For a comfortable, good night's sleep, quality sleeping bags are essential. They are designed to help you retain your body heat at night and keep you dry until morning. Every person is different and will have individual preferences. Factors to consider are insulation, shape and size. There are many types to choose from and we'll review them here.
Down filled sleeping bags are filled with goose feathers and are usually the most expensive. Down-filled bags are durable and last for many years, giving you good value for your money. They're lightweight and a good choice if you need to carry around your sleeping bag for hiking or any extended periods of time. They retain heat, but also moisture, which is not a good thing if you spill something or have a child who wets the bag. They're only dry-clean or hand washable, so you can't put them in the washing machine at home. Make sure your down-filled sleeping bag is completely dry before storing to avoid mold, mildew and a bad smell.
Colorful, synthetic sleeping bags are the most popular because of price, convenience and they're machine washable. Filled with synthetic fibers, they're easier to care for and dry out after they get wet. Although they're heavier to carry, kids love to take them to summer camp and slumber parties.
Mummy bags are smaller and don't offer much room for movement. If you're a light sleeper and like to toss and turn, you might feel a bit confined. Mummy shaped bags can be the best choice for hikers and backpackers because the corners are tapered, making them lighter to carry.
A common choice, rectangular sleeping bags offer more room for movement and are appealing to heavier people. Generally, there's more space, so they're not as warm as the mummy-shaped bags. Rectangular shaped bags are a bit heavier to carry and will take up more room on your vehicle and storage area, but overall, they're still the most popular.
The semi-rectangular or barrel bag is the in-between choice for sleeping bags as far as warmth and space. These bags are tapered around the foot and head areas, making them warmer to sleep in but still allowing room for movement.
To make things more confusing, some companies have a universal adult size, sleeping bags, others have several adult sizes to pick from, but that's a good thing if you know what you're looking for. Of course, larger sizes weigh more than smaller ones and will add to what you're already hauling. Standard usually works for most men and women. You can find tall sizes which cost a little more but will allow much more comfort when sleeping.
Typically, children's sleeping bags have synthetic insulation and are smaller in size than adult bags. Those labeled "youth size" are good for kids under twelve or older kids who are not too large.
Some brands offer sleeping bags that can often be zipped together to form one, large bag, allowing two people to sleep in one. These are typically called Two-In-One or Double bags. Look for sets that allow for sleeping individually or in pairs
When buying a sleeping bag, you need to consider the purpose you will be using it for and the temperatures you'll be sleeping in. When camping, some climates that are very hot in the daytime hours experience plummeting temperatures after sunset. Manufactures usually give a temperature / insulation / warmth rating so that you'll an idea how comfortable they are in cooler weather. If you're not sure, look for one that's rated best for the temperatures you most often camp in, or has a warmth rating of at least 40º F. Ratings are based on those bags used with a sleeping or ground pad.
Invest in a ground or sleeping pad that fits underneath each bag for efficiency and protection from moisture that seeps up from the ground. They can be of a foam or inflatable variety and will help pad your sleeping surface and preserve the life of your sleeping bag.
Look for heavy-duty, two-sided zippers that operate smoothly. Design is important as you don't want the zipper catching on the fabric, creating snags and tears. Take into account on whether you're left or right-handed because you can by bags that zip of from either side.
Most sleeping bags come with a hood, which you may or may not need. It's usually a preference, but when it's downright cold, you'll be glad you have one to help you retain heat and stay warm. If you find hoods confining, buy one with a detachable hood so you can have a choice.
Remember, you get what you pay for and a cheap bag won't cut it for long. If you're an avid camper, save yourself the time and trouble and buy only a high-quality bag that you can use time after time. After all, a good night's sleep will make your day more enjoyable and fun.