Preparing to venture into the wilderness requires essentials vital to enjoy the experience. What’s more, without good preparation, your safety may be at risk.
One of the most important considerations when planning an adventure into the high country, kayak camping, or rain forest hike is a quality backpacking sleeping bag.
Why is a Sleeping Bag so Important?
Whether you are going out for a couple of days or a month, getting good sleep on a trek is hard to come by.
Hours of plodding along a winding track, or climbing steep terrain is energy sapping. A weary hiker, exhausted from hours on a back country trail, is so tired they could sleep on the ground below. Or so the myth would have us believe.
The facts are that in order to get quality sleep you must be insulated from the elements to keep warm and also need a level of comfort.
Sleep is Important and Here’s Why
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body is affected in the worst way possible in a situation where help is not immediately at hand.
The first and most obvious symptom is feeling drowsy. Making decisions and struggling on what to do next has a serious consequence.
Struggling to understand maps or your GPS, is a sign of sleep deprivation. Confusion in what direction to take, or taking a bad route requiring a backtrack, are also signs of poor sleep.
If night after night of inadequate sleep happens over a few days, the impact on your nervous system and well-being deteriorates.
Your hiking trek which should have been a way to unwind and enjoy natural splendors, turns into a nightmare.
What Style of Sleeping Bag is Good For You?
The best style of sleeping bag is one right for the conditions and terrain you intend to take it. As a rule of thumb there are four styles to choose from.
- Alpine bags: Designed for extreme conditions, these bags are in the ‘mummy shape’. Temperatures above the snowline combined with high winds require a sleeping bag to give warmth, but also light to carry. It is also important to have a waterproof shell to protect the sleeper. Alpine bags use high quality down and are more expensive.
- Bush-walking bags: These sleeping bags have less rigorous specifications and often used as travel bags. Tapered rectangular shape bags roll into a small size making them versatile for travelers. Bush-walking bags are light and focus on practicality and comfort.
- General Use Sleeping Bags: While these bags are robust, the technical requirements in design and manufacture are not as stringent. Designed for school camps and sleep overs, they come in tapered and rectangular styles. These bags are generally too heavy for the backpacker.
The Difference in Materials Used for Sleeping Bags
The basic aim of a sleeping bag is to stop warm air generated by your body escaping into cold air outside.
To keep warm, air must be trapped around you. Air has the unique property of being a lousy conductor of heat which makes it a fantastic insulator.
Pockets of insulating material are built into a sleeping bag to hold warmth. It is generally called the loft, and the higher the loft-to-weight ratio, the better protection for the sleeper.
Sleeping bags are divided into synthetic and down. While a down sleeping bag may have a synthetic outer layer, the difference is in the stuff to keep you warm.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking a sleeping bag is just a two outer layers stuffed with filling. They require intricate construction to overcome problems. A sleeper turning throughout the night disturbs insulating materials that migrate to the bottom of the bag, leaving a cold area right where the sleeper needs warmth the most.
Here is a run down of materials and construction design in popular sleeping bags to help choose the right one for you.
Synthetic Sleeping bags
To keep the outer shell of a sleeping bag water resistant, materials such as microfiber are used. They have a high thread count with more filaments than other materials such as nylon or polyester.
Another important feature is the lack of coating or laminating of the materials. This allows a certain amount of air flow making the material breathable. As a sleeper perspires in the night, moisture must be allowed to wick away through material and not form as condensation.
An example of synthetic fabrics are <a href= “http://www.gore-tex.com/technology/outwear/gore-windstopper-products” >Gore Windstopper 830 fabric.</a>
Design and Construction
- Offset quilt layer is two layers of synthetic material over each other. One layer is stitched to the outside shell, while the bottom layer is stitched to the inner lining. Because they are offset, gaps where air could get in are avoided.
- Quilted-through layering is a simple method of construction whereby a sheet is cut to fit the shape of the bag then sown within the shell and lining to hold insulation. A method better suited to warm weather bags.
- Shingle construction uses overlapping synthetic insulation stitched to the shell and lining. The overlapping sheets prevents cold spots much the way shingles on a roof keep out the elements.
- Wave construction is similar to shingle except this type of manufacture uses longer pieces of material. The insulation is compressed into a wave shape.
Top selling brands of synthetic sleeping bags are: <a href= “http://www.thenorthface.com/shop/cats-meow-2”>Cat’s Meow.</a>
<a href= “http://www.kelty.com/tuck-20-en-22/”>Kelty Tuck.</a>
<a href= “http://www.mountainhardwear.com/hyperlamina-flame-20f- -6c-regular-1568241.html”>Mountain Hardware Hyperlamina Flame.</a>
Down Sleeping Bags
Down is a natural fiber that provides more warmth per once than any other material. It has a unique property to slow down air movement and trap warmth.
It is also lighter and more compressible than synthetic counterparts. Down outlasts other insulation by 3 to 5 times longer.
Although down sleeping bags are more expensive than others, it is often wise not to skimp on quality.
Design and Construction
The shortcoming of down bags is wet weather. When down is soaked it loses all of its insulating properties. Nanotechnology has resulted in hydrophobic coating which basically means the filaments cling together to better repel water. A down sleeping bag should always be kept in a waterproof backpack for best usage.
The origins of where down comes from is an issue for many. Videos of mistreatment of ducks and geese in getting feathers raises concern about the ethics of the industry. The Responsible Down Standard to ensure the ethical treatment of animals has been set in place to safeguard animal’s welfare.
- Sewn-through is a simple technique of sewing through the shell and liner joining the two layers. The downfall of this construction is in heat escaping at the seams.
- Baffles are vertical walls of lightweight material to trap down and stop it from shifting around. These channels can be continuous to wrap all the way round the bag, or side blocked, mostly stopped near the zipper and effective in cold weather.
Top brands in down sleeping bags are:
<a href= “http://www.rei.com/product/111165/rei-co-op-igneo-25-sleeping-bag”>Rei Co-op Igneo 25.</a>
<a href= “http://www.nemoequipment.com/product/?p=Salsa%2030%220Reg”>Nemo Salsa 30.</a>