Buying a sleeping bag can be a confusing ordeal with so many on the market to choose from.
Here are some key points to think of prior to wading into the multitudes of sleeping bag offerings.
Weight and size matter enormously if you are going to carry a sleeping bag in a backpack. In a very general sense, the less a sleeping bag weighs and the smaller it packs is directly proportional to how much a bag is going to cost you. The best of sleeping bags for minimum weight and the smallest packing are the best quality down sleeping bags.
You can get a high-end down bag, like this Western Mountaineering UltraLite, that weighs under 2 pounds and will keep you very toasty in freezing conditions and pack down to the size of a small loaf of bread.
Choosing the proper temperate rating for your outdoor pursuits means you aren’t overbuying a bag that is too warm (and heavier and bulkier) for the conditions you will be camping in. Many people have a tendency to gravitate towards the warmest of sleeping bags, because who wants to be cold when camping? However, if you are using a zero degree temperature rated sleeping bag and camping in 40 degree weather, you will soon find that it is quite uncomfortable getting in the bag, as it is just too warm to be in.
Targeting your sleeping bag purchase to the bag temperate rating closest to the conditions you will be camping in is a key part of your decision.
And remember, the warmer the bag, the more filling it takes to keep you warm, and that is directly proportional to the weight and the packing size (bulkiness) of the sleeping bag.
How much are you willing to pay for a sleeping bag? You can get a very warm synthetic sleeping bag for around $100 dollars that will keep you just as warm as a $600 dollar down sleeping bag of a similar temperature rating. That $100 dollar bag will keep you warm indeed, but it will weigh significantly heavier than the high-end down bag and be significantly bulkier when stuffing it into a backpack.
This Kelty Cosmic sleeping bag boasts three-season usability, which is something worth looking for.
Another important factor in your sleeping bag purchase are the conditions you will be camping in with regards to rain and moisture. Synthetic bags generally deal with moisture better and retain their loft (puffiness), and therefore are a great choice for rainy climates and river trips.
Synthetic bags are also less expensive than down sleeping bags. The one draw back always being that down sleeping bags will pack down smaller, they will be lighter, and they will keep their loft (warmth) many more years than a synthetic sleeping bag provided you always store it properly when not using it.
I’ve owned a mountain of different bags through the years, but the absolute best sleeping bag I have is a down-filled Marmot Pinnacle. After 15 years of use and proper storage, it is still as lofty and warm as it ever was.
Do your research before you buy and you will know the right questions to ask and details to look for, before being faced with 50 different sleeping bag choices and too much to evaluate. It really will help you with your decision, and narrow down your options.
A final key thing to do before you buy a sleeping bag: get in it. They aren’t all the same size, and neither are human beings. Some are roomier in the toe box, some have wider girths with plenty of elbowroom to move around, and you need to choose between different lengths determined by how tall you are.
Be sure to crawl into a sleeping bag, and take it into consideration if you’re buying online or through a catalog. You might want to take a trip to a camping or outdoor store to try a few on for size, literally, before you decide on which kind to buy.