How to pick the right sleeping bag and sleeping mats

In the last article, we picked a tent together. It’s about time we paid attention to picking a suitable sleeping bag. And because we need another isolation layer beneath the bag, let’s throw in a roll mat as well.

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There’s no universal all-year-round sleeping bag

Each one of us certainly once wished for a sleeping bag that would be comfortable all-year-round and in any weather. The truth is that there’s no such thing as a universal sleeping bag – we must choose one of 3 alternatives.

Choosing a sleeping bag won’t be hard if you answer the following question before going to a store and buying a sleeping bag: What do I need it for?

Sleeping bags are usually divided into these categories:

  • Summer sleeping bags
  • Three-season sleeping bags
  • Winter sleeping bags

So-called summer sleeping bags are best for camping during summer holidays, i.e. from June to August. They’re light, sometimes even ultralight, and ideal for tourists and cyclists. Such a sleeping bag is great for festivals or holidays by a lake.

If you go camping as soon as the winter snow melts, and come back when leaves are turning yellow, it pays off to purchase a three-season sleeping bag. It’s warmer than a summer sleeping bag but heavier and bulkier. Its one advantage, though, is versatility and comfort from spring to autumn.

If you have no fear and aren’t afraid of snow or frost, a winter sleeping bag is just what the doctor ordered. We recommend you use it only in winter – in the rest of the year, you’d suffer inside it and the heat would have you kicking off blankets.:-)

Down sleeping bags vs. sleeping bags made from synthetic fibres

Down sleeping bags are a great thermal insulator which is why they’re mostly used in winter. Apart from offering thermal comfort, down is better at maintaining the properties of the sleeping bag, prolonging its longevity. The lifespan of such a sleeping bag can be 5 years and more. Furthermore, down sleeping bags are lighter and easier to pack.

Note: When buying a down sleeping bag, choose one that contains goose feathers; they’re a better insulant than duck feathers.

The chief disadvantage of down sleeping bags is their high absorption capacity. They get wet fast and their heating value quickly diminishes. The humidity also remains longer and the bags are slow to get dry. Down sleeping bags are therefore suitable mainly for dry and frosty weather conditions. Additionally, down sleeping bags are more expensive than synthetic sleeping bags, and they’re not good for those suffering from allergies.

Sleeping bags made from synthetic fibres are a quality alternative to down sleeping bags. Unlike down sleeping bags, sleeping bags from synthetic materials provide warmth even when wet and get quickly dry. They can be washed in a washing machine and are suitable even for those suffering from allergies. They’re cheaper, but their lifespan is shorter. They’re perfectly sufficient for a regular use from spring to autumn.

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Did you know that…

…you can purchase a protective liner for your sleeping bag? Depending on the liner’s type, it can also increase the bag’s thermal comfort. The market offers, for example, fleece liners which can serve as a separate sleeping bag in warm weather. Liners are also appropriate when you’re just borrowing the bag. You never know what went on inside before you laid your hands on it. ;-)

Would you like a blanket sleeping bag, or a mummy sleeping bag?

Sleeping bags come in 2 basic types. You can purchase either a blanket, or a mummy sleeping bag.

Blanket sleeping bags are suitable for mild weather conditions at campsites, camps, cottages, or sleepovers you hold at your flat for other family members. Once the sleeping bag is unzipped, it turns into a large comfortable blanket.

Mummy sleeping bags are more elaborate and copy the shape of the human body. This optimizes the size of the heated space, maintains warmth better, and decreases heat leakage. The bags are equipped with a “hood” where you can put your head.

Note.: Some sleeping bags can be interconnected, creating a couples sleeping bag.

Limit temperatures: max, comfort, min, extreme – what does this mean?

  • Top comfort states the highest temperature you can withstand without feeling too hot inside the sleeping bag.
  • Comfortable temperature will be of interest mainly to women. If temperature drops below comfortable values, a woman’s feet and hand start to get cold.:-)
  • Limit temperature is the same as comfortable temperature, but with regards to men.
  • Extreme temperature means that if the stated value is exceeded, you can probably still survive inside the sleeping bag :-). However, expect to be very cold, and therefore to have little sleep, and possibly hypothermia.

“Size doesn’t matter” – this definitely doesn’t hold true for sleeping bags

The length of the sleeping bag should exceed your height by at least 15-20 cm. A sleeping bag that is too long is hard to heat and you’ll be cold in it. On the other hand, a small sleeping bag is uncomfortable and the isolation layer doesn’t work if you’re fit tightly inside

LOAP is generally concerned with comfort, which is why all our adult sleeping bags are XXL wide. The XXL width of LOAP sleeping bags has one advantage: at night, you can wriggle inside the bag or bend your legs. In case of children's sleeping bags, the width allows your kids to have a good night’s sleep and wake up in a good mood.

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Take a good care of your sleeping bag so that it lasts longer

Be honest – where do you store your old sleeping bag? Is it neatly packed inside a sack, or just laying sloppily in your closet? This might surprise you, but the sloven whose sleeping bag isn’t inside a sack is taking a better care of it.

It really is true. Taking a good care of your sleeping bag isn’t hard but few people know how to go about it. Sleeping bags are supposed to be hanging inside your closet, or loosely rolled on the ground. The reason for this is simple – it protects the properties of the used materials. Furthermore, a sleeping bag needs to breathe and be aired out, and thus a long period of time spent inside an enclosed sack really isn’t good for it. A laid out sleeping bag might be space-consuming, but laying it out makes sure it lasts much longer than it would have otherwise.

Note: Regularly air your sleeping bag out even while you’re using it. You’ll sleep better and your companions will definitely appreciate it.;-)

Not even the best sleeping bag can get you warm if you don’t have a roll mat

The fish rots from the head, and the cold seeps from the ground. That’s why you need a good isolation layer to fill in the space between you and the ground. You can choose from several types of roll mats.

Aluminium mats are suitable only if you need to sit on something when you’re outside, not as an isolation layer under your sleeping bag. They provide almost no protection from the cold and you’ll feel every small rock underneath you.

Foam roll mats come in various degrees of thickness but aren’t easy to store; after packing the mat, you’re left with a rather bulky roll. However, this roll can be easily attached to any large backpack. Foam roll mats are made either from polyethylene, or EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate). Polyethylene mats are cheaper, but unfortunately easily absorb water which decreases their isolation properties.

EVA mats have enclosed pores which don’t absorb water, and thus insulate better. They’re more expensive than polyethylene roll mats, but also more resistant to mechanical damage.

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The LOAP range features, among others, workout mats which are great for e.g. yoga – ROOF.

Self-inflating mats are a hit of the last several years. It’s basically a foam material sealed up in a hermetic fabric. After a valve is opened, the foam automatically starts sucking in air and increasing its volume. Your comfortable bed will be ready in a couple of minutes. These mats are deflated in the same way as inflatable waterbeds are.

One disadvantage of these mats is a risk of mechanical damage, e.g. puncturing, and sensitivity to sun. If you let an inflatable mat lie in direct sunlight by mistake, it can irreversibly bulge out.

Self-inflating mats measuring 5-10 cm in thickness are the ideal choice for those suffering from back pain. However, they’re heavy – it’s best to carry them around in your car rather than on your back.

If you don’t have any health problems, choose self-inflating mats which are 3-5 mm thick. They’re lighter and much smaller when packed.

Note: Despite their name, self-inflating mats need your help to inflate fully and provide you the optimal amount of comfort. Truly self-inflating mats that can inflate themselves and are about 3 mm thick cost upwards of 2000 CZK.

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