There are tons and tons of options, features, ratings, and uses for sleeping bags these days. There are literally so many choices it can make your head spin! Luckily, I am a gearhead in every sense of the word. So take a stroll with me through the crowded world of sleeping bags, hopefully we can find that perfect bag for your next epic adventure.
What are you going to use the bag for?
Will you mainly be car camping or ultralight thru hiking? It is really, really important to identify what you expect out of your new bag. Whether you plan on lugging it across the arctic or simply traveling the world from one hostel to the next, there is a sleeping bag that is designed for exactly how you plan to use it.
How do you need it to perform?
Do you need absolute rock bottom weight for a long distance hike or are you planning on only using it in campgrounds with the family? Either way you need to decided if you want it to be light and warm, just warm, or maybe even water repellent.
Performance might be the single biggest thing to consider when choosing a new sack. Many new bags on the market offer staggering low weights, new fabrics like Pertex, or even down feathers coated on the molecular level with a water proofing agent! So whatever you needs are for performance, make sure you know what they are.
What temperature rating do you need?
Well this is sort of an easy one. What are the absolute low temperatures you plan on sleeping in your comfy new bag in? Do you only plan on using it in the summer at low elevations? Do you plan on using it on high alpine ascents where temperatures can dip well below 0?
A general rule of thumb is to decide the coldest weather that you plan to use the sleeping bag in and get one 10 degrees lower than that.
What sort of features do you need?
If you’re a side sleeper you might want to steer clear of narrow cut mummy bags so you can toss about during the night. Maybe you want to have a few pockets on the inside of the bag to stash a iPod or some chapstick? Plenty of bags have compartments, and even venting options. There are sacks that come with hoods and ones that don’t come with anything of the sort. If you want the absolute lightest bag you can find look for little to no frills and a slender mummy cut.
Down or synthetic?
This a really personal choice. In my opinion down is the only way to go. I know that you can’t get it wet…. but it’s not like I plan on using my sleeping bag as a life raft or something.
If you are skiddish of down, try the new DriDown™ from Sierra Designs. That’s right kiddies…. water proof down feathers! Down is lighter, warmer, has more loft, and is more compressible than its synthetic counterpart. It normally comes at a premium cost though.
Synthetic bags can get wet and still insulate, are often way cheaper, and require less general care and maintenance. Most synthetic bags can go places that down bags can’t…. like on a kayaking trip or any hike that ventures into really wet, dampy areas.
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