Sleeping Bags

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Whether youíre scaling the side of a mountain or simply spending a weekend camping next to your car, the right sleeping bag can mean the difference between an enjoyable night under the stars and an uncomfortable slumber. We find out what to look for in a sleeping bag.


The Basics

  • There are typically two types to choose from:

    • High tech synthetic bags keep you warm, are cheaper, dry faster than down, and retain insulation even when wet. Plus, you can machine wash and dry them.

    • Down bags are more expensive, lighter, and warmer than synthetic bags, and can be packed into a small, tight roll. With proper care they can last a lifetime.

    • Cotton sleeping bags are useless when wet, and also heavy. Save them for backyard or indoor slumber parties.

  • Other notes about down sleeping bags:

    • If you tend to be out in cooler or extreme conditions, a down sleeping bag is probably your best bet. But if it gets wet, it takes forever to dry, so be sure pack it in a waterproof cover.

    • The visible thickness of a down bag is referred to as the loft, which is a good first-indicator of warmth. The higher loft, the more expensive, but the lighter-weight it will be.

    • The higher the fill of the down bag, the warmer it will keep you. Good bags are made with a fill power around 600.

  • Sleeping bags come with a temperature or comfort rating that indicates the lowest outdoor temperature the bag can keep you warm at. A good quality three-season bag (spring, summer and fall) has a temperature rating around -6 to -12 C (10 to 20 F). Four season or winter bags are thicker and keep you warmer at even lower temperatures.

  • Bags come in three shapes: rectangular, semi-rectangular and mummy. Choose a bag depending on how you sleep. Mummy bags are easier to pack and better at keeping you warm, but aren’t good for claustrophobics!

  • Make sure the zippers glide easily all the way around the bag. And look for a draft tube behind the zipper which will help seal out air and moisture.

  • Look for quilted pockets of filling. If the stitches go right through both sides, there could be cold spots along the seams.

Other Considerations

  • Since you lose 50% of your body heat through you head, a hood is nice to have on colder nights.

Be Aware

  • Don’t buy a sleeping bag that’s too big. It should fit snugly to keep warm air inside. Children should have child-sized bags to maximize warmth.


We spent a night under the stars to test out some sleeping bags.

  • Synthetic barrel (semi-rectangular, to 0C): $99
  • Down-filled mummy (to -1C): $184

Sleep & Comfort Test

  • The bags performed differently for different sleepers and we had no clear winner.


When it comes to camping, getting wet is a very real possibility. For our casual, fair-weather camping needs, we both agreed that a synthetic, quick-drying bag was the way to go. However make sure you do your research and buy the proper bag for your weather conditions to ensure a good night’s sleep.



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