If you are off on your travels with a rucksack on your back and passport in your hand and are planning on staying in hostels and under the stars then a good sleeping bag is a must. But which one should you take as when you visit the nearest outdoor shop you can be faced with a wall of brightly colour mummy shaped sleeping bags and no clue as to which one is which.
There a few simple rules when it comes to picking the perfect bag for you:
Which is the best filling Down or Synthetic?
Down sleeping bags are generally lighter in weight so therefore give better warmth to weight ratio. Most of the down now used in sleeping bags are treated with some form of water repellence so gone are the days of the ‘soggy’ night’s sleep. They are still widely regarding to be the best choice if you are going into very extreme cold climates as they do in the whole offer greater warmth.
Be warned though Down is an expensive filling and can be double the price of a good Synthetic bag. Synthetic bags have come a long way in the last 10 years and now you can get a good quality synthetic bag that can compress down to a very small size together with very manageable weights. So if you are general travels this should be the correct choice for you.
All sleeping bags also will indicate the two temperatures that they will work best to; a comfort temperature which means that it will keep the body nice and toasty and an extreme temperature which means that if the temperature falls well below you should wake up. These are key to working out which is the right bag for you.
It’s all about the Seasons
Most sleeping bags are given a ‘seasons’ rating which you can apply in the following way:
1) Season Bags: these bags are for travels in hot climates; a lot of these bags come in a standard rectangle shape and can zip all the way round so you can use them as a blanket. It is important to look for a bag that has a good wicking liner so the sweat is drawn from the body which will lead to a more comfortable night’s sleep. Temperature guides Comfort +7C – Extreme +2C
2) Season Bags: these bags are best suited to travels in the late Spring, Summer, and early Autumn. The majority of these bags are ‘mummy’ shape which will reduce the pack size and weight and aid the warmth of the bag. Temperature guide Comfort +2C – Extreme -2C
3) Season Bags: these bags are best suited for travels in the Autumn but in my opinion are a good all-rounder as they will keep you warm in cold conditions and can be open up (if they have a zip) to keep you cool in warmer climes. You can also use in conjunction with a sleeping bag liner that will add another 5C on the rating of the bag meaning that if you find yourself on much colder night you should still be able to get some sleep. Temperature guide Comfort -5C Extreme -7C
4) Season Bags: these bags are best suited to travels through the Winter months when the temperatures you are going to be encountering are well below freezing. It is important to make sure the bag you buy has a good zip baffle and shoulder baffle as there can be a lot of heat lost from the top of the bag. Temperature guide Comfort -10C – Extreme -15C
5) Season Bags: these bags are really for the die hards out there who will be going on expedition to places normal people never want to venture. I would highly recommend at this point you start looking at down bags!! Temperature guide Comfort -15 – Extreme -50!!
So whether you are sleeping in a beach hut in Thailand or trekking to the Base Camp at Everest it is paramount that choose the correct bag. One last tip, make sure the bag you are buying comes with a compression bag as they can reduce the pack size down by half and if it doesn’t go get one.
Image Credit: stevendepolo.