How to shop for the perfect sleeping bag

Be prepared for everything
Be prepared for everything

Camping is one of the best activities that you can possibly do in the outdoors, but it will never work out well if you don’t have the right gear to get you through a camping or backpacking trip. One of the most essential items is a sleeping bag. If you do not have a sleeping bag, you can forget sleeping well or comfortably for the duration of your trip, even more so if you are trying to camp in cooler temperatures. But how do you know what kind of sleeping bag to get? There are so many options for sleeping bags that we have provided some suggestions on how to get the right one for you.

1. Temperature rating

Summer sleeping bags are lighter, but are not a good protective layer against the chill of the winter night.
Summer sleeping bags are lighter, but are not a good protective layer against the chill of the winter night.

The first thing that you need to establish is the weather you are camping in. There are really three basic types of sleeping bags: summer, three-season, and winter.

  • Summer bags are the lightest weight and therefore will not keep you as warm as other types of bags. They are usually rated for 30 degrees and up.
  • Three-season bags are not much heavier than summer bags, but they are rated for 20 degrees and up. These bags are best for late spring, summer, and early fall, when the temperature has not dropped just yet. The biggest difference between the summer and three-season bags is that the three-season bags have extras, like hoods and draft collars, helping you keep out any unexpected cold weather.
  • Winter sleeping bags are the bulkiest of all, but they are bulky for a reason. They are tricky to fold, so using a compression stuff sack can help you keep it from taking up too much room. These bags are rated for 20 degrees and lower, meaning you will stay nice and toasty no matter how cold the weather is.

2. Insulation type

Just like the temperature rating, there are options as far as what your sleeping bag is filled with.

  • Down filling is both light and efficient and has been in use for a long time. Down will pack down well for you as well, making it easy for packing. Overall, down is the warmest and most durable.
  • Synthetic filling is a polyester material that is water-resistant and bulky. Synthetic fillers are usually less expensive than down, though they are usually fuller.

3. Shape

The shape of the sleeping bag that you need could be one of several options. The different shapes are made to work for different types of campers.

A mummy sleeping bag has the shape of an Egyptian mummy’s tomb
A mummy sleeping bag has the shape of an Egyptian mummy’s tomb
  • Mummy bags are one of the most popular types of sleeping bags out there. They are tapered in the legs section and wider at the shoulders. Some campers may feel claustrophobic in a mummy bag, but they are efficient at maintaining heat and are lightweight to carry.
  • Rectangular bags do not have the taper at the bottom of them, allowing them to be a little roomier around the legs and the feet. They are not as thermally-efficient as mummy bags, but they may be more comfortable for some campers.
  • Semi-rectangular sleeping bags are the best of both worlds. They are roomy enough to be comfortable, but thick enough to keep you warm.

4. Space

There are options in the size of a sleeping bag as well. Just as people are not one-size-fits-all, sleeping bags are not one-size-fits-all. The best solution is to see if you can try out a sleeping bag before you buy it. You should remember what you wear to sleep as well to make sure that you are comfortable.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival