Campout Essential: Sleeping Bag

When you want to get away from it all, there is nothing like camping. You get the vistas common to the great outdoors, fresh air, cooking over a campfire, and some random hiking. It is just a matter of picking the right place at the right time: no rain, only shine. It beats hotels in spite of their comfort because it is a real change of scene.

Hotels advertise their amenities like pillow top mattresses with memory foam and 1000 threat count cotton sheets. They tout their giant soaker tubs, two-person showers, and double sinks. They offer plush terry robes and slippers, hairdryers, pillows to alleviate neck pain, and more. It is truly a traveler’s paradise. But give me camping anytime in my trusty sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags have actually come a long way. They cool you off in summer and warm you thoroughly in winter months, if you dare to even go outside. They are made of waterproof fabrics that withstand a lot of toting and opening. They are durable, reliable, and they last. Everyone ten years or so, I like to get a new one just to keep up appearances.

The new models look like sleeping pods oddly enough. There are semi-tapered and tapered versions that still give you enough room to move around while on your great outdoor adventure. My favorite are super appealing and comfy made of natural goose down. You always want a bag that repels moisture, keeps in the heat, and dries fast in the event of dreaded rain. Get a shaped hood if you like and an ample foot box.

A good bag will cost about $200 more or less, but they can go up in price. You can get extra-long and models just for women. Some have more volume for larger people. It is a world unto itself. Most people like a nylon shell and a storage bag for off season. Some have backpacking bags for avid hikers. Some designed for deep winter have vents for body heat that allows for internal temperature regulation. There is no limit to what you can have. Just ask Backpacker magazine and check out their ratings. They are known to conduct vigorous field testing, so you can trust their choices.

I love the way they talk about a performance mummy, enhanced loft, warmth to weight ratio, and compression stuff sacks. There is a lot to learn if you are a regular outdoorsperson. You even have to make decisions about zipper placement and internal pockets. I love the one called “Expedition.” That sounds like a superior choice for a woodsman of caliber. There are also bags for two people so you can cozy up and keep each other toasty warm.

Camping isn’t real if you don’t sleep under the stars. To heck with the tent. Be brave and face the elements—and the animals—if you dare. If you want a veritable experience, just grab your bag and go. It will fold up and fit into your SUV without crowding the backpack and bags of food. If you always wanted to sleep in a big puffy jacket, now is the time! You may find yourself sleeping outside the Apple store waiting for the new phone to arrive.