Going on an adventure, whether that’s camping or hiking, or backpacking, requires you to have the right gear. And when you’re choosing your gear, the prime thing to keep an eye out for is your sleeping bag. It’s the most important tool in your arsenal, and having the wrong sleeping bag can easily ruin your adventures.
That being said, there are just so many to choose from. And no two bags are the same, with things like insulation and temperature ratings making a massive difference. But we’re here to help, and we’ll go over the key thing you should keep your eyes peeled for when shopping for a new sleeping bag.
And here’s a tip: regardless of what kind of sleeping bag you decide you need, Hyke & Byke has an excellent selection you can choose from, definitely check them out.
Down or Synthetic Insulation?
This is the first question you’ll need to answer. Both types have pros and cons, and the choice you make will have a massive impact on overall comfort, weight, packing size, and price. Let’s consider both.
Down-filled sleeping bags are considered to be the more premium option, with slightly higher prices and a huge advantage in the weight department. They’re very lightweight and can be packed to a very, very small size. There’s also the durability factor, in which they have the upper hand over synthetic ones, as well as the fact that they retain the insulation performance for at least a couple of years.
However, they are a bit more expensive, and for some out of budget. To add to this, you must be careful not to get them wet, because they take a very long time to dry out. Quality options deal with this by adding a water-resistant treatment, but it’s not 100% waterproof.
Synthetic sleeping bags are, on the other hand, more affordable, and in many scenarios a better choice. Yes, they’re heavier and pack a bit larger, but they also perform admirably even in wet conditions. Getting a synthetic bag wet doesn’t mean that you’re losing the insulation properties, and to add to that, they dry fairly quickly. This makes them ideal for situations where you might think you’ll get some rain, or the air humidity is higher than average.
It is the size and weight that makes them a somewhat worse choice for people who want to be packed as compact as possible, but if you’re on a budget, or appreciate the weather-related versatility, they’re a great choice.
What’s the Right Temperature Rating?
This is the second big thing you’ll notice with sleeping bags – they’re usually made for a specific season. There are summer bags and winter bags, and there are the more versatile three-season bags, that try to cover every scenario but are actually perfect for spring and autumn.
Summer bags are made for higher temperatures, usually above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that you should be considering the temperature at night, and if it drops down below 30, you might be a bit cold with such a bag. With a winter bag, on the other hand, anything above 15 degrees and you’ll find yourself unzipping the bag to get some fresh air inside – they’re made for cold weather, some even for freezing temperatures. Between 15 and 30 degrees, you want to be in a three-season bag for the best experience.
Here’s something you might not consider: if you want to play it safe, get a bag that’s made for temperatures slightly lower than the ones you’re expecting. Being warm in a bag allows you to unzip the zipper slightly and lower the temperatures. But if you’re cold, there’s not much you can do.
Also, consider all the other factors – clothing, sleeping pad, wind, and air humidity. The temperature ratings are made for an “average sleeper”, and your body might not fit those criteria. Play it safe.
What Shape Do You Go For?
Pose this question to an experienced camper, and they’ll tell you that the perfect bag will give you room to stretch inside, and even roll over in it. A rectangular bag is the perfect starting point because it gets you plenty of room to move around and it doesn’t feel restrictive at all. There are some models with a full zipper as well, you can use them as a comforter.
If you’d rather go for a more snug fit, a mummy bag is a good option. Made for colder weather, they’re made to fit the average body, but you can’t move around in one that much. If you need to roll over, you’ll need to do that with your bag, which is a bit tricky.
And of course, you could go for a double bag – that one is meant for couples, is pretty big, and comes in a rectangular shape. It’s a matter of personal preference, really.