Finding a Sleeping Bag
Selecting the right sleeping bag can be an exciting task. Decisions on size, shape, type of insulation, loft and temperature rating must be made. The type of sleeping bag you purchase depends primarily upon what level of warmth and dryness youll need to sleep comfortably.
Types of Bags
Before purchasing a sleeping bag, consider the nighttime temperature range in which youll be camping. Bags are categorized by a temperature rating, which indicates the temperature in which the bag will keep you warm. A bag marked 10Þ will keep you comfortable in 10 degree weather, while a bag marked -20Þ will leave you sweating during summer trips.
Because warmth is subjective, there are no standard measurements of temperature ratings among sleeping bag manufacturers. The temperature at which a given sleeping bag should keep the average person is also subjective. Some people sleep warmer or colder than others. Your sleeping habits should be a primary factor in the selection of your bags temperature rating.
The insulation affects warmth, durability, care and cost. There are two main types of insulation: goose down and synthetics. A natural insulator, goose down compresses more and is lighter (a significant consideration if youre carrying gear a long way) than synthetic materials. Down is the best of all insulating materials, and is a natural fiber that will last longer than synthetics. The only drawback to goose down is that is virtually worthless if it gets wet, because it absorbs moisture readily and takes a long time to dry.
However, although down bags can be more expensive, they will last a lifetime if cared for properly.
Look for the Fill Power Rating on these types of sleeping bags. This refers to an industry test which measures the volume of 1 oz. of down. The higher the fill power, the more loft with less weight.
In contrast, synthetics are usually heavier than down bags of the same temperature rating.However, they are less affected by moisture and will perform well when wet. Synthetic insulation is the #1 form of fill in bags.There are several fiber options available Polarguard® 3D is considered by many to be the top synthetic for its durability and weight. A continuous filament fiber which doesnt shift or mat. Polarguard® HV, the predecessor to Polarguard(R)3D, and Thermolite® Micro, are also valued by many for its warmth, durability and loft retention.
Loft is what actually keeps you warm. It describes the amount of air
that is trapped inside your bag.
There are three basic shapes of sleeping bags: mummy, semi-rectangular, and rectangular.
Most bags come in regular and long lengths. Look for sleeping bags that match your body size at the shoulder, hip and foot. A bag thats too big will let more cold air inside, so if youre on the short side, stay away from longer sizes. However, a bag thats too small wont allow you to move around comfortably. The size also affects how much space the bag takes when packed.
You may want a longer bag for colder conditions such as mountaineering or winter camping. You can use the extra space for boots, a water bottle and other equipment you want to keep from freezing overnight.
Many manufacturers now offer bags that are designed specifically for women. The bags are a bit shorter and less tapered at the hips to allow for a more thermally efficient fit. In addition, some womens bags contain extra insulation around the torso and feet.
With most bags, the shell that covers it is made of a Ripstop nylon that is highly durable, breathes well and resists wind while providing modest moisture protection.
A good sleeping pad is critical for comfort and will help you take advantage of your bags warmth. The insulation material, or fill on the bottom of the bag is compressed when you lay on it, and the bag loses the loft that keeps you warm. A pad is necessary to give you the insulation needed to protect you from the ground, which is always colder than body temperature.
Page Last Updated 4/14/02
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