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The Straight Facts on Sleeping Bags

So, are you looking for a comfortable night’s sleep during your new outdoor adventure? Let’s make sure you have the right sleeping bag to give you that comfort.  Follow me while I show you how to choose the right sleeping bag for all seasons and how to treat your sleeping bag so it will last and last, for years to come.

First, Some Basics 
A sleeping bag is made up of a cloth or nylon outer fabric called the shell.  Inside the shell is the fill material of synthetic fiber or down feathers from ducks or geese.  The fill traps your body heat and holds it close to you for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Fill Materials
Fill usually includes down or synthetic fiber.  Goose down provides the most warmth for the least amount of weight.  However, its major drawbacks are the cost and they tend to lose their loft when wet and then will not keep you warm.  Synthetic fills of polyester fiber provide warmth-trapping loft even when they are wet.  The key disadvantages are that they are heavy and bulky. 

Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings
Most sleeping bag manufacturers give their bags a “suggested” temperature rating that the bag can be used, down to a certain temperature.  Even though a +30º F sleeping bag will not keep you as warm as a -10º F rated one, keep in mind that these are guidelines.  I remember purchasing what I thought was a good 0º F bag from a reputable on-line retailer.  I took it to the desert in November and froze!  Even though the temperature only went down to 30º F at night the synthetic fill did not keep me warm.  I returned the bag and got another one that worked!   I also learned a valuable lesson on price.  You can’t buy a sleeping bag that has a 0º F or less (-) rating without spending close to a hundred dollars.  I was trying to go “cheap” and was bitten.

Since you will most likely be camping in the summer, warmer months you can safely choose an inexpensive rectangular synthetic fill bag that will satisfy most of your needs.  If you are too warm in your sleeping bag you can open the zipper and vent your heat. If you are too cold, put a blanket over your sleeping bag or put on socks or sweat pants until you are comfortable.

If after a bit of camping experience you venture out into fall or spring camping then look for a sleeping bag that has some additional features such as: hoods, collars, drawstrings, mummy shaped and insulated zipper flaps to reduce the amount of body heat loss.

Caring For Your Sleeping Bag
With the proper care, your sleeping bag will last for many seasons.  Here are a few important TIPS:

  • Don’t store your sleeping bag in its stuff sack.  Fill material that is compressed for a long time will lose its loft and its insulating ability.  If you have a rectangular sleeping bag with tie-strings, undo those strings and hang the sleep bag up.
  • Air out your sleeping bag after every outing.  Weather permitting, hang it up outside on a clothesline or draped over a lawn chair.  Open up all the zippers and lay it out fully.  Let it get good and dry then hang it in a dry spot until your next campout.  I fold my kids’ sleeping bags in half long-ways and fold them over a coat hanger.  Then you can put them in a closet or hang them on a hook in the garage.
  • To keep the loft or thickness of your sleeping bag evenly distributed (no cold spots!) shake your sleeping bag before you lay it down on your sleeping pad.

Don’t forget your pillow!  ☺  “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bugs bite!”


   

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