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Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag
Stories told round a crackling fire, sleeping beneath the stars and waking up to birdsong – just a few of the magnificent things about making the great outdoors your temporary home. Camping can be one of the most relaxing and fulfilling ways to commune with the outdoor world, but making sure you've got the right camping equipment and outdoor clothing is essential for both your well being and sanity! Swap your four walls for a tent and your hand bag for a sleeping bag, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural world! This guide explains some of the technical descriptions that you'll see on some of our sleeping bags so you can choose your sleeping bag safe in the knowledge that your nights are going to be spent snuggly and not shivering!
This is one of the most important things to consider. A sleeping bag used for camping in Britain in Autumn will have very different requirements than one for camping in Portugal in the height of summer. The difficulty with choosing a sleeping bag is that they are extremely subject to other conditions; for example:
Heavier people sleep more warmly than thinner people
Women are generally colder than men
Younger people sleep warmer than older people
Unfit people sleep colder than fitter people
Temperature ratings can also be affected by the following:
Whether you're sleeping inside a tent or out in the open
Whether a ground sheet or sleeping mat is used
The clothes you choose to sleep in
This rating is the limit at which the sleeping bag will keep you alive without frostbite or any other temperature related ailments. Please note that this is NOT the temperature that you will be comfortable in. Our Everest Down sleeping bag is an example of a sleeping bag with an excellent extreme rating; this bag has been used by many of our customers for treks like Killimanjaro, as its survival rating is -20. This kind of bag is designed to keep you alive in harsher conditions where there could be a threat of hypothermia.
This is the rating that most people will generally consider when buying a sleeping bag. This rating is the temperature at which you will feel warm and comfortable at when in a rolled up position. If the sleeping bag is used in temperatures below this rating, the user will survive, but will feel the cold.
For example, our Microlite 950 has an extreme rating of -10, and a comfort rating of -3 to 15C.
Compare this to the Microlite 500, which has a comfort rating of 5-20C and an extreme rating of 0C.
Season 1: Suitable for summer camping where weather is mild.
Season 2: Suitable for UK late spring to early autumn temperatures
Season 3: Autumn to winter temperatures.
Season 4: More demanding, extreme conditions either at high altitude or very cold weather.
One and two season bags have the benefit of being very light and compact, and are therefore ideal for backpackers. However, they will not keep you warm in colder conditions so you would require a thicker, bulkier bag to keep you comfortable and warm, like a 2, 3 or 4 season sleeping bag. The Micro 50 is a good example of a 1 season sleeping bag – proving that cheap outdoor equipment needn't mean you have to compromise on quality. It's incredibly light and suitable for those warmer temperatures.
The filling of your sleeping bag is essentially its insulation, which is what stops warm air escaping. You can either purchase a sleeping bag manufactured from a synthetic material, or natural animal down.
Extremely warm for its weight
Greater comfort range
Lasts longer than Synthetic
Continues to insulate well when wet
Great value for money
Not as much care required for storage and cleaning
Therefore, if you are going to be camping in very cold, dry conditions, then you should go for a down filling, and if you know you are going to be camping in relatively mild, very wet conditions then a synthetic filling might be advisable. For those camping in wet, very cold conditions, a down bag would still be advisable; just ensure that it is kept away from damp spots and your tent is fully equipped with a good hydrostatic head and taped seams, as well as a ground sheet and blow up mattress to protect you from water coming into the tent.
Mummy shape: This is a common shape of sleeping bag; it minimises the air movement around your body by reducing the space around you. This is achieved by tapering the bag at the end, resulting in the 'mummy' shape.
Baffle: The chambers between the sleeping bag outside shell, and internal lining. The principle of these is to hold the down in position as uniformly as possible, thus creating heat in the seams where the filling can't reach. Baffles are usually found on more lightweight sleeping bags.
Other points to consider:
A good sleeping bag will trap warm air within whilst allowing ventilation, allowing your body moisture to escape.
A sleeping bag liner can be a great investment. Liners prolong the life of your sleeping bag and provide added warmth and insulation, as well as being hygienic.
The outer fabric should be quick drying, water repellent and windproof
Consider the packed size – how will you be carrying it? Will be it easy for you to transport?
NB: Please note that this guide assumes that the person in question is fully clothed, hydrated and healthy, as well as using a high quality sleeping mat. Temperatures should be used as a guide only and generally speaking, you should choose a sleeping bag that will provide more warmth than you may think is necessary.