How to Select a Sleeping Bag

How to Select a Sleeping BagSleeping bags can be your comfy place away from home to relax and get rest when camping, backpacking or trekking. When choosing one that is right for you, it's important to consider where and when you will be using it as well as how your body responds to temperature. Carefully select the right sleeping bag, and you will be catching some shuteye, no matter where you are.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Consider the materials. Where will you be using your sleeping bag? In a damp climate where it often rains, or a drier area? If you are going to be using in an area that gets a lot of rain or moisture, synthetic materials are generally better because they do no lose their ability to keep you warm when wet, whereas down loses its loft and ability to insulate. Outer materials should be breathable but also water-resistant. A laminated microfiber (nylon/polyester mix) is more compressible than other coated fabrics and will breath better while repelling water.
Step 2
Choose the right rating. Bags are given a minimum temperature rating based on the degree of comfort associated with the amount of insulation in a bag. These are rough ratings and can be used outside of their rated range. Your personal level of fitness, fatigue and general metabolism has a great impact on how warm or cold you will be in a bag. For example, if you are cold all the time and are thinking about getting a 0-degree bag for your winter camping trip, you may want to consider one that is rated for minus-20 degrees F. Many bags can be used over a range of temperatures throughout the spring, summer and fall, but it's hard to make one bag work for all four seasons. A specific winter bag is not a bad idea.
Step 3
Size your bag according to your height. The length of a sleeping bag will determine how much room you have when sleeping. Get in a bag and try it out if you are browsing in an outdoor gear shop. See how it feels when you are all the way in the bag and cinch the hood around your head. Do you have enough foot room? An extra 6 inches for your feet is nice, but an extra foot or more can be too much and an unnecessary weight to carry.
Step 4
Consider weight and compressibility. These are big factors for many people when selecting a sleeping bag, and for good reason. Getting your sleeping bag as small as possible is helps keep your pack volume down, and carrying less weight is always good--but you might have to make a compromise. Down is the lightest and most compressible material that sleeping bags are made from, but if you want the most compressible, lightest and warmest bag, you are going to pay a pretty penny or two. And again, the lighter the bag, the less loft it will have and the less warm it will keep you.
Step 5
Select a design that is practical. For any sort of backpacking or mountaineering, you should select a mummy-style design. Never use a basic rectangular sleeping bag unless you are car camping. Mummy bags have draft tubes behind the zippers to block air from creeping in, a collar around the hood area and a contoured hood with a drawstring opening so you can cinch it down around your face when it gets cold.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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