Take a look at our sleeping System Guide.
Camping this season? Take a look at our sleeping System Guide.
Sleep systems are one of the most important aspects for your camping trip, no one wants to be chilly at night and have a fitful sleep. We should be waking refreshed and ready for the next adventure.
It's not just your sleeping bag that you need to take into consideration, its the whole package, bag, sleep mat and pillow. It's all about insulation people, insulation, but we will get to that later.
Did you know that women feel the temperature 5c colder than men do?
It's a biological fact!
Most sleeping bags are made to a season rating, 1 being summer, 4 being winter and 5 season being expedition warmth, you know, like Everest etc. But most folks it doesn't mean anything, so what you should be looking at is the temperature ratings.
On the stuff sack or the bags you will find a upper & lower comfort and extreme rating, basically these are the temperatures the bag can be used in. These are worked out on the average adult person not waking up due to being too hot or too cold.
The upper is the higher range the bag can be used in without you over heating, the extreme is the lowest that it will keep you alive in but you wont sleep, it will just keep hypothermia at bay, the most important we think is the lower comfort rating. This is the lowest temp the average adult will get a good night sleep without waking due to being cold. Some bags will have a women's rating on it as well which is generally 4 - 5c warmer than the men's rating for the lower comfort rating.
So, what if you feel the cold? What should i go for?
If you feel the cold then it's best to go up to the next season bag, so say from a 3 season to a 4 if in the autumn / winter / early spring or look at a down filled rather than synthetic fill bag.
Down as a rule, will keep you warmer, will pack smaller and weigh less, but they do cost more where as synthetic are as a rule a little heavier, pack size is larger than down but they are cheaper and easy to look after.
Personally i find that the down bags regulate my body temp better year round and one you get over the initial chill of getting undressed and inside, will keep you warmer.
With down bags look at the fill power (this is the down insulation's warmth rating if you like) higher the number, warmer it will be, so a 650 fill power will be lighter and you will need more of it to keep you warm, but when used in a lighter bags is better suited for 2 - 3 season uses, where as 900 fill is really warm and has a bigger pack size, ideal for expedition and winter use. How much of the down in weight is also important, more weight = more down in there = more warmth!
Down is a by product from the food industry, is not live plucked from birds and is fully traceable using the RDS Responsible Down System to track it back through to the farms it came from. Re Cycled down is starting to appear made from up cycling old down jacket and down sleeping bags insulation into new bags. Rab are the leaders in down outdoor products we think and their bags are still hand filled in Alferton, Derbyshire, they also offer a fantastic cleaning and repair service for their own bags.
For those looking for a price point or for ethical reasons don't want to use down then hollow fill fiber synthetic is the option. As a rule it doesn't pack as small or as light as down and some people find it doesn't regulate your temperature as well as down will, it can condensate to give a clammy feel by morning on warmer nights. Look for brands such as Deuter, Robens and Snugpak for higher quality synthetic fills that will pack smaller. Vango, Easy camp and Highlander are best suited for the car campers rather than back packers and those on a budget, families looking for general purpose bags or those who find weight and pack size are less important than cost and ethics.
What to sleep on?
Just as important is insulation from the ground up, using a self inflating sleeping mat. The good old Airbed is fine for car camping trips and do a great job of insulating you from the ground up ( top tip - put a fleece blanket on top of your bag on colder than normal nights to increase your comfort and insulation ) same for the camp cot or fold out camp bed. But for those who are camping lightweight or don't want a big chunky bed in their neat little tent, the self inflating mats are perfect.
'Thermarests' as they were originally known (Thermarest are the brand that invented the self inflating mat). Now there are many different brands and as many different types but in the main they can be split in to thicknesses or comfort levels by 2.5cm, 5cm and 7cm thicknesses and 3/4 or full length. 3/4cm x 3/4 length are great for those bike and back packing where weight and size are important. For example, full length 7cm are prefect for that bit of luxury and are ideal for those who are not so weight conscious where as a 3/4 length are better for those travelling light and small.
They offer much better insulation, comfort and ease of use than the old fashioned blow up airbeds and are less prone to puncturing.
To further increase their insulation you can buy down filled ones or the Snugpak Antarctic mat is a great solution designed to fit a full length mat for extra warmth and comfort, to use in a hammock under your bag or in extreme cold where plastic coatings that make the mats airtight can get brittle and break down.
Pillows are a great extra for those who like added comfort, they pack up small and can be shoved in the top of your stuff sack.
Top Tips and Tricks.
Less is more - wear as little as possible in your bags so the insulation is able to work properly, if you do get cold, put layers over your bag rather than wearing more in your bag.
Be bold start cold - when you first get in your bag it can feel cold, be brave give it 39 seconds and it will warm up. if its very chilly get in it with some layers on and then strip them off once it's warmed up.
As a rule, Mummy shaped bags are warmer than traditional square bags.
Did you know shorter bags and extra long bags are available for shorter or longer people, snupak do a insert to increase the width of their bags, there are kids versions and women's specific bags with extra insulation in the torso and feet, don't settle for a standard bag, ask us for something that will match your size, shape and requirements. We can always order in for you,
Did you know most bags come in either a right or left hand zip? it's so you can have the zip up and not sleep on it, so if you prefer to lie on your right hand side, get a left zip and vice versa, or if you like cosying up to your partner, one get a left zip the other a right zip and join your bags together to make a double width bag as long as they are the same make and model.
Travelling light but need warmth? - use your down jacket worn over a base layer or next to skin inside your bag to up-rate your core temperature or effectively add thickness to your sleeping bag to increase the warmth rating.
Use a fleece blanket or Snugpak Antarctic Mat over your sleeping mat for extra warmth, comfort and insulation from the ground up.
When packing your bag away, stuff it into the stuff sack rather then rolling or folding it, a compression sack helps reduce pack size further.
When storing at home keep you bags loosely stored in a net bag or an old pillow case so the insulation isn't compressed and it can breath.
Once you have pitched camp, pop your self inflating mat in and unroll it, open the valve and allow to self inflate while you are cooking dinner etc. before bed, give it a few extra puffs to firm it up, then take your bag out, give it a shake to loft the insulation.
Sweet Dreams all!