Have you ever put yourself into the middle of the woods? Have you ever felt seep into your bones while all you wanted was a peaceful sleep? If the answer’s yes- what you should’ve taken with yourself is a sleeping bag.
There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night when you are at camp because the midnight breeze is going berserk. It is not only annoying but can also be dangerous.
For the sake of both comfort and warmth, sleeping pads are crucial to get a good night’s rest in the backcountry. Therefore, you can choose to end a long day of backpacking by cozying up in a sleeping bag with so many options.
Table Of Content
All There Is To Know About A Sleeping Bag
A suitable sleeping bag is an essential part of any overnight adventure. It’s a portable bedding option for people to sleep outdoors. Sleeping bags work by creating a layer of non-circulating air space. Your body heats this air, and the sleeping bag captures the warmth and keeps it from escaping.
Your sleeping bag’s shape and insulation type will affect its temperature, weight, and comfort. Sleeping bags can be rectangular, semi-rectangular, or mummy shaped. These are either filled with natural down feathers or synthetic insulation.
If you tend to go car camping like camping with the Subaru Outback choosing sleeping bags based on convenience and comfort is a wise decision. They often decide on rectangular or semi-rectangular bags, which are roomier and can be used as a duvet or blanket when unzipped.
On the other hand, backpackers’ value low weight and a warmer bag for cold country nights. They usually choose wider, lighter, and more efficient mummy bags that include a hood and are meant to be snug to the body.
Key Benefits And Essential Factors To Know For Picking A Sleeping Bag
Sleep in the wilderness is of utmost importance. And it’s the biggest reason why most people fear going out, camping, and backpacking because getting a good night’s sleep can turn into a challenge.
When you choose a sleeping bag, you will want to strike the right balance between the weight, the warmth, and the sleeping bags’ cost. There are two main types of sleeping bags such as down sleeping bags and synthetic sleeping bags. Both of them have their distinct benefits.
- Down Sleeping Bags
- Synthetic Sleeping Bags
Synthetic bags reside on the cheaper end of the cost spectrum. If budget is a major factor for you in gear buying decisions, you should check out synthetic sleeping bags.
Sometimes it’s not going to be fun to sleep in, but it will keep you warm even if it’s wet. If you are caught in a downpour or dunk in a creek at a creek crossing, then a synthetic sleeping bag is an excellent option.
If saving weight and space is the key consideration, then down sleeping bags are definitely the go-to option. It can compress so much more, it’s tight and neat, and you can save a lot of important space in your backpack. In simple terms, it packs smaller and weighs less than synthetic bags.
The Downside Of The Sleeping Bags
- If a down sleeping bag gets wet, it becomes clumpy. Therefore, it loses its insulation value and will never be able to keep you warm.
- Down sleeping bags are generally more expensive than synthetic sleeping bags.
- Some people have allergies with down sleeping bags as it’s treated with chemicals.
- A synthetic sleeping bag takes up a lot of space in a backpack as it’s filled with feathers.
- Moreover, it weighs about two pounds more than the down sleeping bag, but it adds extra warmth value to that bag.
Temperature Ratings Of A Sleeping Bag
When deciding the bag’s temperature, you need to take a look at what season you plan on backpacking. Undoubtedly, these temperatures vary depending on how you sleep. Besides, seasonal temperatures also depend on what area you are residing in.
- Summer Rating
For the most part, you will be looking for a bag rated 30 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in the summer. Bags rated at 36 degrees are great for warm-weather camping. Sometimes they are also used for festival camping.
- Spring Rating
If you are about to backpack in the early spring or late fall, you will want a bag that’s rated somewhere between 10 and 30 degrees. Bags rated for 21 degrees Fahrenheit are referred to as three-season sleeping bags as they cover a wide variety of temperatures.
- Winter Rating
You will want to search for bags rated as 10 degrees or lower for backpacking in the winter. Bags rated for 10 degrees are known as winter weight bags. There is a variety of temperatures that will work for your winter campaign.
- ISO Standardization
Sleeping bag temperature ratings are a great way to get an apples-to-apples comparison of different sleeping bags. Sleeping bags are tested and graded based on ISO standardized testing.
When you are looking at sleeping bags, you will often see an ISO temperature rating. It means the bag manufacturer has paid for the International Standards Organization or ISO to test the sleeping bag.
This test is conducted in a temperature-controlled room with a test dummy covered in heat sensors. This test dummy is also wearing a base layer top, base layer bottom, as well as a hat, and socks.
They are testing it on a winter-weight sleeping bag. The sleeping pad, as well as the apparel that the test dummy is wearing and the temperature in the room, are standardized for all ISO testing.
After these tests are finished, ISO comes up with two different numbers. The first one, or the higher number, is the ISO comfort rating. This number is the highest temperature at which the average cold sleeper will be comfortable in the bag.
The second or the lower number is the lowest temperature at which the average warm sleeper will be comfortable in the sleeping bag.
Temperature Ratings For Men And Women
You will often see these referred to as the women’s temperature rating for the warmer temperature and the men’s temperature rating for the colder weather. This is just because women, in general, will sleep colder than men.
One thing to keep in mind is that a women’s bag that’s rated for 15 degrees is slightly going to be heavier than a men’s bag that’s rated for 15 degrees. It happens due to the difference in how women sleep.
Women’s bags are weighty because they use the comfort rating, whereas the men’s bags are using that lower limit rating from the ISO testing. If you are a cold sleeper, you might be inclined to go with a women’s bag regardless of gender identity.
But keep your body type in mind as the bags also have a different construction. Empty spaces within the bag or spaces that are too tight are also going to affect how warm it is.
Limitations Of ISO Standardization
First thing they do is use a winter-weight sleeping pad with an R-value of 5.7 that you may not use. You might use that has an R-value of 2. The higher the value, the warmer the sleeping pad will be.
So, when you are looking at the temperature ratings, don’t forget that your sleeping pad makes a huge difference in the sleeping bag’s warmth.
The other thing is that you might be sleeping in base layers that are warmer or not as warm as a dummy in the ISO test. Another thing is that not all manufacturers are going to pay for the ISO testing.
So, you might see on some casual sleeping bags that they don’t have an ISO temperature rating because they are not predicting that people will use that in extreme conditions.
In fact, if you are in search of a bag for extreme cold, unfortunately, ISO testing doesn’t test bags that are below zero degrees. So, keep that in view while you are shopping for sleeping bags.
The last thing is that while the ISO standards are good for averages, the temperature in your bag is going to vary greatly depending on whether you are a warm or cold sleeper.
Furthermore, it also depends on if you have eaten a lot of food or haven’t eaten enough (metabolism rate). That’s how ISO standardization and sleeping bag temperature ratings work.
Getting the perfect sleeping bag for your outdoor trip means a lot of number-crunching. That’s why, we recommend understanding your own sleeping patterns and habits first before you check the ratings.
We hope this detailed article has given you clear insights on how to determine a sleeping bag rating.