It’s all about comfort!
When you’re out camping and enjoying nature, you don’t have to rough it to the point of not getting a good night sleep. After all, you are out in nature camping to have a great time and to leave everyday stress behind.
How do you get a good night’s sleep?
What it comes down to is basically 3 things to keep you comfortable while camping. A roof over your head (your tent), a barrier between you and the ground, and something to keep you warm. The last two will come down to what type of sleeping bag you have chosen for your camping trips.
What sleeping bags for camping will provide me with this best sleep and comfort?
We will discuss more in detail the types and shapes of sleeping bags, the temperature ratings and what that means, the insulation types and materials of construction, and ultimately what is the best choice for you and your family for sleeping bags and air beds to assure your comfort.
So here is where we will start!
Your Types and Their Shapes
Years ago the only shape of sleeping bag available was the traditional rectangular shaped bag. Today, the sleeping bags for camping come in many types and shapes for you selection when choosing a bag.
Today there are basically 4 different types and shapes of sleeping bags.
- Rectangular, the most traditional style sleeping bag
- Barrel or Semi-rectangular sleeping bag
- Mummy style sleeping bag
- Double Sleeping bag
No mater what shape of style you pick, the sleeping bag is designed to keep you warm by trapping the air between your body and the sleeping bag. This air is heated by your body heat and the smaller that air space is, the faster you will warm up.
Before picking a style of shape, you first need to decide how the bag is to be used and what conditions you expect to sleep in.
The traditional rectangular sleeping bag offers lots of room for those that want room to move around and not be as confined. Because of the extra space, it doesn’t always offer the best insulation to keep you warm during the extreme cold nights.
This makes them really good for warm camping nights as they will unzip and fold open.
The barrel or semi-rectangular sleeping bag is between the rectangular and the mummy style sleeping bags. These bags are sometimes referred to as hybrid bags. It is tailored around the head and feet areas and looser in the torso area.
If the mummy style is too confining, then this is the bag for you for cold winter nights. These sleeping bags will come with hoods for additional warmth.
The mummy sleeping bag is the choice of backpacker as it is usually more lightweight and easier to pack. This bag fits tightly around the body (snug fit), so some body movement is restricted while you sleep.
However, due to the fact that these bags have less dead air area to warm, they are the best or cold or extreme nights. These bags will come with hoods for extra protection from the cold.
The double sleeping bag is designed to comfortably sleep 2 people at the same time for cozy nights. However, the gain of warmth you will have because of two bodies heating the inside of the bag might get lost due to the looseness of the bag and letting cooler air in.
This bag will come with 2 zippers for flexibility and fold open when the nights are warmer allowing you to use it as a blanket.
So as you can see, if your needs are for a family camping trip, this double type of sleeping bags will probably suit your needs fine.
If you require more warmth and need to be more lightweight for backpacking, then the mummy or barrel type bags will be better for you.
Always cold or always hot!
Understand temperature ratings.
Temperature rating of sleeping bags is one of the primary concerns you as camper needs to understand before buying a sleeping bag to fit you requirements. The manufacturer’s temperature rating is based on the lowest temperature you plan to use the bag in.
But remember, that most manufacturers are assuming that the user is properly clothed from the elements and in extreme weather, the camper is wearing thermals.
As everyone metabolism is different and manufacturer’s temperature ratings vary, the temperature limit is not guaranteed in most cases. It is usually good advice to buy a sleeping bag that is rated just lower than what you think your needs will be.
Sleeping bags are rated at three levels:
- Summer seasons for warm weather
- Three season, most popular
- Winter, extreme
There are sub zero sleeping bags made for the very extreme that are rated for temperatures well below zero and these are specialty items not mentioned here today.
Will the material and the fill really make a difference?
You bet it will!
Most sleeping bags are made of 2 types of material, nylon or polyester.
Nylon is usually used in the higher end sleeping bags and is a lighter weight and easier packable material. Some of these bags utilize a Gore-Tec membrane to make the bag more durable in harsh environments. These are the bags of choice for the extreme campers.
Polyester sleeping bags are the most used for the everyday camper and are least expensive. This bags won’t be as durable, but are breathable and lightweight enough for easy packing. They will dry out fast in the case they get wet.
The insulation material in sleeping bags can be one of three types, down fill, synthetic fill, or cotton fill.
Down sleeping bags are filled with the under feathers of waterfowl such as geese. Down fill is the choice of backpacker because of their lightweight properties and for extreme cold due to their insulation values.
Usually down is not a good insulator when it gets wet. With the advent of Dow Tek, this has been solved as this will still protect in extreme conditions such as snow or wet environments.
Synthetic sleeping bags are the most common type of fill due to the fact that they are the least expensive in the everyday sleeping bag. This bags will retain their insulation properties when they get wet and are still lightweight enough for most camp outs.
These sleeping bags are durable (stands up to rough housing from kids and dogs) and it’s nonallergenic. The only downside is that this material will not pack down as small as cotton or down.
Cotton sleeping bags are not a good choice for the camper in the extreme backwoods or back county. These bags are good for the everyday family camper as they are inexpensive, but not as durable as synthetic. They will lose their insulation properties when they get wet and will take longer to dry out.
Comfort, Yes! Key Feature or Air Beds
You didn’t know sleeping bags can have key features.
Well made sleeping bags will have internal baffles to make sure the fill is evenly distributed at all time and doesn’t bunch up.
Some bags can have pouches, zipper liners, and collar draft baffle to fit around your neck. It is also convenient to have a storage bag or hood that can operate as a storage bag.
A sleeping pillow is a must, no neck pain here.
The modern day camper will want an air bed or air mattress. These not only keep you comfortable, but create a barrier between you and the ground. When shopping for one, consider the ones with foot pumps for ease of setup.
I am an everyday camper, mostly with my grandson and his cub scout troop. So the synthetic bag with synthetic or cotton fill suits my needs well.
Remember, when you are camping your goal is to provide yourself with a roof over your head, a barrier from the ground you are camping on, and protection from the cold to keep you warm.
By knowing the type of sleeping bag you need, the temperature rating for your adventure, and the materials of construction will ensure the best and safest camping trips for you and your family.
Have you made that decision on what type and shape of sleeping bag you need.
I hope you found this article informative and helpful. My goal was to help you get the most out of your adventures and family outings.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave those below and I will get back to you ASAP.