If you are backpacking then you have very different needs than if you were at a static camp. In that situation you would just focus on comfort but with backpacking there is also weight and ease of use to consider too. Choosing the best backpacking sleeping bag isn’t the easiest task.
It often means looking for the best ultralight sleeping bag and trying to find that balance between weight and comfort, which is often a delicate one. After that there are other features to think about too such as the insulation that it is able to provide and its design type.
We have picked through all of these features in our buying guide so you can be fully confident in what you are buying. On top of that, we have also completed backpacking sleeping bag reviews on the ten best products on the market to help you to choose the perfect one for you.
How To Choose A Backpacking Sleeping Bag – Buying Guide
When it comes to insulation there are two main options that you can have which are both highly effective for different reasons. In the past they were very different but modern advances have meant that the disadvantages of both options are now much less than they used to be, and there can also be a hybrid of the two types.
Down – Down are the tiny feathers that keep birds insulated next to their skin and in terms of sleeping bags, will be either from duck or goose. It is still seen as the preferred insulation type by many, especially those who are looking to reduce weight as down provides a very high level of insulation in proportion to its mass.
One negative of down in the past was that it wasn’t very water resistant but the water-resistant shells that you can now get and the chemical treatments that can be added to down stop this from being a problem. It is still worse for allergies, however, which is important to check. Down though is extremely comfortable and seen as a better material, which makes it unsurprisingly more expensive.
Synthetic – Synthetic materials can still provide you with a lot of warmth which is why they remain a very popular choice for many. It is very durable which is less of a concern if you have a high-quality shell but is also better for allergies, which is important if that is a concern for you.
As mentioned before, these two materials are using the other as inspiration to become better and more alike, and synthetic materials have done this by using much smaller fibers which give them a weight and a packability which is similar to down. If you are going to be in wet conditions then synthetic is still going to be the sleeping bag of choice and synthetic also has the added advantage of being cheaper.
Hybrid – Increasingly you are seeing hybrids that are on the market which contain both synthetic and down insulation. While these try to give you the best of both worlds in terms of feel and durability, it also means that you have both disadvantages too in terms of price, allergies, weight and water resistance.
The temperature rating is going to be a crucial part of your buying decision as you want to ensure that you are going to be comfortable when you sleep. While it may feel like a natural instinct to look for a bag which is able to give you the warmest, and therefore lowest, rating possible, there’s definitely a lot more to it than that.
As much as no-one wants to sleep in the cold, you also don’t want to be too hot either and this would be a big problem if you’re sleeping in the summer with a heavily insulated bag. The rating is generally given by an independent source and two ratings are given of a ‘lower’ rating (the lowest temperature that it’s possible to sleep in) and a ‘comfort’ rating (the ideal lowest temperature) so it’s important to check which one is listed.
In the winter you would probably want a rating of between 0 and 15F, for a three season bag between 15 and 30F and for summer between 30 to 45F but this naturally can depend on the climate of where you intend to be backpacking. You always have the option of getting a sleeping bag liner if you wanted to add a layer of insulation to your existing bag.
Fit And Shape
The typical shape of a sleeping bag is the rectangle that we have seen for so long but in terms of camping this would be bulkier than other options and there is also more air in there to heat up, so they aren’t able to offer the same level of insulation as other options.
In terms of backpacking weight and packability become very big issues and you would probably be willing to swap the extra room that you would get from a larger sleeping bag in order to have something which is going to weigh less and also be less portable, which is why mummy sleeping bags would be the preferred option.
Mummy sleeping bags also have a lot less room inside which might not be to everyone’s tastes but it does mean that it’s able to warm up very quickly and more likely to keep you insulated. There is often a drawcord on the hook too which will stop any cold air from coming in. In terms of fit and shape, a mummy sleeping bag is going to be the best option for backpacking.
Weight And Packability
In terms of backpacking, weight and packability are vitally important as you have plenty of gear that you need to take and you want to be able to get it all into your backpack without it being too heavy. These two go hand in hand too as you would need to have both in order to be as comfortable as possible.
This is where getting down insulation can be ideal as it gives to the best insulation to weight ratio meaning that you can have a warmer night of sleep in a bag which weighs very little. Having a bag which weighs three pounds or less is going to be ideal and you want it to compress down into a small size.
There are a few additional features that can come with these sleeping bags with the zips playing an important role. In order to save weight, more bags are opting to have no zip at all while others may have a half zip or one across the foot box if you get too warm.
It’s important to get a sleeping bag with a hood in order to give you the level of insulation that you are looking for and it can often come with an in-built pillowcase too for extra comfort. Some bags come with draft tubes over the zip to stop any cold airflow which is another useful feature. Another very useful feature to have is an internal pocket on the sleeping bag where you will be able to store your valuable items.
While in order to be a great backpacking bag it needs to be light and portable, you still want to be able to sleep in comfort so it’s a very important consideration when it comes to these sleeping bags. Even with a mummy bag you want to ensure that you have enough room to move around so getting a bag which is going to match your dimensions is important.
You also want to consider the way that you sleep as well. Some people like to sleep on their stomachs and this is one instance where a hood wouldn’t really be suitable. In terms of material, down is seen as better as it is more breathable and you want to ensure that the lining is soft and able to give you a comfortable night of sleep.
Ideally if you are buying a sleeping bag then you don’t want to just be able to use it in one specific set of conditions unless you have the money to be able to buy a bag for each season. You need to think about the conditions that you are in and then you would be able to get a sleeping bag which is going to match them.
It might seem wise to make sure that you are going to be warm enough when you are sleeping and opt for one with a lower temperature rating but actually you can add layers from elsewhere but you can’t take them away. Getting a thinner bag and taking extra layers when it’s colder might be the best way to get versatility from your bag.
The construction of your bag is going to be important in making sure that you have comfort and durability. It’s always a good idea to get one which is highly rated from a reputable source and one which comes with a warranty so you know you’ll be covered if anything is wrong with the bag.
The zips and seams need to be sturdy and you want to make sure that the insulation is going to be evenly distributed throughout the bag so you don’t have any cold spots and this is usually done by having baffles, which are separate segments to stop the insulation moving around.
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Regular Camping Sleeping Bag And Backpacking Sleeping Bag?
There are a few things that a backpacking sleeping bag needs to be in order to make it ideal for the job with probably the most important one being weight. You need to make sure that it is light enough to be able to take with you on hikes.
It also needs to pack down into a very small size which is why they usually come in a mummy shape to cut down on the material. A backpacking bag also needs to offer you the right amount of insulation in what may be colder conditions in an ultralight tent.
Q: How To Store My Sleeping Bag When I am Not Using It?
While this might be an inconvenience, it’s probably the best idea to store your sleeping bag outside of the compressing bag in order to not compact the insulation together, which might affect its ability over time.
The crucial aspect though is that you want to make sure that you are keeping it dry in order to prevent any mildew or bacteria from forming. Storing it in a drafty and damp garage, for example, isn’t going to be the best idea.
Q: What Is The Recommended Weight Of A Sleeping Bag?
The ideal weight for a backpacking sleeping bag can depend on a number of different aspects such as your size and the distance you will travel. Taller people will need bigger bags and therefore they would most likely weight more.
Also bags with more insulation are going to weigh more too with the additional fibers that are added. For a regular sized bag, with a mid-range temperature rating, anything around three pounds would be ideal, anything under that would be a bonus.
Globo Surf Overview
In order to enjoy your backpacking experience you want to make sure that you have equipment which isn’t going to weigh you down and be too heavy so you are able to enjoy it without worrying too much about the weight that you have to carry.
Getting a high-quality and light sleeping bag is an important part of that, as it is a significant part of the gear that you will be taking on your trip. Not only do you want to make sure that it’s light but you want it to be as portable as possible and compress down to a small size.
After that then other features are going to be important as you still want to make sure that you are having a comfortable night of sleep with a liner which is going to feel soft next to your skin and enough insulation so that you are not going to get too cold or too hot.
While other types of bag are available, a mummy style bag is going to be the best for backpacking as it is the lightest, most compact and warmest type. Once you know what weight and insulation you want, then you can look to see if there are any additional features which might appeal to you.
Hopefully this guide has been able to answer all your questions on what you should be looking for when it comes to a backpacking sleeping bag. Once you have the perfect one for you then you will be able to have a more comfortable night of sleep than ever, with a bag which won’t weigh you down when you’re backpacking.
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