Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag For Your Backpack Trip

When choosing equipment for a camping trip, or even just a basic backpacking excursion, the primary factor is size and overall weight. The lighter the piece of equipment, the easier it will be to transport and manage during the course of the trip. When it comes to a quality sleeping bag, weight is not the only thing to consider when making an educated decision. Below are a few tips for selecting the correct sleeping gear.

1. Temperature Rating.
The factory temperature rating is the minimum temperature at which the manufacturer suggests an individual can comfortably, and safely, sleeps in the bag. However, there are a few issues to keep in mind when examining a temperature rating.

One, they are by no means an absolute or objective scale across brands of sleeping gear. Only recently have companies begun to examine a more objective rating scale, and it has still not been adopted as a universal scale. Second, any scale is going to be based on a general rating of individual experience and expectations. In general, a sleeping gear temperature rating should look to exceed expected conditions in order to safeguard against potential harm and injury as a result of exposure.

2. Weight.
The overall weight of a sleeping gear is often measured against the comfort and enjoyability of a larger, roomier sleeping gear. The weight of any individual item must be measured against the overall total weight of the items being brought on the trip.

3. Insulation.
Sleeping bag insulation, or fill, comes in two primary varieties; down and synthetic. Each comes with its own array of positives and negatives.

Down is not actually feathers, but the fluffy undercoating a birds plumage. The tiny clusters of natural fibers act like tiny pockets of insulation, trapping warm air between the fibers and users body. Ounce for ounce, no man-made fiber can be as warm as down. In addition, if treated properly, down will last a lifetime; retaining shape and loft over time. Down also wicks moisture and allows it to evaporate better then synthetic materials. Finally, down is extremely lightweight and compressible.

Synthetic material, while deficient in some areas, also offers several benefits when compared to natural materials. First, synthetic materials will dry more quickly then down over time, especially in humid climates. Second, synthetic materials not only require less specialized cleaning then down, but they are also more resilient in other areas. Synthetic materials are also hypoallergenic, which can be a major concern with down sleeping bags. Synthetic materials are also much cheaper, which, depending on desired use, can be a major factor when choosing a sleeping bag.