Sleeping Bags  Tips and Advice

As you shop for a sleeping bag, think about the weather conditions you’re apt to encounter when you’re camping. You’ll want a bag that will keep you comfortable in different climates. If you don’t plan to camp in extreme cold, a three-season bag that will handle night temperatures down to 30 degrees is probably a good choice. Keep in mind, though, that temperature ratings are more a rule of thumb than an exact science. In fact, no industry standard exists. Your best bet is to buy from a reputable manufacturer. Also, if you “sleep cold” and tend to need extra blankets at home, buy a colder-rated bag than you think you’ll need.

Whether you purchase a rectangular, tapered, mummy or hybrid sleeping bag depends on how you intend to use it. For general-use family camping, rectangular bags are the most versatile. They can be opened flat for warmer conditions or mated to form a double bag. Tapered and mummy bags are among the warmest. They’re compressible and pack up in a minimum of space. Hybrid bags combine additional warmth with more leg room.

Cover materials, liners and insulation materials vary depending on the temperature rating and quality of the bag. Some feature options to consider when purchasing include:

Care and Cleaning of Coleman Sleeping Bags

Cover material – Nylon is lightweight; ripstop is the most durable. Cotton is rugged and a good choice if weight is a nonissue.

Liner material – Nylon, usually a feature of mummy bags, is lightweight and durable but doesn’t feel as warm against your skin. Cotton flannel is soft, warm and durable and feels good against your skin on cold evenings. Cotton bi-blend isn’t as warm as flannel but feels more like a bed sheet.

Insulation – Synthetic nylon or polyester are the most common. Price is generally a good indication of insulation quality. Weight is also a factor. High-quality insulation material usually provides greater warmth and loft with less weight than less-expensive varieties although a few extreme models may have heavier insulation and still offer the same quality. Down bags are lightweight and warm, but they’re more trouble to maintain than synthetics and much more expensive for the same warmth and loft.

Zippers – Look for zipper guards to keep fabric from catching in zipper teeth and a strong nylon zipper that slides easily and allows rectangular bags to open flat.

Construction – A well-made bag should be quilted so that insulation stays in place and won’t lump up or shift around in the bag, forming cold spots. Look for one you can launder in a commercial washing machine.

Sleeping pads, air mattresses and cots – These make sleeping outdoors a lot more comfortable. Which you choose to put under your sleeping bag comes down to a matter of personal preference and budget. Sleeping pads pack more compactly than cots and don’t have to be inflated like air mattresses. Some pads self-inflate to provide a pad/air-mattress combination. Air mattresses are usually the most comfortable and economical. Just make sure to buy a good-quality mattress so it doesn’t mysteriously develop holes in the middle of the night. Cots are more bulky to pack, but if your campsite is rocky or the temperature cold, you’ll appreciate being off the ground.