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In this article, we’re going to look at the various things you need to consider when selecting a sleeping bag to purchase. These include size, shape, insulation, temperature rating, sleeping bag types, weight, and price.
If you don’t fit in the bag, it isn’t going to do you any good.
When selecting a sleeping bag to purchase, you need to consider both the length (or height) and the width. Many people seem to overlook the second one and I’ve seen plenty of over weight or larger people buy super skinny bags, only to discover that the bag is way to tight to be comfortable.
Sleeping bags seem to come in three basic shapes: Mummy, Rectangular (also called classic), and Semi-Rectangular (such as the scoop style where the head is rounded). The Mummy bag shape is the best at keeping you warm (you are in a hood), but many people don’t like the feeling of being wrapped up that tight. The rectangular shape is really the classic shape that is the most comfortable, but it doesn’t retain the heat well. The semi-rectangular bags are basically the middle ground between the other two styles.
Bags are typically insulated with either down, cotton, or synthetic materials. Down is the most comfortable to lay on, cotton is the cheapest, and synthetic materials often are the most expensive, but also the lightest which makes them easier to carry. Synthetic materials typically are the best at keeping you warm.
4. Temperature Rating
Temperature ratings on sleeping bags tell you the lowest temperature at which the bag is recommended for use. Unfortunately, these ratings are not standardized, so a manufacturer can claim whatever they want, and there are difference between manufacturers.
For cold weather use bags, we recommend going at least 10 degrees below your expected use temperature so that you are actually comfortable in your bag. If you are using it for warmer weather, this won’t be as much of an issue so no adjustment is needed.
Some bag manufacturers are now including three ratings on their bags, an upper limit, comfort level, and lower limit. These really are helpful in selecting a bag if they are provided.
5. Sleeping Bag Types
Going along with temperature ratings, bags are grouped into three categories: Winter, Summer, and three-season. Winter is for bags that are rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Three season is for 20 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Three season bags are more for the Fall and Spring, as they are too warm for summer use. Summer bags are for 30 degrees fahrenheit and above, although they typically are used for much higher temperatures (like 50 degrees and up).
If you are going to be using your bag for hiking, you of course will want to be aware of the bag’s weight. The lightest bags are around 1 pound, with the heaviest being almost 20 pounds. That is a big difference if you’re going to be hauling it through the woods for a week straight.
The last thing you obviously will want to look at is the sleeping bag price. Prices vary depending on all the aforementioned aspects that you will want to look for in a sleeping bag. Lighter bags are more expensive, as are brand name bags and those designed for cold weather. Despite that, there are deals to be had. If you buy last year’s model or a model even older than that, you’ll likely pay less. I’ll oftentimes see two very similar bags from two trusted brands, and one will be $50 cheaper than the other. I would advise you to look around and consider your options before purchasing a bag.
If you’re in the market for a sleeping bag, check out our 9 Best Sleeping Bags of 2014.