Selecting Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Bag Selection

Sleeping bags fall into three basic categories:

  1. Summer
  2. Three-season
  3. Winter

Summer: Summer bags are suitable for temperatures of about 1 degrees C (30 degrees F)and higher. They’re lightweight (because less insulation means less weight), and they pack down tiny (often smaller than a football). Summer bags often have full-length zippers, which allow you to open them wide to ventilate when the nights are really hot.
Three-Season Ideal for temperatures of about -5 degrees C (20 degrees F) and above, these bags are best suited for spring and autumn trips, as well as summers in mountains, when temperatures can dip below freezing at night.
Winter These bags are good for about -5 degrees and below (20 degrees F), they have all the features of a three-season bag, but they’re beefed up with more insulation. Winter bags are always bulky to pack, so you will want to buy a good compression stuff sack to help.

A Note About Temperature Ratings All sleeping bags have temperature ratings, in most cases, these claims are realistic, but in some cases, temperature ratings are optimistic.

Insulation Types: 

To buy down or synthetic?

Down: Down is the lightest, most efficient insulation you can get. It’s also the most compressible (a big plus for backpackers), and it retains its loft (and therefore insulating power)
longer than synthetics. Down is mostly more expensive than synthetics, but it
also depends on the fill-power, which is a way of rating the quality of down.

Synthetics: There are many different types of synthetic insulation, but it’s generally a fluffy polyester material that doesn’t absorb water, making a it a smart choice for any camper who might be faced with serious wet. Down bags are typically bulkier and heavier, but much less expensive.

Bag Shape / Design

Bags come in several cuts; each shape is designed to appeal to a different type of camper.


Selecting Sleeping Bags

A tapered cut through the legs and feet give mummy bags maximum thermal efficiency. A bag’s primary job is to contain the heat your body generates, and when interior space is smaller, a bag is more efficient. Although most mummy sleeping bags have plenty of room through the shoulders and torso, restless sleepers and broad people may be more comfortable in a different cut (Rectangular). Another benefit of mummy bags: because they use less materials and insulation, they’re lighter weight and smaller to pack.


Selecting Sleeping Bags

With no taper at all through the legs, rectangular bags are not thermally efficient, and best suited for backyard campouts or warm summers.

Semi-rectangular A happy medium between the two other shapes, semi-rectangular bags are a good choice for people who cannot cope with the confines of a mummy situation. They’re bulkier and heavier than mummies, but give you a bit more thrashing room.

Tips: Sizing your sack It’s a sleeping bag, not shrink wrap. Here’s how to make sure your bag fits perfectly:

  1. Try before you buy. Crawl into as many bags as you can, wearing appropriate layers, to get an overall idea of the way each brand fits.
  2. Check the closures. Zip it up, down, and up again. If a zipper snags now, it will in the field. Cinch down the hood and draft collar. Check for a comfortable fit, a snug seal around your head, no scratchy Velcro rubbing against your cheek, and ease of exit.
  3. Roll around. If you’re a cold sleeper or cold-weather camper, opt for a fit on the snug side. But if you’re a thrasher or side sleeper, make sure you’re able to comfortably rotate your body.

Lightweight / Compact Bags for Hiking

If your going bush walking a light weight bag weighing about 500 – 700 grams and the size compressed into bag as the above picture shows is the best. Not only do have not much weight but they do not take up much room. Vango make a good one of these sleeping bags which is a down one which goes down to minus 10.

Sleeping Bag Liners

Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner will not only keep your warm on a winters night but will also keep your bag clean. They come in thermal material, silk & cotton.

Tips: Washing your sleeping bag:

Follow these tips to keep your investment lofting high:

  1. Read the label or seek advice on the company’s website. If those directions contradict any of our tips below, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  2. Batten down the hatches. Close all zippers and fasteners, then turn the bag inside out, so body oils on the interior will come off.
  3. Use the right soap. For down, go with a cleaning product that won’t strip essential oils from the feathers, such as Nikwax Down Wash or ReviveX Down Cleaner. For synthetics, try Granger’s Extreme Cleaner Plus (which also works on down).
  4. Wash it. Hand-wash in a tub, or use a front-loader; the agitator in a top-loader can tear baffles. Always opt for the gentle cycle with cold water. After one complete cycle, run an extra rinse or two to remove the soap.
  5. Remove carefully. Support the bag from underneath to keep waterlogged insulation from ripping out stitches. Hang it lengthwise on a laundry line until most of the water weight is gone.
  6. Dry it. Leave your bag unstuffed for a few days. And when you do store it, be sure to use a large cotton sack or pillow case, not the little nylon stuff sack you use while on a trip.
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