What makes a good sleeping bag. Number one it needs to keep you warm. In our experience most adults and Scouts have been able to make a sleeping bag rated between 15 to 25 degrees work throughout the year. However if you know that you are a cold sleeper a warmer bag may be required.
In the area that we camp locally a sleeping bag rated to a temperature of 25 degrees will get you through most of the year. In the winter months typically, January and February (our coldest months) the sleeping bag may need to be paired with a wool blanket (Troop has quite a few wool blankets that can be borrowed) or some other means to make the bag warm enough for these months. If you find that you normally sleep very cold I would recommend purchasing a bag with a rating lower that 25 degrees.
Comparing Sleeping Bags
How do you know if the rating on the sleeping bag is correct? Manufactures have developed a standard for testing sleeping bags called the EN or European Norm (EN)13537 testing protocol. This rating is the most internationally accepted and most objective standard allowing you to compare sleeping bags from different manufactures. EN tested bags are assigned two temperature ratings: comfort and lower-limit. These rating are defined as follows:
- Comfort Rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average woman or “cold sleeper” comfortable.
- Lower Limit rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep a man or “warm sleeper” comfortable.
Everyone sleeps differently so the above is just a guide and tool to compare bags from different manufactures.
There are many companies on the market that make great sleeping bags including Marmot, North Face, Kelty, Big Agnes just to name a few.
Beginning Scouting Career – New Scout
When looking for a sleeping bag for beginning your Scouting career it is generally recommended that you purchase a synthetic insulation bag in lieu of a down sleeping bag. In the beginning of your scouting career you will be learning about how to camp in many different weather conditions including rain and snow. One of the most difficult things to do successfully all the time is to keep yourself and you gear dry all the time. For this reason synthetic wins out as a starter choice. Additionally, the price of a synthetic insulated generally is about a third the price of a good Down Sleeping bag.
Some of you may ask what about a treated down. Based on my research treated down may provide slightly better performance if it becomes wet (not even close to synthetic), but may have some negative effects on the warmth. Many companies offer their bags in treated and untreated versions for this reason.
As your Scouting career progresses and you find that you enjoy backpacking many scouts will upgrade into a lighter weight down sleeping bag. But generally by this time they have have developed the skills necessary to keep themselves and their gear dry.
Ask four different Scout Leaders and you will probably get four different answers on which is better and why. So to keep things simple here are the basic differences or pros / cons of down and synthetic sleeping bags.
COMPARISON TABLE COMING SOON
|Pro / Con||Synthetic||Down|
|Weight based on equivelent temperature rating||Any were from 1 to 2 times heavier||Lowest weight|
|Packed Size for equivelent temperature rating||Generally 1.5 to 2.5 times the size||Smallest compressed size|
|Weather||Great for damp conditions, dries quicker,||Best for cold dry conditions. Extra caution must be utilized in damp conditions.|
|Cost||Best price value||Can be as much as three to five times more expensive|
|Longevity||Generally will not maintain warmth as long as down. Generally five year life if properly maintained before loss in general warmth.||Longest life, when properly maintained may last fifteen plus years|
The following list are some bags that our existing Scouts or Leaders have used and would recommend:
- Marmot Trestles 15 Degree bag
Recommended synthetic sleeping bag manufactures:
Recommended Down sleeping bag manufactures
- Western Mountaineering
- Feathered Friends
- Mountain Hardwear
- Katabatic Gear
- Enlightened Equipment
- Hammock Gear
Links to additional information on selection of sleeping bags:
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