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There are some essentials for camping such as a tent, backpack, sleeping bag, etc. But for me, the sleeping bag is the most important gear for camping. It can make your camp a hell of a camp but it can also make you miserable, therefore you should know types of sleeping bags and how to choose one before purchasing a sleeping bag.
There are lots of sleeping bag types. It might be confusing to choose the right one, but if you stick to it we will cover everything about sleeping bags. Whether you are looking for a sleeping bag to use in winter, or on the sunniest day.
Make sure to look at our articles about Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bags and Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags.
Shapes of Sleeping Bags
There are four main types of sleeping bags regarding shapes. The shape is an important issue to consider before purchasing a sleeping bag because every shape has its own individual features, pros & cons.
Rectangular Sleeping Bags
Rectangular sleeping bags are the most common and most basic sleeping bags. Since they are rectangular, they don’t wrap all body, therefore they are not the best in cold conditions.
They are slightly heavier than other sleeping bags. But in the meantime, rectangular sleeping bags have more space, therefore, they are more comfortable considering other shapes of sleeping bags. Since they are symmetrical, rectangular sleeping bags are easier to roll up and pack.
They can be entirely unzipped, and zipped together with another rectangular sleeping bag, to use them as double sleeping bags. If you are going to a car camp or the packed size is not a big issue for you, rectangular sleeping bags are more than enough for camping at warm seasons.
Not Good at Cold Conditions
Easy to Pack
Heavier and Bulkier
Can be Entirely Unzipped
Mummy Sleeping Bags
Mummy sleeping bags have a tapered form, which helps to wrap the user’s body and decrease air circulation in the sleeping bag, Thus decrease the heat loss and weight. They are the perfect type of sleeping bag for mountaineers and backpackers due to their size and warmth ratio.
For backpacking and mountaineering during cold season mummy sleeping bags are the best choice.
Suitable for Cold Weathers
Smaller Compared to Other Shapes
Lighter Compared to Other Shapes
Semi-Rectangular (Barrel) Sleeping Bags
Semi-Rectangular sleeping bags also have a tapered form, but they are not as narrow as mummy sleeping bags at the bottom.
For warmness, they are more efficient compared to rectangular sleeping bags, and they are more comfortable compared to mummy sleeping bags.
Relatively Light and Small
Good for Chill Conditions
Double Sleeping Bags
If you are camping with your significant other and love to cuddle with your companion when sleeping, double sleeping bags are great for you.
Keep in mind that rectangular sleeping bags can be zipped together to make a double sleeping bag. If you are camping only with your loved one, buying a double sleeping bag would be the better option, because they are lighter, warmer and easy-to-carry compare to two rectangular sleeping bags zipped together.
If you are camping solo from time to time, then purchasing two rectangular sleeping bags would be more feasible. Don’t forget that not every rectangular sleeping bag can be zipped together look for that feature before purchasing.
Good for Camping with a Companion
There are two main types of sleeping bags when it comes to Insulation. They are down-filled and synthetic. Weight, warmth, and compressibility of a sleeping bag, depends on the insulation type, therefore knowing about insulation is crucial before buying a sleeping bag.
Down-filled Sleeping Bags
Down-filled sleeping bags are insulated with the feathers of ducks and geese. Down feathers are great for keeping the egg warm, which makes it a great insulation material for sleeping bags.
For down-filled insulated sleeping bags, the quality of insulation can be understood by the fill power. Fill is basically the measurement to determine loft (amount of puff that the down feather has). So higher fill power means greater insulation.
Down sleeping bags are great for colder conditions. They are lighter than synthetic ones, and compressibility of down sleeping bags are much higher than synthetic sleeping bags, therefore they are more expensive compared to synthetic sleeping bags. The only downside of down-filled sleeping bags is they are not effective when they get wet.
Higher Warmth to Weight Ratio
Not Effective when Wet
Synthetic Sleeping Bags
As can be understood from the name, synthetic sleeping bags are not made with animal feathers. They are made with synthetic materials such as polyester. They are more windproof compared to down-filled sleeping bags.
Synthetic sleeping bags don’t lose their effectiveness when wet or moistured and they are inexpensive compared to down-filled ones. The downsides about synthetic sleeping bags are, they are heavier, bulkier and less compressible compared to down-filled sleeping bags.
No Animal Feather
Bad Weight to Warmth Ratio
Versatile (Can Be Used in Every Weather
Temperature Ratings and Seasonality
Temperature rating is the most important issue to look for before buying a sleeping bag. Most of the sleeping bags are being tested and rated according to EN 13537 Standard.
There are 3 types of temperature ratings:
Comfort Temperature: The optimum temperature in which a person can sleep comfortably and relaxed.
Lower Temperature: The lowest temperature in which a person can sleep comfortably in a hunched position.
Extreme Temperature: The lowest temperature in which a person can survive.
Although the names of the season types a sleeping bag can vary from one brand to another, generally there are four types.
Features of Sleeping Bags
There are several features to look for before purchasing a sleeping bag. Some are essential and some are good to have. Here is a quick list of features to look for:
- Snag-free Zipper
- Two-way Sliders
- Cinchable Hoods
- Draft Tubes
- DWR Coated Shell
- Baffle Design
The sleeping bags are not luxurious gears, like camping hammocks, they are extremely essential especially for camping in cold conditions.
And they are useless when they are torn off. They lose their effectiveness when insulation material falls from the ripped places. So always go for a sleeping bag that features a good snag-free zipper.
Sleeping bags are made for keeping us warm during the night, but let’s face it, it won’t be extreme cold every time we go camping, some nights you will feel hot. Two-way sliders allow you to unzip the bottom side of the zipper, so you can use it for venting.
It is not the most essential thing for camping in the warm season. But, if you are planning to camp in winter or relatively cold weather go for a sleeping bag that has a drawstring on the hood, so you can cinch it down to keep the heat inside.
The zipper is the weakest area of the sleeping bag for heat loss. So in order to reduce the heat loss through the zipper, most of the big brands design a draft tube behind the zipper. It is not essential for summer camping, but if you are planning to camp below 40˚F go for a sleeping bag that has a draft tube behind the zipper.
DWR Coated Shell
Camping in the rain is a lot of fun, but only if you have the proper gear. Especially down sleeping bags tend to lose their insulation properties in damp conditions. And we cannot always know if it is going to rain or not, so always go for a sleeping bag that has DWR Coated Shell.
If you are planning to buy a synthetic sleeping bag baffle design is not an issue for you. But for the down sleeping bags, baffle design is important since they keep the fill in place. We recommend horizontal baffles since they are more versatile. In cold nights you can move the fill from back to front to get warmer.
Mummy sleeping bags don’t offer a big space to sleep in, and it is harder to get comfortable in them. Therefore don’t forget to look for a sleeping bag with a large and innovative foot-box design to sleep comfortably.
It is not the most important feature to look for, but it is a plus to have an inner pocket to keep your valuables close at hand.
Lastly, quilts can actually work better in some cases. Check out Quilts vs Sleeping bags article on TrekSumo if you’d like to read more about this.
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