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.
Best Camping Sleeping Reviews
Marmot Helium Sleeping Bag
One of the premium adventure items from the catalog of renowned outdoor product company Marmot, the Helium is a cutting-edge sleeping bag designed with an emphasis on two crucial details: lightness and warmth. This 15 degrees F rated bag is optimized to keep its user toasty and comfortable in frigid conditions short of a mountainside in winter. Weighing a meager 2 pounds, the Helium almost does feel lighter than air when you’re lugging it around effortlessly among your other provisions. Even better still, it compresses into a highly compact cube that will be as much of a space saver as it is a load off your back. Packed with luxurious 850-fill down to maximize insulation, the Helium also boasts a number of other impressive technical features, such as a Velcro-free face muff, a passive collar to further ward off cold winds, and a full zipper for easy entry and exit. One may think that such a light bag with a mummy design would practically suffocate the sleeper, but the Helium has a surprisingly spacious interior that rivals the roominess of bulkier, heavier bags.
There are many sleeping bags on the market with temperature ratings that disappoint their buyers, but the Helium has generally proven itself worthy of its 15 degrees F rating, which some consumers even consider to be conservative. Some users report using the Helium even at 7 to 12 degrees and maintaining a satisfactory level of warmth, although this feat may also be attributed to the clothing that they were wearing at the time. In fact, there are a few users who have griped that the Helium can get too warm at times, and is definitely not the best choice for mild temperatures or everyday conditions. After all, nobody wants to sweat profusely while trying to get a good night’s sleep. Users also appreciate the Pertex Quantum nylon shell that envelops the Helium, giving it a light but durable outer covering that can handily protect against mild bouts of inclement weather. Of the Helium variants available from Marmot, your best bet would be the EQ model, which is outfitted for extra sturdiness.
Impressive as the Helium bag is, however, one is cautioned not to push the envelope too far with this sleeping bag, which does have its limitations. For expedition-level adventures or those where one expects hardcore rain or dampness, it is recommended that one take along a bag with a synthetic fill instead, given the well-known vulnerability of down bags to getting wet. Also, one should take into consideration the relative weakness of the Helium’s outer fabric, a necessary sacrifice made to keep the sleeping bag as light as it is. Some users have reported disappointing tears or holes that have opened up in their Helium bags due to the hazards of outdoor terrain. Lastly, expect to pay a significant price for all of the amazing features of the Helium, as the combination of a high-level down fill and excellent high-tech design make for a costly purchase. If the Helium suits your needs, however, you won’t regret spending for this worthwhile investment. You can buy it online here.
North Face Cat’s Meow Sleeping Bag
The North Face products are renowned for their sleek contours and cutting-edge features, and their Cat’s Meow sleeping bag is no exception. So named because of its apparent status as the greatest sleeping bag of its temperature and activity class, the Cat’s Meow has garnered many praises from satisfied users. The latest iteration of this popular The North Face design is indeed a beauty to behold, and its manufacturers promise nothing less than premium, toasty warm comfort in frigid temperatures in the vicinity of 20°F. Loaded with features that are essential to its function, as well as nifty details that users are pleased to have, the Cat’s Meow appears to have earned its status as a multi-awarded sleeping bag that consistently ranks among the top bags preferred by consumers.
The Cat’s Meow is a mummy-style sleeping bag that retails for between US$159.00 to US$169.00. For this price, you get a compressible mountaineering bag that features overlapping shingle construction, tough multi-layer synthetic fabric, a soft silk inner lining, and an enveloping hood, all of which are primed to trap heat and keep the slumbering user cozy in winter, fall or spring conditions. The Cat’s Meow is widely appreciated by users for its consistent sturdiness and longevity. Older versions of this The North Face mainstay have survived the activities of their owners for at least five years, which provides testament to the durability of the most recent model.
To provide additional convenience to the user, the Cat’s Meow model boasts a snag-resistant zipper and a zipper pull that glows in the dark, so one doesn’t needlessly struggle with adjusting or closing the bag in the evening after a trek, when light sources are limited, and the user just wants to focus on getting to sleep. The bag also comes with a pocket at chest level to place watches, jewelry or other important small items. Once the user resumes his outdoor adventure, the Cat’s Meow easily stows away in a carry case for maximum transportability.
Though the Cat’s Meow is a strong, comfortable bag that is relatively easy to take around, the opinions of its users are mixed as to whether or not it is actually suitable for its temperature rating. Critics of the Cat’s Meow’s resistance to the cold say that they are unable actually to sleep when out in the temperature conditions prescribed for the sleeping bag, and end up freezing unless they switch bags with their companions. Apparently, the bag’s design features, though theoretically optimized for warmth retention, may either be dependent on a person’s actual cold tolerance or simply do not work as well as they should. Also, some buyers have complained that the bag feels cramped, almost claustrophobic though this is perhaps more a trait of mummy bags in general than the Cat’s Meow in particular.
All in all, the Cat Meow is a satisfactory bag for its cost, although your mileage may vary when using it in frigid climes. Its combination of portability, features and comfort rank it among one of the best sleeping bags available.
Marmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag
Marmot, an award-winning outdoor clothing, and equipment company based out of Santa Rosa,California, is acclaimed for the excellent quality of its high-tech sleeping bags. One particularly unique trait of Marmot bags in which purchasers are in agreement is the sheer lightness of the products. Weighing in at less than 2 pounds, the Marmot Hydrogen certainly lives up to its name. Easy to compress and stuff in with the rest of your outdoor adventure equipment, it will be even easier to forget that you’re carrying the Hydrogen, which will be a welcome feature for those of you who need to pack for every foreseeable situation.
Marmot’s sleeping bags are also renowned for their excellent down filling. The 900-fill down of the Hydrogen, a rather high down fill rating, will provide premium warmth capability though it has the expected drawback of making the Hydrogen rather more expensive than most other sleeping bags of a similar class. The Hydrogen sports a mummy bag design, which complements the down fill in keeping you at a proper temperature during frigid nights. The bag’s body fabric isn’t designed to be tossed around randomly on cutting rocks and abrasive sand, and buyers would be wise to invest in a cheap ground cloth on which to mount the Hydrogen to ensure that no tearing occurs.
Other appreciated features of the Hydrogen include a comfortable hood baffle to cover the face of the user during colder evenings when the bag has to be sealed, a full zipper that allows you to convert the bag into a down comforter on warmer nights, and a roomy fit, which is a pleasant surprise for a normally claustrophobic mummy design.
The temperature rating of the Hydrogen is listed as being able to handle a dip down to 30 degrees F and below, and ideally, the down fill should practically guarantee that rating but many users have complained about suffering in the cold even in temperatures that do not push the Hydrogen to its advertised limits. This is perhaps the biggest failing of the Hydrogen – it is not built to provide optimum warmth, and is heavily dependent on both prevailing environmental conditions and the user’s other measures to raise the sleeping temperature, such as by wearing extra layers of clothing. Built to be a sort of halfway selection between Marmot’s warm-climate Atom and its winter-level offering, the Helium, it actually hews closer to the Atom, and may not be the best choice for one expecting to run into a few nights of bitter chill. Another issue with the Hydrogen is that its fabric appears to be susceptible to tearing. A number of dissatisfied customers have complained of waking up in the morning to find their surroundings littered with tiny feathers, and a couple of holes torn through the lining or shell.
All in all, the Hydrogen is a sweet bag to own if your primary concerns are weight and elegant comfort. Just be wary of low temperatures, which the bag doesn’t handle as well as most would like, and be careful with the damage that rugged terrain may bring.