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Is this generally an essential? Yes
Sleeping outside (even in a tent) is very different than sleeping indoors: you're more exposed to the outside temperatures & winds. Therefore you want something that wraps more snugly around you to effectively trap body heat & keep you warm - this is a sleeping bag! As you'll read on later, along with sleeping bags, sleeping pads are also part of your outdoor warmth system!
We carry for rent & sale: Sleeping bags rated from 0 to 30 degrees Farenheit (-18 to 0 degrees Celsius), in standard 6 foot (1.8 m) lengths with standard girths
PLACEHOLDER, THE GETTING TO KNOW YOUR SLEEPING BAG DIAGRAM
The key material in question is the filler material (the insulation), which keeps you warm. In short, the more a space a filler material occupies (i.e., the more it "lofts), the better body heat is trapped. This is why you see "puffy" jackets.
By this logic, it follows that when you use a sleeping bag, the underside of you, where your body weight compresses the bag, actually doesn't insulate that well! That's why a sleeping pad is really important, to prevent heat loss from your underside to the ground.
Filler material can be found naturally in down (the fluffy part just at the root of the feather from ducks or geese), though this is more expensive. Filler material can also be produced synthetically; there are various proprietary synthetic-only or synthetic-down blends used in the market. We'll quickly discuss the benefit of each type of material:
Note, manufacturers continue to address one of down's biggest weaknesses: that when it gets wet it stops lofting as well & therefore its insulating ability weakens. Down bags have their shells treated with water repellancy & the down itself can be treated to be more hydrophobic, or water resistant. That said, down is still more susceptible to weather than synthetic & this should be an important consideration for your trip.
This refers to the optimal temperature the manufacturer designed the bag to be used with. For example, a 0-degree bag is designed for a colder environment & is thicker; a 30-degree bag is designed for warmer weather & is thinner.
When looking at a sleeping bag’s temperature, you may see a spectrum. This is the European Union's attempt to universalize temperature ratings across manufacturers & models. The EN comfort rating is the lowest temperature at which a bag will keep the average cold-sleeper comfortable with a base layer & a sleeping pad; the EN lower limit rating is the lowest temperature at which a bag will keep the average warm-sleeper comfortable with a base layer & a sleeping pad.
Generally, women tend to be cold-sleepers & men tend to be warm-sleepers, so women may find the EN comfort rating more useful whereas men may find the EN lower limit more suitable. For more info on women-specific sleeping bags, click here.
All that said, sleep temperature is very personal! You should find out what works for you (renting is a great way to test various ratings). We generally recommend getting a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating than the actual night time temperature forecasted. This is because sleeping outdoors exposes you to the elements in a way that sleeping indoors does not. Some ways to adjust temperature:
Speaking of temperature, sleeping bags, unlike regular blankets, seek to trap as much body heat as possible using not only the type & quantity of material, but also the shape!
Performance-aside, some people simply do not like to sleep in a snug environment, in which case it's important to make sure you can stay warm without a fitted sleeping bag.
Note, sometimes you can find a more-narrow-than-standard girth bag, which is preferred by backpackers for even more weight savings.
We've discussed a number of ways dead space can arise in a sleeping bag due to it not fitting snugly around you, e.g., you sleep with a partner, your bag is too tall for you or too wide for you, etc.
Dead space is a problem because your body wastes energy heating it up, which reduces the efficiency of the sleeping bag in keeping you warm. To minimize this, fill the space with whatever available, e.g., extra layers (back in the day, people stuffed wadded up newspapers in their jackets as a warming-hack!), something else that also generates heat like a sealed hot water bottle. If it's a sleeping bag, you can also try to fold the excess length underneath you.
Don't roll, just stuff (starting from the foot box so that air is squeezed out as you go)! Sleeping bags are designed to be compressed so stuffing doesn't damage anything & it's far easier than a neat roll. To get a sleeping bag even more small when packed, use a compression sack, which has straps on each side you can pull down on to tighten.
Classic campers will stuff the empty stuff sack with clothes & use it as a pillow. In fact, some stuff sacks even come with a soft velvet side designed for this use! For this reason, we don't offer separate camp pillows.
Although the outer shell of a sleeping bag is often treated to be water-resistant, it's always important to keep a bag dry, since, depending on its material, its performance may be completely impacted by becoming wet. In addition to keeping the sleeping bag inside a waterproofed backpack or tent at all times, you can also think about stuffing it into a trash compactor bag & then into your stuff sack, or using a waterproof stuff sack.
Firstly, zippers must be on opposite sides. Zippers also should be the same length to create the best fit, which generally happens with 2 bags of the same brand/model.
Store loose or hung
Some of the newer trends include a single sleep system (since both bags & sleeping pads are essential for warmth & comfort). Now you see combination sleeping bags & pads, or sleeping bags with slots designed to fit a sleeping pad. Even pillows are making it into the integration; some sleeping bags have pockets for pillows! These integrated systems are great, but may not offer the flexibility that some people require (e.g., customizing based on colder temperatures, or backpacking and weight-conscious situations).
Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, and we'll do our best to get you ouside!
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