Sleeping bags are part of a portable sleeping system that lets you find a bed for the night wherever you are. Sleeping bags cover the range from a lightweight kid's sleepover bag to a sleeping bag giving you a warm night sleep on a polar expedition.
1. Sleeping Bag Features:
Your ideal sleeping bag depends on your lifestyle, destination, and season. When shopping for a sleeping bag, think about the following
· Shape and size
· Temperature and comfort.
· Outer and inner materials.
· Filling materials.
1.1 Shape and Size
Most sleeping bags range between two basic styles:
· The mummy sleeping bag.
Some sleeping bags are like the mummy-style but with a less pronounced taper and described as barrel or semi-rectangular. The shaped sleeping bags tend to include a hood as part of the design.
Overnight your body heat warms up the sleeping bag and keeps you toasty and comfortable. A mummy-style sleeping bag traps a smaller layer of air inside the sleeping bag, and it warms up quickly, but you have limited movement inside the bag. A rectangular bag contains more air and gives you more room to move about inside the bag. It takes longer to heat up, and more warm air is lost through the top of the sleeping bag overnight.
Sleeping bags can be "regular" – fit most people up to 6' or long for taller people. High-end sleeping bags can fit men or women with tailoring taking account of different shaped bodies. You can buy a couple's sleeping bag to accommodate two people rather than the typical individual sleeping bag. Children's sleeping bags are smaller in length.
The size and shape of your sleeping bag contribute to weight and comfort levels. A restless sleeper camping out in summer may prefer the roominess of a rectangular bag. Most people backpacking in extreme cold prefer a mummy-style for the reduced weight and additional warmth.
An integral hood provides additional warmth by reducing heat loss, and some sleeping bags incorporate a pillow section for extra comfort.
The weight of a sleeping bag depends on the materials and insulating filler. Weight is essential if you are backpacking but less critical when carrying your camping equipment in the back of a car.
Weight is useful when comparing two similar sleeping bags with the same thermal properties. Using a sleeping bag that doesn't provide enough overnight warmth because it is light is a false economy. If you are cold overnight, you won't get enough rest, and you risk hypothermia.
Your sleeping bag needs to cope with the lowest overnight temperature you will experience. Ideally, you pick a sleeping bag with a temperature rating below the lowest expected temperature to give you a buffer zone.
Temperature ratings reflect an average person's comfort level – your experience depends on how warm and cold you feel. Temperature ratings are useful for comparison purposes. ISO or EN are standard temperature ratings. On women's' sleeping bags, you see the temperature rating as a "comfort" level – the temperature at which a cold sleeper remains comfortable. The temperature rating describes a limit rating on other sleeping bags, which is the temperature for a warm sleeper to feel comfortable. If you don't see either 'limit' or 'comfort' as a description or an ISO or EN rating, then the temperature rating is probably a manufacturer estimate.
Always pick a sleeping back for the lowest temperature because you can cool off by unzipping the sleeping bag for some air, but you can't increase the thermal rating.
1.4 Outer and Inner Materials
The exterior materials on most sleeping bags are typically waterproof, or at least water-resistant – rip-stop nylon is a typical outer material. The outer material needs to resist penetration by damp and be durable because a tear means losing the insulating materials.
The inside lining material is typically soft brushed cotton, but you can use a sleeping bag liner of cotton or silk to improve your comfort and keep the inside of the bag clean and fresh.
1.5 Filling Material
Filling material is either down (light and warm) or synthetic. Both insulation types have advantages in terms of warmth and performance.
Down is light, warm, long-lasting, and easy to compress, but you lose all its excellent properties if it gets wet. Synthetic filling wins by being non-allergenic, quick-drying, and remains warm even when wet.
Down insulation is the premium fill material for warmth and ease of compression. You can get water-resistant down filling (chemically treated) and ethical down where the ducks and geese's welfare is guaranteed.
Synthetic fill is less expensive, but it suffers in comparison with down for weight and compression. You can get a mix of synthetic and down filling in one bag as a compromise on expense, weight, and warmth.
The zip is a point where you can end up with heat loss from the sleeping bag. The best sleeping bags include features like draft tubes to insulate this area. The zip needs to operate when you are inside the sleeping bag with a smooth zipping action.
A compressed sleeping bag's volume is as crucial as the weight to a backpacker carrying all their equipment on a challenging trek. When every inch of space matters, you want a sleeping bag with the smallest volume possible.
High-quality sleeping bags for backpackers can compress into astonishingly small pouches. Still, typically you store them in larger mesh bags to allow the filling to expand when not in use. Check that the sleeping bag comes with a compression bag as part of the package because having to buy a separate compression bag increases the sleeping bag's cost.
2. Sleeping Bag Maintenance:
If you invest in a high-quality sleeping bag, it makes sense to maintain it in top condition. After you return from a camping trip, take time to look after your sleeping bag by:
· Airing it out – while you are sleeping, you sweat and rub your skin oils into the inner lining. Opening your sleeping bag and exposing it to air and sunlight for 48 hours, freshens it up and lets you pack it away dry and fresh.
· Checking the outer surface for damage and repairing if necessary.
· Checking the inner surface for stains and dirt and spot clean if necessary – use a homemade or proprietary cleaner.
· Store the sleeping bag in a mesh storage bag in a dry room and avoid putting other items on top.
2.1 Spot Cleaning
The areas most prone to picking up stains are the head and foot zones, instead of putting your sleeping bag through a full wash. Use a small amount of washing soap specifically for down or for handwashing. Make a paste with a small amount of water and apply it to stained areas with an old toothbrush. Rinse off the soap solution with a damp sponge. Avoid saturating and dab it dry with a clean cloth or kitchen towel – don't rub at stains as that spreads them further. Leave the sleeping bag to air dry before putting it into storage.
Airing out in fresh air and sunlight also deodorizes the sleeping bag. An alternative is to use a fabric deodorizer suitable for use on fabric chairs. Spray lightly to avoid saturating the down and leave to air dry for a couple of hours.
Invest in a zipper repair kit because a good sleeping bag is an investment, and zips are relatively easy to fix if you are patient. Fabric repair tape is an excellent field repair for torn sleeping bags and avoids the need for sewing. You can patch damage on the inside and outside of your sleeping bag or send it away for a professional repair. Dealing promptly with small areas of damage keeps your sleeping bag functional for longer.
3. How to Clean a Sleeping Bag?
Your sleeping bag will come with cleaning instructions – if a sleeping bag is dry clean only (down-filled), do not try washing it.
Most sleeping bags wash like any other bedding. Check to see if you need to handwash or if your sleeping bag can go in the washing machine.
3.1 Hand Washing
You want to avoid scrunching or squeezing your sleeping bag, as this can cause the filling to form lumps. A bath is the most suitable place to fit your sleeping bag for a wash. Fill the bath with warm water and add some handwashing soap or down washing soap for sleeping bags.
The easiest way to get the sleeping bag clean is to put it in the bath and walk up and down on it. Drain the bath, run more clean water, and continue to walk on top of the sleeping bag. Repeat until no more soap comes out of the sleeping bag.
To remove the excess water from the sleeping bag, roll it up, pressing firmly to expel as much water as possible. Do not wring or squeeze the sleeping bag. Then unroll and repeat the rolling process with a towel to absorb more water. Let the sleeping bag air dry.
3.2 Machine Washing
If you can machine wash your sleeping bag and fit it inside your washing machine, follow the label's instructions. Typically, you use a delicate cycle and do not tumble dry but hang it up to air dry. Use either a proprietary down wash or a wool wash detergent.
3.3 Sleeping Bag Liners
A sleeping bag liner keeps the inside of your sleeping bag free from dirt and skin oils, and it is much easier to wash a liner than the entire sleeping bag. Cotton liners wash with a normal bedding cycle in your washing machine, but silk liners may need a trip to the dry cleaner.
Sleeping bag liners are inexpensive compared to the cost of a high-quality sleeping bag, and if you are a regular backpacker, it makes sense to use liners to prolong your sleeping bag's life.
3.4 Packing a Sleeping Bag
You need to pack away your sleeping bag for storage and transit. Transit can involve backpacking or general camping where you can carry your gear in a vehicle.
3.5 Packing for Backpacking
When you are backpacking, you can carry your sleeping bag on the outside or inside your pack. Some backpackers dispense with a stuff sack and stuff their sleeping bag into their backpack to fill up all the spaces between their other items. This method's advantage is that you don't have the additional weight of the stuff sack, and it is one less item to look after. The disadvantage is that it is less easy to keep the sleeping bag free from dampness, it's in the way if you need to get into the pack, and it may get damaged by snagging on something else in the pack.
Using a stuff sack means you contain the sleeping bag and can carry it outside the pack. It means you can quickly identify and remove your sleeping bag for use.
3.6 Stuff Sacks
A stuff sack with compression bands lets you force the sleeping bag into the smallest possible volume. A stuff sack may come with the sleeping bag or be an optional extra. You buy a stuff sack appropriate to the sleeping bag's compressed volume as per the sleeping bag specification.
Put the sleeping bag into the stuff sack by pushing the sleeping bag until it is all inside the bag. You don't attempt to roll or fold the sleeping bag first because that may cause the filling to form lumps. Stuffing the sleeping bag into the bag means different parts of it fold each time, keeping the filling evenly distributed.
3.7 Storage Sacks
Leaving a sleeping bag compressed in storage can cause problems with the filling – allowing the sleeping bag to breathe inside a larger mesh bag keeps the filling fluffy and functional. The sleeping bag is stuffed loosely into the larger mesh bag.
3.8 Rolling and Folding
If you need to transport a sleeping bag in the back of a car or inside a suitcase, then rolling and folding is an acceptable packing method. Avoid leaving a sleeping bag folded or rolled in storage because it can separate the filling and cause thin spots.
When backpacking or camping, you need to keep your sleeping bag dry. The sleeping bag can become wet from rain or contact with the ground. Lining the stuff sack with a plastic bag provides a waterproof layer to protect your sleeping bag in transit. In use, you need a waterproof layer between the sleeping bag and the ground, if possible.
In storage, you want the sleeping bag to breathe, avoid packing it inside waterproof materials, and store it in a dry location.