Sleeping bags make trusted camping companions no matter where you decide to spend the night outdoors. Whether you camp in the backyard with the kids, stay at a campground, pitch your tent out in the woods, or even go on a backpacking trek up the side of a mountain, there is a sleeping bag designed for the weather conditions you will face. Since you have multiple options available regarding shape, size, weight, insulation, and price it is wise to first determine what your needs are before buying the first bag you see. A little research will reveal the best options for your particular camping style.
While mummy bags are popular with both campers and backpackers, rectangular bags provide a sleeping experience similar to that of a bed. Most rectangular bags are considered acceptable for 3-season camping and have a 20-degree temperature rating. Always allow a 10-degree buffer as the ratings are based on survivability and not on comfort. One downside to rectangular sleeping bags is that they lose heat through the wide opening at the top. They work great when the outdoor temperature stays above freezing at night, but tend to be chilly if the temperature drops lower. Most rectangular bags contain synthetic insulation and don’t compress as well when rolled up. Synthetic insulation does better than down insulation in repelling water. Another useful feature is the bags unzip all the way so they can be used as a blanket if desired, or two similar bags can be zipped together to make a double bag suitable for two or three campers.
Mummy sleeping bags are designed to closely mimic the shape of your body, eliminating most of the extra space that allows the cold to creep in. They also come with an insulated hood which can be cinched down around your head to maximize heat retention. At higher elevations and in colder conditions mummy bags are ideal choices. Some offer temperature ratings down to below zero depending on the insulation used. Mummy bags with down filling are the preferred type of backpacking sleeping bags. They are lightweight and highly compactable, making them perfect for carrying in a backpack.
A couple of final thoughts about sleeping bags. Regardless of the brand and type of bag you choose, always add an air mattress or insulated pad beneath your bag to minimize the cold transfer from the ground to your body. Even the best sleeping bags will admit cold from below since your body compresses the insulation contained in the lower half of the bag. This is especially true of down insulation. Also, make sure the bag you choose is sized appropriately. Children need smaller sleeping bags than adults since their smaller bodies can’t warm up all the space inside of a full-size bag, resulting in cold and uncomfortable nights.