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Sleeping Bag Ratings

What Do Those Temperature Guidelines
Really Mean?

While most manufacturers provide sleeping bag ratings to describe the warmth of their bags, these temperature guidelines are sometimes confusing - and they can vary from one company to another.


sleeping bags


To add to the confusion, what is comfortable for one person at a certain temperature might be much too cold or warm for another person in the very same conditions.

Let me demystify sleeping bag temperature ratings for you.




Bags rated by season

Some sleeping bag ratings are season-based.


Summer bags

A summer bag can be used at temperatures of about 35 degrees Fahrenheit and above. (That's above 2 degrees Celsius.)


mesh tent in the desert


If you will be camping only in the heat of the summer, in locations that don't get too cool at night, this type of bag will work for you.


Three season bags

A three season bag is suitable for temperatures between about +10 and +35 F.

That's -12 to +2 Celsius.


camping on a cool day


A three season bag is appropriate for many camping families. It will keep you warm on cool summer nights.


Cold weather bags

A cold weather bag can be used for temperatures of between about -10 and +10F.

That's -23C to -12 Celsius.


down sleeping bag on the snow


If you are going to camp in the spring or fall, or at higher altitudes, you'll appreciate the warmth of a cold weather bag.

Click here to learn more about cold weather sleeping bags.


Extreme cold weather bags

An extreme cold weather bag is suitable for temperatures below -10F. (That's -23C.)

Brrrrrr!

Most families won't need this type of sleeping bag.




Sleeping bag ratings by temperature

Other sleeping bag ratings specify the temperature at which the manufacturer thinks the bag should be used.

As a general rule, choose a bag that is rated for lower temperatures than you expect to encounter.

The company may specify a temperature range, or they may give just one number.


Range

If a range is specified (eg 20F to 70F/-6C to +21C), that means that the bag will keep you warm within that temperature range.

It doesn't mean that you can't use the bag if the temperature is above the range. You can always unzip the bag, or lie on top of it.


Number

If just one number is specified (eg -14F/-10C), that is the lowest temperature at which they recommend using the bag.




But that's not all!

The temperature rating is just one piece of information. There is more to know.


Different manufacturers use different standards.

Sleeping bag ratings vary from brand to brand. What one company calls a 0 degree bag might be rated a 10 degree bag by another company.

Respected outdoor equipment companies like Mountain Equipment Coop and REI do rigorous testing of their sleeping bags. I trust their ratings.


In general, I would be less likely to trust the temperature ratings of cheap or "discount" brands.


Individual Differences

People vary widely in their preferred sleeping temperature. (If you've ever shared a bed with someone who kicked off the covers while you struggled to pull the covers back up, you'll know what I mean!)

If you are someone who "sleeps cold", you may want to choose a bag that is rated for even colder temperatures than you expect to encounter.




Other ways to stay warm

Choosing the proper sleeping bag is just part of staying warm while camping. Here are some other factors to consider.


Sleep on a good quality sleeping pad.

The best sleeping bag in the world won't keep you warm if you are lying on the cold ground. A sleeping pad will raise you off the ground and help to keep you warm.

many sleeping pads


Here's what you need to know about camping sleeping pads.


Use a sleeping bag liner.

A liner can make your bag more versatile. Click here to learn how.


Learn about staying warm.

There are lots of things you can do to boost your warmth and comfort. Learn how to stay warm in a sleeping bag here.




Now that you understand sleeping bag ratings for temperature, you're ready to consider the different types of sleeping bags.


Please visit The Camping Family home page. I have lots of tips and tricks for making your next camping trip safe, easy and enjoyable.





               

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