How To: Pick A Sleeping Bag

How To: Pick A Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag makes all the difference.

The right bag is the difference between a restful night and a sufferfest when you’re camping. Finding your perfect sleeping bag can be overwhelming. There are a lot of options out there, and a lot of variables to consider! Let’s help narrow it down with these helpful tips.

Finding The Perfect Sleeping Bag Temperature

Every person has their own comfort level when it comes to warmth and their sleeping bag. While the best thing to do is to see what works best for you, here are a few things to keep in mind when finding the perfect sleeping bag:

Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating Standards

Most modern sleeping bag companies use testing methods overseen by the International Standards Organization (ISO) to determine sleeping bag temperature ratings. This means that two bags rated at the same temperature should keep you similarly warm, even across brands. ISO ratings for Big Agnes bags can be found on on a sleeping bag's page, under "Specs".

Women’s Sleeping Bags Vs. Men’s Sleeping Bags: What’s the Difference?

Anatomically speaking, women generally sleep a bit colder than men. For this reason, the temperature rating for a women’s specific sleeping bag is determined by the ISO “Comfort Rating”. This is warmer than the ISO “Lower Limit Rating”, which is used to produce the rating for men’s and unisex sleeping bags.

When in Doubt, Warmer is Better

If you’re on the fence between two temperature ratings, it’s often recommended to go with the warmer option. You can always unzip your bag to cool down, but there’s little you can do to make yourself warmer.

Most Big Agnes sleeping bags have two zipper heads to allow venting from the bottom or even stick your feet out if you get too warm. The Big Agnes Park and Camp Robber Series sleeping bags feature a quilt-like upper layer that can zip off completely for maximum breeziness!

Choosing Insulation Type

Another consideration in finding your perfect sleeping bag is the type of insulation used. There are two main types: Down and Synthetic.

Down Sleeping Bags: Maximum Packability, Minimum Weight

At a given temperature rating, down fill sleeping bags will be lighter and more packable than synthetic fill sleeping bags. When looking at down sleeping bags, consider the fill power – most sleeping bags fall between 550 and 850. Down relies on loft to keep you warm. As the fill power rating rises, you get a higher quality, loftier fill that provides better insulation value for a given weight. Between two sleeping bags at the same temperature rating, the one with the higher fill power will be lighter and pack smaller. Sleeping bags listed as “Ultralight” or “UL” usually feature 800+ fill power down as insulation.

The Big Agnes Advantage
Sleeping bags that use traditional down fill can be vulnerable to water. Down relies on loft to trap air and insulate it. When down gets wet this loft collapses losing much of its insulation value. Fortunately, modern technology makes this much less of an issue! All Big Agnes down sleeping bags use hydrophobic Downtek™ Water Repellent Down which performs up to 27 times better when exposed to water than untreated down.

Synthetic Sleeping Bags

  • Better When Soaked
    Even though modern down fill is not as vulnerable to water as it once was, synthetic is your best bet if you expect to get thoroughly wet. Synthetic insulation doesn’t lose its loft and insulation value even when it’s dripping wet. Plus, it dries out more quickly than down.
  • Best Value
    Synthetic insulation is less expensive to produce. So, at a given temperature rating, synthetic fill sleeping bags generally cost less than comparable down bags.
  • Sustainability
    If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option, synthetic is the way to go. Synthetic fill is made without the use of animal byproducts, thus often making them vegan-friendly.
The Big Agnes Advantage
Our synthetic sleeping bags use Fireline™ insulation, a proprietary insulation developed by Big Agnes. This comes in four varieties, including Fireline™ Max and Eco, which use 50% and 100% post-consumer polyester material, respectively!

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