Spending the night under the stars seems like the perfect opportunity to connect with loved ones and nature. Perhaps, families can agree that there is something special about getting a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors. Not only will it help strengthen relationships but also foster pleasure and relaxation. For many, the best part of camping is getting a breather away from the city. But, this can only be achieved if one gears up appropriately as in using the right sleeping bags for camping.
Dealing with changing temperatures and forest bugs can be a nightmare if not for the production of sleeping bags. These simple pieces of camping gear help through all uncomfortable situations. As camping only benefits from the use of a good sleeping bag, here then, are the several features to aid in choosing one:
- material quality
- temperature rating
- insulation type
- zipper management
Camping goes a long way to improving one’s mood by releasing serotonin, a wonderful chemical in the human body. To properly enjoy and appreciate the myriad health benefits of spending the night under the stars, one should go out of his way in purchasing a good sleeping bag. As there are sleeping bags for camping in the market that lack the right kind of warmth and comfort, a smart purchase, therefore, is the most ideal option.
Features of a Good Sleeping Bag
The ultimate requirement for sleeping outdoors is to bring the gear, which is of the highest quality. It could definitely mean the difference between a memorable and miserable camping experience. When it comes to shopping for a sleeping bag, there are a number of features to consider from shape to portability:
It is hard to predict which sleeping bag has enough room space unless the camper zips himself inside. Thus, it is recommended to explore the different styles of sleeping bags and decide which one feels the most comfortable. The basic shapes are:
- Rectangular: Allows plenty of room for arms and legs to stretch out. Some rectangular-shaped sleeping bags can be totally unzipped and converted into a comforter. Of all the sleeping bag designs, this one offers the most room, which is perfect for bigger sleepers who tend to change sleeping positions very often.
- Semi-rectangular: Others call this style “barrel shape” or “modified mummy.” Sleeping bags of this shape are roomy and warm enough.
- Mummy: From the name itself, this style gives an impression of being wrapped like a mummy. The camper rolls over with this sleeping bag instead of being inside it. The mummy-style sleeping bag with a hood, a draft tube along the zipper, and a draft collar at the neck is the perfect gear for winter camping.
Generally, sleeping bags for camping come in three sizes-small, medium, and large. The variations in size are intended to accommodate other camping items. For example, larger sleeping bags can offer at least an extra 8 to 10 inches of space at the foot after the camper has nestled comfortably inside. The extra inches provide enough space for cameras, water, boots, and others without constricting the sleeping bag.
The camper’s choice of the sleeping bag lining should depend on where and how he expects the sleeping bag to be used. If the following linings are not enough for the camper, he can buy an extra lining for his sleeping bag and add 10 degrees of warmth at most.
- Silk: Since it is natural, silk is one of the preferred choices of the lining. It absorbs a significant amount of water and still remains lightweight.
- Flannel: Just like the silk lining, flannel also tends to hold water without feeling wet like cotton.
- Fleece: For extra cold weather conditions, fleece is a good choice.
Another feature to consider in sleeping bags for camping is the outside fabric or the shell. Some have outer shells that are breathable, wind-proof, and water-repellent. The most recommended are those who have durable water-repellent treatments on the outer shells. This type of shell is something to keep in mind as this helps when condensation inside the camping tent becomes extremely significant.
Baffles refer to the seams that run across the length of the sleeping bags for camping. They are generally used in down sleeping bags as a series of tubes that wrap around the camper. The baffles allow the camper to shift underside while the top side remains comfortable.
The material that is used to fill or insulate the sleeping bags for camping is also an important consideration. According to material quality, these are the options:
- Cotton: Cotton sleeping bags are relatively big in size. Usually, these bags are used in spring, summer, and autumn. Such material can only feel cozy under the said seasons. It is not preferable under wet conditions as cotton does not insulate well when wet. This is the reason why cotton is dubbed as the “death cloth” because it is extremely hard to dry. When the temperature drops at high speed, the camper may suffer from cold realities of winter camping, such as hypothermia.
- Wool: Compared to cotton, wool repels water better. It still absorbs water; however, it wicks it away from the surface. The camper then feels dryer.
- Down Fill: For good warmth retention, down sleeping bags have the most advantage. It is the lightest type of fill and, perhaps, the most expensive.
- Synthetic Fill: These are made of soft polyester filaments that have good heat retention even when wet.
The temperature rating options are one of the vital reasons why the camper has to purchase a sleeping bag. It is indicated by degrees in Fahrenheit. Manufacturers assume that there are two kinds of sleepers- cold sleeper and hot sleeper. The difference is that hot sleepers typically need less covering, while cold sleepers need several layers of bedding. Hot sleepers can always unzip the sleeping bag to allow a cooling-off period. But for a cold sleeper, it is a lot more difficult to get warm. If the camper falls on the cold category, he has to adjust the temperature rating downward by 10 degrees. For example, if the temperature rating indicates 40° F, he has to adjust the temperature and warm down to 30° F. Other camping experts also recommend that campers purchase a sleeping bag that will give them 15 to 20 extra degrees of temperature rating below what they think they will need.
An essential consideration when searching for a sleeping bag is whether or not the camper prefers synthetic insulation or down feathers.
- Synthetic Insulation: A popular sleeping bag insulator because it is incredibly cheaper. During wet conditions, sleeping bags with synthetic insulation do not lose performance. The synthetic fill can insulate when there are chances of soaking. Additionally, sleeping bags with synthetic insulation are safe for campers with high potentials for allergies. Winter campers who rely on sleeping bags for comfort and safety will use nothing else.
- Down Feathers: Unlike the previous insulation type, down feathers are expensive and take a long time to dry. Nevertheless, it is still considered as the warmest and lightest form of insulation, allowing for plenty of warmth inside the sleeping bag.
Probably the most overlooked consideration is the zipper management. The good sleeping bags have zippers that help regulate the camper’s sleep temperature. For instance, sleeping bags with two-way zippers can be opened both at the bottom and top. This provides additional ventilation for the camper’s feet. More importantly, sleeping bags with great locking mechanisms allow the zipper not to be opened accidentally in the middle of the night.
For ease of transport, choose the sleeping bag which has its own compression sack. The compression sack, which squishes it into the smallest possible package, can be bought separately at prices $20 to $30. To stuff the sleeping bag into the compression sack, hold the mouth of the sack open. Then, stuff the sleeping bag inside the compression sack using the dominant hand. At the same time, rotate the compression sack to create an even distribution. Once the entire sleeping bag is stuffed inside, set the sack on its end and fold the flap over. Lastly, secure by tightly pulling the down string.
Basic Sleeping Bag Care Tips
- Air out the sleeping bag after every use. Even when it is snowing or raining, hang it somewhere with good air circulation for 1 to 2 hours.
- Do not wash the sleeping bags regularly but only when needed. Washing it by hand or by machine can cause the filling to shift around and compress. When this happens, the sleeping bag’s insulating capabilities are reduced. In the same way, dry cleaning the sleeping bags often can damage the loft and wear down the waterproof coating. When the sleeping bag needs a serious cleaning, contact a professional cleaner.
- To keep the sleeping bag clean, sleep in clean clothes, wear a base layer to bed, or purchase a washable sleeping bag liner.
- Do not store the bag unrolled in the open. Instead, use a compression sack, preferably the one that is oversized.
- Protect your bag from the ground when you sleep out under the stars by putting a pad.
Are sleeping bags safe for kids?
Regular sleeping bags that are intended for adults are safe for kids; however, the extra space allows cold air to be trapped inside. The clever option is kid-sized sleeping bags, especially during cold weather conditions. The major reason for opting to use a kid-sized sleeping bag over a regular one is warmth.
What makes costly sleeping bags better than cheap ones?
The main reason why higher-end sleeping bags cost more is that it features premium materials and hoods that protect sleepers against drafts. In addition, the differential cut construction also gives the sleeping bag insulation more loft.