There is no piece of camping gear more important than your sleeping bag. Without that, you are not camping—you’re simply surviving. The problem is there is a huge range of brands, quality, and performance options to consider. Here are a few tips to make sure you choose wisely.
Most sleeping bags are designated as either three- or four-season bags. Three-season bags will keep you comfortable down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, you want to look for a four-season bag. Insulation can be either natural goose down or a synthetic equivalent. The advantage of synthetics is it maintains warmth even when wet, though some of the higher-end natural bags now incorporate treated goose down that repels water and also maintains loft when damp.
Room and Comfort
Length and width at the shoulders are the basic size factors you’ll want to consider, especially if you’re looking at a mummy-style bag. Make sure the bag is long enough to cinch the drawstring around your head without binding and that it still leaves you room in the foot box. For car camping with the spouse, a double bag atop an air mattress may be just the ticket.
The advantage of down insulation is its compressibility and light weight, both critical to any kind of wilderness expedition. But synthetics have come a long way and now rival down for packability and warmth. If space is an issue, look for bags sold with some form of “compression” stuff sack that will allow you to really cinch down for the smallest possible package.