October 27, 2006 - Admin
It’s Your BAG, You Make the Call
Finding your sleeping bag isn’t warm enough is the last thing you want to happen when you’re 20 miles in the woods. You may be facing a very long, unrestful night – a night that can ruin your spirits and sap your strength for the rest of your camping trip.
GOOSE DOWN or SYNTHETIC?
So how do you make sure you’ve selected the best sleeping bag for your needs? There are pros and cons to most options available in sleeping bags. Goose down is very warm and lightweight to carry. It can be easily compressed for travel and will quickly regain its form when shaken out. It is by far the better choice for backpackers who intend to carry the bag with them for extended trips because of its lighter weight and smaller packing. However, goose down is more expensive and it losses its insulating properties when wet – a major consideration when sleeping outdoors or traveling in inclement weather.
Synthetic filled bags are cheaper than goose down and retain their warmth even in wet conditions. They dry faster than down and is a good choice if traveling by boat or sleeping outdoors on the ground. However, synthetic bags are heavier and larger which can be a major downside if you are hiking long distances.
For the average family camper, synthetic bags are the least expensive and least affected by wet conditions. And if you are traveling by car to a campground the size and weight of a synthetic bag should not be an issue.
RECTANGLE, TAPERED or MUMMY BAG?
As with the insulating materials, the shape of bag you choose will depend on your specific needs with pros and cons for each type.
Rectangle bags are most similar to bed sleeping and most familiar to the average user. They permit room for movement and you can easily zip two bags together for shared sleeping. However, rectangle bags are the biggest and not the best option for carrying on extended hikes.
Tapered bags are somewhat narrower towards the feet area of the bag. This shape provides less freedom of movement but more warmth because of the restricted space.
Mummy bags are the smallest and lightest to carry. They are very snug to the body (as the name suggests) with a hood that can be fitted around the head to conserve the greatest amount of body heat. While the average user may find the mummy bag uncomfortable to sleep in because of the restriction, they are the best choice for cold weather camping and long hikes because of their warmth and small size.
WHICH TEMPERATURE RATING?
Sleeping bags will list the coldest temperature for which they are suitable. If you are camping in the summer or colder months you will need to choose a bag accordingly. Also take into consideration if you are normally cold or hot when sleeping and make adjustments.
In most cases it is recommended to choose a warmer bag since you can always open the bag for venting if you get too warm. Also consider temperature ratings are based on using a sleeping pad under the bag which conserves body heat from being lost to the ground.
If you camp out frequently, you may want to consider a liner for your bag which will increase its warmth and can be washed separately, saving your sleeping bag from extra wear and tear.
You can also purchase sleeping bag covers. These covers can substitute for a warm weather sleeping bag and can extend a light weight bag into a cold weather bag by increasing the warmth. They can also provide extra protection from wet conditions and are a good choice for protecting goose down sleeping bags.
How comfortable you are when you sleep will drastically affect your enjoyment of a camping or hiking trip. Saving a few dollars at the expense of a good nights sleep will not seem like a good idea when you are tired and cold.
Wesley Slade owns and operates the popular outdoor site, WWW.Slades.Biz. He writes about hunting, camping and outdoor gear.