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How To Buy The Best Sleeping Bag For Camping

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How To Buy The Best Sleeping Bag For Camping

At first glance, all sleeping bags seem pretty similar. However, if you're on your way to your first camping trip with friends, you'll quickly discover that those old sleeping bags you have stuffed in your storage closet don't necessarily work for every occasion. Fortunately, there are many sleeping bag options that you can choose from based on function, temperature, portability and comfort needs.

The Warmth Factor

Temperature Rating: The temperature rating is a system based on the minimum temperature you're likely to experience when using your sleeping bag. Let's say you're doing some outdoor camping in the mountains, and the lowest expected temperature for your trip is 16 degrees Fahrenheit. When shopping for a sleeping bag, you should make sure that you purchase one that is rated for the lowest temperature you're likely to encounter on your trip.

Look closely at the temperature rating on your prospective sleeping bag. If it says "EN Tested," then you can rest assured that it's been lab-tested to make sure that it provides adequate warmth for the specified temperature. However, if the sleeping bag you're eyeing doesn't include an EN seal of approval, it should have a temperature rating approximately 15 degrees below your expected minimum temperature. This 15 degree cushion will act as a safety net in the event that the bag has not been thoroughly tested.

The Shell, The Fill And The Lining: These are the three components that make up your sleeping bag.

The shell is the fabric on the outside of the sleeping bag which you should choose according to climate. This choice is simple. If you're going to be in a wet, humid environment or expect rain, choose a water-resistant shell, such as microfiber, Dryloft or one with a DWR finish. If you're going to be outdoors in a dry environment, nylons and polyesters work well.

The lining of the sleeping bag is meant to wick moisture away from your body; while slippery nylon is most common, if you prefer a cozier experience, opt for fleece.

There are two main materials you can select for your bag’s fill. You can choose down (feathers) or synthetic fill. Down is said to be more compressible and long-lasting. But, it isn't ideal for wetter climates due to lack of insulation ability. On the other hand, synthetic fill upholds more insulation when wet, but over time, expands and is harder to compress and stay insulated. 

In A Nutshell: Go for down when you need a lightweight, compressible bag and you're in a reasonably dry climate. Go for synthetic when in moist conditions, but remember it's a bit heavier and bulkier.

Shape And Size

Shape: Your main bag shapes include rectangular, mummy and semi-rectangular. Rectangular bags are ideal for not-too-cold excursions as they do not hug your body closely. In addition, the top is open, providing an escape for heat and a wide-open entrance for cold air. Mummy bags, as the name suggests, resemble the mummies of ancient Egypt. These bags utilize less material and provide the ultimate mechanism to trap your body heat to keep you nice and cozy. For a happy medium, opt for a semi-rectangular bag that offers more mid-section room than the mummy bag, but the top and foot area are narrow and contoured for a closer fit to the body for extra heat-holding capacity.

Size: Men's sleeping bags are typically longer than women's and narrower at the hips. Children's bags are shorter than both, often including extra exterior pockets for toys and gadgets, as well as a pouch for snug pillow insertion.

Your Budget

When selecting a sleeping bag for a living room or backyard camp-out, it is fine to bargain hunt for a cheap bag. For your more intensive outdoorsy fun, you should probably shell out a few more dollars to get a quality bag. 

Spending the time to find the right sleeping bag that fits your body, fits your needs and keeps you cozy can mean the difference between misery and comfort. So spend those few extra moments selecting the right sleeping bag to ensure sweet slumber while you're out under the stars.

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