A guide to camping sleeping bags – there are many different sizes, shapes, colours, designs, fill material and fabrics used to make the numerous camping sleeping bags available on the market. The basic structure of best sleeping bags and the main factors to consider when purchasing sleeping bags are reviewed below:-
Sleeping bag components:
- Shell: the outer fabric which is usually made from nylon. The shell is normally water resistant but more expensive models can be fully waterproof. The shell needs to be breathable to prevent the sleeping bag from getting clammy.
- Fill material: Inside the shell is the fill material usually made from synthetic (polyester) fibres or duck or goose down. This material traps body heat within the lightweight sleeping bag. Goose down fill tends to be the warmest, lightest, compresses smallest and longest lasting, however, these best backpacking sleeping bags are more expensive, become less effective when wet and are difficult to clean. Synthetic fills retain their heat retention qualities even when wet and are easy to clean, however, they can be heavy and bulky.
Features to aid heat retention: Bear these factors in mind when buying a sleeping bag since lying in bed with all your clothes on as you have bought an unsuitable (and cold) sleeping bag is not a pleasant experience.
- Mummy shaped
- Insulated zipper flaps
- Made from individual sewn compartments or pockets to prevent the fill material from moving around.
- A good quality and insulated bed
- Extra blankets
- Don’t leave the sleeping bag compressed in its bag as it will loose its “loft”, ie insulating ability
- Shake the sleeping bag regularly to ensure the fill material is evenly distributed.
Sleeping bag shape:
- Rectangular: can be zipped to another rectangular sleeping bag to form a double sized sleeping bag. They are ideal if the occupant moves about in their sleep. These bags are not as warm as the tapered and mummy shaped bags as there is more air inside to heat up.
- Tapered: Allows restricted movement but are warmer than the rectangular sleeping bags.
- Mummy: The warmest sleeping bags but only allow restricted movement.
Types of camping sleeping bags
Sleeping mats/pads: these provide a basic bed with the thicker, ie more padded mats generally being more comfortable for the user but can be bulkier to carry. Some designs mix various combinations of different foam types together to provide a high tech and more comfortable version of this style. Current versions are made using open cell foam. These mats are supplied with a valve which, when opened, allows the foam to suck air in and expand within a couple of minutes. The mat can be “firmed up” with a few breaths of air to make it firm enough to sleep on. These types of mat are ideal for backpackers due to the size and weight advantages.
Air Mattress: are more comfortable than sleeping pads/mats and can provide good insulation against the cold ground, but are heavy and difficult to carry. They can also be time consuming to inflate, unless an electric pump is used, and they are prone to punctures. Mattresses with a cotton cover (ie a cotten layer on the uppermost side) will provide additional warmth and insulate you from the plastic exterior. Air mattresses are probably only going to be suitable for campers travelling by car.
Camp beds: comprised of a strong canvas or nylon cover stretched over a metal frame and are generally supplied with a carrying bag. These beds are normally easy to build and allow off the ground sleeping, however, they can be bulky and heavy. These days many camping beds are constructed using aluminium and so are much lighter but are generally more expensive. Again, due to the bulk, these are probably only going to be suitable for campers travelling by car.