These last few days I have being giving some thoughts to sleeping bags. Now whether you bug in or bug out, a sleeping bag can be your best friend in winter. If you are stuck in a cold home with little heat or have to bug out in the winter, you will want to sleep as warm and comfortable as possible.
Now there are a few things that you need to take into consideration when choosing a sleeping bag. First, what type of winter weather are you dealing with? In my area if I go 20 miles downhill to the west, the temperatures will be relatively moderate, rarely going below freezing, but with rain and lots of people. If I go uphill to the east, I can be facing heavy deep snow and freezing temperatures. Forty or fifty mile to the east the snow can be 5 or 6 foot deep.
Second are you carrying your sleeping bag, weight rapidly becomes a factor. Third how much can you afford to spend. If money was no object, I would go with a Wiggy’s sleeping bag. I consider them the finest on the market. Wiggy’s manufactures a wide variety of sleeping bags and sleep systems that cover from +25° to -60°. A Wiggy’s sleep system will keep you warm and dry, but they are not very light when it comes to weight. They can weigh up to seven pounds or more.
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 have been able to find the complete system new in the package for as little as $80.
US military 4-Part Modular Sleep System in the stuff sack.
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 weighs 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. The upside is that because it consists of an inner and outer bag, you don’t have to carry the entire system, just take the parts you need.
Because the choice of a sleeping bag is a very personal thing, here are a number of things to you to take into consideration when choosing yours.
Many of the typical backpacking sleeping bags are designed only for occasional use. While they are light in weight, you need one that is sturdy enough to last for a long period of time, under rough usage.
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. Getting into a dry sleeping bag with wet or damp clothing on is one mistake that often costs people a good night’s sleep.
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.The sleep system that you choose can have a big effect on your health and moral.
One last suggestion, 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.