The main objective when preparing your backpacking equipment is to carry less weight. The sleeping bag is one of the bulkiest camping items, so it is important to choose the one that is more compact and lightweight. However, aside from convenience in carrying the sleeping bag, the primary consideration is staying warm throughout the night.
Before purchasing a sleeping bag, find out on which area you will be camping. Check the temperature in that area, and take note of the coldest temperature. Also research on the general climate – whether it is warm and dry, or humid and wet. Get to know the nature of the camping grounds, whether it is generally just soil and dry grass, or is a rocky ground. It is colder when you are lying down on a rock compared with dry soil. Sleeping bags provide warmth with its fillings. There are two categories of sleeping bag fillings: natural down and synthetic fiber. Natural down is made of natural feathers stocked together. It is known to be warmer than synthetic fiber, but is heavier to carry. It is also not useful in wet environment. But there are new designs that make use of water resistant fabrics to prevent water from seeping through the fillings. If you are certain that the camping area is warm, then you can settle for a sleeping bag made of synthetic fiber which is light weight and generally cheaper. It also dries faster than the ones made of natural down.
When you have decided on the kind of material that you want for your sleeping bag, then move on to selecting the right size. It is important to use a sleeping bag that fits you just right because if the sleeping bag is too large, the space inside the bag will cause you to feel cold. A snug fit results to a warmer feel since it conserves heat and maintains the body’s heat radiation to your skin’s surface.
There are also different designs for sleeping bags. The basic design is the rectangular shaped sleeping bag that looks like a sack and zips up on the sides. The new designs include the mummy type design, where the sleeping bag takes the shape of the body. It is wide on the shoulders, and narrows down to the legs and feet. This provides less space inside the sleeping bag, conserving more heat. This type is more expensive than the rectangular type, but is more comfortable. There are also sleeping bags with built in hoods that keep you warmer since the head radiates heat more than the other parts of the body.
Aside from the sleeping bag, also purchase a sleeping pad or mat. This is used to prevent the cold ground from getting in direct contact with your sleeping bag, and will keep you warmer. The mat also prevents moisture from seeping through the sleeping bag from the bare ground. Some people recommend that you buy a cheaper sleeping bag and buy a really warm sleeping mat.