Sleeping during a camping trip often causes the most anxiety. If you don’t get a good night’s rest, the day’s activities could be ruined. Thankfully, getting a good night’s sleep can be in your favor if you have the correct set-up, including a good tent, a good camping mattress and a great sleeping bag.
1. Parts of a Sleeping Bag
Before you begin shopping for a sleeping bag, it is beneficial to understand the makeup of a sleeping bag. There will be three areas you will observe consistently: the shell, the lining and the insulation
- The Shell – The shell is the outer coating of the sleeping bag. The shell is responsible for repelling moisture, blocking wind and acts as a final barrier in keeping heat in. Many people look for a ‘waterproof shell’. If you plan on being outdoors, directly under the stars with only your sleeping bag to protect you from the elements, this is a necessity. However; if you plan on sleeping in a tent this isn’t as important, your tent should keep the rain out.
- The Lining – The sleeping bag lining is the part that touches your body while lying inside. Comfort and softness are usually important in this area. Nylon or polyester are the most common materials for lining as they are breathable to allow moisture to escape.
- The Insulation – The insulation is the stuffing that is placed between the shell and the lining. The insulation is responsible for staying warm, preventing overheating and getting a comfortable night’s sleep.
2. Temperature and Season Rating
Temperature rating and season rating are two rating systems that are important in choosing a sleeping bag. Because there are different systems that are used, temperature ratings can be a daunting task to read. Most systems do come with a recommended temperature and that is really the only number you need to worry about. The temperature that your sleeping bag is designed to be in is the temperature rating. However, there are a few things you need to know about temperature ratings.
All temperature ratings assume that you will be using a camping mattress. A camping mattress is your last defense against the ground. If you are not sleeping on a camping mattress you will feel colder regardless of the sleeping bag you sleep in. Also, consider the type of weather you plan on camping in. If you are a fair-weather camper, a light sleeping bag designed for summer use will be sufficient. These sleeping bags are perfect for a camping trip at KL Ranch Cliffside. A good rule of thumb to use is to consider the coldest temperature you will be taking a camping trip in the future and take 10°F from it.
Season ratings usually have three basic categories: Summer, Winter and Three Season.
- Summer Sleeping Bags – Summer sleeping bags are more for comfort and shelter than keeping you warm. They are lightweight sleeping bags that are usually very breathable and suitable for temperatures 30°F and warmer. If you are expecting temperatures below that you may need a more insulated sleeping bag.
- Winter Sleeping Bags – Winter sleeping bags are not typically needed for KL Ranch Cliffside. Winter sleeping bags are a necessary protector in the harshest of environments. If you are planning on being out in temperatures of 20°F and below you will need a winter sleeping bag. Winter sleeping bags are much heavier than other sleeping bags because they use a lot more insulation. You will only need a winter sleeping bag if you plan on camping in very cold conditions.
- Three Season Sleeping Bags – The three season sleeping bag is a versatile choice if you plan on only having one sleeping bag and are not planning to be camping in extreme weather conditions. It is an ideal choice for fall and spring and should provide more than enough heat in the summertime.
3. Types of Insulation
As with all types of insulation, the better insulated the sleeping bag is, the lower temperatures it can handle and the sleeping bag is more versatile. The main two options for sleeping bag insulation are Synthetic, which is filled with man-made insulation and Down, which is made from the under feathers of geese and ducks. Synthetic insulation is the most commonly used and is less expensive than down insulation. However, sleeping bags require more synthetic insulation to match down insulation; therefore, down insulation is a lighter option and a more effective insulator. A disadvantage to down is it does not handle wetter conditions well. It will lose its fluffiness and heat when wet and can take an extended amount of time to dry.
Synthetic vs down insulation is a matter of personal preference. Both materials are effective insulators and the warmth of your sleeping bag will ultimately be based on temperature rating. It is advantageous to have some knowledge of insulation before you make a purchase.
4. Personal Preference
The final area to consider is your personal preference. These are things to keep in mind that matter specifically to you. A few broad areas are:
- Sleeping Metabolism – This is one of the most personal things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag. Many people are much warmer at night regardless if they are camping or sleeping in their own bed; however some people find it difficult to warm up regardless of temperature. Take into consideration what type of sleeper you normally are before purchasing a sleeping bag that is too light or too heavy. You may need a lower or higher temperature rating depending on how warm a sleeper you are and your sleeping metabolism. For warm sleepers, a dual zip sleeping bag is a useful feature. This allows you to zip open the bottom and top of the sleeping bag separately.
- Portability and convenience – Weight, fit and ease of use is of more importance than insulation and other areas if you like to keep it light when camping. There are two things to remember in terms of the weight of the sleeping bag. Down insulation is lighter than synthetic and the lower the temperature rating, the heavier the sleeping bag. These are things to consider if keeping you load light is more important than keeping you warm. KL Ranch Cliffside rarely has extremely cold temperatures; therefore, a light sleeping bag is usually sufficient for camping on River Road.
- Fit – Sleeping bags are usually either rectangle or mummy shaped. A rectangle is a more traditional shaping of a sleeping bag. A mummy sleeping bag is more fitted to you. It is narrower/tighter at the head and feet, but wider at the hips. Mummy sleeping bags use less material and are more lightweight making them easier to stow and carry. Fit is another area that goes back to preference and convenience.
Purchasing camping gear can be a daunting task without prior education. A basic understanding of season and temperature rating, insulation and other areas of personal preference can help ease anxiety of picking a sleeping bag. Choosing the right sleeping bag will help you have a better camping experience while at KL Ranch Cliffside.