Ever been on an overnight camping or backpacking trip but didn’t have a sleeping bag so you borrowed one from a friend or someone you knew? Then, after a long day of playing and hiking it was time for bed and you looked forward to getting some sleep because you were so tired? So you crawled into that bag only to find through the course of the night that you either froze to death because you weren’t warm enough or tossed and turned because of discomfort or maybe even both. Ultimately, what was supposed to be a great time left you cranky and exhausted because of a lack of sleep?
I can admit that I’ve had one too many experiences with that and boy, that was enough for me know that if I want to really want to enjoy my trips, finding the perfect sleeping bag for me is a priority. The problem is that when I went to look for my “perfect bag” there was so many choices I didn’t know which bag would work best for me. That’s when I did some research found out what I needed to know in order to make my decision. Here is what I learned.
There are basically two types of sleeping bags. One is the mummy bag and the other is the “old school” rectangular sleeping bag. Now mind you, ain’t nothing wrong with old school at all. In fact, it may be your preference once you discover what it’s like verses the mummy bag.
The major difference between the two styles is the cut and shape of the bags. The mummy bag is more confining. You can think of it like your own personal cocoon where you can go to bed at night as a caterpillar and wake up the next morning as a butterfly. You’re wrapped up tight with not a lot of room to move. The rectangular bed on the other hand gets its name from its rectangular shape and lets you move your legs.
Because of the cuts of the two bags and the room they offer you may find that you’re on your back sleeping in the mummy bag while the rectangular bag will let you sleep on your side, stomach or back. And depending on how large the rectangular bag is you can shift your body into even the most unique but standard for you sleeping positions in order to get a comfortable night’s rest.
There are some sacrifices though in going with a bag that offers all that room to move. The biggest possibly being your heating capabilities and warmth ratings. See, while having all that room is nice, just like having a big house with tall ceilings it takes a lot more to heat the inside. The extra space requires more effort to keep warm and therefore, isn’t as effective for keeping out the cold as a mummy bag is. Of course having said that, the pajamas you choose to sleep in can help make up for the warmth differences between the bags as well…up to certain temperatures. Suffice to say that artic temps may require more than a teddy or pair of boxers.
The other sacrifice is the size or bulkiness of the bag. A mummy sleeping bag for the most part will be much smaller for carrying around which is why it is a preference for many backpackers/hikers. The rectangular sleeping bag isn’t as small but since it’s not typical to be carrying it, other than somewhere in a vehicle while getting to your intended destination, the bulkiness of the bag is not as big an issue.
Temperature ratings are pretty important pieces of information to consider when choosing a bag as well. And although mummy and rectangular sleeping bags can cover a wide variety of temperatures, mummy bags are the typical designs for the extreme polar temps such as those you would find in the Andes.
If you see a +20 degree rating that would mean that the bag should be warm enough for temperatures that are 20 degrees or warmer. And if you see a – 20 degree rating then it has been determined that the bag should be warm enough for minus 20 degree weather.
It is important to remember though that the temperature ratings are guides for reference only. Because, just like spicy food, eating a jalapeno pepper for some isn’t a big deal…but for others eating one would feel like it would burn the skin right off their tongue. The same goes for a sleeping bag. A +20 degree rating would mean that for most the bag would be warm enough. The best way to pick a warm enough bag is to go with one that handles a 10 degree colder weather than what you’re anticipating to be sleeping in. Choosing in that manner should have you…covered. (No pun intended.) And again of course, appropriate sleep wear should accommodate the colder or warmer needs you may have. on sale michael kors bags