Getting ready for your next camping trip? Sleeping bags are one of the most important pieces of camping equipment you can invest in, second only to a good tent. With the ability to keep you either nice and toasty throughout colder nights or adequately ventilated in the summer heat, the right sleeping bag will last you for years, so it’s important to choose the best one for your lifestyle.
Sleeping Bag Guide: Choosing The Right Sleeping Bag
There’s a few different things you’ll need to factor in when shopping for a new sleeping bag, such as the shape, how it’s insulated and which season to go for.
Types of sleeping bag
Square Sleeping Bags
Square sleeping bags are the most common shape of sleeping bag you’ll encounter. When zipped up and ready to be occupied, they’re rectangular, but their namesake is based on how they look when fully folded out. This shape of sleeping bag is typically available as either a single occupancy sleeping bag or as a double sleeping bag. Square sleeping bags serve a double purpose of being able to be used as a blanket for sleepovers or when making a den, which is why there’s plenty of kids’ sleeping bags to choose from.
Mummy Sleeping Bags
Mummy sleeping bags are generally geared more towards outdoor enthusiasts that are likely to be camping outside in all types of climate. They differ from square sleeping bags in that they feature an insulated hood along with a narrow shape optimised to retain heat. The downside to mummy sleeping bags is that there’s less room to move around or stretch your legs in order to get comfy, but they’re very effective in keeping you warm.
Sleeping Bag Seasons
Whilst shopping for sleeping bags, you’ll see them referred to by season and for those unfamiliar with the lingo, this can be quite confusing. Despite there being only four seasons, seasonal sleeping bag ratings reach up to 5 in total.
1 Season Sleeping Bag
One season sleeping bags are suitable for warm summer’s nights, they’re well ventilated and have lots of free space on the inside for air to move around in order for built up heat to dissipate.
2 Season Sleeping Bag
Two season sleeping bags are more suitable for when the weather starts to cool down, they’re ideally used in the spring and summer.
3 Season Sleeping Bag
Three season sleeping bags will serve you well all the way up until late autumn and early winter, when the temperatures aren’t expected to be sub-zero throughout the night.
4 Season Sleeping Bag
Four season sleeping bags are very well-insulated over their 1-3 season counterparts. They perform well throughout the winter months when the temperature drops below 0°.
5 Season Sleeping Bag
Five season sleeping bags are worlds apart from any other type of season rating, they’re designed with extreme temperatures in mind which you’d likely encounter when climbing Mt Everest.
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How Sleeping Bags Are Insulated
Sleeping bags are often insulated by one of two common fillings, down or synthetic. At the moment, all of our sleeping bags have a synthetic fill. Depending on the performance required of the bag, we adjust the ratio of polyester to hollow-fibre as well as the weight of the fill.
Down is made from bird plumage, typically duck or goose. It’s one of the best natural insulators and is used for all sorts of outdoor gear from winter jackets to sleeping bags. Down insulation effectively seals in warm air and is measured by what’s known as a fill rating. The drawback of down insulation is that it has a tendency to get damp from your body moisture which can compromise the effectiveness of the insulation. It also takes a long time to dry off, so be mindful of any water leaking into your tent that could touch the surface of your sleeping bag.
Due to the ethics behind sourcing real down and our commitment to ethical trading, we don’t use much down in our entire product offering, however in the instances in which we do use real down feathers, we ensure that the feathers are certified by the Chinese Feather and Down Industrial Association, which means that the feathers are sourced as a by-product of the food industry as opposed to live-plucked.
Here at Regatta Great Outdoors, we’ve developed our own synthetic down insulation technology to mimic the effects of real down. It’s made from ultra fine synthetic fibres which help trap in pockets of air. Whilst it doesn’t pack down as small as its real counterpart, our synthetic sleeping bags are more affordable and still insulate even when wet. They’re also quick-drying, so you won’t be waiting around as much for it to dry off.
Down vs Synthetic: Which Should You Choose?
Down and synthetic insulation both have their own benefits and drawbacks. Down is typically more expensive and is best used in colder climates in order to get the most out of it. It also easily folds down, so your down sleeping bag can be stored in a much smaller bag. On the other hand, if down insulation gets wet, the feathers will flatten and lose their loft, which significantly hinders the level of insulation provided by the sleeping bag.
If you don’t plan on going camping all year round or climbing an icy mountain, a synthetic sleeping bag will do just the trick. You won’t have to worry about it getting wet and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a sleeping bag that’ll be effective in most of the scenarios you’ll ever use it.
Comfort ratings come from a standardised test (EN13537, and more recently EN23537:2016) and suggests the best temperature for using the sleeping bag in. For our adult sleeping bags, we recommend using the comfort temperature rating when choosing the most suitable sleeping bag above any other rating. Our current range covers temperatures as low as -1°.