Choose a Sleeping Bag
By Steven Gillman
What kind of sleeping bag should you get? That
depends on how you will use it. Of course, it also depends on what
your budget is. So decide what you can spend, and then consider the
following six questions before you go shopping.
1. What is the coldest weather you will be camping
If your backpacking is limited to the summer
months, you can probably get away with any sleeping bag rated down
to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Otherwise, consider
your future plans and get a bag that will work at the coldest
temperatures you expect to encounter. If it is too warm for summer
use, you can always open it up like a blanket and lay it loosely
over yourself so it won't hold in so much heat. Another alternative
is to buy one bag for winter trips and one for summer.
2. What kinds of conditions will you be camping
The conditions you can expect will determine what
fill is best for you. If you will always be backpacking in the
northwest, and so possibly getting wet most of the time, you don't
want down. It loses most of its insulating ability when wet. A good
synthetic fill is better. On the other hand, if you will be camping
most of the time in the desert southwest, a down sleeping bag is the
lightest (and most compressible) option available. My own down bag
weighs just 17 ounces, stuffs into a bread bag, and has kept me warm
to below freezing. If you are careful you can keep any bag dry, but
it is tough in some conditions, so ask yourself where you'll be
going, and how good you are at staying dry.
3. How claustrophobic are you?
Some people really can't get comfortable in a
mummy bag. They need room to move around. If you aren't sure how you
feel about this, there is one way to find out: get in those bags.
See if you feel good in a snug mummy. Borrow one and spend a night
in it if you have to. A good mummy is the warmest sleeping bag you
can get for the weight, but semi-rectangular may be better for
4. How big are you?
If you are tall, be sure you can fit comfortably
in that sleeping bag with the hood closed. What if you are too big
for a tight mummy bag? Try a rectangular or semi-rectangular one.
5. How heavy is the sleeping bag?
Even if you are not into ultralight backpacking,
there is no reason to carry too much weight if it isn't necessary. A
decent summer sleeping bag shouldn't weigh more than about three
pounds. To get down to the weight of my down bag (17 ounces) you'll
have to spend more. A winter bag will be heavier because of the
additional filling, but in any case, compare the various bags
according to their temperature ratings and total weight (with the
stuff sack if you'll be using it).
6. How packable is it?
No filling invented yet is as compressible as
down. For that reason, if you use a small backpack, you may want to
consider a down sleeping bag. Some synthetics can be packed in
compression sacks to reduce their volume, but this can eventually
damage the filling and so reduce the bags insulating ability. Also,
a compression sack adds more weight to your load. It is probably
better to simply put a large synthetic-fill bag on the outside of
There are certainly other specific questions to
ask about sleeping bags as you look at them. A zipper that opens at
the bottom is nice for those with hot feet. A water-resistant shell
can keep dripping tent condensation from wetting the filling of the
sleeping bag, or allow dew to be shaken off in the morning if
camping in the open. There are many other features you might find
too, but start with the six questions above to quickly narrow down
Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook
Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips) for
FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness
survival section, visit: http://www.The-Ultralight-Site.com
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