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Often with sleeping bags there's a give and take relationship. Cheaper bags tend to have more bulk and be heavy. While ultra light compressible bags with low temp ratings can be quite the punch in the wallet. So how do you know which sleeping bag is right for you? For starters, be honest with yourself on when you are going to use your bag, where, and how often. Are you a car camper or backpacker? Do you sleep under the stars or in a tent? Will you camp in the Winter or the Summer? Are you a hot or cold sleeper? Coming to terms with these factors first will help guide you into a smart investment that can optimally give you the most in return.
I don't have a one trick pony bag that gets it all done. I have a variety of bags that I use for different occasions. But if you just need one bag and you're trying to decide on what purchase will suit your needs best, you can narrow the field with three key factors. Weight, insulation, and the temperature rating.
Understanding the importance of these three factors will guide you into a smarter purchase. For example if you are a car camper, weight and bulk shouldn't matter. If you are a backpacker weight and bulk should be of more importance to you. If you only camp in the Summer time, a lighter bag with a higher temperature rating could be fine for you. My best advice for you is to go to your local gear shop and get inside of a bag. Test drive it! Is it roomy enough? Do you like traditional cuts or Mummy Bags? Learn about baffling, layers, and shingles. The construction of the bag is very important. Get hands on with down and synthetic insulation, see if one feels more comfy to you. Roll them up and put them in their compression bags and see how bulky and heavy they are. Check the zipper. Is it seam sealed, welded, does it track nicely? Know that bag inside and out before you ever leave the store with it. Pick the sales rep's brain! Believe it or not you are not bothering them. That's why they are there and it makes their job exciting.
If you already own a bag and it doesn't always meet your needs you can easily beef it up. There are a ton of liners out there that can be purchased to help insulate your bag. A good sleeping pad will also prevent heat loss through conduction of the ground. Another option you can include is a a shell or a bivy that your bag can fit inside of. One more quick trick is to lay an emergency blanket or tarp down first with the reflective heat transfer side radiating back towards you.
Shop smart and make your purchases last. Get the most out of your gear that you can.