Sleeping Bag Comfort

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Daytime temperatures might have soared to 92 F along the Rio Grande on my recent escape to Big Bend National Park, but desert nights are notorious for clear, cool skies. Having a warm sleeping bag wasn’t an option when packing light for this trip.

Winter or summer, desert or mountains, there are a variety of bags to meet your needs. At present, I think we have six sleeping bags hanging on our gear wall – one summer weight down, four older synthetic fill mummy bags, one newer hybrid.

How many sleeping bags are in your gear collection?

Question to consider before buying a new bag:

  • Will you be using this sleeping bag strictly in the summer, for spring/fall/summer, or just for winter?
  • Do you want down or synthetic fill?
  • Is weight an issue?
  • What is your budget/price range?

Summer season sleeping bags are lightweight and built for temperatures above freezing. Three-season (spring/summer/fall) bags can usually handle temperatures down to about 10 F. An average winter sleeping bags can be rated to around -10 F.


  1. mummy – the warmest shape with a snug fit and a built-in hood, usually more expensive.
  2. barrel – slightly tapered, moderate warmth, roomier than mummy but heavier.
  3. rectangular – inexpensive, but bulky and heavy with lots of cooling air space.


  • down – provides the best insulation and warmth, compresses easily, but can lose insulation value when wet and is more expensive.
  • synthetic – heavier and less compressible than down, but does retain some insulation value when wet.
  • hybrid – one half the bag is down, the other is synthetic fill.

Brooks-Range uses 800-fill down in their warmer weather and cooler weather bags. The Elephant Foot sleeping bag is a ¾-length down bag designed to be used with a down jacket for upper body warmth – perfect for ultra-light backcountry users.  An optional lightweight water-resistent sleeping bag cover can help keep down bags warm and dry in wet conditions.

Take your time picking the bag that meets your needs, it’s an investment that will pay big dividends to the sleep bank if done correctly.


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