Spring is supposedly here, summer is just around the corner, you’re looking for a new sleeping bag for family camping and the massive selection is getting you a bit confused.
Welcome to the world of sleeping bags.
Yes, humans have been covering themselves with things to keep warm since the first hominid grabbed some leaves to insulate themselves with. Now we have down and synthetic fibers inside a huge host of fabrics at prices that range from modest to mind boggling.
For family camping the choice can be narrowed down rather quickly as weight and bulk are not of great concern when camping out of a car. What does have to be considered is how often they will be used and how much a person can afford. When I consider this, the only choice is a sleeping bag with synthetic fill.
Synthetic sleeping bags will hold up over time, cost less than down and can take a bit of a beating and come out ok. They are also easy to clean by using a commercial washing machine at a laundry mat and do not underestimate how important this is, especially if you have children. Sleeping bags get dirty, they get tossed around, dropped on the ground and stuffed into the beds of pickup trucks and the trunks of cars. When I hit the sack at night, I want to be in a warm, clean, comfortable bag and with a synthetic bag it is easy to make sure it is.
Next thing to consider is temperature ratings. I personally do not like “summer” bags that are rated to keep you warm when it is 50 F but you are cold at 40 F. My go-to bags for this time of year are rated in the 30’s F, so I can be comfortable even on those cooler nights. On warm nights I can always uncover, open zippers or sleep on top of the bag, so having a warmer bag gives me options.
A quick note on temperature ranges that are listed. The industry for the most part has gone to the European Standard of EN 13537 which rates bags for male and female users. In most cases a bag rated at 40F means it will keep a woman warm at that temperature, where as for men the rating is approximately 10 degrees colder. So a 40F bag is really a 30F bag is you are a guy.
Finally there is the shape of the bag. There are mummy bags, semi-mummy, rectangular and semi-rectangular bags and probably shapes I do not remember exist. To me, the logical choice for car camping and the such is a rectangular shaped sleeping bag. First, the bulk of the bag is not an issue, they offer a lot of room and two of the same bags can be zipped together into one giant bag. They can also be opened up and used as a comforter. In short they offer the most options when it comes to making up your bed.
Though you can find summer bags in the $30 range, it is better to spend a few dollars more for one that is well made, comfortable and that will hold up over time. You want quality fabric, zippers that will work over the long term and stitching that is done correctly. These are things that you will not find in an inexpensive “no name” sleeping bag sold at so many of the big box stores.
One of the product lines I like is Coleman. I will admit I am a Coleman junkie, having stoves, sleeping bags and lanterns made by the firm. The reason I have the gear from Coleman is very simple, it has always been very well made, it holds up to use and much of it is reasonably priced. One other thing is that for me base camp would not be the same without my Coleman stove.
Coleman offers a variety of what I would call “family camping” sleeping bags in a wide price range, some approaching the $30 mark. Even the low priced Coleman bag has a good rating from users, but to be honest I would step up a bit where the interior fabrics are a bit nicer. The $30 Coleman bag will do the job, but for $20 more you get a nicer bag.
I will soon be doing a field review of a new bag from Coleman the Comfort Cloud 40 Sleeping Bag, retails for $79.99. I have only tried it out at home but looking it over the bag is well made as I have come to expect from Coleman. I have seen it rated at 30F and from what I have experienced so far, I have no doubt it would keep me warm at that temperature.
There are a couple unique features of the bag, a very nice and soft fleece lining at the top and it comes with an added memory foam pad in its own compartment on the bottom of the bag. It is still intended that the bag be used with a sleeping pad underneath, but the foam adds a layer of comfort and warmth, it is a very nice touch as is the fleece lining, I wish more bags did this.
On the other end of things are the sleeping bags from Therm-a-Rest, long time makers of sleeping gear. The Ventana Duo is rated at 35F and filled with synthetic fibers that are treated to repel water. It is a great looking bag and as I said, on the high end of things at a retail of $269.95. It is a beautiful bag for someone who plans on using it a lot and wants one of the best synthetic bags out there.
When it comes to research in finding a sleeping bag, head to the websites of retailers that specialize in products for the outdoors such as Campmor or Cabela’s or REI. Not only will you find a wide variety of sleeping bags in all different price ranges, but also product reviews by real people who have bought the bags.
I have found the reviews invaluable when researching gear as long as you take them with a ‘grain of salt’ as some can get a bit odd. But read through them and for the most part they can offer good information.
Then do like I do, once I find the product I want, I look for the best price I can find. Hey, I need all the money I can get for all that other gear I need.
So get a new sleeping bag and then get outdoors where you will be able to put your gear to good use while taking in the natural world.
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