Whether you are a casual camper or a hardcore backpacker, your sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will have with you. A great sleeping bag is one that will keep you warm on even the coldest of nights without sacrificing too much in the way of weight or comfort.
Below is a little more information on how to buy a sleeping bag so that you stay safe on the trail and don’t become a liability to others in your party.
How are Sleeping Bag Temperatures Rated?
By far the most important aspect of a sleeping bag is its temperature rating. A sleeping bag’s temperature rating tells you what temperatures the bag can handle while keeping you safely and comfortably warm.
Thanks to the EN Standard, a sleeping bag’s rating is now a reliable measurement. Select a bag that is rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. An EN rating is provided with almost every sleeping bag on the market today.
Most sleeping bags provide three different EN ratings. These include a comfort rating (for women) that shows the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average woman warm (it has been scientifically proven that women sleep colder than men). A lower-limit rating (for men) is also provided. This shows the lowest temperature that the bag will keep the average man warm.
And, finally, an extreme rating is provided. Essentially, this describes a worst-case scenario situation. Using the bag in this temperature won’t be fun or comfortable but it should keep you alive. It’s a survival-only rating (for the average woman).
Sleeping Bag Weight
The next most important aspect of a sleeping bag is its weight. You want to keep as low a weight as possible, especially while backpacking, without sacrificing comfort or safety.
Weight versus roominess is up to personal preference. Some people prefer a lightweight bag to all else, even if it means paying more money. Others would rather have a roomier sleeping bag, even if it means carrying a little extra weight. Most modern bags set out to strike a balance between weight and roominess.
Insulated Sleeping Bags
The last thing to consider when buying a sleeping bag is type of insulation. The choices include down, synthetic, and water-repellant down.
Though down sleeping bags are more expensive, they are among the lightest, compressible, durable, and breathable. This makes them a great long-term investment. They do not, however, hold up to excessive moisture very well.
Synthetic bags like The North Face Aleution are prefect for damp and cold conditions and come for a little less than down sleeping bags up front. However, they are slightly heavier and do not compress as easily.
Checkout our North Face Aleution Sleeping Bag Review to learn more about this bag.
Water-repellent down sleeping bags are treated to resist moisture. As mentioned above, this is something of an Achilles heel for regular down bags. Water-repellent down bags are among the most expensive but best overall sleeping bags.
Buying a sleeping bag shouldn’t be a rush decision. There is also no one best bag for everyone. Take your personal preferences, body type, and type of overnighting you plan on doing into consideration. Look at a number of bags before making a decision. Most importantly, make sure to understand a bag’s temperature rating and select one with a temperature rating that will keep you safe and sound.