The most important thing to consider while choosing a sleeping bag is the purpose. Why are you buying this sleeping bag? The type of bag you buy to go on a two day trek in the summer is going to be very different than one you use for say a mountaineering expedition climbing a 6,000 meter mountain.
That being said, regardless of where you’re going, investing time and energy researching the type of sleeping you need is always a good idea. While you might spend a majority of your time outside your bag, it’s the time spent inside your bag that will give you the energy to perform well and enjoy your experience outdoors.
When it comes to purpose there are four things you should take into account.
1. Warmth. Being too cold in your bag is not a fun experience, and you always want to check the temperature rating of the bag (make sure you’re looking at the ‘comfort’ rating, not the extreme) and compare it to the coldest temperature of your trek or expedition.
2. Okay great you’re warm enough? The next thing I’m looking at is the size of the bag. You want to make sure that if you’re a taller person the bag will fit you. You need to test the bag out before you go on the climb. Always err on the side of caution, and go for a slightly bigger bag if you’re confused, I like to be able to fit in my bag while wearing at least two layers.
There are many shapes as well – the two most common ones being the rectangle and the mummy bag. I would strongly recommend a mummy bag for colder temperatures (i’m talking about anything below 10 degrees celsius here).
3. The next thing you want to look at is the weight of the bag. If you are carrying all of your equipment yourself, you don’t want to be lugging around a HUGE extra weight, even 250 grams can start to feel like a lot if it’s on your back for 14 hours. If this is an assisted trek aka support team with porters or mules on your trek, then the priority of this weight factor goes down.
4. Finally, the cost. This is a big one right. If this is your first time hiking, and you’re not sure whether you will do it again, it might be tempting to opt for the cheapest bag you find. If you do this, trust me chances are you won’t go out again for sure. Choose a bag that is in the middle range, and that fits all the criteria that I mentioned before. If you’re going on a more extreme trek or expedition, then you have to be ready for a bigger investment as there are a lot more factors at play, and having insufficient equipment can be dangerous.