Understanding Sleeping Bags
San Luis Valley Colorado gets some of the harshest winter weather in the United States with this recent Arctic cold snap pushing down from the north trend continues. I have been trying to get by with an twin size air mattress and several heavy blankets. Last night the overnight low temperature was neg 10 Celcius. It’s time to look at getting a sleeping bag. Understanding sleeping bags has become quite an educational experience.
There are basically three styles of sleeping bags. Doubles, Rectangular, and Mummy.
Doubles are two rectangular bags connected together forming a nice roomy bag. What you gain in size is offset by needing more body heat to keep the interior of the bag warm. Good for sleeping two but bad for carrying around on a motorcycle or hiking through the woods. Ideally you would store and tote in a off road vehicle each morning.
Rectangular is good for the person who tosses and turns through out the evening allowing for more room at the feet but that room needs to be heated by the body so you may have cold spots down there. They are heavier and bulkier to carry when hiking or trekking.
Mummy are tapered from top to bottom and snuggle to the users body. It keeps them warmer with less effort or body heat. They can weigh as much as 20 percent less than the same insulated rectangular bag. They roll up and pack tighter for people that are on the move.
Pay attention to how they are rated
Sleeping bags are made with two different insulation types; synthetic fibers or goose feathers also referred to as Down. Ideally the best option is for your bag to contain both types of insulation material.
The positive side is that down keeps you very warm. When looking at down bags, look for a bag with a down loft rating of 600 or greater.
The negative side of down is when it gets wet it takes a while to dry. These types of bags should usually be used with water resistant outer covers. Also make sure the constructing is such that the down material is not able to bunch up and cause cold spots.
Synthetic material bags are usually heavier than down but are more resistant to getting wet or retaining moisture. The ideal construction for synthetic is when it is made with overlapping layers. Synthetic bags are usually less expensive as compared to down bags.
Users with builds of six feet or less will do well with standard bags, as people with taller builds may look for a longer length bag.
When it comes to the sleeping bags outer shell there are trade offs. Heavy canvas outer shells protect the bag making it resistant to tearing but add ounces in weight for when your carrying it on you back.
All bags will come with a general temperature rating on how warm it will keep the average person at different outside temperatures. The problem is what is an average person? Men tend to stay warmer then women. A persons build also equated to how their body produces body heat what keeps me warm may leave you shivering.
Plan ahead for the weather conditions
Look at the conditions for how you plan to use your bag. What outdoor temperatures will you be using it in, will you be indoors or outdoors under the stars. Will early morning dew make your bag damp and uncomfortable? To warm of a bag and you will be sleeping on it not warm enough and you may end up shivering.
There are things you can do if the weather is worse than what your bag is rated for but also understand the coldest time usually increases when the sun first rises until about 10:00 am in the morning.
You can wear thermal underwear, warm socks and a knit cap to bed but understand that clothing may lose some of its ability to keep you warm when you exit the bag in the early morning. If your not in a hostile situation consider taking most of your clothing off and using it as layering inside the sleeping bag. This way your outer clothing should be toasty warm in the morning also. Hopefully this makes good sleeping bag sense.
As always be safe and healthy my friends.