Whether you are spending several days in the back country or you are doing a weekend of car camping, temperature rating for your sleeping bag is a major consideration for staying warm and having a restful night’s sleep.
Keep in mind that you are the source of heat in your sleeping bag. So along with temperature rating, you need to make sure your sleeping bag fits well. If the sleeping bag is too big or too long, you are going to have to heat up more space and you may sleep colder than the actual temperature rating for the bag. Also if your bag is too small for you, you are going to compress some of that insulation. So, you know, along with temperature rating, the size of the sleeping bag really does matter.
Most sleeping bags will have a temperature rating. Some will just have a flat 20 degree, 15 degree rating. Some sleeping bags will have a European norm or EN rating and that is typically it gives you an upper limit of comfort and a lower limit rating or a risk rating. You want to stay away from that lower limit, because you are definitely going to be cold at that point and you want to go more towards the comfort or the upper level rating.
These temperature ratings are a really good place to start, but they are not a given. So there is lots of other variables to consider when choosing a sleeping bag and we will touch on those points.
The first variable to consider is your sleeping pad. Now sleeping pads also have temperature ratings. Most of the time it is called an R-value. So the lower the R-value of a sleeping pad, the lower thermo efficiency it is going to have. The higher R-value it is going to insulate you better from the ground, from the cold ground. So if you have a zero degree sleeping bag, you are going to want to pair it with a four season sleeping pad. As well if you have a summer sleeping bag you are going to want to pair it with a sleeping pad that doesn’t necessarily give you a lot of warmth.
The second thing to talk about is the tent that you are in. So whether you are in a three season or a four season tent, keep in mind that it is going to be a little bit warmer inside the tent because you are trapping the heat, especially if you are in there with a couple of other people.
The third thing to consider is gender. So there are women specific sleeping bags that tend to have an EN or a comfort rating for women. There is also sleeping bags that are non gender specific and they will have a men’s comfort rating and a women’s comfort rating. So definitely keep that in mind.
The next thing to think about is metabolism. Some people sleep colder and some people sleep warmer than others. So if you pick a 20 degree sleeping bag and you are normally a really cold sleeper, you might want to go down 10 or 15 degrees, you know, just to get that comfort rating up a little bit more, just, as well, if you are a warm sleeper you can get away with the lower limit that a sleeping bag is rated.
Another thing to consider is just the clothing that you are wearing. So if you pick a sleeping bat that maybe doesn’t have a hood, you want to save weight, you know, wear a hat or wear some kind of insulating layer. As long as the clothing that you are wearing isn’t going to be constrictive. And so, you know, there is nothing wrong with getting a sleeping bag that is maybe a little bit warmer than you would like and, you know, wearing some sort of a down jacket or a layer that isn’t going to constrict any of the blood flow and that sort of thing. So clothing is definitely a good consideration where you are... if you are wearing, you know, long underwear or socks or something like that.
Choosing a specific temperature rating can be a daunting task and so I want to introduce the use of a sleeping bag liner. I have two here. This one is just a really light weight sleeping bag liner. You can see how packable that is. I have another small one here. But the use of sleeping bag liner has a lot of purposes. You can use it just as a summer sheet. You know, if it is really warm outside and you don’t need the sleeping bag. You can also couple it with your sleeping bag to add warmth. There is liner ... there is sleeping bag liners that actually come with a temperature rating. So they will say they improve the warmth by 10 or 15 degrees. And some others don’t have a temperature rating. But, all in all, it is a very useful thing. It even protects the inside of your bag. So, you know, if you are back packing all day and, you know, you crawl in your bag, you will get sweat on, you know, the sleeping bag liner. They are really easy to wash. So you can just throw that in the wash when you get home.
All in all, really packable and something very useful to couple with your bag.
One thing I want to mention that you might find out there is a dual rated sleeping bag. So it will have a rating of 55 slash 35 or something along those lines. And the idea behind a two temperature rating sleeping bag is that one side of the bag is more lofty than the other side. So if it is 35 degrees you would want to put the more lofty side up so it is going to trap in more of your heat. If it is a warmer day, a warmer night, you want to flip the bag to the other side. They are usually two different colors so you can tell the difference between the two sides and then that is not going to trap in as much of your heat. It is the less... you know, it has less fill on the other side. And also when you are sleeping on the bag itself, you are compressing that insulation anyway. So, you know, it is a nice consideration for people who are traveling who might be, you know, sleeping outside one night, sleeping inside the next night. Just a consideration, something you might find out there.
All in all there is lots of considerations when choosing a temperature rating for your sleeping bag. Keep everything in mind and sleep well.
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