Different occasions need different requirements from your sleeping bag, but, in general, you’ll want it to be comfortable, suitable for the climate conditions and convenient to pack away and carry.
When it comes to comfort and warmth, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. So how do you know which bag is best for your needs? We’ve put together a few pointers to help you make an informed choice.
The most basic requirement of a sleeping bag is to keep you warm, and just like a duvet’s tog rating, different sleeping bags have different temperature ratings. You may find the bag is given a rating in degrees, either as a limit, or a range of temperatures. For example, a limit of -8oC means it should keep you warm down to external temperatures of -8oC.
Other bags may have a more generalised ‘season of use’ rating, which is designed to give you a rough idea of whether it’s suitable for summer (rated as 1 season), through to year-round use (rated as 4 season).
Some of the lower budget bags don’t have any rating – these are generally lightweight and suitable for occasional summer use.
However, it’s important to note that any ratings are only a guide, as individual requirements and preferences vary. Some people may simply prefer their bag to be as warm as possible, and seasoned outdoor travellers are less likely to feel the cold than someone who rarely sleeps anywhere without central heating.
If you’re worried about the ethics of using down, you’ll need to be aware that some may be sourced from birds that have been force-fed to make fois gras – so you may want to do further research to ensure the down is obtained from a source that you find acceptable.
Whatever sleeping bag you choose, you’ll still need a sleeping mat underneath you, not just for softness and comfort, but also to protect you from cold ground.
Those with synthetic fillings are generally washable, although unless you have a large drum washing machine at home you may need to take it to a launderette.
Using a removable liner can help to keep the bag clean inside, as this can be washed regularly without the hassle of having to wash and dry the whole sleeping bag.
If you can’t - or don’t want to - clean the whole bag, the outer fabric can usually be spot-washed with a damp cloth to remove stains.