If you are planning to start hiking or camping, one thing is for certain. You will definitely need a good sleeping bag. There are many questions to ask yourself to determine which one will be just right for you.
What Sleeping Bag is Best for You?
Not all sleeping bags are created equal – nor would you want them to be! My son is an avid backpacker. He often goes out for days at a time with everything he needs on his back. Not only that, but he loves to camp in the winter with below freezing temperatures. Let’s compare this to my own needs.
My idea of camping is driving up to a campground and getting my gear out of the trunk. And I only like to camp in the late spring and early fall.
What does this mean for our sleeping bag needs? For one, it means that I don’t need one that is rated for cold weather. I also don’t need one that is extremely light weight since I am only carrying it across the camp site.
Here are a few questions you will want to ask yourself:
In what kind of weather conditions will you be using your bag?
Is weight important?
Is a compact bag important?
How much money do you have?
The Three Main Decisions
When choosing your bag, there are three basic decisions that you need to make.
What kind of fill do you need?
What does the shell need to be made of?
What bag design suits your needs?
Down bags used to be considered the very best on the market. It is true – they tend to last a long time and are great for many types of camping. However, with the advent of synthetic fill, down may not be the best solution in every case.
If you live in or camp in wet or damp conditions, down simply does not work. Why? It will not keep you warm when wet. Synthetic fill, on the other hand, will. Several good synthetic fills include:
In addition to their warmth when wet, they are also easy to clean, resistant to mildew, and they dry fast!
Once you have determined what you want your sleeping bag fill to be, you have to determine the material for the shell. Gore Tex was the “in” material for years. However, Gore-Tex does not breathe well. This means that if you sweat while in your bag, you will find that your bag gets damp and stays that way.
Good shell materials include:
Tight-weave nylon: Nowadays, nylon shells have a coating of durable water repellent (DWR). This offers both water resistance and wind resistance. If you need a more durable shell, you might want to consider getting the ripstop version.
Polyester: Polyester has the same qualities of nylon. It is both water repellent and wind resistant and comes in a ripstop variety. The big difference is in weight. If you are looking for a lightweight bag, you will probably want to avoid polyester because it is heavier than nylon.
Microfiber: Microfiber shells are even more water resistant than either nylon or polyester. They are also windproof, not just wind resistant. Additionally, microfiber shells are extremely lightweight.
Gore Dryloft: Gore Dryloft and no name brand dryloft substitutes are the most water resistant shell made. Additionally, it is the most breathable. It also happens to be the most expensive.
If your camping experiences are more similar to mine, you will not require your bag to withstand harsh conditions or cold climates. You will also not care about the weight. In this case, you can get away with the less expensive nylon or polyester shells. If, on the other hand, you are an avid camper and hiker and plan to take on something like the Appalachian Trail, you will wan tto consider the microfiber or Dryloft.
Types Of Bags
Mummy bags are “the” bag for those that want to backpack. They pack small. They are lightweight. They heat up quickly. The downside? They don’t provide a lot of room, thus the name mummy bag. You truly crawl in and that is that. There is no space for rearranging!
A similar bag that provides a big more room is the semi-rectangular or modified mummy bag. The biggest difference between this bag and the mummy bag is the middle section. The head and feet are still tapered, but the middle provides much more room for moving about. If you are not quite as worried about space in your pack or you are not hiking in cold weather, this bag would probably suit you just fine.
The final type of bag is the old fashioned rectangular bag. They are typically bulky and heavy and do not heat up well. However, they have plenty of room. Although not a good bet for backpacking, they are perfectly suited for car camping. MK crossbody bag