All animals require rest and man is no different.
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Sleep is the time when our body’s work to heal, our mind rests and recharges, and our muscles strengthen.
Even God had to rest on the 7th day.
A bad night sleep can mean a bad day ahead, tiredness, weakness, forgetfulness.
This can turn the best outdoor trip into the worst and could even be dangerous!
The sleeping bag while being the star of a good sleeping system is one of the most important and often overlooked pieces of outdoor gear you need.
YES, I said sleeping system because there is more than just a bag required for a good nights rest. At home you don’t have just a blanket do you?
No, you have a bed, mattress, sheets, pillows all as part of your sleeping system and being outdoor requires many of these same elements.
Don’t worry, in the following article I will walk you through the buying process to help you make this important choice.
Let’s get started building your new sleep system from the ground up!
The bed is the base of your outdoor sleeping system.
The first question to ask is where will you be sleeping? If you will be in an RV or a cabin you may already have a bed to sleep on.
If you are in a tent you could use an airbed, a cot, or maybe you will be sleeping on the ground.
If you are not inside a tent maybe you are hammock camping.
They all have their advantages and disadvantages so let’s look a little deeper.
For car camping one of the best sleeping platforms is the airbed.
You may already have one at home for when guest visit.
It is big and bulky and will require electric or a battery operated pump to inflate it but once set up you will have a very comfortable bed for sleeping.
Next up is the cot. A cot is a small portable lightweight bed generally consist of a foldable lightweight metal or wood frame covered with a stretched material for sleeping.
Cots are very comfortable, lighter weight than the airbed and do not require an power to set up.
They are great for base camp use when you will not be moving far or often but can easily weigh over 10 lbs. and are generally not compact enough for backpacking or lightweight camping.
For Backpacking, minimalist, lightweight, canoeing, kayaking types of camping the best beds are hammock camping or a sleeping mat on the ground.
The Sleeping Mat
The sleeping mat is your mattress in the outdoors.
You wouldn’t sleep on your bed or box spring without a mattress would you?
The purpose of the sleeping mat is to insolate you from the cold air that is inside your airbed, under your cot, or hammock.
If you are on the ground the sleeping mat will also cushion you from the hard ground and prevent the cold earth from zapping your body heat.
There are two basic types of sleeping mats the closed foam or the self- inflating.
Both do an excellent job, the closed foam is just that a rolled up ( or sometimes hinged folded) piece of foam.
This is a cheap piece of gear that should not be overlooked and for under $10 and weighting around half a pound will make you trip so much more enjoyable.
If your budget allows and you want to upgrade the self-inflating sleeping pad is great choice, adding a little more comfort but costing more in the $40 range and weighing in closer to the 2lbs mark.
It is still ultra-portable.
The Sleeping Bag
The sleeping bag is a insolated blanket that is formed to envelope the body to provide 360 degree protection and warmth.
There are two basic shapes of sleeping bags, the rectangular shape of the traditional bag or the more tapered mummy bag with it’s cocoon shape.
The mummy bag is great for warmth and being more compact but some sleepers like more room to move their legs in the night and prefer the rectangular shape to not feel so constrained.
Some of the important things to look for in your new sleeping bag are size, temperature, weight, and warmth.
Size, check the size of the bag before you buy. A tall person of 6ft 2in will have a hard time fitting in a bag designed for someone 5ft 10in or smaller.
A larger person will not fit in a smaller bag but a smaller person can fit in a larger bag but the extra room will mean more airspace for the body to heat.
Temperature, Bags are rated with a temperature rating, this is not a hard and fast rule but more of a general guideline.
Everyone is different, some people sleep colder and some warmer.
Generally women tend to be colder than men so if the bag is designed for a specific gender take this into account and also check if the rating is for degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.
My advice would be to take the lowest nightly temperature you plan to use your bag then subtract 10 degrees and look for a bag in that range.
Weight, The weight of your bag can make a difference a time for backpacking.
Most bags weigh around 2-4 pounds but a heavy artic bag can easily be double that.
Warmth, Generally speaking the heavier the bag the warmer it will be.
The Sleeping Bag Liner
The liner is placed inside of your sleeping bag, this can be very useful for a number of reason.
It will extend the life of your expensive sleeping bag by and cut down on washing the bag to get dirt and body oils off of the inside.
It provides a added degree of warmth to your bag and depending on the material it is made from can extend the temperature rating by 10 to 15 degrees making your bag more useful.
A liner can be a soft material that is more comfortable against the skin that the inside of the bag.
On very warm nights a sleeping bag liner can be used by its self when your bag is to warm to sleep in.
The ability to unzip a warm sleeping bag but still remain covered in a liner makes a bag more comfortable during those in between times of being too hot bundled up but too cold left exposed.
Simply fold the sheet over and pin 2 of the open sides to create a sleeping bag shape.
This is a trick I learned during the hot, dog days of summer at Scout Summer Camp when a sleeping bag was too warm.
I have also used this while backpacking in other countries. I once spent a few night in a guesthouse with a beautiful view of the Mekong River, but judging by the décor, and the rusty vintage U.S. Army Jeep parked out front I though that there was a good chance the linens and bed sheets had not been replaced since the end of the Vietnam War! I slept great with my homemade liner!
Stuff Sacks, Compression Sacks, Dry Bags, Ditty Bags, Pillows
A Stuff Sack is a simple bag with a drawstring closure that is designed to be stuffed with gear. Items like sleeping bags are stuffed inside and closed off. Protecting them for the elements.
A Compression Sack is a Stuff Sack with straps to compress the sleeping bag into a smaller form making it easier to pack.
Many sleeping bags come with a stuff sack or compression sack.
Stuff Sacks and Compression Sacks are normally water resistant and will keep your gear dry in normal rainy weather but they are NOT completely waterproof!
For any type of boating like canoeing or kayaking, extreme heavy weather or anytime there is a moderate risk of getting wet you want a dry bag.
A dry bag WILL keep your gear dry in the worst conditions possible! Having a warm sleeping bag and a DRY change of cloths could save your life!
Ditty bags are great for keeping you gear organized and easy to access while in your pack.
Small items can be placed in ditty bags and by using different colors you can know immediately where to get it.
At under $10 for 3 colors and sizes it is a very cheap way to make life a little easier when you are out in the field by keeping small items from becoming lost in the bottom of your pack.
A camping pillow is another item that can make you feel so much better while away from home.
Some people prefer a stuffed pillow, some like the lightweight backpacking pillow.
My personal choice is for car camping to grab a pillow from my bed at home put it in a old pillowcase I don’t mind taking camping and enjoy.
If I am backpacking it simply use my stuff sack and place the next days change of cloths inside and use that as my pillow.
This type of pillow is lightweight , easy to store away, easy to inflate, and very comfortable from sleeping while sitting.
It could be use for outdoor use as well but I find it works best on a Plane, Bus, Boat, Train, or Auto.
I hope that you found some useful information above. Now get off your phone and Get OUTDOORS!