Looking for a sleeping bag to keep you warm when you wild camp?
Who knows what I used as a teenager, probably something I found at home but I started proper wild camping in the mountains with a Vango synthetic sleeping bag that I’d used with the family on camp sites, I imagine most people do.
This green sythetic sleeping bag was huge, took half of my 60l ruck sack up! It was just about warm enough.
The first thing you’ve got to know about sleeping bags is that THEY do not warm you up. YOU warm you up. The sleeping bag is simply an insulator, it reduced the loss of heat from your body into the environment. It does this by trapping a layer of air in the fibers.
Synthetic bags are a man made material, plastic basically, they take up twice the space generally than the other type of insulation, down. Down is found under the feathers of birds. Goose down is used in good quality sleeping bags. Because it’s so fluffy and fine the warmth to weight ratio is higher than that of synthetic material. In mid ranged bags however, you’ll find duck down. So, there are two main materials used, synthetic and down.
I’m not going to test anything, I’m not even going to compare numbers. Over the years that’s what I’ve done many times and I’m simply going to offer you my opinion on what I’ve learned and felt out there in snow storms, sometimes admittedly freezing all night. One that comes to mind was caused by condensation in the tent, a bivvy bag would have stopped that but isn’t that defeating the object?
Sleeping bags are not as different as the tickets say. The most important thing to look at on a sleeping bag that you want to keep you warm on freezing nights is the EN13537 Comfort rating. This should be below zero to be comfortable in the Winter and if you need the bag for arctic conditions then you know as much or more than I do already (see link at the bottom of the page).
So, synthetic takes up twice the space and down is half the weight. It’s a no-brainer, choose down. Which brand? Well, there are many and they do offer different design benefits BUT unless you have £500 in the budget then the bespoke companies are out of your league. You’ll pay them an extra few hundred to make the bag a bit more to your spec. This is fine but for most of us our budget will stretch to £200.
For me, £200 is best spent with Alpkit. The Skyehigh 700 has an EN comfort rating of -2 but I’ve gone to sleep at 8pm and it -10c, been comfortable throughout the night and woke to find a snowstorm had frozen the tent. I measured 30c in the bag!
Get one here – https://www.alpkit.com/products/skyehigh-700
I also have a Skyehigh 1000 which is always too hot in the coldest of UK nights for me so I end up sweating and that will cause discomfort and next day make you cold.
Feel free to comment mentioning what keeps YOU warm in Winter but please include the EN comfort rating for comparison (not Leeds).
I’ve tried to keep this short and easy to understand for the less experienced campers out there. I found a similar article on the PHD website which complicates things a little as their audience is well experienced mountaineers. This article goes into detail and tests a number of sleeping bags. I’ll thank them for providing this resource and saving me going into this level of detail. If you want the long winded version let’s save me some time and go take a look – https://www.phdesigns.co.uk/the-truth-about-sleeping-bags