If you plan to car camp – not backpack – your priority when choosing a sleeping bag is comfort.

Consider these elements:

Temperature

A sleeping bag’s temperature rating identifies the lowest temperature at which a bag is intended to keep the average sleeper warm. These ratings assume the user is wearing a base layer and using a sleeping pad. Consider your normal comfort level; if you need an extra blanket at home, that won’t change when you’re camping. Also, consider where and when you’ll be camping most often.

Select a sleeping bag with a temperature rating a bit lower than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter. It’s easier to unzip a bag to cool off than to try and add warmth.

Shape

Sleeping bags keep you warm by trapping a layer of air next to your body. Your body heat warms this dead air, and the bag forms a barrier between it and the outside air and ground. The less air space there is to heat, the faster you warm up and stay warm.

  • Rectangular
    A rectangular shape provides maximum roominess. Two rectangular bags with compatible zippers can be joined to create a double bed.
  • Barrel
    A tapered design offers greater warmth and efficiency than a rectangular bag and less restriction than a mummy shape.
  • Mummy
    Mummy-shaped bags have narrow shoulder and hip widths in order to maximize warmth and reduce weight.

Insulation

  • Synthetic Insulation
    Advantages: Price, quick-drying, insulates even when wet, nonallergenic.
    Disadvantages: Bulkier than down
  • Goose-Down Insulation
    Advantages: Durable, compact

Special needs

Sleeping bags come in different sizes, so it’s wise to match the size of the bag to the user. Bags designed specifically for women tend to be shorter, narrower at the shoulders, wider at the hips and have extra insulation in the upper body and foot area. Bags designed for kids tend to be smaller.

Storage sack

You can prolong the life of your bag by hanging it up or storing it loosely in a cotton storage sack when not in use. Do not keep it bunched up in a stuff sack where the insulation will become permanently compressed, which reduces its insulating properties.

Sleeping bag liner

A sleeping bag liner will help keep your bag clean and can add about 10 degrees of warmth.

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