A sleeping bag is a major purchase and your choice can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and several hours of damp, cold misery or in extreme circumstances much worse. This means that when you come to decide on a bag it’s important to ask yourself as many questions as possible about just how you’ll use it. In this guide we’ll try to show some of the main considerations and highlight a few scenarios in which your choice of bag would be particularly important.
First ask yourself these questions:
- How cold is it likely to be where you’ll be using the bag and how much do you feel the cold?
- What other conditions is the bag likely to face?
- How much space do you have for carrying the bag and how much weight do you want to carry?
- What is your budget for the bag?
So Which Bag Is For Me?
Choosing a bag is always going to be a compromise, no one bag can do it all. Here are some general starting points for various types of user:
Car camping and summer wild camping
For those who don’t camp that often and for whom weight is not such a concern, a synthetic bag represents excellent value for money. The addition of a silk liner will add versatility and warmth. A Synthetic bag is much easier to clean and will even keep you warm if it gets wet.
The Mountain Equipment Lunar II is a great value synthetic filled bag that weighs just over a kilo with a comfort limit down to -2 degrees.
General Backpacking and Summer Mountaineering Use
For most users who are interested in backpacking and mountaineering a midweight down bag is probably the best choice. This will be capable of everything from valley camping in mid-winter to long summer expeditions with only the very warmest and coldest days outside it’s comfort zone. Its usability can be further extended with a silk liner for insulation when it’s cold or to use on its own when it’s too warm. The Mountain Equipment Classic range is a good starting point. Lighter bags such as the Rab Neutrino, and bags with tougher fabrics such as the Rab Neutrino Pro range are also available.
The Rab Neutrino 600 is a super light versatile sleeping bag weighting just under a kilo with an EN limit of -12 degrees.
Adventure Racer / Mountain Marathon / Solo camper / Ski Touring
For those who need the lightest and tiniest bags, Down is the usual way to go and the higher grade the down the less you’ll need to keep you warm. There are also some specialist synthetic bags available too. Have a look at the Mountain Equipment Fire range and Seat To Summit Spark ranges.
The Sea To Summit Spark II weighs just half a kilo with an EN limit of -2 degrees. This super light bag is aimed and fast and light fanatics.
Alpine Bivi and Expedition Use
If you need low weight and pack-size but great performance and weather resistance then a high quality down bag with a more weather resistant outer shell is the best bet. The Rab Neutrino Pro range is good for this and Mountain Equipment have the Xeros and Kryos bags as well as larger expedition bags. The Mountain Equipment Nova range is a good synthetic option.
The Mountain Equipment Xeros is a lightweight bag weighting roughly a kilo with an EN limit of -12 degrees and a protective outer fabric.