Many young people nowadays have embraced the backpacking lifestyle for the simple fact that it’s one of a kind experience that gives you the unique opportunity to travel and see a lot of the world’s great places on a budget. However, this activity requires doing some preparation in advance such as supplying yourself with some must-have gear for outdoor adventures such as sleeping bags, hiking boots, tents, etc.
In this article, we will pay specific attention to the choice of sleeping bags you decide to bring with you on your backpacking adventure. So, before we go deep into considering some of the important factors you should pay attention to before investing in a good sleeping bag, let’s first begin by answering one common question concerning this type of outdoor gear.
Why are Sleeping Bags Important Outdoor Gear?
If you are an avid camper or backpacker, you may need to consider investing in a good-quality sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are one of the most important outdoor gear, which primary purpose is to provide warmth and thermal insulation through its synthetic and insulation cover. The market is swamped with diverse designs, so you can find some of the best cold weather sleeping bags under different brand names and prices.
Ticker insulation sleeping bag designs have higher price tags as they are specially designed for serious hikers, backpackers, and other types of adventurers who practice going outdoors on a regular basis. For this reason, it’s worth investing in a good, branded sleeping bag, that can be used for long years down the road.
Key Factors to Consider Before Buying a Sleeping Bag
When deciding on a sleeping bag for backpacking, you should consider some key factors including temperature regulating, weight, the sleeping bag design, and the type of insulation. So, let’s have a look at each one of them, so you can get better acquainted with all the valuable aspects that constitute a good, well-made sleeping bag for backpacking.
Select the Right Design
When it comes to selecting the right design, sleeping bags come in different shapes and sizes including rectangular, barrel, and mummy. The boxy shape or the rectangular ones are spacious and comfortable enough, however, they are bulkier to pack and are best suited for summer temperatures. The barrel sleeping bags designs are cut a bit closer than rectangular bags so they provide better thermal efficiency. Some even feature a hood for extra warmth. They have a lighter and more compact design than the rectangular ones and are best suited for summer.
Named after the shape of the coffins Egyptian mummies were buried in, the mummy sleeping bags are made to fit close to the body to provide the most warmth. However, some people find this feature claustrophobic and they may prefer the other two designs more. These bags are very lightweight and compact, which makes them suitable for all weather conditions, especially for the cold winter months. The mummy sleeping bag design is considered one of the best backcountry sleeping bag and the most expensive one.
The temperature rating will give you a general idea about your bag performance, but lots of other factors can influence how warm you sleep such as how much you’ve eaten, humidity level, wind, fatigue, and dampness.
For starters, you need to look for a sleeping bag with a temperature rating lower than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter on your backpacking trip. For instance, a 35° sleeping bag will keep your body warm down to around 35°, and below that temperature, you will start to feel uncomfortably cold. Therefore choosing a bag with a lower temperature rating is always wiser and better because you can always unzip it for ventilation in case it gets warmer.
Choose the Right Weight
Cramming a bulky sleeping back with you on a long road trip can be exhausting. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to always try to get the lightest sleeping bags you can afford that will keep you warm enough and comfortable while you sleep. For this reason, the weight factor and packability should be another important factor worth considering.
Also, you may need to keep in mind the season when you decide to travel, as most of them are specially designed to suit different kinds of weather conditions. For instance, summer sleeping bags are best to bring with you during the hot summer months from June till August as they are more lightweight which is ideal for tourists and cyclists. On the other hand, cold weather requires supplying yourself with some of the best cold weather sleeping bags, which may be heavier due to the additional insulation layers and the other extra features they offer.
The size you choose should match your height plus it needs to feature additional space so you can move in comfortably inside. If your bag is too long, there will be lots of unused space that can result in you feeling cold as you sleep. There are a wide variety of sleeping bags including designs for women which may come a bit shorter, kids’ sleeping bags, as well as double sleeping bags intended for couples who like to snuggle and are roomy enough to provide enough space for two people to sleep comfortably.
Type of Insulation
Most sleeping bags use an insulation layer to trap warm air inside the bag and keep your body warm as you sleep. The fill type of a sleeping bag can make lots of difference to its overall use and it can additionally determine the sleeping bag’s price, warmth, and weight. There are two types of insulations layers that distinguish between themselves in the level of warmth they offer, which are the down and the synthetic type of layer.
The Synthetic ones use polyester threads spun in continuous long filaments mixed with short pieces, called staples. Many synthetic bags contain a mix of thinner and thicker pieces. The thinner threads fill empty spaces and trap warm air effectively, while the thicker strands provide loft and durability. Sleeping bags that feature synthetic insulation are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and can retain their warmth when wet, so they’re a good choice for damp climates and campers on a budget.
The Down insulation layer is made up of thousands of plumules fluffy filaments from goose or duck feathers. Also, a higher fill power provides more warmth for the same weight, for instance, about 500 is good, 600–700 is better and above 700 is excellent. All this being said makes these bags great as a long-term investment if you plan to use them a lot, however, they are not very suitable for extended trips or wet climate areas. This fact is mostly because when the dawn gets wet it can form clumps that can no longer retain warmth.