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How to Choose a Sleeping Bag: Temperature Ratings

Being warm at night is crucial to a restful night’s sleep and enjoying your outdoor experience. Selecting a sleeping bag that will do the job can ensure that you sleep well and are comfortable at night.

How to Choose a Sleeping Bag: Temperature Ratings

While most sleeping bags boast a temperature rating for which the bag is recommended, there are plenty of additional factors that can affect your comfort and warmth in a sleeping bag. Explore these factors with us to find the right sleeping bag for you!

Temperature rating

The recommended temperature rating is of course a key player in identifying a sleeping bag's warmth. There’s some variable terminology in this field, however, as detailed below:

  • EN Rating: Stands for “European Norm,” typically provides an upper comfort and lower limit rating

  • Comfort Rating: The approximate lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag is considered “comfortable”

  • Lower Limit Rating: The lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag is considered “safe.” Keep in mind you will likely be cold at this temperature!

  • 2- Season: Recommended for warm weather- think summer, late spring, and early fall

  • 3- Season: Acceptable for average temperatures through spring, summer and fall

Size and Fit

Since your body is the primary source of heat inside your sleeping bag, finding a proper fit is important. If a sleeping bag is too large or too long, there is more space to heat up unnecessarily.

On the other hand, the insulation’s loft is what maintains your body heat. If the sleeping bag is too small or too tight and the insulation becomes compressed, the lack of loft will reduce thermal efficiency.

Sleeping Pad

As previously mentioned, maintaining loft is the key to staying warm. However, when lying in a sleeping bag, your body compresses all of the insulation underneath. It is strongly recommended to utilize a sleeping pad as an insulating layer to maintain warmth.

Gender

Some sleeping bags come in a women’s specific version, with the assumption that women may sleep colder or lose heat from different parts of their bodies. Some features include:

  • A shorter and narrower cut for more petite users

  • Additional insulation in key areas where women tend to lose heat faster, such as the feet and torso regions

  • Even some unisex sleeping bags feature a separate women’s EN or comfort rating.        

Liners

To achieve greater versatility from your sleeping bag, you can incorporate a sleeping bag liner to boost the warmth of your bag. They can add anywhere from 5 to 19 degrees to a sleeping bag.

  • Use it alone in super warm temperatures

  • Leave it behind to use only your sleeping bag in moderate temperatures

  • Pair them together when it’s really cold

  • A bonus to using a sleeping bag liner is that they are easy to clean and can keep your sleeping bag cleaner, longer.


Overall, there are many factors that contribute to the warmth of your sleeping bag. The key is to create the right combination for your body type and sleeping preferences, and you’re sure to rest well and enjoy your night in the backcountry.