THE BEST SLEEPING BAG IS THE ONE THAT SUITS YOU
Some people have always had a sleeping bag. Since their first childhood camping trip, theres been a bag in the cupboard or on top of the wardrobe, just waiting for the next adventure. Others of us have managed without for years. But when I stated sailing, I realised that a sleeping bag was called for and got online to start shopping. But it isnt as easy as youd think.
The best sleeping bag for you is the one that keeps you comfortable and doesnt cost any more than it needs to. Understanding where youll use the bag will help you choose the right style and ensure that you dont pay more than you need to for extra features that you wont need.
WHAT SHAPE SLEEPING BAG?
Essentially, there are three shapes of sleeping bag;
Rectangular, Tapered and Mummy.
Rectangular Sleeping Bags
The Rectangular bags are the ones we remember from our childhood straight up and down, loads of room and easy to open out into a duvet if needed. They make for great spare bedding at home and are often the cheapest. However, if you are planning to pack up your bag frequently, or expecting cold conditions, the rectangular bag may well let you down.
Tapered Sleeping Bags
Tapered bags have more shaping to them then the basic rectangle. The narrow foot end helps to trap warmth inside the bag and, because they fit more snugly round the body, they use less material and are therefore easier to pack.
Mummy or Cocoon Style Sleeping Bags
This style of bag has become increasing popular and, if you are planning to camp for long periods or in situations where keeping warm is a must, then this is probably the shape to go for. Like the tapered style, a mummy bag comes in tight around your feet to keep warmth in. Unlike the tapered style, the mummy bag also has a collar and hood, so it can be pulled up close around your face and over your head. These additional features really do keep you warmer, plus the tight fit ensure that the bag stays put if you wriggle around in your sleep. Often the more expensive end of the range, Mummy bags are ideal for camping, climbing, sailing and other outdoors activities.
TEMPERATURE OR COMFORT RATING
When you buy a sleeping bag, have a think about the kind of conditions you will be using it in. Most bags are now sold with a comfort rating, giving you an indication of the kind of climate that the bag is designed for. If you are looking for a basic bag to provide extra bedding at home, dont pay more than you need to for a bag rated to temperatures below zero.
When choosing the temperature rating of your bag, always think chilly. Go for a bag that works at the lower end of your likely climate. For winter camping, a -10 bag will probably be your best choice.
Sleeping bags are either filled with down or synthetic filings. Down has many advantages as a filling. It is warmer, can be compacted much more (meaning that your sleeping bag will take up much less space when compressed) and lasts a very long time. However, some people can be allergic to down and down bags should be kept dry. Synthetic fillings give you a bag you can wash, that wont cause allergic reactions and that will probably be cheaper.
If size is an issue, down will always win hands down but if your bag is likely to get damp or need washing, consider some of the more expensive synthetic fillings instead.
STORING YOUR SLEEPING BAG
When you are buying sleeping bag, take a look at what comes with it. A compression sack (a small, tube-shaped bag with straps) will allow you to stuff in the sleeping bag and tighten, creating a small neat bundle ideal for backpacking. If you wont be carrying your bag around with you too often, a straightforward storage bag (which doesnt aim to reduce the size) may be fine.
Note that leaving your bag in a compression sack for a long time is a bad idea. Good quality bags will tend to be sold with both a compression sack for travelling and a larger, mesh bag for storing the sleeping bag at home.
BUYING YOUR SLEEPING BAG
Sleeping bags are available all over the place now. From cheap, temporary bedding solutions at the supermarket, to the super-hi-tech bags designed for mountaineering that youll find at outdoor specialist shops. Buying online will often save you money but, if possible, you might want to check out the bag instore before you buy.
As always, shop around and compare prices online. Many of the larger online camping stores have regular sales and special offers so take advantage of a regularly updated comparison site or shopping guide like Which Deals to be sure you are getting the best available deal on the best sleeping bag for you.