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Sleeping Bags

November 19th, 2009

Down versus Synthetic:

Goose down is very warm. It is lightweight to carry and can be easily compressed for travel and quickly regain form when shaken out.  However, goose down is also more expensive and loses its insulating properties when wet – a consideration if sleeping outdoors or traveling in inclement weather.

Synthetic filled bags are cheaper than goose down and retain their warmth even in wet conditions. They dry faster than down and are good choices if  sleeping outdoors on the ground such as with a tarp tent or bivy.  However, synthetic bags are heavier and larger which can be a downside if you are hiking long distances with the bag.

Rectangle, Tapered or Mummy?

As with the insulating materials, the shape of bag you choose will depend on your specific needs with pros and cons for each type.

Rectangle bags are most similar to bed sleeping and most familiar to the average user.. However, rectangle bags are the biggest and not the best option for carrying on extended hikes.

Tapered bags are somewhat narrower towards the feet area of the sleeping bag. This shape provides less freedom of movement but more warmth because of the restricted space.

Mummy bags are the smallest and lightest to carry. They are very snug to the body (as the name suggests) with a hood that can be fitted around the head to conserve the greatest amount of body heat. While the average user may find the mummy bag uncomfortable to sleep in because of the restriction, they are the best choice for cold weather camping and long hikes because of their warmth and small size.

Which Temperature Rating?

Sleeping bags will list the coldest temperature they are suitable for sleeping in. Depending on if you are camping in the summer or colder months you will need to choose a bag accordingly. Also take into consideration if you are normally cold or hot when sleeping and make the adjustments.

In most cases it is recommended to choose a warmer bag since you can always open it for venting if it is too warm. The temperature rating is based on using a sleeping pad under the sleeping bag which conserves body heat from the ground.

I use the North Face Cat’s Meow +20 degree synthetic bag

Kids Bags?

You may be temped to keep camping costs down by buying a discount sleeping bag for your children. But, if you want your kids to grow up enjoying camping out, buying a discount sleeping bag could lead to their discomfort, and even a dislike of camping.  Don’t be tempted to use that slumber bag you use for sleepovers, either.
Think of it as an investment in the future, and in your camping future! When you buy a kid’s sleeping bag, make sure it fits your child properly, and has some room for your child to grow. A sleeping bag like this should be able to grow with your child for several seasons, and still keep your child warm in the coldest camping conditions you face. You can find a kid’s sleeping bag in both mummy and rectangular styles, so choose what makes your child feel the most comfortable and secure.

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