Sleeping bags are next in importance after choosing the right camping tent. Just like the choices in camping tents, your sleeping bag can be one of many types depending upon your personal preferences and the outside temperature.
Sleeping bags might not even be needed when the weather is warm and dry. Simply cover yourself up as if you were sleeping at home. At other times, the cool night air will dictate a warm bag or combination of warm clothes and warm bag.
Some sleeping bags are down filled. They are filled with soft feathers, generally from a duck or goose, packed into a very small space and generally retain more heat than synthetic filler on a per weight basis. A major drawback with a down sleeping bag is that it is worthless when wet.
Other sleeping bags are filled with synthetic materials, but they are functional when wet. Synthetic sleeping bags need less care than down bags, but they wear out a lot faster. Synthetics cost less, are washable, and can be nearly as warm as down, especially when it is damp outside. For most family camping situations, most any of the synthetics will be sufficient and save you money.
Sleeping bags are rated from 1 to 5 seasons.
ONE SEASON BAG: These sleeping bags are usually for taking to parties and crashing on people’s floors or sleeping in well-insulated places.
TWO SEASON BAG: A summer sleeping bag obviously for a warm environment or perfect for a car, home, or boat.
THREE SEASON BAG: A 3 season bag is fine for most temperatures including the moderately cold ones.
FOUR SEASON BAG: Good throughout the entire year covers treks up to and including the mountain tops and in and about the snow line.
FIVE SEASON BAG: The 5 season sleeping bags are the maximum rating that covers every possible cold rating, cold deserts, high altitude and the Rocky Mountain high.
Sleeping bags’ season ratings are often advertised by manufacturers as 0 degrees, 20 degrees, 40 degrees, and minus degrees. These are only guidelines because one person may sleep warmer or cooler than someone else. Take a minute and look at some examples before you proceed. Click on that mummy looking thing.
Picking the Right Bag
As with camping tents, there are numerous types of bags on the market. The best bag for you depends on how you like to sleep, what kind of material you like to have next to your skin, the temperature and climate, and whether weight is a factor; are you backpacking or car camping with your family. Take a look at these sleeping bags and a great selection of other Camping and Hiking Gear.
You cannot simply lay a sleeping bag on the ground. They require a ground pad beneath the bag or you will not sleep very well. Your body weight compresses the bag, reducing the air space and the bag’s ability to insulate you. Ground pads provide or inflatable mattresses provide extra layers of insulation against the ground’s chill. Buuuuur!
Shapes of Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags are primarily in the shape of a mummy or a rectangle. If you sleep all sprawled out, then a rectangular bag is probably the best choice. On the other hand, if you sleep in a ball position, the mummy bag is right for you. The mummy-shaped bag is preferred by backpackers because it weighs less than the rectangular bag. Also, since the mummy bag is a smaller size, it takes less body energy to heat up at night.
Rectangular style bags are the most common. They are roomy and comfortable inside, and they can be opened and used as a comforter on warm nights. Most of the rectangular bags can be opened and zipped together to make a double size bag.
The mummy style bag is designed to wrap tightly around the sleeper, thereby providing maximum warmth with less material. If you are a cold weather camper with an environment of 40 degrees and below, you might want to shop for the mummy. The backpackers should also consider that mummy bag’s weight is less.
The mummy bags have a hood that can be pulled tight around the sleeper’s head, and the rectangular bags end abruptly just above the shoulders. Some of us like to sprawl out, and some of us prefer sleeping in a ball, it is just an individual choice.
Sizes of Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags come in basically three lengths – junior, standard and extra long. Junior bags are for youths or smaller individuals. Most bags can be purchased with extra-wide sizes as well. If you are shopping for a bag for a young person, you might also consider obtaining a standard size due to their growth. For you taller guys and gals, the extra-long size usually means over six feet.
Experienced backpackers like to store other items in their bags during their winter trips, and opt for the extra long. Backpackers store so camping gear in their bags at night; i.e., boots, drinking water, flashlight, batteries, etc.
Lining of Sleeping Bags
The majority of technical bags come with a nylon taffeta lining while camp bags have a polyester cotton lining. By adding a fleece liner to your bag, it will add extra softness and roughly 15 to 20 degrees of additional warmth.
Storage and Care of Your Sleeping Bag
While hiking through your favorite area, it is essential to keep your bag dry. You might consider keeping a large plastic wrapper in the bottom of the bag compartment of your backpack. You can use the plastic wrapper to put the stuffed bag inside for protection.
After a trip be sure to allow your bag to dry out thoroughly. All bags should be hung or stored in a dry area. A large storage sack allows your bag to breathe, helping to retain its loft when not in use. Sleeping bags should be stored in dry rooms, away from mildew and dampness. Always allow your bag to dry out thoroughly after a trip.
All sleeping bags should be stored by hanging in a dry room and removed from any mildew or moisture. You can wash a synthetic sleeping bag in a large commercial front-loading washer. Use a mild detergent and wash on a gentle cycle with warm water. Dry the bag in a clothes dryer set below 140 degrees F. or outdoors on a clothesline. Some campers put tennis balls in the dryer to help keep the bag fluffy. You can wash a down bag in a commercial washing machine with a mild detergent or have it cleaned by an experienced cleaner who specializes in down garment care.