For a good night’s sleep – what sleeping bag to choose?
Inadequate preparation for an overnight stay, whether one in the field or in a hostel, can spoil an entire trip. When going on a journey by bicycle, on foot or on skis, we should choose a sleeping bag so that it not only fulfills its thermal function, but is also lightweight, takes up as little space as possible and performs well in the anticipated conditions of an overnight stay.
What to follow?
Before you start your search for the right sleeping bag, you should answer a few questions. First of all, under what conditions we will use it? Do we anticipate minus temperatures and strong winds, or will it be more like warmer summer nights or sleeping under a canopy? After that, we need to consider whether we rely on a universal solution or can afford to have several sleeping bags tailored to specific conditions. In addition to the type of filling, weather resistance or weight, we must remember that the sleeping bag is simply to be comfortable.
The contoured foot compartment provides
extra comfort and warmth (fot. Outdoor Magazine)
It is important to be able to read the temperature of sleeping bags. One way might be to use a standard that specifies how good an insulator a sleeping bag is and in what temperature range it will do its job, i.e. keep us warm (there are different ranges for women than for men). Most manufacturers report data in the older 13537 standard. This one, however, is no longer valid and has been replaced by the latest 23537 standard (the full name is PN-EN ISO 23537, which means that it is both a Polish (PN) and European (EN) standard and is a standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)), designating the following temperatures:
- Upper comfort temperature/comfort temperature (T comf) – is the lowest temperature at which a standard woman will comfortably sleep in a curled-up position without feeling cold; a standard woman is considered to be 25 years old, 160 cm tall and weighing 60 kg;
- lower comfort temperature/temperature limit (T lim) – is the lowest temperature at which a standard man will comfortably sleep in a hunched position without feeling cold; a standard man is considered to be 25 years old, 173 cm tall and weighing 70 kg;
- extreme temperature (T ext) – is the lowest temperature at which a standard woman can survive 6 hours in a hunched position, but can experience hypothermia and frostbite. This is the parameter least useful for the average tourist, and we should be guided mainly by the above two.
- Upper comfort temperature (T max) – an additional, designated for some models; the temperature at which a standard man can sleep with his arms out without sweating too much.
What are the disadvantages of the EN ISO 23537 standard? First of all, it underestimates the comfort temperature by about 3-5 °C. Secondly, the difference between the lower comfort temperature and the extreme temperature is too large, as it averages as much as 20 degrees, which is simply impossible and difficult to relate to in reality. Third, the standard theoretically applies to extreme temperatures, in practice – not applicable at temperatures below -20°C.
This is why it is sometimes worth focusing not on standards, but on the “loft” of the sleeping bag, i.e. the thickness of the down. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is not about weight – higher down weight does not always mean better thermal insulation properties if the down is too compressed. Thus, only the greater the thickness of the air layer between the insulating fibers, the greater the thermal comfort at lower temperatures.
Down or synthetic?
Down sleeping bags contain natural filling – it is usually goose down (sometimes duck down, with slightly inferior properties). Their biggest advantage is good insulation, while keeping the weight low (thanks to a higher coefficient of elasticity, in the case of down expressed in Cuins). A down sleeping bag will at the same time take up less space than a synthetic sleeping bag. On top of that, it’s much more durable – slower to wear out, despite being washed several times. The downsides, however, are definitely the price and poor resistance to humid environments.
The most advanced line of the Pajak brand – Radical. Polish white goose down fill with an expansion rate of 900 cuin, GELANOTS Ultra Light Rip Stop fabric. The highest thermal performance with the best compression and weight. The lightest sleeping bag of this line weighs a mere 190 g, while the warmest one has an extreme temperature of -73℃! (fot. Pajak)
Synthetic sleeping bags are cheaper and more resistant to moisture. With a shorter drying time, they will perform better in areas where we can expect heavy rain or wet snow. And even if they do not dry completely, they still have some insulating properties, unlike a wet down-filled sleeping bag.
Deuter Exosphere -6° L synthetic sleeping bag, comfort temperature 0°C, three-season (spring, summer, autumn), will work well in rainy conditions or in areas exposed to water
When camping in winter, in solid cold, nothing can replace down. However, it is worth the effort to protect the sleeping bag from contact with water – moisture, condensation, precipitation. When going on such camping trips, it is worth equipping yourself with a winter sleeping bag, with a strong and at least somewhat waterproof outer material.
Cumulus brand sleeping bags from the Excuistic series were created for polar expeditions and high altitude winter expeditions. They are made of Pertex® Quantum Pro 36 gsm waterproof outer fabric (photo. Cumulus)
The outer material of the sleeping bag..
… is as important as its filling. After all, moisture permeability is crucial not only in summer, but also in winter. The material, after a night spent in a sleeping bag, must not be wet – it should allow the water vapor that we give off with sweat and damp clothes while camping to escape.
Examples of fabrics are Pertex Quantum (weighing 27 g/sq. m., well breathable, also suitable for sewing outerwear), Pertex Endurance (36 or 44 g/sq. in., having a thin membrane, suitable for humid conditions) or Toray AirStatic – something for fans of lightness (20 g/m sq.), which is a very durable fabric, often chosen in summer sleeping bags.
Malachowski 300 II Ultralight down sleeping bag. It weighs 480g, with 300g of 850 cuin fill – Toray AirStatic outer material (photo. Malachowski)
Sleeping bag design and fit
We can also divide sleeping bags by shape. The first type is a quilt, that is, a sleeping bag in the course of a rectangle. It is rarely used in hiking, as it holds heat quite poorly. However, it is a good solution for shelter, in caravans or campers. The second type of sleeping bag is a mummy – tapering from the shoulders to the feet and equipped with a hood, an essential item in winter and windy conditions.
The classic mummy shape. Sleeping bag for women – Protect Down Bag -21C by Mammut (photo. Mammut)
An important part of the sleeping bag is the zipper. It can be located centrally, on the side or overhead. The central solution is the most versatile, comfortable for left- and right-handed people, which will be appreciated especially by hammock users. The side zipper makes it easier to reconcile with collars and slats – the long zipper allows you to connect two sleeping bags, while the L-shaped zipper allows you to unzip to form a quilt. The third zipper, that is, over the head, is the most favorable thermal solution.
In addition, pay attention to the comfortable width and foot space. Sleeping in the cold, we will hide various items of equipment inside (such as. A hot water bottle or gas cartridge). In this situation, the sleeping bag must not be too tight. On the other hand, in a sleeping bag that is too loose, the body will lose heat to warm the unnecessary space.
Storage – how to care for a sleeping bag?
One of the most important issues affecting the quality of a sleeping bag is its storage upon return. At home, let’s not keep it compressed in a cover. The best way to lay or hang it loosely in the closet and pack it only before your next trip. Otherwise, the filling will more quickly lose its elasticity and thus its heat-insulating properties.
Importantly, we do not recommend special bags with straps to compress the volume of the sleeping bag. Instead, we advise you to stay with the manufacturer’s bags, which are usually well sized in volume and do not damage the loft.
Silverized Microfiber Liner, a thin liner that allows you to keep the sleeping bag fresh for a longer period of time; it works well for travel or in summer cottages, where you can use it as a separate bedding on warm days
… is something that can greatly enhance the quality of sleep. It is not only to make it more comfortable, but also provides additional insulation from the ground. Instead of a mat, we also recommend considering an inflatable hiking mattress, which weighs practically the same (or less, takes up much less space), that is several times thicker and thus more comfortable. In this case, you can use the R-Value, which determines the degree of thermal insulation – the higher, the less you feel the cold from the ground or floor.
SALEWA COMFORT MAT self-inflating hiking mat
To dress up or not?
Warm clothing during low temperatures does not interfere with anything, provided that it does not block the free spread of warm air to the outer layer of down. This is why we should not immediately put on an extra jacket and membrane pants despite the cold outside. What should suffice in such conditions is thermal underwear and a warm layer along with wool socks and a hat.
More sleeping bag examples
The North Face Gold Kazoo down sleeping bag, filled with Pro Down down treated with water repellent treatment, lightweight, will perform well at temperatures of approx. 0°C Malachowski Ultralight III 300 touring sleeping bag with down filling, temp. limit of +5 degrees, it will work well during transitional seasons; it is characterized by very low weight and high abrasion resistance thanks to Toray Airtastic fabric Year-round sleeping bag Pajak Core 550, suitable for conditions down to a few degrees below zero. The good thermal performance of the sleeping bag is due to the modern design of the down chambers and the quality 700 FP duck down (photo. Pajak) Malachowski Falcon 550 Limited down sleeping bag, sewn from Pertex Quantum fabric with PVD (physical vapor depositijn) aluminum finish that reflects up to 70% of infrared radiation generated by the human body Cumulus X-LITE 300 sleeping bag, made of the lightest downproof fabric – 19-gram Toray® Airtastic. Thanks to its light weight (total weight is 465g) it is suitable for bikepacking, cross-country skiing or sport climbing. Comfort temperature: 2℃, limit temperature: -4℃ (fot. Cumulus) Pajak Radical 1Z sleeping bag, a super-lightweight down sleeping bag for summer and autumn-spring use (total weight: 440g) (pic . Pajak) Marmot Warmcube Expedition Sleeping Bag Regular; combines the advantages of down and synthetic fiber fill (Warmcube 800FP has an inner layer of down and ElixRMicro synthetic insulation in the outer layer); Outer fabrics: Pertex Shield 30D and Pertex Quantum. The manufacturer’s recommended use temperature is -18°C (fot. Marmot) Deuter Astro Pro 1000 down sleeping bag with revolutionary down separation chamber system and innovative ErgoFoot system.
Sleeping bag for demanding temperatures – the flexibility-giving Thermo Stretch Inside system makes the sleeping bag wrap tightly around the body, making it easier and faster to retain man-made heat. Comfort temperature: -12℃, limit temperature: – 20℃ Cumulus Progressif synthetic sleeping bag, suitable for use in wet conditions. It uses 334 g/m² Climashield Apex moisture-resistant insulation, which is additionally protected on the outside with Pertex Quantum Pro waterproof fabric. Comfortable temperature: 1℃, border temperature: -5℃, total weight: 1230g (fot. Cumulus) Salewa Diadem Extreme Winter Sleeping Bag, the warmest sleeping bag in the collection offering warmth in temperatures as low as -25°C. The tailored design and functionally tailored hood further increase the thermal performance, while reducing the weight of the model. Inside the sleeping bag is 1250g of high quality 90/10 goose down with 800+ cuin spring rate. The strong nylon face fabric with ripstop fibers and PFC-free DWR treatment is not only highly durable, but also very comfortable, and its densely woven structure prevents down from coming out and heat loss (photo. Salewa) The north face Eco Trace 2C synthetic sleeping bag, made from entirely recycled materials. The manufacturer’s recommended use temperature is 2°C The North Face Inferno expedition sleeping bag, featuring an aluminized XReflex™ shell for improved heat retention and a waterproof NeoVent Air™ system to protect the head and feet. Works very well in temperatures dropping to -40°C