A good sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold. It only takes one bad night out, freezing your derriere off at 2 am, to swear by everything that’s holy that you’re buying the best sleeping bag you can find.
Best Sleeping Bag for Camping
There are some industry standards used to determine how sleeping bags are rated, but temperatures should still be taken with a grain of salt; “sleeping comfort” is a very subjective concept to measure.
The bag above, The North Face Aleution Bag has a temperature rating of 20 degrees.
There’s nothing better to sleep on than a fluffy down sleeping bag for camping. They can weigh up to a third less than it’s synthetic counterparts and they take up less space in your backpack. On the other hand, down requires special care, its almost useless if it gets soaked, and requires more maintenance than your high school sweetheart.
That being said, besides down or synthetic fills, other important options to keep in mind when looking for your next bag are: length (for obvious reasons); side of zipper (many manufacturers make bags for left-handed campers); gender (there are many high-quality bags now designed just for the ladies), and of course the most important—temperature.
Best Sleeping Bag for Car Camping
In the mid-price range though, it’s hard to beat the dependability and affordability of Big Agnes bags. They’re well known for down sleeping bags (and tents), but lately, they’ve also been innovating with synthetic fill materials. And they also have one of the widest selections of sleeping bags. Because they’re based in Steamboat Springs, CO, they offer customer service and a warranty that is second to none. This is especially true if you live anywhere near the Rockies.
REI Sleeping Bag
If you are on a tight budget, with less than $100 to spend, there is a way to make every penny count. If you can only afford a bag rated to +30 or higher there is really one-way to go: REI. You won’t be paying the big R&D and advertising bucks that major brands demand and you can still get a high-quality product. Case in hand their Trail Pod Sleeping Bag is rated to +30 degrees, but it is only $79 for the small version and $99 for the long.
Other Sleeping Bag Considerations
Overnight bivouacs are overrated. If you spend any amount of time camping you know that after a day breaking a sweat in the great outdoors, there is nothing better than passing out in a warm and cozy sleeping bag, followed by a long night of solid sleep. So save the hard-core adventures for daylight and invest in a good night sleep, or spend a cold night damning yourself wishing you had.
In my experience, I’ve frozen my feet and spent a miserable night sleeping in a +20 bag on a cold ledge with temperatures in the low 40’s. So if you’re making the investment on a good bag, you want to get something that’s at least rated to +25 Fahrenheit, ideally less, especially if you want to do some sporadic winter camping.
If you plan on spending more than a week sleeping on a glacier, you want to get a 4 season and negative rated sleeping bag for sure.
Last but not least. I personally prefer to use a sleeping bag liner like Sea to Summit’s Silk Liners ($89.95); they’re warm enough to use by themselves on a hammock on a summer night, or they can add 15 degrees of extra comfort to your bag when you’re winter camping.
These sleeping bags work amazing for car camping. If you’re looking for a more specific sleeping bag for backpacking. Keep reading..
Sleeping Bags for Backpacking
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.
Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings
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).
|Tested Lower Limit|
18.1 degrees (F) – EN
29.1 degrees (F) – EN
|Tested Lower Limit|
3.6 degrees (F) – EN
16.7 degrees (F) – EN
A lower-limit rating (for men) is also provided. This shows the lowest temperature that the bag will keep the average man warm.
REI Makes a 10 Degree Bag for Men.
|Tested Lower Limit|
10 degrees (F) – EN
22 degrees (F) – EN
|Tested Lower Limit|
19 degrees (F) – EN
30 degrees (F) – EN
Lightweight Sleeping Bag
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 the type of insulation. The choices include down, synthetic, and water-repellent 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 perfect 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.
Check out the North Face Aleution Sleeping Bag ($108.95).
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.