Different conditions, your sleeping style and the many different available features all go into choosing a sleeping bag. Additionally, if you plan to camp year-round, you might want alternate bags for different seasons and conditions. If only it were as easy as picking your favorite color …
Most people know that sleeping bags are rated at a certain temperature range. But what does that temperature mean? It depends on whether you’re a man or a woman. No, I’m not kidding.
The lowest temperature on a bag could either be a comfort rating or a limit rating. A comfort rating of 15 degrees Fahrenheit would mean that a cold-sleeper would be comfortable sleeping in 15-degree weather. A limit rating means that a hot-sleeper would be comfortable at the same temperature.
Comfort ratings are typically assigned to women’s bags, while men’s bags list limit ratings. This causes women’s bags to be a bit heavier, because they have extra insulation. Women’s bags are also shorter than men’s bags, though both are often available in extra-long versions.
Besides the differences in men’s and women’s bags, you also have to take the insulation, sleeping pad, size and features into account.
The two different types of insulation are down and synthetic. While they both have pros and cons, synthetic is more water resistant and will still insulate in wet conditions. Down is better suited for cold, dry conditions. However, some down is treated to be water resistant, which brings the decision down to other features like price, compression and allergies.
A sleeping pad will make your set-up warmer due to the extra buffer between you and the cold ground. Sleeping pads have an R-value that designates how warm the pad will be. The higher the R-value, the more warmth you’ll get.
Sleeping bags come in a range of sizes from rectangles to mummies to double bags and everything in between. A mummy sleeping bag will be the lightest because it doesn’t take up as much space, because it is cut into a silhouette shape. Although it sounds constricting, you can pick a mummy bag with a wider footbox to allow you to move around in your sleep. You can also turn over with your bag instead of inside it. Women’s bags will also typically have more room around the hips.
When you’re choosing between a few different sleeping bags, the features might make or break your decision. Which side the zipper is on; whether the bag has a stash pocket; or if it has a pocket for a pillow are all options that make your sleep set up more convenient. Personally, a stash pocket is a must for me! I like to keep my phone and extra socks inside.
Overall, committing to a sleeping bag might feel overwhelming, but if you’re honest with yourself about your sleep habits and put in some forethought, the perfect bag for you is out there!