Camping is fun for everyone, until the cold seeps in at night and chills you to the bone. But it doesn’t have to be that way because you can ward it off by using the right sleeping bag. Having a good sleep in a night of camping can help you enjoy your activities the following day with reenergized vigor. This makes it important to choose the best sleeping bag for your use. The market offers diverse types of sleeping bags ranging in size, warmth as well as shape (so you don’t have to make your own sleeping bag like this guy back in 19th century :).
- Shape of the sleeping bag
- Temperature rating
- Season Rating
- Insulation of sleeping bags
- Other important features of sleeping bag
- What do you think?
Shape of the sleeping bag
There are so many types of sleeping bags on the market these days, that you can be overwhelmed. Hey, there are even special sleeping bags for sleeping in space…
Mummy sleeping bags
Mummy sleeping bags are narrow at the feet, which makes them fitting. Due to their shape, these sleeping bags retain heat, thus making them warm sleeping bags as no heat is lost. They also do not unzip to the feet, which increases the insulation of the sleeping bag.
Consequent to great heat retention, mummy bags can be used comfortably for outdoor activities. Although many mummy bags are single, you could buy a left and right-handed bag then zip them together to form a double bag with more space. Here is a brief look at their features:
- They do not unzip to the feet
- Are mummy-shaped to fit a sleeping form snugly to lower chances of heat loss
- Come in different temperature ratings for use in different seasons
Rectangular sleeping bags
Rectangular sleeping bags form a rectangular shape from the head to the toes. The bags are large, thus they are suitable for people with large frames. They can also fit two adults, which make them great for couples camping or family camping. In addition, the rectangular bags have two zips, and you can zip two or more sleeping bags together. The large size makes them poor heat retention sleeping bags, which could be unfavorable in cold weather. Moreover, square sleeping bags are bulky and heavy.
You will find rectangular sleeping bags in all manner of design, but the one to go for is the one that has a head rest area so that you can be comfortable enough even without a pillow. You also need to look for one that is made of microfiber material, which will be breathable and at the same time, comfortable enough as it retains heat.
Like their mummy counterparts, these types of sleeping bags also come in different temperature ratings. Look for other features like:
- Insulated zip
- Internal pouches and pockets to keep your watch, wallet and other items overnight
- May be made of synthetic or natural down filling
Semi-rectangular (barrel-shaped) sleeping bags
Barrel-shaped sleeping bags are designed for use for both camping and backpacking. The tapered form of such bags provides greater warmth and than rectangular sleeping bags and they’re still roomy enough for a comfortable sleep.
Double-wide sleeping bags
Double-wide sleeping bags are specially designed to fit two people. Some models include extra cushioning in the upper area of the bag to form a small pillow for each person.
These bags are especially loved by couples, since they can enjoy a home-like sleep even when camping.
Most double sleeping bags zip apart to create 2 individual sleeping bags.
Body-shaped sleeping bags
This one is quite weird at the first sight. It looks like a space suit. But when you try it on, you don’t want to get out of it.
Body-shaped sleeping bag is a sleeping bag with arms and legs. You can sleep in it and also sit by the fireplace, walk and lie under a sky full of stars. It wraps the whole body and keeps a comfortable. It also provides maximum mobility and comfort.
Pod-shaped (jumbo) sleeping bags
Just as their name suggests, this type of sleeping bags provide enough space for unrestricted body movement. They are quite comfortable as you can turn in the sleeping bag, or curl up to your comfortable position. Moreover, they have a built in stuff sack that makes it easy to store the sleeping bag.
They may look like the mummy bags, but they are very different. Where the mummy bags are snug, fitting and restrictive of movement, the sleeping pods are wide enough for you to wriggle and move about. This explains why they are becoming more popular by the day. In some instances, you will find pods categorized under the rectangular sleeping bags.
Their only downside is that they are not as warm as the mummy sleeping bags. However, since they are big, you can share one with your partner to generate more heat.
When buying a pod sleeping bag, look for features like:
- An internal pocket to keep your watch, cellphone and other small personal effects
- Stuff sack
- Wind baffle on the lining of the zipper to keep all cold away
Gender and age specific shapes
Women’s sleeping bags
Women have different physiological features as compared to sleeping bags targeted at men. Women feel colder than men. Therefore, women’s sleeping bags ought to be warmer than men’s sleeping bags. Because of this, when you buy a sleeping bag meant for a woman, it is important to consider the size of the sleeping bag.
First, it should be shaped according to a woman’s frame. The frame involves ensuring that the bag is wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders. Moreover, the bag should fit the size of the woman as fitting bags ensure that the woman is kept as warm as possible.
Women’s sleeping bags also ought to have greater insulation, thus provide more warmth. Given that women feel colder in their hands and feet, additional insulation should be found in these areas, as well as the hood. In addition, women’s sleeping bags should preferably be lighter and less bulky, especially when they have to carry the bags on their backs.
Features to look for include:
- Should be wider at the hips
- A softer color appeals to women more
- Good temperature rating
- Synthetic filling for warm weather camping
- Natural down filling for cold weather camping
Children’s sleeping bags
The best sleeping bags for children should be light in weight. They should also be easy to pack and compact. More to these, when buying a child’s sleeping bag, consider getting one with a built-in sleeve at the bottom of the sleeping bag. The purpose of the sleeve is to hold the sleeping pad of the bag, thus ensure that your child stays intact in the bag the entire night.
Pillow pockets are another major feature that you ought to consider. The pockets allow you to stuff a pillow, hence promote the comfort of your child’s head while sleeping. Exterior pockets also allow children to store their headlamps, MP3 players, and other equipment they need easily, and access them with ease.
If you are looking for a sleeping bag for your kid, be sure to read this article.
Sleeping bags vary in many ways. Therefore, you ought to be careful when you buy a sleeping bag, to ensure that your bag does not inconvenience you. Factors to consider include the following:
The temperature rating of your sleeping bag is the most important aspect to consider before you part with money. Some sleeping bags have been made for use in areas that are warm, while others are meant to be used in colder areas.
Gauge the temperatures of the place where you will be using the sleeping bag, and consequently choose a sleeping bag that matches that temperature. In addition, you ought to consider the type of clothes you will be sleeping in. Light clothes could mean sleeping bags with higher temperature ratings, while heavy clothing may require lower temperature ratings. Moreover, some people feel cold more easily than others do, thus requiring them to use sleeping bags with higher ratings.
Temperature ratings can be classified in three distinct ways: Comfort, Limit and Extreme.
The “comfort” rating indicates the optimum temperature one will feel warm and comfortable sleeping in when in a rolled up position. If the sleeping bag is used in a temperature that is the “comfort rating” the person is likely going to feel the cold. Women tend to feel the cold more in comparison to men, therefore this rating is a few degrees above the “comfort limit” for men. In other words, this is the temperature at which a “standard” adult woman most likely will have a comfortable night’s sleep.
Limit temperature is regarded as the temperature at which a “standard” adult man most likely will have a comfortable night’s sleep in a rolled up position.
The “extreme” rating is basically “the survival temperature”. In other words, this is the very limit at which the sleeping bag will keep one alive without frostbite, or any other bad things that may occur due to very low temperatures. This is not the lowest temperature one will be comfortable in and one should not expect regular use of the sleeping bag at this temperature.
Sleeping bags are classified by season ratings. A sleeping bag which is to be used in summer is unlikely to be good for the colder months and visa versa.
Put simply, a season 1 sleeping bag is for use in Summer, a season 2 sleeping bag is for use in Summer and Spring, a 3 season sleeping bag is for use in Spring, Summer and Autumn and a season 4 sleeping bag is suitable for all year round.
Don’t forget that seasons and temperatures vary from country to country, so it is always better to check the temperature rating against where you plan to use the bag.
Sleeping bags are designed to fit the different seasons.
|One season||One season sleeping bags are usually used indoors or in warm (tropical) climates. These bags are lightweight and take little space since there is very little insulation.||40° F (5° C) and higher|
|Two season||Two-season sleeping bags are the very minimum for most camping enthusiasts and are widely called “Summer bags”. These bags may be used in the latter end of spring and the early part of autumn as well as in the summer, of course.||32 to 40° F (0 to 5° C)|
|Three season||Three-season sleeping bags are mostly chosen by experienced campers. Suitable for all seasons except winter.||23 to 32° F (0 to -5° C)|
|Three+ season||Suitable for year round use if a sheltered off-the-mountain sleeping site has been chosen during harsh winter conditions. These bags are aimed at serious outdoors enthusiasts.||14 to 23° F (-5 to -10°C)|
|Four season||Four-season sleeping bags are created for people who will be camping all year round or tend to be in harsher conditions such as camping at high altitude in the mountains.||5 to 14° F (-10 to -15°C)|
|Four+(or Five) season||Four+ of Five-season sleeping bags are not made for the wide market. They are rather associated with expedition standard camping requirements. If you plan to climb Mount Everest, you will definitely need one of these.||-40 to 5° F (-15 to -40°C) and lower|
Insulation of sleeping bags
Two types of insulation are used for making sleeping bags.
Sleeping bags filled with synthetic insulation are made using poly-fibers, rather than animal feathers. Such bags are cheap and very easy to clean. Additionally, these bags are suitable in wet and humid conditions as they retain heat when wet, unlike down bags with untreated down. They also require less care and are easier to store as compared to the down sleeping bags.
Insulation in these bags are made from the fine feathers of ducks or geese. Because of this, down sleeping bags are lighter and save on storage space as compared to the synthetic sleeping bags. The bags are also fluffy, trapping a lot of warm air, which ensure they retain heat. However, down sleeping bags absorb moisture easily in damp conditions, hence losing their ability to retain heat, with exception of water resistant down. This is down that went through hydrophobic treatment for better water resistance.
BONUS: Check out this cool guide called “Care of Down and Synthetic Sleeping Bags” from Utah State University. It will give you the understanding on how to take care of your sleeping bag, be it down or synthetic.
The price of the sleeping bag you buy will mainly depend on it’s insulation. However, it is the face fabric that will protect that insulation, and the inner fabric that you will feel against your skin.
- Nylon. Nylon brings a great rate of comfort, durability and breathability. It is quite soft to the touch as well.
- Ripstop. This fabric is lightweight and extremely durable.
- DWR finish. Generally down sleeping bags will have a DWR (durable water repellent) fabric finish. This is to prevent damp from soaking into the bag. It is an important feature for down bags which lose their insulation qualities when they get wet.
- Downproof finish. This type of fabric construction prevents a valuable down insulation getting out from the sleeping bag and creating holes in the face fabric.
- Nylon. Vast majority of sleeping bags use nylon as the inner fabric. At times you will find an upgraded nylon with a special soft-touch finish. Nylon is a breathable fabric thus it helps to avoid clamminess. It is also durable.
- Polycotton. This type of fabric is quite is often used as a inner lining in summer or one season sleeping bags. Polycotton feels soft against the skin. However, bags made using this fabric are slower to dry and much less suitable for use in colder climates.
The packed size and weight of the sleeping bag might become very important, especially if you are going hiking or are travelling to far-away place for long period of time. When you buy a sleeping back, pay attention to it’s measurements and weight in product description.
Other important features of sleeping bag
When choosing the best sleeping bags, look out for one with inner pockets to help you store your valuables, such as wallets and mobile phones in a safe place.
It helps in storing your bag away when you are not using it.
Draft collar (neck/shoulder baffle)
A draft collar improves the insulation of the sleeping bag as it keeps heat from escaping from the bag. Consequently, you stay warm around the neck as well as shoulders.
The hood serves to keep in the heat that is usually lost through the head. Choose hoods with an adjustable cord to ensure that you can pull the hood tighter to your face when cold, and loosen it when feeling warm.
Left- and right-hand zips
Always choose a sleeping bag with a zip opening that is on the opposite side of your leading hand.
A two-way zip is very handy when ventilation is required. Zips in sleeping bags can be either full length or half way.
An insulated zip baffle (behind the zip) helps to keep the heat inside the sleeping bag.
A zip cover (a small piece of fabric that is usually fastened with velcro) holds the zip when the sleeping bag is fully zipped up. This system helps to prevent the zip coming undone when you are asleep.
A pillow improves comfort when you sleep. Therefore, choose a bag that allows you to fix a pillow, or your clothes to improve your sleep.
Sleeping bag liner
Putting a lining in your sleeping bag can help to keep your bag clean, thus reduce the rate of wear and tear. The liner is usually bought separately from the bag, and you should ensure you use it at all times.
There, you have seen almost everything there is to know about the different types of sleeping bags. This guide was prepared with the intention to give as much information as possible so that people who are going to buy sleeping bag make a right decision.
First, determine who will be using the bag – is it an adult man, a woman or a child. Then, consider in which conditions it will be used – will you go camping co a civilized camping site with your family or will you be hiking in mountains with you backpack alone.
Sometimes it is a good idea to buy more than one sleeping back. This is a good idea if you go to be in the nature in different seasons and / or in different climates.
Like with any other item you buy, it is wise to weigh all pros and cons before you commit to buying. A sleeping bag can serve you long years if you choose the right one for you and take a good care of it.
What do you think?
Drop a comment below to let us and other people know what you think about this article. Do you have any valuable tips about sleeping bags? Have you had a good / bad experience with some particular type or model of sleeping bag? Let us know…