How to Select a Sleeping Bag

I am planning to spend more time on the road this year. In addition to camera gear, I am in the need of some new outdoor gear. As a camping neophyte, I found this article illuminating.

How to Select A Sleeping Bag

Selecting the right sleeping bag is easy; however, no single sleeping bag will fit all your needs. The sleeping bag your child needs for a sleepover is not the same as the one needed for a trek to the North Pole.

Sleeping Bags Are Not Just For Sleeping

Decide On The Temperature

Sleeping bags can be specified in four ranges: summer above 45°F (7°C), 3-season (spring, summer, and fall) 10 °F (-12°C) to 45°F (7°C), and winter (4-season) 10°F (-12°C) to -18°F (-28°C), or extreme less than -18°F (-28°C). For example, a 32°F (0°C) rated sleeping bag is a 3-season bag while a 50°F (10°C) is a summer bag.

Comfort ratings refer to the optimum temperature at which you will feel warm and comfortable. When used in temperatures below this rating, the user may feel cold. However, this rating is affected by the clothing you wear, or how you respond to hot and cold.

Taking your summer rated sleeping bag on an extreme winter camping trip may lead to some discomfort.

Decide On The Shape

Sleeping bags are usually offered in three shapes: rectangular, barrel, and mummy.

Rectangular sleeping bags offer the most comfort and room. Also, they can be zipped together to create a double sleeping bag. The rectangular sleeping bag is the largest and heaviest of this group, and not ideally suited for backpacking.

Rectangular Sleeping Bag

The barrel sleeping bag is tapered and offers more warmth and size efficiency- an important consideration if backpacking. Even though it has a tighter fit than the rectangular sleeping bag, is is not as restrictive as the mummy sleeping bag. In fact, the barrel sleeping bag is the best all purpose bag.

Barrel Sleeping Bag

If you are thinking of backpacking then the mummy sleeping bag may be for you. This bag has a tight fit with its narrow shoulders and hip widths. These features make the bag both warmer and lighter. However, these features also make the bag more restrictive and harder to get in and out.

Mummy Sleeping Bag

Decide On The Insulation

Insulation can either be synthetic or down (feathers).

Synthetic insulation is by far the most popular since it offers great performance with affordability. Synthetic insulation is quick-drying, water resistance, durable, and non-allergenic. Its main downside is it does not pack down as well a down. Even though these bags are less expensive than their down counterparts, they have a shorter life.

The compressibility of down comes with a higher price tag but for backpackers, it is often worth it. Also, they are highly durable and have a long life.When wet they lose their ability to insulate and take a long time to dry. These bags require special cleaning.

Body Shape

Sleeping bags are also designed to accommodate different body shapes. Large frame sleeping bags, women’s sleeping bags, child’s sleeping bags, etc. are terms used to describe these designs.

Sleeping Bag Joy

Other Considerations

Sleeping bags consist of a shell plus a lining. The shell is usually nylon or polyester and typically has been treated with durable water repellent (DWR). The lining is never treated, as it has to be breathable.

A sleeping bag hood reduces the heat loss from your head and is a great option if you are planning on camping in cool climes.

Sleeping bag pockets can be used to stash small items like telephones, tablets, or media players.

Some sleeping bags have a sleeping pad sleeve to accommodate a sleeping pad. The sleeping pad slides into the sleeve thus preventing sleeping pad roll offs.

A built-in pillow or a pillow pocket can be found on some sleeping bags. The built-in pillow may be inflatable or filled. Clothing or other items can be stuffed into the pillow pocket to form a pillow.

A stuff sack or storage sack may come with the bag or may have to be purchased separately.  The stuff sack compresses the sleeping bag to a minimum for ease of transport while a storage sack is used for long term storage without overly compressing the sleeping bag.

For additional warmth, to reduce wear and tear, and to keep clean. a separate soft sleeping bag liner can be purchased.

Check out the Joshua Tree Depot’s sleeping bags and sleeping pads collection.





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