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What features count and what can you live without?
In this feature we looked at the different types of sleeping bags focusing on the temperature and seasonal ratings. Next up we check out the product features and what they mean for you as a buyer. Down or Synthetic? Slant wall or stitched through construction? It pays to wise up before hacking through the feature loaded, swing tag, jungle down at your gear store.
So, you’ve booked the adventure and now you need to buy the gear, but what the hell does all that stuff on the swing tags mean? Not so long ago we’d have just packed a blanket or covered ourselves with leaves and been done with it. Not so now; a warm comfy night out on the trail means getting to grips with two way non snag zips and gaining a degree in the science behind baffles. Read on…..
Sleeping bags come in different shapes and sizes and it’s worth taking the time to find one that fits you. Standard sized bags are made on the assumption that we’re all 5ft 10in tall and are cramped if you’re above average height. Most manufacturers make larger bags and the difference in comfort and warmth is huge for anyone over 6ft tall. A close fitting bag, but not too tight, is better than a baggy fit.
Next to Skin Comfort
Given the choice and where conditions allow most people would prefer stripping down to a minimum before slipping into a sleeping bag. That said, you’ll find it a far more comfy experience if the inner fabric feels cosy next to skin. Some sleeping bags have the plastic handle and comfort of a crisp packet whereas others are far snugger. It’s a personal preference but we tend to check out the ‘feel’ before we buy. Using a liner is one way of making your bag next to skin friendly.
Weight and Pack Size
These are two factors which are always a concern for any item when you have to pack it and carry it. Some synthetic fill 4 seasons bags are just too heavy and bulky to consider packing for an overseas adventure unless you're on a portered trip and someone/something else is carrying it. On balance the golden gear rule applies with sleeping bags – as the price increases the weight and pack size decrease and you'll welcome any weight saving from the off.
Understanding the different methods of construction helps explain one of the ways in which some bags are warmer than others of the same weight. The most basic construction techniques are known as ‘stitch through’ and single layer. Basically this is the cheapest way to make a bag and you get cold spots where the outer and inner linings are stitched together and, consequently, there is no thermal fill. The more technical constructions such as ‘shingle’ or ‘slant wall/box wall’ adds to the price but it also helps eliminate cold spots and increase thermal efficiency.