by Jim Shine
When shopping for a sleeping bag, you want to find one that will keep you comfortable and warm. But how do you know what features to look for, and what features are worth the extra money?
There are several options, and the best sleeping bag for you will depend on the type of camping you will be doing, where you will be camping, if you will be in warm or cold climates and of course, how much money you want to spend.
Here is what to look for:
Sleeping Bag Size
It is ideal to have a sleeping bag that fits your body size. You do not want one that is too short or to confining, but at the same time you do not want a sleeper that is too large. Keep in mind that the larger the bag is, the more space your body has to heat. A well-fitted sleeping bag can help keep you warmer.
There are smaller sizes designed specifically for kids and larger bags for big and tall people. There are also zip-together options where you can combine two bags into one. These can be useful for couples who prefer to sleep together or parents with small children. Zip-together bags can also be used separately when needed.
Most bags will have a temperature rating, usually found on the tag. This defines how warm the sleeping bag will keep you. The lower degree rating the bag has, the warmer it will keep you. The warmest styles can be used all year round, while lighter weight alternatives should be used in summer only. Keep in mind that summer nights in some locations can still get chilly (ie higher elevations).
Lining and Insulation
The outer shell of the sleeping bag can protect you from wind and some amount of water. Most campers do fine with a semi water-resistant shell made of nylon or other material. If you want a very water-resistant shell, look for one made with Gore-Tex.
The inner lining is designed to allow your body to breathe. The insulation in between the outer shell and inner lining is usually either synthetic material or down. Synthetic is a more popular insulation for campers because it costs less and is easier to clean. On the other hand, wilderness backpackers may prefer down insulation, as it is lighter weight and can compress small for easier and lightweight carrying.
Sleeping Bag Shape
In general, there are rectangular shaped and mummy shaped bags. Mummy bags are the most popular because their shape helps the body retain heat. They are narrower in the feet area and also around the head. They are also smaller, so they take up less space and are lighter weight than the rectangular style.
Rectangular bags are usually cheaper, and a good option for those on a budget. However, they are heavier, bulkier and may not keep you as warm. If you are strictly a warm-weather summertime camper and you don’t need to carry your sleeper on your back, the rectangular style can work fine and save you some money.
For discounted prices and sleeping bag reviews, see sleeping bags and free camping checklist.