I have owned several Down Fill (goose feathers)
and Synthetic Fill sleeping bags. Down sleeping bags pack smaller, weigh
less, and feel very soft when new. The problem I keep having with Down sleeping bags
is that they are hard
to wash on the road, do not work when they get wet, and the soft loft breaks
down after about a year of everyday use and then it is not so warm or soft
Synthetic sleeping bags are a bit bigger and
slightly heavier but last longer. The big appeal is that you
can throw them in a washing machine or hand wash them while on the road.
Synthetic sleeping bags also cost much less. When I am shopping for
sleeping bags there a few things that I like.
Things that I look for when buying sleeping
- A rating of 0 F. These
ratings always seem very optimistic. A 0ºF bag will usually be comfortable down to
freezing. This is the rating I usually use. I need this because my trip is long and
I encounter all types of weather. You may be able to
get by with less but always remember that the temperature rating are not
- Can be washed and dried easily. For
traveling by bicycle can be a grungy business. Showering everyday is not
always possible. There are stretches when I'm forced to go several
days without a proper shower. It seems like a sleeping bag wipes the dirt and sweat
away nicely and you wake up cleaner than when you went to bed. Of course, it
does not take much of this and the sleeping bag needs to be washed. In
developed countries I use half the amount of any of normal laundry detergent and drop it in
the washing machine. In developing countries where everyone washes their cloths by
hand so, I do too.
- Extra long I am fairly tall and
many brands of sleeping bags offer models that are extra long.
- Different colors If you're
traveling with a partner, consider getting sleeping bags in different colors so
you can easily tell them apart.
- Opposite zippers Another
consideration for couples traveling together is to get bags with compatible
opposite zippers. Zipping together two bags conserves body heat and makes for a
nice snuggly night in the tent.
Accessories that I like
- Waterproof stuff sack / backpack
I like to use a waterproof dry bag for my stuff sack. You can find all sorts of
dry bags in
the canoe and kayak section of the camping store. The dry bags that I like best double as a backpack for day
- Pockets Some sleeping bags
come with outside pockets which can be handy.
15F and Above
3 Season Sleeping Bags
My pick for long term bicycle touring or 3 season
camping. If your bike tour is taking you into high altitudes
or chilly weather, you need to be
ready for almost anything. This is the sleeping bag for the job.
If your travels include crossing the USA for the
summer, generally warm weather,
or mostly in the tropics why carry more? These bags pack so
small and light, you can use them occasionally for emergencies or
everyday in warm weather.