When it comes to selecting the right sleeping bag for your camping needs where does one start? Since there are so many different sleeping bags to choose from, finding the right one for your needs seems daunting. These tips will help you sort through the pertinent information to make the selection process much easier.
Besides your budget, comfort is the main factor in selecting sleeping bags for tent camping (also known as car camping), while weight is the most important aspect for hiking (backpacking). This is what to consider when looking for sleeping bags.
Find the right temperature rating:
A sleeping bag’s temperature rating identifies the lowest temperature that will keep the average person warm. A bag described as a “20 degree bag,” means that most people should remain comfortable if the air temperature drops no lower than 20°F. These ratings factor in that the sleeper is wearing a layer of long underwear and using a sleeping pad with the bag. Temperature ratings vary from one manufacturer to the next. Use these ratings as a guide only.
What other factors affect how warm you are inside the sleeping bag?
The sleeping pad or air mattress adds warmth, since you’re not lying directly on the ground. Your tent also warms you up by approximately 10 degrees.
What you wear inside the sleeping bag also makes a difference. Sleeping in long underwear and clean socks will help insulate your body. A stocking cap will help you retain body heat as well.
The general rule on temperature ratings:
Summer Season bag has a temperature rating of +35 degrees and higher
3-Season Bag has a temperature rating of +10 to +35 degrees
Cold Weather Bag has a temperature rating of -10 to +10 degrees
Winter/Extreme Bag has a temperature rating of -10 degrees and lower
Most family tent sleeping bags are rectangular for maximum comfort. You can usually zip two together if they have compatible zippers and create a double bed. This configuration fits well on a queen size air mattress for maximum sleeping comfort.
The mummy-shaped bags are normally used for backpack camping. They are lightweight and more efficient at keeping the body warm. Some people find the mummy sleeping bag too constrictive.
Semi-rectangular bag is a good compromise between the rectangular and mummy shapes. This type of bag offers more room than a mummy bag and less bulk and weight than a rectangular bag.
Sleeping bags are available in three standard sizes: the junior (or child size), standard, and extra long. Although small children fit well in the junior bags, a standard sized bag will accommodate them as they grow without the need to buy a larger bag later on. It’s good to have some extra room at the bottom of the bag to allow you to put items you want to keep warm like clothes or water bottles if it’s freezing outside, as well as an extra blanket to keep your feet warm.
Insulation choices for sleeping bags include goose down and synthetic fibers. Goose down is mainly used to insulate top of the line mountaineering bags for extremely cold conditions, while the synthetic materials are just right for most camping conditions.
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