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Choosing from the MANY Camping Sleeping Bags (aka ‘fart sacks’ by a dear friend of mine), is no simple task. A lot of considerations need to be taken into account beyond just the materials and shape. Sleeping bags can last a long time, so taking the time now, can mean you have a lifelong sleeping friend!
First off, what will you use it for?
• You will need a TOTALLY different bag if you’re taking it trekking in the arctic versus camping in the summer.
• If you’re backpacking, you’ll want to get the lightest and smallest bag you can for the conditions you expect to encounter.
Cheap sleeping bags :
Maybe you’re looking to buy a cheap sleeping bag. My recommendation is to not skimp on your sleeping bag. Purchase a sleeping bag that fits your needs, which may mean that a cheap sleeping bag (cheaper) is good for what you need, however, you will use your sleeping bag for WAY more activities than camping and so the extra money will be money well spent.
What are the coldest conditions that you expect to use it? How cold do you get?
• Most camping sleeping bags are rated by the lowest temperature that they’re good for. This is based on the average person, wearing long underwear, on a sleeping pad… however if you get cold (like I do, and many other women), then you’ll want to get a warmer sleeping bag.
• Temperature ratings are to be used as a guide only.
• If you’re going to just camp in the summer, then a 5C (40F) bag will be probably all you need. Buy a bag for temperatures a bit colder than the coldest you expect to experience. A bit warmer is always better than too cold (you can always open the zipper).
• If you plan on doing winter and summer camping, then you can either open the warm sleeping bag over your body, or get 2 camping sleeping bags for both seasons.
• Keep in mind, the sleeping pad and tent will also factor into your warmth.
Wet or Dry Activities?
If you’re going to be somewhere that is wet, then a synthetic bag is better, cause down sleeping bags lose their insulating properties when wet, but if you’re going to be somewhere dry, then a down bag might be better cause they’re lighter and smaller per size. No matter if you waterproof the bag, if it’s wet outside, the sleeping bag can still get wet.
How do you sleep? Are you claustrophobic?
• Personally, I’m one of those sleepers who likes to sprawl out (to the disdain of any boyfriends I’ve had), this leads me to not enjoy mummy camping sleeping bags as much. Mummy’s are pretty much what is encouraged for backpacking/interior camping.
• Don’t know? Get into a mummy, or better yet, borrow a friends for a night…then… then, you’ll know! (and maybe not get any sleep that night!)
- Keep you warmer because there aren’t many large cold air gaps in the sleeping bag to hold cold air.
- Lighter to carry because excess sleeping bag is removed, so only the essential sleeping bag is kept.
- The main kind of bag for interior campers (backpacking, canoe etc.)
- Often cost more, cause they are more complicated shaped.
- Can be claustrophobic for sprawling sleepers.
Square Camping sleeping bags:
- Better for sprawling sleepers.
- Can lay open like a blanket to cover 2 people.
- May have the possibility to attach 2 square camping sleeping bags with compatible zippers to make a giant square sleeping bag! To do this, you’ll need a left opening and right opening sleeping bag. This is fun for cuddling! ☺
- Can sometimes purchase for less money because they don’t have a specialized shape.
- Not as recommended for backpacking or backcountry camping because you’re trying to conserve weight and space, and square shape isn’t as efficient with materials.
- Less warm for size.
- Take up more space when packing.
A middle of the road between square and mummy, give a bit more room for restless sleepers, or can be used as mummy bags for larger people. Have no hood, which can be a drawback since a lot of heat is lost from the head. Personally I like barrel bags, cause if it’s really cold, I just go further inside and have my face peek out the top.
Selk'Bag Sleeping Bag
Wearable sleeping bags (Selk Bag):
These bags seem pretty darn awesome!! They are a sleeping bag in the shape of a person, so you 'wear your bedding'. They look super cozy, plus they let you sprawl out at night. Definitely worth considering!
Camping Sleeping Bags can be bought with the design in mind for a womens shape.
These Camping sleeping bags are more narrow at the shoulder, while wider at the hips, and have extra insulation in the torso and feet section (as a girl, I can fully appreciate the extra warmth for feet!).
Some childrens camping sleeping bags have attachments so that the bag attaches to the sleeping pad.They can also have external pockets for children to keep flashlights and keepsakes.
Some considerations to take into account if you’re a man, is your height and width. A friend of mine is over 6 feet 5 inches and so always has to get extra long bags. Also, if you’re a bit wider, then you’ll want to make sure you have a bag that you’ll fit into comfortably.
There are 2 main kinds of fill for camping sleeping bags. Down Sleeping Bags or Synthetic
Down Sleeping Bags:
- Pros: has more warmth per weight.
- Does not keep it’s warmth when wet.
- If taken care of, can last as long as 20-30 years- My mom has one that she’s had for as long as I can remember and it’s still the warmest bag, especially for its size!
- Often cost more.
- May not be as hardy with children, as feathers can come out, or break.
- Not as humane, since the feathers for down sleeping bags are from dead birds.
- Need to be careful when purchasing, since sometimes down knock-offs can be purchased which do not use the down feathers, instead they use other kinds of feathers which aren’t the warm feathers.
- People with allergies are more likely to have reactions to down sleeping bags versus synthetic bags.
- Slow to dry.
Synthetic (usually polyester):
- Pros: can be cheaper.
- Keeps its warmth when wet more than down sleeping bags.
- Quicker drying than down sleeping bags.
- Non allergenic.
- Tougher and stands up to roughhousing more than down sleeping bags.
- Can sometimes be almost as light as down sleeping bags.
Cons: less warmth per weight.
- If compressed too much too often, they lose their loft, and thus their insulating value.
Although often overlooked, the opening side of the bag can make a big difference.
• Hood- often found in mummy bags, this will help to keep you much warmer, as most heat is lost through your head!
• Stuff sack- if you need extra space, you can purchase a compression sack, and line it with a garbage bag to keep your sleeping bag dry. The compression sack will allow you to shrink your sleeping bag much smaller!.
Remember, to increase the lifespan of your sleeping bag, when storing it, hang it or keep it in a bigger bag so that it isn’t compressed.
Also, another extra feature that you might be interested in, is a sleeping bag liner to keep your natural oils off of the inside of the bag, giving your bag a longer life, and giving you a bit extra warmth.
My suggestions for different uses:
Are you using it for backpacking?
I would suggest a mummy bag that is down as it is light and warm, however if the weather is wet, then get a light weight synthetic bag. The extra money will be worth it, cause you’ll keep your sleeping bag a long time, and will use it for many different activities, and so, if you’ll use it for backpacking, then you’ll appreciate the weight difference and be glad you got a good bag!
What about if you’re using it for Car camping?
I would suggest a regular square sleeping bag. Since these are the most versatile, you can use them for many things, and have them open and use as a blanket or attach two together, which is fun for car camping (the less serious sport).
If you could share your sleeping bag experiences what would you say? What is your favourite sleeping bag? Have you tried other sleeping bags with bad experiences? Share with the online world.