How to Choose the Perfect Sleeping Bag4 min read

Sleeping Bags for Camping

When planning an outdoor adventure, one of the first items on your packing list should be your sleeping bag. If you are anything like me, who has been borrowing sleeping bags from hospitable family members for the past few camping trips, it just might be time to invest in a sleeping bag to call your own. There are lots of choices out there, ranging from a $20 Sears sleeping bag to the $2,120 Great Sleeping Bear bag, so let’s break down some of the sleeping bag choices.

Consider the climate you’ll be camping in most often

Sleeping bags for different climates
Think about what kind of weather you’ll be camping most. There are kinds for all different climates.

It’s crucial to consider the warmth level of the sleeping bag you’re buying. Summer tent camping during holiday weekends on the Guadalupe River require a bag with much less insulation than one needed for backpacking into Big Bend Park in the early spring. Most sleeping bag vendors, like REI, LL Bean, or North Face, will clearly label their merchandise with the Fahrenheit temperature for which the sleeping bag is designed. Generally, summer season bags are meant for 35 to 50 degree weather, three-season bags are meant for 10 to 35 degree weather, and winter bags–for bold and brave–campers are designed for 10 degree weather and lower. Never risk becoming too cold at night–even if it means you have to buy two separate sleeping bags for different seasons!

What to look for in shape and insulation type

Other important considerations include the insulation type and shape. Synthetic insulation is the best price and stays pretty dry but can be bulky, especially for light-travelling backpackers. Water-resistant and regular goose down insulations are more comfortable, compressible and costly. If you’re considering going backpacking, or simply like to roll your sleeping bag up nice and tight, you should opt for a mummy shaped bag. This shape will snug to your body for added warmth and there are even specially designed mummy bags for women with extra insulation in targeted areas. For those who like a roomier sleeping experience, the barrel or standard rectangular shape are your best bets. There are even double sized sleeping bags for couples camping together. Aw.

Pro tip: buy a removable sleeping bag liner to add around 10 degrees of warmth in colder weather, then use just the liner in those hot summer months. Sleeping bag liners are available between $25 and $75 at stores like REI. Travel sacks can also work for hot-weather outdoor sleeping.

Adding more comfort

Sleeping bag pads for camping
Sleeping pads up the comfort game on tent camping.

Keeping warmth in mind, many campers invest in sleeping pads for comfort and further insulation against the cold ground. These pads range from the impressive and comfortable self-inflating pads, the bulkier air mattress style pad, the more insulated air pad and the traditional foam pad. I personally have the standard and inexpensive foam pad–it looks a little like a yoga mat.

During my visit to REI, I ended up choosing the practical, red Nanowave sleeping bag, a $79 three-season, synthetically filled mummy bag that I can add a liner to if I choose to rough it in the wintertime. It was difficult to resist the soft, down filled Ouray sleeping bag from Marmot, but the four-degree weather comfort rating made it only fit for cold weather camping.

There are a lot of sleeping bag options out there, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for your camping needs! If you don’t feel like sifting through all your options, just choose one of these awesome Selk’bag styles. Extra points for choosing superhero styles–who doesn’t want to roast marshmallows alongside Spider Man?

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