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How to Choose Sleeping Bags for Backpacking

Backpackers can be forgiven if they’re a little obsessive about the warmth-to-weight ratio of a sleeping bag. You can’t sleep well if you’re cold, and even an ultra-efficient ultralight bag will still be one of the heavier, bulkier items in your pack. So, time spent evaluating your backcountry sleeping solution is time well-spent.

When deciding on a sleeping bag for backpacking, consider these key factors:

  • Temperature rating: Choose a sleeping bag rated a little bit lower than the typical low temperatures you anticipate on your backpacking trips.
  • Type of insulation: The big choice is down vs. synthetic. Each has its pros and cons, explained below.
  • Weight: The quality of your insulation and the cut of your bag are the big factors. When you compare weights, compare bags with the same temperature rating.
  • Features: Consider the extras that make your bag work best for you, including types adjustment features, stash pockets, pad compatibility and more.

What’s the Difference Between a Backpacking and a Camping Sleeping Bag? In general backpacking bags differ from camping bags in three ways:

  • They are more lightweight.
  • They pack down smaller.
  • They are more efficient, providing more warmth for the weight.

The distinction between backpacking and camping bags is not a hard-and-fast one. So, If you’ll be doing both activities, go with a backpacking bag because every ounce counts when you carry it in a pack rather than in a car.


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