If you are one of those kinds of campers who think that you can just grab a sleeping bag and go, you may want to take a look at this list. Sleeping on the ground – provided you aren’t one of those nutty RVers – takes a little getting used to.
It also takes having the right gear in place in order to have a slightly uninterrupted night in the woods. Just like you probably took time selecting the bed you sleep on nightly at home, your sleeping bag deserves as much attention. After all, it is going to be your camping bed, and that’s an important piece of gear to pack.
So, what exactly do you need to pay attention to when shopping for a sleeping bag? Well, first off, you need to have an idea of how you plan to use it and when. The type of camping you decide to pursue will demand a specific type of sleeping bag. Oddly enough, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all sleeping bag although that thought does make us chuckle.
1 – Size
Since we’re already talking about it, let’s just go ahead and put it at the top of our list of considerations when shopping for a camping sleeping bag. The troubling part is that there are a lot of different sizes and shapes of sleeping bags out there. Think of your normal sleeping arrangement. If you like to be tucked in tight under the covers, you may want to opt for the cocoon-shaped style.
For those who tend to spread out when sleeping, your average rectangular sleeping bag will be close enough. Hey, if you can’t sleep without the warm body of another human up close and personal, there are even two-person size sleeping bags. If you stand over six feet tall, there’s a sleeping bag for you. For petite women, children, whatever, there is a size and shape that will be the perfect fit for your specific needs. So shop around for the best match.
2 – Ratings
Depending on where in the world you live, climate can have a lot to do with your style of camping. Along with this is the style of sleeping bag you’ll need in order to survive the night. We know, that may sound a bit on the dramatic side, but we said it for a reason. You can’t expect to be very comfortable in a cold winter climate if the sleeping bag you tossed in with the rest of your gear is a lightweight summer-rated style.
Even that extra body next to you will only be able to help keep you warm for just so long. The point here is to read the season ratings for the sleeping bag you are thinking of buying. You’ll normally see ratings that are basically in line with the four seasons – summer, late spring/early autumn, spring to autumn, winter. Be sure to match the rating to the time of year you plan on doing most of your outdoor camping.
3 – Fabric
This tip should be of particular interest to the guys. Even if the last thing you’ve ever thought of during the course of an average conversation is the difference between flannel and cotton, you will need to bone up on this stuff. Essentially, you are aiming for sleeping bags that are quiet. What we mean by that is any fabric that makes a lot of noise when you stir at night is likely to keep you and your camping buddies awake.
Even if they are tenting at a campsite down the road from you, you don’t want to wake them or maybe that sweet thing sharing the sleeping bag with you. Noise is just one of your considerations when thinking about fabric. Water resistance is important, how easy the inside and outside of the sleeping bag is to clean is another big deal to keep in mind. How the material feels on your skin is one more measuring tool to use.
4 – Insulation
This is the stuff that actually keeps you warm, comfy and disguises the rocks and hard ground. Typically, sleeping bags contain one of four different types of insulation: elder down, duck down, goose down or manmade down. There are many different ways to look at each, and we could quite easily open up a debate on just discussing the pros and cons of each. But, let’s skip that part. Generally speaking, elder down is believed to be at the top of the list, but manmade down is getting lighter and better.
It also can handle getting wet. Don’t be afraid to get a stuffed sleeping bag if you are really into a good night’s sleep without a lot of extra blankets or quilts. You could also examine the usefulness of a sleeping bag bigger than you need so that you can add an extra layer on the inside to keep yourself a little warmer on those crisp nights.
5 – Zippers
You know, you may never truly appreciate the whole idea behind an extra zipper or two in a sleeping bag until you need them. Ideally, your sleeping bag will have one main zipper. This is what keeps it closed and allows you to enter when unzipped. You can then zip it back up and feel as if you are all tucked in like Mom used to do back home on the ranch. But what’s the deal with that other zipper down near your feet on the other side of the sleeping bag? That’s for extra ventilation.
In fact, it doesn’t matter where the extra zipper is located, it’s there to give you a way to cool down or add a breeze of cooler air to the rest of your body under the top layer. If you camp with a smaller sized pet, the extra zipper could be an escape hatch, if you really needed a reason to try to come to terms with all that additional zipper activity.
6 – Pockets
Oh, right. You may want somewhere nearby to stash some stuff. You know, keys, glasses, your pipe or maybe a wallet or a handful of random rocks and shells you found wandering around the campsite. Well, there are many different designs of sleeping bags that provide these little extras just for stashing goodies.
Keep in mind that your backpack should be used for all kinds of big items that you can’t stuff into your jeans pocket and the sleeping bag pockets are for those must-have items that’ll get you through the night if needed. Just be sure to pay attention to the type of camping you do in order to determine whether or not you’d be better off just stashing those things in the camper or leave them somewhere other than at the campsite. But if you are one of those who keeps misplacing keys or debit cards, the zippered pocket will be your friend.
So, You Thought That Shopping For A Sleeping Bag Was Like Buying Bread?
Now that you know differently, you’ll never look at the sporting goods store in the same way ever again. They have what you need, and you just need to figure out what your needs are before you start grabbing at the sleeping bags. By the way, while you’re at it, you can always enhance that night of sleeping on the ground by adding a layer of foam under your sleeping bag.
You can find various thicknesses of foam at your sporting goods store or a neighborhood hardware store. By using a foamy, you may be able to opt for a lighter sleeping bag if you were trying to insulate yourself from the cold ground. Also, don’t discount the fact that you may end up with more than one sleeping bag for use at different times of the year. This would be particularly true if you are a camper by summer and a hunter in the cooler months of the year and camp then as well.
Don’t Forget Your Main Reason For A Sleeping Bag
Ultimately, you are shopping for a sleeping bag so that you will be able to sleep when camping. Whether that is in a tent or not, a sleeping bag will keep you warm and comfortable regardless of the conditions you encounter.
However, you still need to be somewhat prepared with the rest of your camping gear. Provided you have the supplies to build a decent camp, your sleeping bag should be the one thing you need the most to allow you to rest, nap, sleep and recharge your batteries after a long day of hiking, fishing, hunting or whatever your camping trip will entail. So, take the sleeping bag shopping trip seriously.
It can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a crappy one that will have an impact on the next day you spend in camp. You should have good memories of your trip into the wilderness. A good sleeping bag will help.