For hikers, backcountry-goers, and “outside” lovers (Camping Lover), a sleeping bag is an essential piece of gear. To enjoy a blissful night’s slumber in the woods, you will need the proper gear, which starts with choosing the best backcountry sleeping bag. But there is so much variety in the sleeping bag market that it can be overwhelming to decide when it comes time to choose one. Below I break down everything there is to know about how to choose a sleeping bag for camping.
Choosing the Best Backcountry Sleeping Bag
There are 3 criteria that determine your choice of sleeping bag: the temperature of your sleeping environment, the ease of transport, and the comfort of sleeping. Let’s break it down:
A sleeping bag’s temperature rating identifies the minimum temperature at which a bag was designed to keep the “average sleeper” warm. For starters, you should choose a sleeping bag with a temperature rating that is lower than the minimum temperature you will face. When in doubt, it’s wise to choose a bag with a lower temperature rating because when conditions are hot you can always open the bag to cool it down.
It is useful to have a specification for easy comparison, but it is important to understand more about temperature ratings and the terms associated with those ratings. The topic can be complicated, here are the essentials:
- ü An “ISO” or “N” temperature rating indicates that you can compare any two backpacking sleeping bags. These standardized tests mean you can compare the temperature ratings of different brands. (ISO and EN ratings are comparable. EN is the old standard and ISO is the new standard; ISO version enhances the validity of test results across laboratories.)
- ü With ISO/EN testing, a bag is given two temperature ratings: comfort and limit ratings. The “Comfort” rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average “cold sleeper” comfortable and is the temperature that usually assigned to women’s bags. The “limit” rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep a “warm sleeper” comfortable and is the temperature usually assigned to men’s or unisex bags.
- ü A temperature rating doesn’t give any guarantee of warmth. Ratings are helpful as all companies test their bags in the same process, so you can compare bags from different brands.
- Down or Synthetic Fill
Another important consideration while looking for a sleeping bag for camping should be the type of fill: down or synthetic. Ultimately, many other factors involved in choosing a bag, such as temperature rating and packability will be affected by the insulating material. “Down fill” is known for its exceptional warmth, low weight and packability. With its class-leading heat-to-weight ratio, you get more bang for your buck than synthetic fill, while synthetic fill is often made from polyester. Both materials have their strengths and weaknesses. Generally, it is advisable to choose bags with down fill.
Weight and packability
The biggest factor in a sleeping bag’s weight is its insulation and its size. Better efficient insulations, like advanced synthetics and high-fill-power downs, will provide greater warmth for less weight than less efficient fills. Because a bag needs more insulation to get a warmer (lower) temperature rating, you should always compare bags of similar temperature ratings while comparing bag weights.
How sleeping bag shape affects weight: A bag with a sleek shape and a snug fit will be lighter than a similar bag that is nice and spacious. Sleeping bags come in three basic sizes:
- ü Mummy: To increase heat and reduce weight, this type of bag has a tapered cut, along with a contoured hood you can tie tight for more warmth. Overall fit is good – you usually roll with your bag inside instead of inside it.
- ü Semi rectangular: Also known as a “modified mummy” Semi rectangular includes a variety of shapes, all of which provide warmth and a compromise between rooms.
- ü Rectangular: A lot of camping bags have a simple rectangular shape that maximizes room.
How sleeping bag size affects warmth: Sleeping bags keep you warm by retaining the heat emitted by your body, which can heat a small space more efficiently than a wide one. So, a bag with a sleek and compact shape and a tight fit will be warmer than a similar bag that is nice and spacious.
If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs and troubleshooting about camping and enjoying the outdoors, here are some additional posts to check out:
These are some of the most important criteria you should consider before choosing a sleeping bag for camping, including temperature rating, down versus synthetic fill, weight and packability, size, and more. To make it easier, I have listed the 6 best and most popular models in my “”6 Best Backpack Sleeping Bags! “”…. But for now…Be Safe and Happy Camping.!