How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag

How to Choose the Best Sleeping BagWilderness backpacking requires skill and gear. The best gear for one person may not necessarily be the best gear for you. It's important to research and test gear products before attempting to use them in the wilderness. Body type, personal preference, terrain, climate, and seasons must all figure into the buying decision when looking for a backpacking sleeping bag.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag

Things You’ll Need:
  • Sleeping pad
Step 1
Measure yourself. Your worst decision is to get a sleeping bag that is too short. If you are over 6 feet tall, you'll need to get a "long" sleeping bag -- no matter what brand or variety you choose. You'll also need to spend a little more, but that's the cost for being taller than the average American. Regardless of how nice a bag is, or how well a salesperson reviews a bag, do NOT buy a short or normal length bag if you're over 6 feet.
Step 2
Decide between down and synthetic fill. Down fill is usually more expensive. Down is also lighter than any synthetic material. If you're thinking about serious backpacking, down is recommended for the weight factor. A synthetic bag theoretically will still keep you warm when it's wet, but neither option will provide much warmth when wet. Synthetic is also a bit easier to clean. Synthetic bags are best for weekend trips and car camping.
Step 3
Choose a brand. Some of the best backpacking sleeping bag brands are: Western Mountaineering, Marmot, Feathered Friends and North Face. All of these brands offer high-end backpacking bags in varying degrees. Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering are championed in the long-distance hiking community as superior -- but they are also the most expensive down sleeping bags on the market.
Step 4
Choose the degree rating. Most sleeping bags come with a rating between negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit and positive 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It's best to buy a bag that has a temperature rating 10 degrees colder than you expect to face. For example, if you will be camping at high elevation and expect temperatures of 10 degrees, you should buy a zero-rated sleeping bag. It's best to err on the side of heat -- you can expect unpleasant nights if you are too cold.
Step 5
Choose a fit. Most backpacking sleeping bags are mummy bags. This means the shape of the bag gets slender below your hips and toward your legs. This helps the bag save weight. Rectangular sleeping bags are really only helpful when car camping.

Article Written By Duncan Jenkins

Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.

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