I’ve been hiking in the winter cold all day; It’s almost dark, and the world I left behind is in chaos. The grid’s been down for three weeks; and my neighbors, well they all turned on me when they found my supplies. I just barely got out of there with my life, and I’m too tired to build a fire. All I want to do is sleep, and I can do that because I bought a damn good sleeping bag.
A good bag is a lifesaver when you’re on the move. Having one means you don’t have to start a fire when it’s cold and wet. Just set up the tent, get inside, dry off, and crawl in.
There are three primary types of sleeping bags
Winter bags typically come with temperature ratings of 0°, -20°, and -40° degrees.
Three season bags are the most popular and vary in quality. Fortunately, low quality and high-quality bags cost about the same, so spend the extra money for a good one. Temperature ratings for these bags also vary, but I would not get one rated higher than 20° degrees. Remember your buying a survival bag, and your doomsday can hit any time of the year.
And finally, summer bags are typically lighter but have higher temperature ratings.
What’s Inside Matters
What’s inside the bag matters too, and there are two basic choices, goose down and synthetic. The main thing to remember is, goose down will be lighter, less bulky, and warmer as long as it’s dry and synthetic will be heavier, but will still keep you warm when wet.
The best “rule of thumb” to use when deciding on which bag to buy is to add 10-15° degrees to the actual temperature rating; for example, you should always assume a sleeping bag rated to 20° degrees, will only work to temperatures of 30-35° degrees.
Their shape is also important. A mummy bag is form fitting and holds heat well, while a square bag allows you to move around in it at the expense of heat loss. There are also other shapes that work well, and some bags have sleeves built into them to hold a sleeping pad.
There are other options you can get with a sleeping bag that you may or may not feel you need: right or left side zipper, inside pockets for example.
It is always better to have a bag that is a “bit too warm” than “not warm enough,” when it comes to your survival on a cold winter night.