In my quest for the most ideal sleeping system, I discovered the following 5 important points that any healthy sleeper should consider.
5 Best Sleeping Systems for Camping
#1. The Sleeping Pad
This is probably the most important piece of equipment. The ground can be cold and it will absorb far more heat than the cold night air, because conduction is a far more efficient heat exchange than convection, even more so when you are sleeping in a tent.
Sleeping pads are rated with an R-Value and the best option for your needs is about 3. My recommendations are the NeoAir from Thermo-a*rest.
There is also a Thermo-a-Rest NeoAir All-Season which is the same weight, a little warmer, and will also cost you a bit more. The fact is that it is a little more expensive and you can certainly shop around for something a little cheaper.
But you may end up carrying something a little heavier around which can impact your trip. There are down and synthetic-filled options as well, but I have found that this is a gimmick and not something the serious outdoor enthusiast will need.
For reviews of these pads and all things camping visit Luxe Rover Australia.
#2. Temperature Ratings
You will find that you don’t need as warm a bag as you believe you will and mostly these warmth ratings are about as accurate as a 15-day weather forecast. Many bags will have two values indicated by the EN (European Norm) ratings.
You may find that the salesperson is selling a bit more temperature padding, and this was very important back in the day when sleeping bag insulation was not as efficient as it is now.
But if you follow the recommendations, I have laid out here you will be just fine. But you can always get an additional thin layer of padding if you feel it will help.
#3. Bag Cut
There are mummy and rectangular options. If you will be heading out into the cold night air on a backpacking trip, the special cut of the mummy option is ideal for extra warmth.
If you will be going on a sleepover or into a warmer outdoors experience, the mummy cut is not as necessary. You can open the zipper and allow the sleeping bag to be draped over you.
Look for a sleeping bag that allows a little ventilation around the feet. I have found that this ventilation is one of the more important aspects of keeping your sleeping bag from becoming drenched and soggy, which will actually make it even colder inside.
#4. Down vs Synthetic
This is a debate as old as the hills. Down insulation comes from the soft feathers birds have under their upper plumage and does a good job of keeping the bird warm — goose down is among the best options. The fill power is the number of cubic inches displaced by a single ounce of down feathers.
Therefore, a sleeping bag with 650-fill power will be heavier and less compatible than a bag that has the same look, warmth, and higher fill power.
Despite what the salesperson says, higher fill powers are not necessarily warmer, but they are lighter for the warmth they provide.
Furthermore, don’t be suckered in by the “dry-treated” down options, while they may be slightly more resistant to moisture than other down options, if you will be heading into a wet Pacific Northwest forest, you will want the synthetic option.
At the risk of being tortured until I recant this statement, I will claim that getting a synthetic sleeping bag is the best option for your first bag.
You will find excellent options from the Mountain Hardwear Lamina Series and they are considerably more cost-effective as well.
The best advantage is that you can go anywhere in the US during any of the seasons and never have to worry about the moisture in the air.
Of course, you should consider the disadvantage here. The synthetic down will compact after a while and this means that your bag will not be as warm in two years as it is right now.
But by this time you will have collected enough experience on your outdoor sleeping arrangements to know what option you really want.
#5. Testing and Storage
Once you have selected a sleeping bag, you will need to test how well it works with the sleeping pad you have chosen. You will be looking for two things.
The first is the grip provided between the two materials that will keep you from slipping off the pad as you sleep. If you find that the bag slips off the pad each time you move, you are not going to wake up rested in the morning.
The next thing to check is that your feet are not pushing up against the foot box of the bag. If this happens you will flatten down in the area and your feet will get colder and colder.
Finally, invest in a good sack to carry this in that will ensure your stuff is kept dry during your outings.