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How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

Aug 17, 2007
I have very fond childhood memories of adventuring out into nature with my sleeping bag. For me nature was really only a tent in the backyard, or perhaps visiting a friend for a sleepover, but there was something about using a sleeping bag that just made it seem so much more exciting. I didn't have anything fancy as a sleeping bag - just a rectangular, navy blue sack that was really only warm enough for hot summer nights or sleeping indoors. Still it made the experience so much more special.

Technology has well and truly caught up with the simple sleeping bag, delivering a variety of choice that can leave you feeling completely confused when you go to buy one. There are strange shapes designed to keep you warm in the coldest of conditions, specialized fibers that can squeeze down to almost nothing for carrying in a pack, and for kids there are a multitude of cool character designs to choose from.

How Do I Choose a Sleeping Bag?

If you plan to do some camping, then you need to buy a sleeping bag. Perhaps you don't want one with a cartoon character on it, but you do need one that will keep you warm if it's cold and put a barrier between you and the night critters when it's a bit warmer. The first thing you need to do is decide what sort of conditions you plan to be camping in. Is it likely to be very cold? Or do you mostly camp in summer?

Having a basic idea of the temperatures you expect to camp in helps make it easier to narrow down your sleeping bag choices. You don't need a sleeping bag that's appropriate for sub zero temperatures if you only camp in summer, for example. And if you do plan to camp in freezing cold conditions, you might be better off with a shaped bag that fits close to your body and traps the warmth, rather than a traditional rectangular bag.

Sleeping Bag Materials

Sleeping bags are made from a variety of materials and contain different sorts of fill, and that's what makes each one different. So check out the recommended temperatures for each bag, because that will give you a much better idea of whether or not it's right for your camping conditions. The fill also makes a difference to how heavy the bag is to carry, and how much you can compress it.

It's important to know whether you're likely to drive to most of your campsites, or whether you will be carrying your sleeping bag in your pack. This will help to narrow down your choices, as size and weight are a lot more important if you're going to be carrying the bag for long distances on your back.

Spend some time looking around before you make your final choice. Sporting goods and outdoor stores are usually the best places to see a wide variety of sleeping designs, styles and brands. Don't be afraid to ask questions, because many of the staff at these types of stores are likely to be campers themselves, and can give you recommendations based on their own experiences.

It can also be a good idea to shop online for sleeping bags. Most stores can only carry a limited range of stock, whereas online you can see every single type of sleeping bag imaginable. Go to manufacturer sites for technical information, and also check out a few customer review sites to see what other people have to say about any sleeping bags you're thinking of buying.
About the Author
Steve Dolan is an avid camper and backpacker who likes to get into the outdoors. Find out more at Sleeping Bags and for your hiking needs visit Walking and Hiking
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