Choosing the right sleeping bag is made simpler when you consider what type of activity you will be doing that requires a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are classified by warmth ratings, which are the lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag is considered warm enough. What is “warm enough” is somewhat subjective, however, sleeping bags fall into one of three categories: summer, three-season, and winter. Summer sleeping bags will have a warmth rating of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, three-season bags will be around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, while winter sleeping bags will have a rating of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Sleeping bags come in two different shapes: rectangular, and mummy. Rectangular bags are roomier, but use more fabric and more fill. Mummy bags taper toward the legs and hold in heat better, which is great for winter camping. Keep in mind that both types of bags can be unzipped in case you need to cool off.
Another important distinction is whether the fill is goose down or synthetic. Goose down fills provide the best warmth-to-weight ratio than even the best synthetic fills, but cost more and lose their insulating ability if they get wet. Synthetic fills dry quickly and have improved in quality to retain their loft and insulating ability.
Make sure that the zipper is durable and slides well. High quality bags have stiffeners in the zipper tubes to reduce the change of snagging. Many good bags include a pocket for holding a watch or light, which is handy. Finally, check the loft on the bag before you buy it. If the bag doesn’t pop up quickly when you press it down, put it away.
For the ultimate winter sleeping bag, make sure to give this -40 degree 850-fill goose down mummy bag a look. It features a weather-resistant Gore WindStopper shell, and comes in a regular size for users up to 6 feet tall, and an extended size for users up for 6 feet 6 inches. The regular bag weighs in at 4 lb 10 oz. Finally, this bag has a lifetime manufacturer warranty. However, this kind of warmth doesn’t come cheap; this bag retails for $835.
At a retail price of around $360, this 800-fill down mummy bag offers a lot of bang for your buck. This bag is comfortable down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and is lighter than most at only 2.75 pounds. To keep it light, the zipper runs down only half of the bag, and only the two ends are water repellant. This bag also has a lifetime warranty and comes in a woman’s version.
This winter bag is lauded for its superb ventilation, largely due to its two-layer zipper design. With a mummy design containing 800-fill down on the top and 700-fill down on the bottom, the bag is warm and compressible. The ripstop nylon shell repels water and wicks moisture from the inside, while a zipper-access pocket allows you to reach outside of the bag without unzipping yourself. It weighs in at 3 lbs 12 oz, and sells for around $380.