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Sleeping Bag Shopping Guide

by: The Backpacker Editors

The Standard:
A 15° or 20°F bag suffices for most three-season trips. Down is a highly compressible insulation and provides more warmth for its weight than synthetic fills, which are preferable for use in wet conditions. Look for a zipper draft tube, a draft collar, and a trim-fitting design for maximum heat-trapping efficiency. Condensation will dry faster on a dark-colored shell.

Adjust the temperature rating up or down if you're a very cold or warm sleeper, or if your typical hike exposes you to sweltering desert temperatures or frigid mountain air. Some companies make bags specially shaped to fit the female form.

For This
Choose This
Temp. Rating
Look For
These Features
Summer/ desert 40°F Brushed or fleece lining for no-stick comfort, minimal features (hood and draft collar optional), wraparound zipper to open for blanket use
Rainforest - Synthetic fill, water-resistant shell
Winter 0°F Adjustable draft collar, contoured hood, 6" of extra length for storing water bottles, clothes, and cold-sensitive gear
High mountain/ arctic -20°F or lower Down fill for compressibility, extra length for water-bottle storage, extra girth (optional) for layering
Snow cave/ tentless - Water-resistant/windproof shell or bivy sack

For This Sleep Style Look For
These Features
Thrasher Elastic seams (for stretch), semirectangular shape or big-guy girth (for more space), or expansion panels (for adjustable space)
Snuggler Mating zippers on same-length bags so you can cozy up with a significant other
Perspirer Brushed or fleece lining (or bag liner), synthetic fill, breathable shell (no laminates or special coatings), two-way zipper

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Aug 20, 2009

Don't people camp in fall?

Joanne DeMay
Oct 23, 2008

When will backpacker (and all the catalogs)include the EN, or European Norm, on sleeping bag ratings?


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