Travel and Outdoor Equipment Price Comparison > Sleeping Bags

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Sleeping Bags Buyers Guide

With such a wide variety of sleeping bags, the choice can be quite daunting. So, you should first consider when your sleeping bag is going to be used. A winter sleeping bag will be too hot to use in the summer, and a summer sleeping bag will be too cold to use in the winter.

Season Rating

Sleeping Bags are graded by seasons, the higher the season rating, the more warmth they provide.

A 1 season sleeping bag is really only useful in the summer. Great for festivals, kids camping in the garden or a short summer camping trip.

A 3 season sleeping bag should be fine from Easter till October without being too hot over the summer. 3 season bags are good all-rounders.

4 season sleeping bags are fine for winter use but will be sweaty and sticky in the summer. There are even 4+ season sleeping bags for use in more extreme conditions.

Some manufacturers use a temperature rating for their sleeping bags, but these are misleading and vary wildly between manufacturers. Some manufacturers will give a sleeping bag a rating of +15°C that another might rate at -2°C. We do not recommend using this rating to compare sleeping bags.

To make matters even worse, the European Union have introduced a third measure for Sleeping Bag warmth. Again it uses a temperature scale, but the new standard (called EN 13537) means that sleeping bag manufacturers should now give 4 different temperature ratings on their products:

Upper Limit - highest temperature at which a standard MAN would have a comfortable nights sleep without sweating.

Comfort - lowest temperature at which a standard WOMAN would have a comfortable nights sleep, lying on her back and relaxed.

Lower Limit - lowest temperature at which a standard MAN in a rolled up body posture would have a comfortable nights sleep.

Extreme - temperature below which a standard WOMAN could expect strong sensation of cold and maybe actual physical injury from cold (e.g. frost bite or hypothermia).

Just in case that wasn't confusing enough, the four categories are completely subjective, so you still cannot compare sleeping bags from different manufacturers using different subjective measurement techniques. Most sleeping bag manufacturers seem to be boycotting this completely absurd system, some even have statements to this effect on their websites.

In summary, stick to the season rating. You don't need a more accurate measurement than the season rating (You won't be able to tell the difference between -2°C and -3°C after all) and it is the most consistent rating across the manufacturers.

Weight & Pack Size

The next thing to consider is the weight and size. If you are going to be travelling with a car, the weight and size is likely to be unimportant, so a cheaper sleeping bag should be adequate.

If you are trekking or hiking, however, you may like to choose a lighter sleeping bag using more advanced fillings. There are so many different artificial fibres available that it’s difficult knowing which one to choose. Ignore the marketing gimmicks when choosing a filling fibre and choose by the quality of the bag and the manufacturer. A lightweight bag from a reputable manufacturer is likely to be superior to a cheaper bag using some marketing name gimmick filling.

Genuine down is generally considered to be the best sleeping bag filling giving the best thermal properties for the lightest weight and maximum compression. But, due to the naturally properties of this filling, it can be very difficult to clean and they are not suitable for wet or damp conditions.

Double Sleeping Bags

Rectangular sleeping bags have come in “double” varieties for many years, but the very shape of rectangular sleeping bags means that they are not as effective as mummy shaped sleeping bags. The extra space around the body means that there is more air that needs to be warmed using the body's heat.

All is not lost, however. Most mummy sleeping bags come in a left hand or right hand zip option. If you have one of each, you can usually zip two opposites together, to make a double mummy sleeping bag. If this is important to you, check that both zip options are available on the sleeping bag that you are choosing.


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