Hobbies‎ > ‎Backpacking Gear‎ > ‎

Sleeping Bag

Selecting the right sleeping bag for backpacking is important because depending on the situation it could be a matter your comfort or health if it’s too cold.  So choose a bag that should keep you warm with idealist temperature rating for the coldest temperatures you expect to encounter.

After choosing a bag for temperature, you need to consider weight and compressibility.  If it’s too heavy or takes up too much room in your backpack it can be useless too you.
Other considerations are sleeping pad, liner and pillow.

Temperature Rating
Most sleeping bag manufacturers adopted a common temperature rating standard for testing bags, it’s known as EN13537. This is an international standard for temperature testing methodology for rating and comparing the thermal performance of a sleeping bag.

Under EN testing, each bag is assigned a temperature rating for men (lower limit) and a rating for women (comfort). The lower-limit rating is the lowest temperature at which the average man will remain warm. A comfort rating identifies the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average woman warm.  Because women sleep colder than men, a bag's comfort rating will always be significantly higher than its lower-limit rating.

It’s important to keep the bag weight low without jeopardizing your comfort or safety.  One of the materials that plays a big part in the weight of a sleeping bag is the types of insulation material that is used to create it.

Insulation Material:
  • Goose Down: A high-quality down—very light, easily compressible, durable and breathable. It excels in cold, dry conditions, or any time weight and packability are top priorities. Though initially more expensive, down's superior durability makes it a good value over the long haul. Down's ability to loft (which enables it to trap heat) is measured in "fill power." The higher the fill power, the less down is needed to achieve a given temperature rating. The amount of down in a given bag is known as its "fill weight." For example, an 800-fill-power down bag rated +10°F will use less down (and have a lower fill weight) than a +10°F bag using 600-fill-power down. Because down with higher fill power is less plentiful, it typically has a higher cost. Some bags are also filled with duck down, which provides ample insulation in mild weather at less cost. If down gets wet, it loses its ability to loft and insulate. Shells of some down bags use fabrics that are treated with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. This sheds light moisture, but a down bag is not ideal for use in wet conditions.
  • Synthetic Insulation: generally excel in damp, cold conditions and when a bag's weight or packability isn't of critical concern.  Synthetic insulators (usually polyester) retain some loft even when wet, so in a pinch you can get through a night in a damp bag. They are also quick to dry and initially less expensive. Though they are a bit heavier than down and don't pack as compactly, synthetic insulators do an excellent job of trapping body heat.
  • Hoods can prevent heat from radiating away.  Some hoods offer stuffable pillow pockets.
  • Draft tubes behind the zippers keep heat in and cold drafts out.
  • Stash pockets are handy for keeping items such as watches and glasses close at hand.
  • Women: Women-specific bags are engineered to match a woman's contours usually cut shorter, narrower at the shoulders and wider at the hips. Extra insulation is routinely added in the upper body and footbox.  Because women often sleep colder than men, EN ratings are different. See "Temperature Rating."
  • Sleep System:Along with your sleeping bag, these 4 key items increase warmth and comfort:
    • Pad: A good pad cushions and insulates your body from cold surfaces by blocking conductive heat loss. It is essential for comfort and warmth. If you're staying in a campground, choose the thickest, plushest pad you can afford. If you're backpacking, you'll want to balance comfort with keeping weight low.
    • Liner: A liner can add about 5°F to 25°F to your bag's comfort rating and is much easier to clean than the bag itself.
  • Pillow: A pillow helps ensure a good night's sleep. Backpacking pillows are lightweight and highly compressible.
  • Stuff Sack: A basic stuff sack (included with most sleeping bags) loosely compresses your bag and helps protect it from dirt and grime. If you're backpacking, a compression sack is helpful. Your bag will pack down to the size of a small cylinder, leaving more room for other gear in your pack. For the best protection, try a dry sack. It's water resistant, so it protects down sleeping bags—or any bag—from moisture.
  • Completely dry your bag after a trip and before storing it.
  • For long-term storage, leave it uncompressed, under a bed or stored loosely in its storage sack.  Don't store it in a stuff sack as this will break down the insulation.  Place it loosely in a large cotton storage bag, hang it or store it flat.
  • Frequently washing your bag can decrease its loft, you protect it by using a liner or wearing clean clothes to bed.
  • When necessary, hand-washing is the preferred method for both down and synthetic sleeping bags. Use a mild soap, as detergents can leave a residue. Never use a washing machine with an agitator as it can destroy baffles, and never dry-clean your bag.