Few customers come in complaining that they’re too hot in their sleeping bags. They’re almost always seeking a bit more warmth. Advancements in insulation, construction, temperature ratings and design have changed the landscape for sleeping bags. We’ll help you match your preferences, body style and sleeping habits to the right product.
East Ridge Outfitters has done the market research and has chosen the best sleeping bags to meet these core values:
- THERMAL EFFICIENCY
- WEIGHT & PACK SIZE
Which bag in today’s market will be right for you?
A sleeping bag’s comfort & performance primarily rely on insulation, construction and temperature ratings, but don’t underestimate the shape and size of a product when it comes to a good night’s rest and overall satisfaction.
- Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are recommended to cut weight and maximize warmth, but it can feel claustrophobic to some.
- Rectangular bags offer lots of room to move, but don’t retain heat and are heavy.
- Semi-Rectangular bags have a tapered fit for the best of both worlds.
- Women’s-Specific bags have shorter lengths and increased insulation for colder sleepers.
The EN Rating System
To address consistency issues between bags, the outdoor industry is shifting to the EN (or European Norm) 13537 System, which tests a mannequin dressed in one base layer and a hat placed in a sleeping bag on top of a sleeping pad with an R-Value of 4. Sensors record heat retention and produce three results:
- The Comfort Limit is based on a standard woman at the lowest temperature to have a comfortable night’s sleep.
- The Lower Limit is based on a standard man as the lowest temperature to have a comfortable night’s sleep.
- The Extreme Limit is the minimum temperature for a standard woman to survive the night. This is NOT enjoyable and should not be used for camping. This rating is for survival only.
The main advantage to EN 13537 is that it provides more accurate comparisons when gauging sleeping bag temperature ratings between brands, but there are still variables that come into play that you should consider.
- People are variable in how much body heat they retain and produce and at what temperature they are comfortable.
- Environments are variable beyond temperature, with wind and moisture coming into play.
- Accessory gear can vary from what clothing people are wearing, to their sleeping pad, to shelter protection.
- People move in their sleep and shifts cause air to move around allowing cool air to come in. This is especially true for side sleepers. The best way to test this is to try on a sleeping bag in a store, roll around, check the draft tube and collar, and make sure the hood fits snugly.
Down insulation is widely popular for its warmth-retention-to-weight ratio, along with its compressibility, however here in the northeast the humid climate can make down bags problematic. Down’s downside is moisture. Once it gets wet, whether from body sweat, tent condensation, or gear failure, it loses its insulating ability. To combat this, many brands, like The North Face and Big Agnes, are debuting water-resistant down in their sleeping bags. The technology involves a light polymer coating said to be inexpensive, add negligible weight and preserve loft, breathability and warmth whether wet or dry. It doesn’t waterproof down, but sure does help resist common moisture sources.
Synthetic insulation attempts to mimick down’s performance and beat its weaknesses. Synthetic fills typically dry quickly and retain insulation power when wet. They are also hypoallergenic and can be made with recycled material, which appeals to many customers who are concerned about the ethical treatment of geese. Synthetics cost less than comparable down fills, too.
Our best recommendations for sleeping bags: