Sleeping Bags: Choosing the Best One for You
Camping or backpacking can be a horrendous experience if you don’t have the correct sleeping bag with you. There is nothing worse than waking up shivering in the middle of the night because the sleeping bag you brought along wasn’t built for the cold temperatures you ended up experiencing. Before going to the nearest department store and purchasing an inexpensive generic sleeping bag, keep in mind that sleeping bags come with various features suited for different weather climates. For instance, a down sleeping bag is great for keeping warm during the colder months, but if it gets wet, it becomes useless. There are three types of sleeping bag styles that we’re going to look at: rectangle, barrel and mummy. These three types may be made out of different materials, which is just as important to consider as the actual style you are buying. Materials may include: synthetic, cotton and down-filled.
Styles and Materials to Look for When Buying a Sleeping Bag
There are three common styles that you are going to come across, those being the rectangle, the barrel and the mummy. These styles have different purposes, and come with different features built into them.
The rectangle sleeping bag is the most common one, and is often used for children, and adults alike. However, these are really only good for those who are traveling directly to their campsites, and only good in the warm weather of summer time. They have a lot of room in them, are good for up to two people, and you can buy thicker ones that are great for padding the surface you are sleeping on. However, these are very basic and aren’t good for much else other than summer camping or day trips.
The mummy bag is for those who like to camp, hike or do backpacking trips in cold weather climates. This bag tapers at the bottom, and makes a close fit around your body, keeping all of your body heat within the bag. It comes with a hood that fits tightly around your head and neck, and has a draft mechanism along the zipper. Keep in mind though, this type of bag does not close up as small as a basic rectangular bag and may require a backpack to carry.
The barrel sleeping bag or semi-rectangle does not have the hood of a mummy style bag, but does taper down towards the feet. It has a looser fit on the top portion of the bag and can be used in both warm and cold weather climates. It’s great for those who are camping, hiking or backpacking in months that are in-between in temperature.
When shopping for sleeping bags, choosing the right material is important. Cotton sleeping bags will lose their insulation power the more it becomes compacted. This will let the cold in if you are compacting the sleeping bag. Also, cotton will absorb water very easily and it takes a long time to dry it out completely. Down feather is an excellent choice if you are looking for a lightweight sleeping bag for cold dry climates as it has excellent insulation. However, if it becomes wet, it takes it an extremely long time to dry out. Finally, synthetic sleeping bags are heavier than down-filled sleeping bags, but are lighter than cotton and they become dry rather quickly if they become wet. The main reason for this is that they don’t soak up water as easily as the other two materials.
A Brand Comparison by Category
There are thousands of brands out there, so narrowing down which one to buy may seem like a daunting task. To make this easier, deciding on what style of sleeping bag is required is a good first step. In this comparison list, the top brands will be broken down by what type of sleeping bag it is, and the price range will be in order from lowest to highest. All currency shown is in United States Dollars.
Mummy Style Sleeping Bags
MontBell U.L. Spiral Down Hugger [$479]
This is a great choice for those who want an extremely comfortable sleeping bag that good in colder climates. It has a stretchy, water resistant shell that conforms to the body, but still has enough room to fit two average sized adults. This bag is great for accommodating both petite ladies, average sized individuals, and is even great for those who weigh over two hundred pounds. The bag is more for those who want the luxury of comfortable sleeping, rather than performance, as the bag will lose heat when camping on snow because of the stretchy outer shell. The bag weighs in at 45 ounces.
Western Mountaineering Antelope MF [$595-$635]
Is a great choice for those looking for a high performance sleeping bag that is versatile for both winter and summer months. Although it is a mummy style bag, which is associated with winter camping, the bag comes with continuous baffles, allowing you to move the down-fill from top to bottom as needed. It comes with an outer shell that is water resistant, and is extremely lightweight, weighing in at 39 ounces.
Feathered Friends Snowbunting [$599]
Is an amazing choice for those who like to do backcountry skiing or mountaineering as it is amazing for cold winter climates. The outer shell is made out of a waterproof and breathable Pertex Shield material, which is super lightweight. Since the bag is down-filled, keeping the down dry is crucial, and the waterproof shell does just that. It has a 1.5-inch flap that covers the zipper, and it does well to repel light snow and steady dripping. Another great feature about the bag, is that the hood snaps closed with plastic snaps rather than Velcro or draw strings. This means that they will never come un-done during the night, or scratch you. There is enough room in the bag that you can wear headlamps and other accessories to bed with you, but it has an extremely snug fit. It does come in two other cuts, one for women and one for larger individuals.
Rectangle Sleeping Bags
Sierra Designs Frontcountry Sleeping Bag -3C [$145]
This bag is perfect for those who prefer to curl up on their side, sleep on their stomach, or sleep with their feet outward. This sleeping bag has been modified so that it adapts to how you sleep during the night. The bag has a rectangle opening on the top portion of the bag, with a cover that attaches on the underside. You can pull the sides of the bag inward if you get too cold, or use the foot vent if your feet get too hot. It comes with an integrated sleeping pad, doesn’t have Velcro, cords or zippers. It comes with insulated pockets that prevent drafts during the winter months, and open up during the summer months.
Therm-a-Rest Dorado HD 7C Sleeping Bag [$225]
This is a rather roomy bag that comes with hydrophobic treated down, which means it absorbs significantly less moisture than traditional down-filled bags. This feature makes it a great bag for those who camp out successively as it won’t get wet as fast or heavy. It comes with an outer shell that is reflective, can connect to your mattress if you bring one along, and it has a cinch-able top to help keep drafts out. One of the main features of this bag is that it can easily zip to any other bag of the same brand, making a great comfortable sleeping area for two people. It can be used across two different seasons.
Western Mountaineering Mitylite Sleeping Bag [$330]
This bag was built for wilderness camping, mostly for summer months as it has a goose-down fill. It is rather light but still keeps you warm during the cooler nights because of the goose-down. It is light enough that it can be slipped into carry-on-luggage and it sports a reflective green/black color scheme. The goose-down is filled throughout the bag, but cannot be moved from top or bottom as the construction of the bag keeps the goose-down in place.
Barrel Sleeping Bags
MEC Drake Sleeping Bac OC Unisex [$148-165]
This barrel bag uses down-filled insulation which keeps it light and compact, but can work as a summer option as the baffle construction allows you to move the down-filled insulation. You can move it to the top for colder months or to the bottom for summer months. It comes with a water shedding nylon shell and lining, has a tapered end and can hold small accessories like a headlamp, and glasses. It has a two-way zipper, glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and is ideal for camping in the summer time.
Big Agnes Lost Ranger -9C Sleeping Bag [$289-310]
Is a great choice for those who are looking for a little more roominess in a bag with a lot of warmth. This bag is perfect for those who are camping out in the wilderness as it has antimicrobial protection, has flow gate baffles to prevent shifting and cold spots, and it comes as water repellant. It has built in pockets for small accessories, comes with a mesh storage bag and has a built in sleeve. The sleeve is there to hold the sleeping bag underneath you securely. The bag also has draft flap covers, and there are hanging loops so you can hang it up.
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