Choosing your sleeping bag
Your sleeping bag is an important investment and you will spend a significant amount of time in it whilst camping so it is important that it is comfortable and suits all your needs.
There are many different sleeping bags on the market to choose from and there is no set standard rating. Each individual will have specific requirements and factors to take into account; here is a basic guide outlining these.
Traditional or Summer
Traditional or summer sleeping bags are the choice if camping out in hot weather. They are for use in temperatures generally above 40 degrees, keeping you comfortable on warm nights. These bags are ideal for backpackers who don’t want to carry a lot of weight in their pack as they are constructed from lightweight material.
Three season bags
Three season bags are a versatile option which can be used in a variety of conditions throughout the milder seasons. They tend to have a rating of 10 degrees to 25 degrees above zero, which is adequate for 3 season camping or backpacking in most places. You will usually be able to vent your sleeping bag so as to keep you cool when it is warm.
Winter Bags / Four season Bags
For camping in winter and extreme weather conditions you will need to be well prepared with a winter bag. Winter camping sleeping bags will have a rating of between 0 degrees down to -40 (with some specialized bags having even colder weather ratings). These bags will be heavier and bulkier due to the extra insulation.
There are two main types of filling for sleeping bags, both with different properties:
- Natural fibre
- Warmest filling
- Compresses small
- Long lasting
- Loses insulating power when wet
- Difficult to clean
- Synthetic fibres
- Heavier, do not compress down as small
- Less expensive
- Insulates even when wet
- Quick drying
- Easy to clean
There are a number of different synthetic fillings to choose from:
Polarguard has been on the market for over 20 years. It’s the best value in its class because it’s durable and fast drying.
Polarguard HV is the newer version of Polarguard. It has superior loft even when wet. Also it is 20% warmer and 25% lighter than the original Polarguard.
Polarguard 3D is the most durable synthetic available. It combines the high performance features of Polarguard and Polarguard HV and is more compressible, softer, and warmer.
Quallofil’s main benefit is its excellent warmth-to-carry ratio, meaning you don’t need a heavier bag to keep you as warm. It also makes the bag more compressible.
Hollofil is used in many summer bags. It has more loft than Polarguard and is also 20% warmer.
Ideal if you move around a lot in your sleep as there is plenty of room. Can be easily zipped together with another bag to make a larger of double sleeping bag or can be fully unzipped for use as an over or under blanket.
Tapered bags are wider at the shoulders and narrower at the end so do not allow for as much movement, they are however warmer than the rectangular design as there is less air inside for the body to heat.
This bag is a tight, snug fit which is almost worn. It is ideal if you do not move around in your sleep as the confining shape allows the air your body heats to be retained within the bag and hood. Mummy bags offer the most warmth and are recommended for harsher climates.
If you are camping as a couple you may wish to purchase a double sleeping bag or two bags with compatible zips which can be zipped together.
This factor may seem irrelevant but it is worth considering that dark colours attract sunlight faster, allowing a wet bag to dry more quickly when hung out.