The Camper’s Guide to Buying a Sleeping Bag
After four years of working as a salesman at a locally owned recreation store, I learned that sleeping bags are usually a tough sale and always bring the same complaints. The number one complaint of those shopping for sleeping bags was that their old sleeping bags were not warm enough. It was important to me to advise them on how to select a proper sleeping bag so you don’t face the same problems with each one.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before buying a sleeping bag.
1. How much do I want to spend?
You should go into this having a set price range. This narrows down your choices and gives you a starting point at the bags you want to look at. Keep in mind how much you want to pay for comfort, longevity of your bag, and other similar important factors.
2. What type of activity you will be using the bag for 80 percent of the time?
They don’t make a sleeping bag that will do everything. Most hardcore outdoor enthusiasts have multiple bags for different activities. If you do backpacking more, then you will want a light compressible sleeping bag. If you are a car- camper then you can get by with a heavy or thick bag.
3. How often will I be using the sleeping bag?
The more you will be using the sleeping bag will determine how much you pay. A sleeping bag made out of lower-quality materials has a shorter life span. If you go camping once a year, then you don’t need a top-of-the-line bag. Just keep in mind that buying four poor quality sleeping bags in the same period that you would have bought a nice one, usually ends up being more expensive.
Before you head to your local outdoor shop, keep in mind most sales people don’t tell you important details of selecting a sleeping bag because they don’t know them. Here are some tips you need to know to find the best sleeping bag for your needs.
1. There are different types of insulation and they aren’t equal.
Sleeping bags work by trapping your body heat and holding it in between various fibers and space in the sleeping bag. The more space and more fibers created usually means the warmer the sleeping bag will be. Insulation comes in two major categories: down and synthetic.
Down, for most purposes, is better than synthetic, so of course it is also more expensive.It tends to last longer, be more compressible, and is also lighter.It comes from the natural feathers of birds, with varying qualities of feathers. The number qualifications are typically 600 and 800. This refers to how many cubic inches one ounce of down will displace. Also, if you can feel the spine of the feather in the sleeping bag, it is a poor quality of down.
Also, some companies label their down count 600 or 800 by average and some are 600 or 800 by minimum. Sales people will almost always say by minimum because they often don’t know the difference. The best thing to do would be to narrow down your bag selections and then research a bit on your own.
As for synthetic bags, watch out for any that use insulation like straight polyester or cotton. Synthetic tends to be less expensive, heavier, and can still keep you warm if the bag gets wet.
2. There is no US Government regulation on temperature ratings.
Some bags may list at working up to 0 degrees, but this could be for survival and not comfort. It is important to do your research on this because there are certain companies who do research for rating accuracy, while others don’t.
3. Temperature ratings are only as good as the ground pad you have.
Most sleeping bag temperatures assume that you have adequate insulation between yourself and the ground. There is a lot of variation between ground pads. Most variation comes from the weight and compressibility instead of insulating factors. Styrofoam versions will work, but ground pads are typically your best options.
4. Taking care of your sleeping bag can extend its usability.
Do not store your bag compressed – leave it out when not in use. Keeping it compressed can press the fibers together and create hot and cold spots in the sleeping bag. You can stretch it out under your bed, maintaining its quality in the most convenient way.
This guide serves as a starting point for what you need to know about making a sleeping bag purchase. Keep in mind that research on credible sites is key to finding out specific details about which bag will be right for you.
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