warmer. Also, you can keep your clothes a little warmer for when you have to get dressed the next morning.
Should I ask the guy at the camping store?
Absolutely. Your camping store retailer, online or in real life, will have all kinds of information for you to consider about the sleeping bag you want to buy. (S)he will also have excellent choice-suggestions for you based on where you’ll be camping and when. (S)he’ll likely have a selection to choose from in the price range you’re looking for, too.
But if you just want to go in and make a purchase, keep the above ideas in mind when selecting your sleeping bag, and you’ll be happy with the one you buy.