Sleeping in a tent can be one of the great joys of the wilderness. If you don’t have the right sleeping bag, however, that joy can turn to misery quickly. There are a number of factors to take into account when you’re choosing a sleeping bag. Here are the main things that I look at when choosing a sleeping bag for my time in the backcountry.
This one seems like a no brainer but it’s definitely important to consider when you’re choosing a sleeping bag. Unless you’re well familiar with the brands you’re considering, this probably isn’t a purchase that you want to make online. Spend some time in a store and try a few different sleeping bags out. You should be able to lay it on the floor, a bench or a table and lay in it. Feel for the amount of stuffing, the fabric, etc. Make sure that you can see yourself sleeping in it before you buy it.
This should go without saying – if you don’t fit comfortably into your sleeping bag in the store, you won’t fit into it in your tent either. Make sure that your sleeping bag is long enough – especially if you’re taller. At 6’4” I’m on the taller side of “regular” and, fortunately, long sleeping bags give me enough space to stretch out. Beyond the length, make sure that you fit comfortably width wise as well. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to go with a wider bag to make sure you have enough room. Believe me when I tell you that it’ll be worth it when you’re out there.
This is more important when it comes to backpacking than car camping. When you have to carry everything you need to survive on your back, every ounce matters. Make sure that the weight of your bag is works for your pack weight goals.
When you’re shopping for a sleeping bag, take a look at the temperature rating to make sure that your bag will keep you warm enough. If you’re winter camping, a 35 degree sleeping bag isn’t going to do you much good. Instead of trying to plan for the temperatures, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Summer Camping – 35 degrees and up
- 3 Season Camping – 10 to 35 degrees
- Winter Camping – 10 degrees and below
To stay safe, go with a warmer bag than you think you’ll probably need. You can always unzip it to add ventilation if you get too warm.