Wednesday, May 25

Selecting the right sleeping bag for YOU!

Selecting the right sleeping bag depends on your destination, time of year, likelihood of moisture, whether you are hiking or travelling by car. Luckily for us sleeping bags come with different temperature ratings, many features and add-ons. They come in different shapes, sizes and thankfully in a wide array of prices to suit all budgets. So let’s have a look at some of the different things to consider before purchasing.

Temperature Ratings
Even in the summer, nights can get cold, especially in the mountains. Make sure your sleeping bag is made for the correct night temperature. A sleeping bag with a rating of 5 degrees Celsius should keep you warm when the mercury gets to 5 degrees. I do say 'should' loosely. Use ratings as a guide only. If you camp in winter and night temps get down as low as 2 degrees, you will need at least a zero (0) degree sleeping bag; maybe even a minus 5 or 10. I feel the cold, so I have a minus 15 degree bag for zero (0) degree temperatures. I use the same bag in summer, but I simply unzip it and use it as a doona vs get inside it. If you only use a sheet in summer, you may be fine with a zero (0) degree bag as you sleep hot. Please remember that sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm by insulating you, so zipping it up when it's cold is vital.

If you won’t be camping in the cold very often, a sleeping bag liner may add the extra warmth needed on occasional cold nights. That way you won’t cook on those warmer nights or need different rated bags for different seasons. A bag liner can add up to 25 degrees more warmth. Using a sleeping bag liner will also help keep your sleeping bag dirt and sweat free.

Sleeping Bag Fillings
Sleeping bags come in either synthetic or down fillings. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and your choice would depend on what type of camping you do and when.

Synthetics filled

  • Less expensive than same rated down filled versions
  • Easy to wash and dries quickly
  • Handles moisture better and will still keep you warm if the outside of bag gets damp
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Bulkier and heavier
  • Not as long lasting as down
  • If the bag is stitched from the outside it can create weak points and allow cold in

Down filled

  • Lighter and compresses much better
  • Longer lasting than any synthetic bag when cared for properly
  • Warmer than their synthetic counterpart
  • A little more expensive
  • No insulation once wet
  • Takes a long time to dry properly once wet
  • More difficult to care for
  • Not hypoallergenic

Sleeping bags come in 3 basic shapes – mummy, semi rectangular and rectangular, either hooded or unhooded. The reason for the narrower leg to feet area is they warm up faster. They also take up less pack space. They are highly recommended if you are camping in very cold elevated regions. Most Australian family campers will find a rectangular bag more than satisfactory. Rectangular bags give you more wiggle room and allow you space to place your clothing inside your bag with you. This way your clothes are handy if you need them during the night. They will be dry and warm in the morning.

Some bags come with hoods because heat escapes from the feet and head first.  These will help you stay warm on cold nights.  Pro Tip:  Leaving your beanie on whilst sleeping or using a hooded sleeping bag will help keep you extra warm through the night.

Bags come in all sizes from junior to jumbo and king and queen singles. There are also singles that zip together if you need to make a duo.

Bags that unzip right out are always my preference because they can be used as a light blanket in summer, wrapped around you if you are cold whilst sitting around the campfire or as a spare blanket if you have guests. Sadly, sleeping with another is actually not the best way to stay warm at winter camping. Sleeping bags work best when they fit to your body reasonably well. The less opportunity for air pockets the better.

Additional tips: Please remember that what you wear prior to going to bed is what will maintain your healthy body temperature. Keeping a hat or a beanie on your head and socks and shoes on your feet whilst sitting around the campfire will help a lot. When you get into your sleeping bag you will actually warm up faster and stay warmer if you are wearing less clothing vs more. Maybe just your underwear. Try to avoid sleeping in cotton and try not to get into your sleeping bag with cold or damp clothing on.

Important Note: Sleeping bag ratings assume that you are sleeping on a rated sleeping pad of some form. This will further aid in keeping you warm.

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