Mr. W's Gear Guide - Sleeping Bags

Modern technology has eliminated having to sacrifice a good night's sleep for enjoying the mountain scenery

If you're in the market for a sleeping bag your options are quite varied. The last consumer survey I read listed 38 manufacturers, which combined offered over 500 models, priced between $80 to $800. My advice is to consider the temperature and weather conditions of our outings. Most of our campouts - and because of where we live we enjoy an outing every month - are within the California/Arizona climate which even in the winter is not considered severe.

Obviously, I have not experienced many sleeping bags so I am only going to advise on bags I consider suitable of Boy Scout use having a 15 to 20 degree rating, which in my experience has served many a scout well during my tenure with 787.

There are three basic shapes of sleeping bag: mummy, rectangular and semi-rectangular, all typically sold in the 5'-6", 6'-0" and 6'-6" lengths. Your sleeping and use preferences should dictate your choice.  Bag shapes can accommodate the "back arm flapping", "side, knee jerking", belly, arm stretching" and "fetal position, belly flopping sleepers". I know that some Larger Dads find the mummy shape a bit restrictive around the shoulders, so they would probably be better served by a semi-rectangular bag.

I am also going to assume that the main use of the bag is for backpacking/camping purposes, which dictates a lightweight (2 to 3 lbs) compact (up to 9"x19" when stuffed) bag. An important consideration is the warmth to weight ration offered by the different fill materials. Not only is it a natural product, it is also the best, Goose Down.  Down bags tend to be more expensive and the geese are not too keen on them either. In the past I have not recommended such bags because if they get wet, the warmth ratio drops dramatically and they are very hard to dry out.  However, in all the years I have enjoyed backpacking I have never gotten my bag wet.

Hollofill, Hollofill II, Quallofill, Polarguard, Polarguard HV, Polarguard 2D, Pile, fleece and proprietary synthetic (bag manufacturers own synthetic fills) make up all the synthetic fill materials used. Look for a bag offering a draft collar and hood design, with straight or chevron pattern baffle construction as well as insulated zipper draft tube.

The 3D fill material has narrowed the weight to warmth gap between down and synthetic material, therefore I would recommend the Cats Meow (3D) or the Blue Kazoo (down) by Northface offered at $159 and $199 respectively from Campmor at which Troop 787 has an account with a 10% discount. Keep your eyes open for an Adventure 16, REI or Sports Chalet sale, as these bags are a popular rental item and are sold at considerably less than retail at such sales.

Campmor's own Down 20 degree bag, Kelty Spire Series, Sierra Designs and of course Slumberjack all offer several bags in the 15 to 29 degree $90 to $200 range. If Mom is buying a bag be sure to ask for the women's model which typically feature extra girth in the hips and less in the shoulders, more insulation at the footbox and less overall length. Many manufacturers offer a unisex model as well.

There are several outlet websites out there which are worth checking before making a purchase so if you need any further help do not hesitate to call me at (949) 589-1232

Have fun,

Mr. W.


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