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Sleeping bags
August 18, 2016

Sleeping Bags

When you are in outdoors everyone talks about three things when it comes to restful night & peaceful sleep. I must say there are three elements of outdoors nights.

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pads
  • Tent

Today I am going to talk about Sleeping Bags, primarily. Sleeping bags – Core and essential part of outdoor activities, especially when you are sleeping inside the tent.

  • Way to insulate yourself from the cold air.
  • A barrier between you and the ground,  For an example good surface (a mattress)
  • Shelter from the elements – For an example Tent

To accomplish goal 1 and 2, you must need a good sleeping bag and to cover ground a pad. I’m sure if you choose these essentials poorly, you could be in pity for pretty long nights.

When we talk about Sleeping Bags and pads there are several things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag, and pad. First one must understand what all different options manufacturers offer.

  • What should one get a synthetic sleeping bag or a down bag?
  • What about temperature rating?

It’s not difficult to get overwhelmed with choices, but don’t worry. There are ways to understand and I’m trying to make it easy for you in this guide, well I’ll try to cover all the information you need to help you choose a sleeping bag that works well for your needs.

Four things one should think and understand about Sleeping bags

  • Temperature Ratings of Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Bags types and It’s Sizes
  • Construction types of Sleeping Bag
  • Storage, Cleaning of Sleeping Bag

Temperature Ratings of Sleeping Bag

Generally, every manufacturer has their own standard but you can still divide them in following ways to understand standards for Sleeping Bags.

Sleeping Bag Use Bag Comfort Ratings
Summer/Indoor +5° C or higher
3-Season Bag (Spring, Fall, Summer but in High Altitude) -10°C to +5°C or higher
Winter Camping -25° C to – 10° C
Extreme Expeditions -25° C or lower

If you’ve ever bought a sleeping bags, you probably noticed that a temperature rating usually appears in the product name. Sleeping bag temperature ratings are tested by the manufacturer,  either according to their own set of standards or in accordance with EN 13537 standards.

EN 13537 Standards for Sleeping Bags

EN 13537 is a relatively new standard and three-part temperature rating system that has been used in Europe for several years. Recently, this system has been adopted in the United States by some brands. However, it’s still an optional rating system, so not all manufacturers are not using them to rate their bags. Sleeping bags that feature an EN 13537 rating are assigned three distinct temperature ratings according to a standardized lab test. Keep in mind that this rating system presumes that a user will be sleeping on a one-inch thick sleeping pad, will wear top and bottom base layers, and will also wear an insulating cap or beanie.

  • Comfort rating is primarily geared for women and people who tend to sleep a little colder. This rating presumes that the user will sleep in a relaxed and supine position. If you tend to feel chilly easily at night, choose a sleeping bag based on this EN 13537 rating.
  • Lower limit rating is primarily geared for men and people who tend to sleep a little warmer. This rating presumes that the user will sleep in a curled position. If you consider yourself to be a warm sleeper, choose a sleeping bag based on this EN 13537 rating.
  • Extreme limit rating is a survival rating only that designates the temperature at which a sleeping bag may or may not help prevent hypothermia. In other words, the sleeping bag may keep a person alive overnight at this temperature, but the person will most likely not be warm or comfortable.

Sleeping Bags types and It’s Sizes

  • Rectangular / Semi-Rectangular Sleeping Bags
  • Mummy Bags
  • Sleeping Bag Sizes

Rectangular Sleeping Bags (I call them RBags)

I never understood why one needs such sleeping bags when one talk about outdoor, but yes its personal choice.  Rectangular sleeping bags are good warm-weather bags, but much less ideal for cold weather outdoor activities. Why should one go for this type of sleeping bags? There are few things to consider when buying a rectangular sleeping bag.

  • RBag type sleeping bags are ideal for rooms or a big place with fewer restrictions on the moment, but surely not for people who are into tenting with limited space in outdoor.
  • RBag type of sleeping bags are not that expensive.
  • RBag type bags are big and bulkier which means it’s heavy in weight and big in size, obviously a poor choice for good outdoor person.
  • RBag are not good for very cold conditions are there are lots of space for dead air, means more empty space than required.

Mummy Sleeping Bags

When it comes to keeping you warm and protected from the elements in cold weather and outdoors, no other sleeping bag can compete with the mummy bag. Style of a bag is specifically designed to maximize warmth with its snug-fitting design. Of course, sometimes people like me find this design to be a little restrictive, however, there are few benefits to using a mummy bag in the great outdoors, which cant be ignored.

  • Mummy type sleeping bags are best for cold weather,  shape helps to create less dead air space, means less space for cold air.
  • Mummy Bags means that comes with a hood to cover your head by default and help to add extra warmth.
  • Mummy Bags are light and easy to compressible compared to any other sleeping bags.

Sleeping Bag Sizes

One must read size when they buy sleeping bags and generally they are available with two size only, regular is most common and if you are really taller (6 to 6.5 feet) buy large size sleeping bags. Keep in mind if you are buying for kids, make sure you buy a smaller size of ask seller for help you with the right size. Generally one has to follow a rule of buying a sleeping bag with little large size to have a free moment and handle your sleeping warmer. Basically, for me, sleeping bag size is a personal choice but make sure in the name of the free moment one must not buy extra large size.

Construction types of Sleeping Bag

This depends entirely on the type of sleeping bag quality,  less-expensive sleeping bags may be constructed with a polyester shell and good to handle if you are not that frequent outdoor camping person and definitely your friendship to bags not going to last for miles together. Polyester isn’t as durable as nylon shells, but are still lightweight and breathable.

This depends entirely on the type of sleeping bag quality, outer material of a high-quality sleeping bag is usually made of nylon, which is both lightweight and durable. Nylon bags are typically either made from smooth nylon taffeta or slightly more durable ripstop nylon. Some nylon shells even utilize a waterproof breathable laminate or membrane such as Gore-Tex to provide additional protection in harsh conditions. The lining of most sleeping bags is made of polyester. Oh yes, it is breathable and really soft to the skin.

When we talk about construction, we must know about sleeping bags filling type too. There is two kind of filling used for sleeping bags, Down-Fill and SyntheticFill.

Down fill

Down’ is the undercoating of waterfowl such as goose, duck or swan and consists of light, fluffy filaments growing from a central quill point and thereby it’s creating a three-dimensional structure which traps air and gives down insulating ability. All products which use “down” are rated by “fill power,” which means the loft of volume a given amount of down occupies. A higher fill power means more volume occupied and that means more warmth.  For the sleeping bags, it starts from as low as 400 fill power all the way go up to 800 fill power.

Why down-Fill?

  • Down is the lightest warmth fill you can buy and has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio in the industry. That means  0°C down-filled bags will always weigh less than a 0°C synthetic-filled bag.
  • Down is the most compressible fill material and offers the greatest longevity too. That means down insulation can be compressed regularly and will still expand to provide substantial warmth for many years together with proper care. Synthetic fills tend to lose more loftiness over a period of time.
  • Down fill also compresses more than synthetic fill, means that a fully compressed down sleeping bag will take up less space in your backpack compared to a comparable synthetic-fill sleeping bags.

Why Synthetic fill?

Synthetic fill is usually created from artificial polyester fibres. High-quality synthetic fills are made to emulate the loft of natural down fill insulation. But however no way synthetic fill can match the warmth-to-weight ratio of down and that means same warmth-to-weight ration makes your sleeping bags bulky and less compressible.

  • Most synthetic fills are less expensive than down, means sleeping bags are less expensive compared to Down -fill.
  • Synthetic fill is hypoallergenic and ideal for people who are allergic to down.
  • Especially when your sleeping bags get wet, Synthetic fills give you somewhat warmth compare to natural down fill.

Storage, Cleaning of Sleeping Bag

Not only sleeping bags but every outdoor gear need good care to have long lasting performance and same applies to your sleeping bags. A good care of your sleeping bag and it can last for many years and that also depends on how long and how often you use it. Just a trip or two with good care it can last for decades easily. If you spend a long seasons backpacking across the Himalayas and little rough use create likely chances to wear out much quicker than what you think. So here are few tips to get a greater life of your sleeping bags.

  • Must air out and thoroughly dry your bag after every trip, means, clean and dry (not necessary to wash).
  • If you used your bag for more than a few weeks in outdoor, consider to wash as per manufacture instructions and suggest soap. Means must follow the care instructions when washing your sleeping bag, usually listed on the document or tag on sleeping bags. Sleeping bags must be hand washed with mild detergent or washed in a front-loading washer on gentle cycle or as per manufacturer instructions. Don’t dry heat them.
  • Store your bag in a cool, dry place and don’t leave it open unless compress in the sack, forever otherwise get ready to lose loft and it may be permanently become less effective or inactive. When not in use for a long time, make sure it packed in large dry bag uncompressed.

Make sure you are not packing your bags wet unless you are reaching to next camp or reaching home in a day and make sure it is completely dry before packing and give a shower if it is needed.

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