While planning a trip to Iceland I quickly realized I need a sleeping bag that I can use in winter. However to find the right sleeping bag can be a hard and confusing process. So what is the best way to find a sleeping bag that you like and you can use in cold temperatures?
I did some research and found some information about cold weather sleeping bags. First of all, I discovered that it is not good to just focus on the advice temperatures companies put on their sleeping bags. It is a good indication but it should not be the only thing you look at. Second, I found out that there are two types of sleeping bags you have down sleeping bags and Synthetic sleeping bags. Read on which of the two I choose for my camping trip.
What is the best sleeping bag for you
You should know that it’s not only the sleeping bag that keeps you warm when camping. Things like: shelter, clothes, and sleeping pad play a huge role too! When a company tests their sleeping bags they use the best circumstances. That means that all the numbers are tested in an optimal scenario (with a sleeping pad, tent, and clothes). It is important to find the right sleeping gear for your next camping trip so here are some tips to find the right winter sleeping bag for you:
1. Buy a bag with a colder rating than necessary
It is true that sleeping bags are pretty expensive but the investment is definitely worth it! If you go camping you want to rest good for the next day and not spend the night in a freezing sleeping bag.
This is why it’s a good idea to buy a sleeping bag that is slightly “overpowered” for where you are going. It’s always a good idea to be slightly warmer than being too cold.
2. Look at the comfort and NOT the minimal comfort rating
As soon as you hit the minimal temperature and even around this number, you will be really cold! Therefore it’s a good idea to look at the comfort temperature rating so you have some margin instead of freezing to death.
It depends on where I plan to go but my favorite sleeping bag rating is a comfort -20 for winter camping trips.
3. Sleeping bag size matters
The right sleeping bag can make the difference between a good night of sleep, and a terrible one. Therefore it’s important that you have the right size bag. It can be a little bit too big but a sleeping bag that is too small is really frustrating,
A lot of camping stores where they sell sleeping bags let you try before you buy. Or in Amazon’s case, you can always return your product if it’s not the right size for you.
Of course, also the packing size of your sleeping bag is really important. A backpack that is too heavy can completely waste your hiking or camping trip. It’s important that you decide what size bag you will bring.
If you think that your bag can actually pack down smaller than it is currently, have a look at compression bags. They allow you to make the packing size of your sleeping bag even smaller.
4. Mummy and Classic bags
There are two types of sleeping bags: Mummy sleeping bags and classic sleeping bags. Mummy sleeping bags are formed around your body making them often more efficient in retaining your temperature and keeping you warm. Almost all of them have a hoody so you can also protect your head from the cold.
Generally speaking, mummy sleeping bags are also more compact than a classic cut however, this is not always the case. Which bag you like more comes down to preference. I would say a good rule is: “mummy is more warmth + smaller packing and the classic cut offers more comfort.
So if you want to go on a winter camping trip than the mummy sleeping bag is probably your best bet!
5. Down and Synthetic bags
Another big difference in sleeping bags is the material that insulates the bag. Some sleeping bags are made from down insulation while others are made with a synthetic insulator.
Down sleeping bags can be expensive to produce therefore the price is, in general, higher than synthetic. A big advantage of down is that it is really compressible making them light and small. Down bags are also really comfortable and soft making them ideal for winter trips.
The big disadvantage of down sleeping bags is the inability to get rid of water. If a down sleeping bag gets wet it will completely lose its function. Is this a reason to not buy a down sleeping bag? No, it’s definitely worth every dollar.
Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a sleeping bag? Good news, companies have developed techniques to simulate down bags almost perfectly. Synthetic sleeping bags nowadays are really good insulators and pack almost as small as down!
6. Look for good zippers
Yep, zippers are an important aspect of your sleeping bag too! They are the most fragile part of your bag, and if something will break it will most likely be the zips of your bag. To find the right zippers always look for the brand on the zipper itself. The number one brand in the world of zippers is YKK if it’s not from them consider if it’s worth the risk.
This does not mean that there are no other good zipper brands out there. Some sleeping bag companies like Fjallraven even use their own. Just always remember, you get what you pay for.
What do Temperature ratings really mean
When you start to look for a new winter sleeping bag you will notice they all have a temperature rating. There are 3 numbers on each bag one for Comfort, minimum comfort, and one number for extreme.
So what do these numbers mean? As the name says the first one stands for comfort. This value is the temperature the bag is made for. For example, if it says 15°c it means you will have enough comfort to sleep in this sleeping bag with this temperature.
The second value is the minimum comfort. This stands for the lowest temperature in which you can use this bag. It is a good idea to aim for a bag that goes slightly lower than the expected temperature indicated. As soon as the temperature outside hits this value you will most likely be cold in your bag.
This brings us to the third and final number: EXTREME temperature. If the temperature in the night goes down to this number it’s bad news for you. At this point, the bag is not warm enough to sleep in or, in extreme cases could even be dangerous.
My favorite low-temperature sleeping bags
I always try to find the best deal on products. For me, a sleeping bag should be good and at the same time have a fair price. When I was looking for a brand that had all of these things I found mountain hardware. This company makes quality, technical products for a cheap price.
1. Mountain hardware Lamina Z (-20ºC)
Mountain hardware has a sleeping bag series called “Lamina”. This is a product line they produced to make good and affordable lightweight sleeping bags. The synthetic fabric that is used for these bags is almost as compressible as down without cutting down on quality.
I personally own the Mountain hardware Lamina Z sleeping bag. A -20ºC degrees sleeping bag for extreme winter temperatures. It is a great bag, very comfortable and affordable. The size packs in for a -20ºC is really good and I take this on every low-temperature trip I go on.
2. Marmot Never Summer (-20ºC)
The Never summer down sleeping bag from Marmot is water resistant and rated for temperatures as low as 0° F. This is a great lightweight sleeping bag ideal for all your sub-freezing camping trips.
3. Fjallraven Polar (-20ºC)
Fjallraven is without a doubt one of the front runners in the race of great quality outdoor gear. Their products are absolutely top notch however, they do come with a high price tag.
The Polar -20 is a down sleeping bag for winter use. The hood of the bag is surrounded with synthetic fur that keeps you extra warm around your head. The bag has two zippers on the side: one long and one short.
If you are serious about winter trips and you want gear you can trust I highly suggest you buy this bag.
Let me know in the comments what your favourite sleeping bag is!