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How to choose a hiking sleeping bag?

Sleeping bags are your most important layer of insulation when you’re camping in the wild, and the insulation-to-weight ratio of a sleeping bag is unmatched by other gear. Investing in a high-quality sleeping bag will not only provide you with a comfortable and warm night’s sleep, but also reduce the weight and storage space of the pack. Sleeping bags are versatile enough to keep you company whenever you plan to spend the night in the wild.

Let me introduces how to choose a suitable three-season sleeping bag and the evaluation criteria for sleeping bags, and then recommends some products with good performance.

1How to choose the right sleeping bag

How to choose a suitable sleeping bag? It mostly depends on your use and preferences, but here are a few types of sleeping bags and their pros and cons.

Traditional sleeping bag: This type of sleeping bag has a zipper and a hood. They are suitable for all kinds of outdoor activities, these sleeping bags are suitable for three seasons, and they perform well from early spring to late autumn. The weight is also basically moderate.

Ultra-light sleeping bag: This sleeping bag is the ultimate in warmth and weight. If you are more concerned about the weight of the sleeping bag, then you can choose this type of sleeping bag.

Camping sleeping bags: These large rectangular sleeping bags are generally heavy, they are more comfortable and less expensive, they are suitable for self-driving travel and use when you do not need to carry

Women’s Sleeping Bags: Most manufacturers have sleeping bags that are specially designed for women. These sleeping bags are usually smaller and have a shape that fits a woman’s body. And to take into account women’s sensitivity to cold, the placement of the padding has been redistributed.

Note: Carefully consider the conditions under which you will use your sleeping bag the longest, some sleeping bags are extremely versatile and some are only used for special situations.

If you’re on a budget, don’t overlook quality and try to choose a sleeping bag that balances warmth, weight, and versatility.

Consider some low-cost sleeping bags when traveling by car, and choose a lightweight sleeping bag for hiking and mountaineering.

Today, let’s talk about how to choose a sleeping bag that is enough to save your life outdoors! Generally, when choosing a sleeping bag, we will look at several rigid indicators, filling, temperature scale, thermal insulation material, etc.!

Let’s first take a look at several sleeping bags that are commonly used outdoors. From the appearance, there are generally mummy-style sleeping bags, envelope sleeping bags, and bottomless sleeping bags.

The mummy style, also called the mummy style, is designed to fit the curve of the human body and has good thermal performance. It is the first choice for most players in camping.

Envelope type, with large internal space and high comfort, suitable for players who pursue a comfortable experience

Bottomless sleeping bag, the back position is a thin layer of cloth, but there is no filler, some are directly opened by rope adjustment, need to be used with a relatively warm moisture-proof pad, not suitable for extremely cold environments, the biggest advantage is the advantage of weight and volume , suitable for high-end players who love UL.

So let’s take a look at several hard indicators for choosing a sleeping bag.


At present, the thermal insulation materials of sleeping bags on the market are uneven, such as down, fleece, chemical fiber cotton, etc. Compared with the characteristics of fleece and cotton, down occupies a great advantage.

Even newcomers who are just getting started still recommend down sleeping bags, such as 400g or 700g down sleeping bags, which are sufficient for low-altitude camping in summer.

temperature scale for sleeping bags

The temperature scale is a reference value for purchasing sleeping bags. There is a temperature reference table on each sleeping bag. Generally, it is best to look at the comfortable temperature and comfortable height when purchasing. The extreme temperature is strongly not recommended as a purchasing standard.

Extreme temperature: At this temperature, healthy women will feel cold, and there is a critical point of hypothermia, which is regarded as dangerous. Healthy males with good physique and cold tolerance will feel cold, but can spend the night safely. This is the minimum temperature for this sleeping bag to use.

Comfortable temperature: At this temperature, healthy women with good physique and cold tolerance, as well as healthy men, will not feel cold and will keep their body comfortable.

Comfortable high temperature: At this temperature, healthy women will not feel cold and will keep their body comfortable. Healthy men will feel warm, but not sweat too much.

However, since everyone’s body has different degrees of cold resistance and heat resistance, please note that the temperature scale is only a reference value, not an absolute value, and you need to choose according to your actual situation.

2 Choice of sleeping bag fillers

Before you buy a sleeping bag, it’s important to consider what kind of padding to use in your sleeping bag to keep you warm. Hiking sleeping bags can be filled with both down and synthetic materials.

Considering your use, environment, season, budget, and your level of experience can lead to better choices for your sleeping bag padding.

No.1 ▎ Down

Down sleeping bags have a high warmth-to-weight ratio, compress well, and last longer than synthetic sleeping bags. So this should be your first choice.

Bulkiness is one of the main indicators of down sleeping bags. The higher the bulkiness of the same weight, the better the warmth.

But be careful not to get your sleeping bags wet, they won’t keep you warm when wet and can be hard to dry.

→ Three important indicators of down:

Filling weight: Under the same conditions, the thermal insulation with a large amount of filling is relatively better, but at the same time sacrifices weight.

Down content: Down is composed of feathers and down. The feathers have a supporting function, and the down is more warm. The content of duck down can reach 90%, and the content of goose down can reach 95%. Goose down has better thermal insulation performance and better waterproof performance.

Bulkiness (Down): The volume of one ounce (unit of weight) of down is called bulkiness. The higher the bulkiness of down, the better the relative warmth and the easier it is to compress.

▲ Volume comparison of one ounce of down with different bulkiness

sleeping bag fabric

In some extremely cold places, whenever you get up in the morning, the small water droplets formed by the condensation of the heat in the tent will often splash on the sleeping bag, so the external material of the sleeping bag must have a certain degree of waterproofness to ensure that the sleeping bag is dry.

Since the down sleeping bag is wet and not easy to dry, it will lose its thermal performance, so it is necessary to use waterproof and breathable materials as its outer fabric. If the down sleeping bag fabric and lining are made of GRAMART® microfiber lightweight fabric, this fabric can significantly increase the bulkiness of the down, improve the thermal performance, and keep you warm in the cold.

No.2 ▎Synthetic material

Synthetic cotton includes four-hole cotton, seven-hole cotton, nine-hole cotton, P cotton, and C cotton.

Sleeping bags of this material keep you warm even when wet. But these sleeping bags are heavier and less compressible than down sleeping bags.

Synthetic sleeping bags are ideal for wet conditions or those who don’t have the skills to keep their gear dry.

3 Definition of Temperature Scale

The international popular temperature scale detection method: “EN13537”. This is the European temperature scale detection standard.

MAXIMUM (maximum temperature scale): The upper limit of the comfort range of high temperature is measured on a standard healthy male in a standard test environment, and the body part does not cover the sleeping bag when sleeping, and does not sweat too much.​​

COMFORT (Comfort Temperature): Measured in a standard test environment on a standard healthy woman in a relaxed state, not feeling cold (shivering), and maintaining physical comfort throughout the night.​​
LIMIT (Limited Temperature): Measured in a standard test environment on a standard healthy man curled up in a sleeping bag without shaking and staying comfortable all night.​​
EXTREME (Extreme Low Temperature): Measured in a standard test environment on a standard healthy woman, subject to severe cold weather (shivering). At this point there is a threat of hypothermia and even death. The extreme temperature is in the theoretical range and is only regarded as a dangerous tipping point that is difficult to reach.

→ Factors that affect the temperature scale of sleeping bags

Sleeping comfort is affected by external factors such as the comfort temperature scale of the sleeping bag, the thermal effect of the tent, personal physique, strong wind, humidity, thickness of the sleeping pad, and amount of clothing.

Personal factors such as hunger, fatigue, and environmental adaptability also have a major impact on sleep quality.

Local discomfort: When you wake up, you feel cold on your face because the nightcap is open, or because your feet are exposed on the sleeping pad and think that the cold ground is a common local discomfort, which will affect the quality of sleep at night.

So a horizontal comparison test shows a clear advantage.

4 Maintenance of sleeping bags

Proper maintenance of your down sleeping bag is necessary to keep it fluffy and warm and prolong its lifespan.

Keeping dry is the first priority, then put on the storage bag that comes with it and put it in a dry and ventilated place to avoid compression as much as possible.

When it is very necessary to clean, pay attention to the use of neutral detergents, and it is best to use special detergents for down products.

Synthetic sleeping bags require little maintenance, they are not afraid of moisture, and they are not as fragile as down sleeping bags. They also stand up to the toss of washing and dry easily.

Synthetic materials age more easily, and the more often they are compressed and bulked, the faster they lose their warmth.

That’s why down sleeping bags are more worth buying, they compress better and stay fluffy over the years.

5 Evaluation criteria and weights

We chose six indicators to evaluate sleeping bags: warmth, weight, comfort, pack size, product features and versatility.

Warmth: The thickness of the sleeping bag in the fluffy state is the primary factor for keeping warm, followed by the fit of the sleeping bag.

A sleeping bag that is too narrow or too short will affect the bulkiness when in use. A sleeping bag that is too large will create a channel for air circulation to carry away heat and affect warmth. So choose a combination of your body type and the clothes you wear in your sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags such as the Western Mountaineering Highlite and Sea to Summit Spark Sp II have a slender cut and are therefore not suitable for those with over-clothing and broad shoulders.

Western Mountaineering has sleeping bags in a variety of lengths and widths to choose from, take a look at the girth of the bag at the feet, hips and shoulders to choose a sleeping bag that fits.

Weight: The weight of the sleeping bag depends on the type of padding, the amount of padding, the material and properties of the outer skin. In general, heavier sleeping bags are generally made of synthetic materials or filled with low-loft down.

High-performance sleeping bags are made of down with a bulkiness of more than 850 and lighter and more expensive fabrics. In addition, in terms of tailoring and certain characteristics, it will also affect the weight of the sleeping bag.

Comfort: The comfort of a sleeping bag depends largely on its fit.

Increasing the size of the sleeping bag increases the room to stretch and move, making it more comfortable to use.

The hood and partition collar are designed to reduce heat loss, and the type of padding also affects comfort.

Down sleeping bags are very light, while synthetic sleeping bags can feel a little tight.

Of course, the planning of the hiking trip will affect the comfort, and a more comfortable sleeping bag may increase the weight and volume, making it less comfortable to carry.

So if you’re carrying a lot longer than you’re using, it’s a good trade-off.

Product Features: Here we evaluate the various properties of the sleeping bag to improve the overall performance of the sleeping bag. These features include sleeping bag material, zipper, zippered windbreaker, divider collar and storage pockets.

In some cases too many and overly complex features can also reduce the performance of the sleeping bag. They add weight and cost, are difficult to use, and are easily damaged.

These added features of warmth, comfort and convenience hardly compensate for the drawbacks they bring.

In conclusion, when it comes to functionality, good design is indeed necessary, but in moderation.

Versatility: The three-season sleeping bag is meant to be suitable for a wider range of conditions of use.

They have to adapt to mid-altitude summers and sub-zero late autumns. Versatility in different environments, altitudes and seasons is an important factor when evaluating sleeping bag performance and value.

Packing Size: The style of the sleeping bag, the material of the fabric, the type of padding and the amount of padding all affect the weight.

High-quality down, lightweight fabrics and clean styling allow for the best compressibility.

Important accessories: Waterproof compression bags can effectively keep sleeping bags dry, especially during rainy season hiking.

However, many waterproof bags on the market are shoddy, so we recommend that those in need buy a high-quality waterproof compression bag separately.

Additional Considerations

When choosing the “right” sleeping bag, the product parameters are only part of the reference and there are many factors to consider.

Your own physical condition, is your body’s energy output sufficient to warm the sleeping bag?

What kind of camping place (mountain hut, tent, camping bag) will you have for the sleeping bag usage environment?

Auxiliary equipment, what auxiliary insulation materials do you have (tents, moisture-proof mats, etc.)?

Line condition and altitude or air humidity?

According to the comprehensive situation, it will be more accurate to choose a suitable sleeping bag.

Like most outdoor equipment, there is no sleeping bag that can adapt to all outdoor routes. Generally, we will have 2-3 sleeping bags to deal with unused routes.

For example, at low altitudes in summer (1000-2000), you can choose between 400g-700g of down filling. Girls who are afraid of cold can choose B700, G700, etc.

For high altitudes in spring and autumn (1500-3500 meters), you can choose between 700g-1000g of cashmere, such as G1000, B1000, etc.

For mountaineering activities at ultra-high altitudes (3500m-5500m), you can choose between 1000g-1500g of cashmere, such as G1300, Z1000, etc.

West Hiking®

West Hiking®

Michelle, Marketing manager of West Hiking, ten more years working experiences on the camp tents for domestic and abroad markets.

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