It’s the coldest time of year, but that’s no reason to not get outside and camp. With the right knowledge and gear, anyone can spend a cozy night out in the wilderness! So, we here at Diamond Brand would like to give you all the necessary knowledge (along with the gear) to make those cold nights’ cozy.
When deciding what type of sleeping bag to buy you need to first consider the following points that will help determine what type of sleeping bag you need:
Every sleeping bag comes with a temperature rating which recommends the coldest temperature the sleeping bag should be used in. These temperature ratings normally fall into the three following categories:
i. Summer: 32° and higher
ii. Fall and Spring: 10°-32°
iii. Winter: 10° and lower
Sleeping bag temperature ratings are normally created through a standardized system called the European Norm (EN) testing protocol. The EN protocol gives sleeping bags a comfort rating that determines what temperature the bag can comfortably be slept in by most people, and then the lower-limit rating that determines at what temperature a ‘hot sleeper’ can remain comfortable.
When it comes to sleeping bag temperatures, the most important thing to remember is that it’s easier to make a warm bag cooler than a cool bag warmer!
2. Insulation Type:
When searching for a sleeping bag, you will always see that they are insulated with either down or synthetic filling. But what do those differences mean?
Down- Down is the layer of warmth-providing plumage that lies next to a duck or gooses skin. When grouped together, the plumes catch pockets of hot air that when held, keep what’s underneath warm. Here are some pros and cons of down sleeping bags:
|· High warmth-to-weight ratio|
· Very compressible
· Wicks body moisture
· Highly durable
|· Loses insulation properties when wet|
· Requires special cleaning detergents
· Costs more than synthetic fills
Synthetic- Synthetic insulation is designed to catch and hold hot air in the same way as down, but be more accessible and therefore more affordable than down. Different brands have their own proprietary forms of synthetic insulators, but they normally come in the form of either short staple fibers or long continuous filaments. The short fibers are more compressible than the filaments, however, the filaments tend to have a longer lifespan. Here is an overview of the pros and cons of synthetic insulation:
|· Water resistant so will provide warmth when wet (better in wetter climates)|
· Less expensive than down
· Normally hypoallergenic since manmade
|· Heavier warmth-to-weight ratio resulting in being bulkier than down|
· Not quite as durable as down
· Will sometimes have fit issues due to the rigidity of synthetic fibers in comparison to down
Both down and synthetic insulated sleeping bags offer their own equally impressive qualities. However, it is important to first take evaluate your own needs and take into consideration some of the features of each insulation before committing to a sleeping bag.
3. Weight and Shape
The next thing to consider when selecting a sleeping bag is its weight and its shape. For instance, if you are going on a backpacking trip you might want to look for a lighter sleeping bag, but if you are car camping you can focus more on comfort.
Lightweight Bags: When shopping for a lightweight sleeping bag, look for mummy shaped bags with narrower hip and shoulder lengths. These sleeping bags will be a bit less roomy than wider-cut bags but will shed extra ounces for those that want to go as light as possible.
Comfortable Bags: If you’re not ounce-obsessed and care more about comfort, then look for either wider-cut mummy bags, rectangular bags, or some newer alternative shaped options such as spoon-shaped bags. Beyond weight, the only main downside to wider-cut sleeping bags in comparison to their lightweight and narrow counterparts is their ability to insulate. More space between your body and a sleeping bag results in more opportunity for your body heat to escape the bag. Though you don’t want a sleeping bag to be overly tight, it needs to limit the open-space between you and the bag so that your body heat can be properly maintained by the insulation.
4. Sleeping Bag Features
Apart from the importance of temperature ratings, insulation types, shapes, and weight, a sleeping bag should also have some awesome convenience or comfort increasing features. For instance, most sleeping bags come with a hood that is meant to prevent much-needed heat from escaping the bag. Some of these hoods even come with features such as pockets that you can stuff clothes into to create a pillow or differentiated cords that allow you to tell which cord will loosen or tighten the hood. Another cool feature that can be found in sleeping bags are sleeping pad loops or sleeves. Each of these features serve to keep your sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag which adds warmth and comfort. Though some of these features can seem excessive, they truly do sometimes make your experience just a bit better.
5. Sleeping Bag Tips and Tricks
Now that you know how to pick out the best sleeping bag for your outdoor activities, come check out our many options at either Diamond Brand or Frugal Backpacker! Also, while you’re at it, use the following tips and tricks to get the most comfort and fun out of your camping experience!
- Place dry clothes in the foot of your sleeping bag to soak up excess moisture
- Fill a Nalgene full of hot water and place it near your feet to heat the bag up
- Place a few tennis balls in the dryer with your down bag to maintain its loft
- When not camping, store your sleeping bag either out of a sack or in a sack that does not compress it so that the insulating fibers don’t break down
- Stuff your sleeping bag foot-first so that it doesn’t catch air and packs down smaller
We hope that you’ll stop by soon so we can help you pick out your perfect bag!