How To Choose A Sleeping Bag-Panergy
What’s the Difference Between a Backpacking and a Camping Sleeping Bag?
There are three key differences between backpacking bags and camping bags to keep in mind. Backpacking bags …
- are lighter.
- can be compressed down smaller.
- offer more warmth while staying lightweight.
The differences between backpacking bags and camping bags are not always straightforward, though. When in doubt, go for a backpacking bag — especially if you plan to do both activities. This way, you’ll get the most warmth without loading up the weight in your pack.
Understanding Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings
Sleeping bag temperature ratings indicate the lowest temperature they can keep an “average sleeper” adequately warm. It’s always best to pick a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating a little lower than the lowest temperatures you’re expecting. If you’re too warm, you can always open up the bag for more air, but there’s no way to make a cooler bag warmer.
It’s important to fully understand what temperature ratings and their terms mean. Here are some key definitions to help:
EN & ISO
An “ISO” or “EN” rating allows you to make a reliable comparison between any two backpacking sleeping bags. “ISO” and “EN” ratings are standardized rating tests whose results are comparable (EN being the older version, ISO being the newer, slightly more consistent version).
Comfort & Limit Ranges
ISO/EN testing gives a bag two separate temperature ratings: a comfort rating and a limit rating. “Comfort” rating tells you the lowest temperature a bag can keep a “cold sleeper” warm, and “limit” rating tells you the lowest temperature a bag can keep a “warm sleeper” warm.
If you’re not sure which one applies, women’s bags are often given “comfort” ratings, and men’s or unisex bags are often given “limit ratings”. Don’t see either of these terms listed? The temperature rating is probably a brand estimate and has not been ISO/EN tested.
Always keep in mind that a temperature rating can’t 100% guarantee that a given bag will keep you warm to your liking.
Ratings are most helpful for comparing different brands of bags, given that all brands test bags in the same way. Sleep system data is a better way to determine how warm you’ll be in varying conditions.
How To Choose A Sleeping Bag: Your Sleep System
Your Sleeping Pad and Bag Work Together
Real-life variables like humidity, wind, clothing, ground conditions, personal preferences, and your type of shelter always impact your warmth and comfort in a sleeping bag. The most important thing to keep in mind is your sleep system.
What’s a sleep system? It has three main components:
- Your sleeping bag
- Your sleeping pad
- Your clothing
Sleeping bag test ratings are always based on a sleeper wearing long underwear and socks, and using a pad with an approximately 5.5 R-Value rating to make sure variables stay consistent across all brands and bags. So, if you use a less-insulated pad in the cold, or wear less clothing, your sleeping bag may not seem to perform to standard.
Down insulation is more expensive and more sought after than synthetic insulation because it’s lighter and packs down easily.
It’s also more durable, and can maintain consistent levels of warmth over a longer period of time. If properly cared for, down-insulated bags can even last decades!
Synthetic insulation can provide quality performance at a lower price. Unlike down, its warmth efficiency is unaffected by exposure to water, making it an optimal choice for wet climates.
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