How to Choose a Backpacking Sleeping Bag

As difficult as choosing a sleeping bag can be, choosing a backpacking sleeping bag is an even bigger bear.  You have limitations that are unique to backpacking in addition to the regular factors you must consider when choosing a sleeping bag. Here are a few things to think about that can help you find the right sleeping bag for backpacking.

How much does it weigh?

A backpacking sleeping bag needs to be lightweight. The more your pack weighs, the harder you have to work on the trail.

So how much should a backpacking sleeping bag weigh? This is a tough question to answer. The length, width, temperature rating, insulation type, brand, and design of your sleeping bag all factor into how much a sleeping bag weighs.

Generally speaking a backpacking sleeping bag shouldn’t weigh much more than three pounds.

Think about size and shape.

A good backpacking sleeping bag should be compact. Mummy bags – sleeping bags that taper at the bottom and have a cinch hood closure at the top – are best because they generally take up less space than traditional rectangle sleeping bags.

You want to avoid an oversized bag for a couple of reasons.

  1. Oversized sleeping bags take up valuable space.
  2. It’s more difficult to stay warm in a bag with dead space.

The best way to fit a backpacking sleeping bag is to go to an outdoor gear store and try it out. Lie in the bag to see how it fits, and compress the bag to see how compact it gets.

Price is important, too.

Yes, size and weight are important, but price is also a significant factor in choosing a backpacking sleeping bag. Ultralight sleeping bags often come with an ultra large price tag.

The type of insulation, the amount of insulation, and any waterproof/ hydrophobic treatments applied to the insulation directly influence the price of the bag.

In general, down insulation will cost more and synthetic insulation will be more affordable. Down has traditionally been best in terms of warmth to weight ratio, but synthetic insulation is slowly catching up.

Check the specifications on the bag when comparing price tags to see if the cost is worth the weight savings, temperature difference, features, etc.

Don’t forget about comfort.

Understanding sleeping bag temperature ratings is key in choosing a sleeping bag that meets your needs. Yes, size and weight are important, but they take a backseat to temperature rating.

Think about your sleep system as a whole rather than view the individual components separately. Consider your sleeping bag liner and sleeping pad when choosing a sleeping bag for backpacking. You can save some space and weight by getting a warmer weather bag.

What’s the best way to choose a sleeping bag?

Visiting your local outdoor gear store is the best way to find the sleeping bag that’s right for you. Not only do you get to handle bags and test them out, but you also have access to knowledgeable staff who can help answer questions that you may have. Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters to try out some sleeping bags today!

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