Sleeping bags are something that I have given a lot of thought too. Currently there are many good sleeping bags on the market. They can vary from twenty-five to several hundred dollars in cost. But how much is a good night’s sleep worth?
The first question you need to ask yourself is what type of weather are you likely to encounter. Now I am talking about the worst weather in your area. Your bag needs to be able to keep you warm and comfortable under these conditions. The second question is will you be carrying the bag. Weight then becomes a factor. The third question is what other shelter will you have available. Will you be sleeping in a home, a tent or on the ground?
Personally although I have a number of sleeping bags I will probably be using the US military 4-Part Modular Sleep System. This is a bit on the heavy side, but I am not planning to carry it far. Being a modular unit, it covers from 50 thru – 30° F. I have found it comfortable and it can be purchased reasonably.
I like the bivy cover which is made from a waterproof, moisture-vapor-permeable material. I have slept out in the rain in mine over on the coast and have woke up to find myself laying in a inch of water and still warm and dry.
The downside to this system is its size and weight. The system weights about 11 pounds and consists of an inner bag and outer bag and the bivy sack, any of these can be used individually. The fourth component is the stuff sack.
But a sleeping bags is a personal choice, here are some tips to help you choose.
Goose Down is lighter, compresses easier and is warmer by weight. However, if it gets wet, it is useless. In extreme cold, your body releases moisture as you sleep, so a down bag can get wet from the inside even when it is protected from the outside elements. Because of the amounts of rain we get in some seasons I have avoided goose down.
Some of the newer insulation such as Lamilite or Polarguard 3D will still retain some warmth when wet.
Check the stitching; the thread should be of good quality and the tubes should overlap so that the stitching does not go all the way through the bag wall creating cold spots. Make sure the bag has a sturdy zipper and a draft tube along the entire length of zipper.
Consider an outer waterproof, moisture-vapor-permeable shell for your bag. Be sure that the shell you purchase will breathe enough to allow body moisture to escape.
Whatever type of bag you choose the bottom line is take it out and use it and I mean more than once or twice. The bag that looks and sounds so good in the store may be very uncomfortable. The temperature ratings that are given with the bags I have found to be unreliable, a lot depends on your metabolism. Whatever type of sleeping bag you get, don’t forget a good pad to go underneath it.
Here is a link to a post that I wrote on The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep. The sleep system that you choose can have a big effect on your health and moral.
One last tip, don’t forget about garage sales. Every year I pick up a few extra sleeping bags for pennies on the dollar. If you have extra you can always help others and you might just find one that you love.