How to Shop for a Sleeping Bag
Kevin Felts 07.09.18
Shopping for a new sleeping bag but not sure what to look for? A sleeping bag is one of the things that can make or break an otherwise good camping trip. Too heavy and the bag feels like we are packing a brick. Too light and we may end up shivering through the night.
Then there are the numerous factors, such as natural of synesthetic filler material, temperature ratings, and price.
Let’s take a few minutes and talk about some of the things to look at when shopping for a sleeping bag.
What is the expected temperature range the sleeping bag will be used in? Will this be a warm weather, mild weather, or extreme cold sleeping bag?
Most sleeping bags will have a comfort rating, which is just an estimate. Let’s say a sleeping bag has a rating of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Chances are the bag will be comfortable into the 40s. Typically, I add 10 degrees to whatever the advertised rating is.
There is no need to in bring a 32 degree bag on a camping trip when the nighttime temperatures are going to only get into the 70s. Chances are we can use a much lighter sleeping bag for those warm weather nights.
The bad news is that there is no perfect sleeping bag. If temperatures get close to freezing, typically I use a 32 degree bag with a small blanket for a liner. If temperatures are expected to get into the 20s or below, then a goose down filled bag is in order.
Synthetic or Down Filler
Synthetic is a man made sleeping bag filler.
- Available is a wide range of prices.
- Maintains insulating capability when wet.
Down is either duck or goose feathers.
- Loses insulating rating when wet.
Why would anyone use down? Because it is the gold standard in sleeping bag filler. Sleeping in a down sleeping bag is like sleeping on an old style feather bed. Down filler also has a higher insulating rating than synthetic, but only when dry.
No Perfect Sleeping Bag
Depending on camping conditions, someone may need two or three sleeping bags in their inventory, then pick the bag best suited for a given trip.
My personal sleeping bag collection:
- G.I. surplus extreme cold weather (-20 degree rating) down filled bag.
- Coleman Exponent sleeping bag.
- Several warm weather bags collected over the decades.
If someone wanted to fudge the bag rating, get a GI poncho liner and use it as a sleeping bag liner. Sometimes I use a fleece blanket for a liner.
Depending on the quality of the liner, it may turn a 40 degree bag into a 30 degree.
One of the deciding factors is also cost. How much is someone willing, or how much can they afford to pay for a sleeping bag?
Mummy bags wrap around the head and provide better heat retention than traditional sleeping bags.
Read the reviews and make the best decision for your camping conditions.