Sleeping bags do the most simple of jobs - keep you warm at night. They allow you to sleep by keeping your body at a comfortable temperature by trapping air around you, and wrapping you in insulated material. Down is such a good insulating material because the fluff traps a lot of air. The temperature at which a body will sleep comfortably varies between different people depending on level of fitness, energy reserves (when you last ate), etc, etc. This is all complicated by the fact that our climate varies enormously.
Whilst a sleeping bag will keep you warm in general terms, it is not great at protecting you from the cold ground as your body squashes the insulation when you lie on it. This is where sleeping mats come into play.
To cope with these various needs we at Up and Under have selected the best options from a range of synthetic and down sleeping bags, closed-cell foam and self-inflating matresses. We also stock a range of replacement stuff sacks, waterproof pack liners and compression sacks to keep your bag dry, and down wash for cleaning your lovely down sleeping bag.
Which sleeping bag and mat combination is for me?
When and where are you going? How high up will you be? How far do you have carry everything? How knackered will you be when you get there? Are you likely to get very wet?
In the UK you can pretty much expect to encounter close to freezing conditions at any time of the year (ask anyone who has hiked on Dartmoor, frost in early summer is not uncommon), but rather than getting the bag that is going to suit this one occassion, buy one that will be ideal for you the majority of the time, and wear a few items of clothing in rare colder cases or get a fleece sleeping bag liner to add a season when necessary. In summer at low level it may be possible to use bags rated for only one or two seasons but as altitude is gained, warmer gear should be considered.
In terms of seasons the following is what is generally meant in terms of average temperatures.
|Season||1 (Summer)||2 (Spring-Summer)||3 (Spring-Autumn)||4 (Winter)||5 (Expedition)|
|Main Use||Warm travel||Camping May-Oct||Allround||Year-round UK||High altitude and polar|
Although the bags are grouped into seasons we feel that this is somewhat misleading, particularly in the UK, as the conditions experienced throughout the year vary greatly from area to area throughout the country. For instance a three season bag would generally be acceptable here in South Wales for year round use. However, the same could not be said in the Cairngorms.
Each manufacturer tends to use separate human field testers and also separate laboratory testing agents. This alone tends to make comparisons subjective, especially as each tester is somewhat biased towards keeping their job.
There has been a recognised series of tests that all bag manufacturers can subject their bags too. This combination of ISO 11079, TOG testing and field testing has been around for some time. Recently another stand alone test has been created - EN13537. These tests differ significantly and whilst some manufacturers are giving information produced by the new tests on their goods many are still going with their own ratings. We feel that the results produced by EN13537 are generally no better than the preceeding tests and not much better than manufacturer generated values as the test has a number of questionable areas. Here are a couple of the main problems with EN13537:
As a result of these problems we have been forced to conduct our own field tests. Although somewhat crude, we attempted to use standardized conditions and ensure the person in question had completed a similar amount of exercise and had eaten a similar amount before going to bed. In some cases the tester was woken in the night to change from one bag to another. The tests were all done in a small backpacking tent with two people in it. Clothing worn was just a T-shirt and underpants, if extra thermals or fleeces needed to be worn to stay warm then this was deemed to be the extreme temperature rating not a comfort rating. The temperature given was measured inside the tent and was generaly found to be about 5°C higher than that outside.
When choosing the right bag for you it is very important to take into account your own body's reaction to low temperatures. Some people can't sleep under more than a sheet in summer and some need a full down duvet. If you are one of the latter then get a bag with a rating 5°C or even 10°C lower than our comfort ratings would suggest that you need. If you will be using this high up then go a bit colder still. However, we know of a very well respected mountain guide who bivis in a 3 season bag in comfort in the Alps in conditions which would leave most climbers heading for the nearest bar. There is a small element of skill to staying warm in a sleeping bag, here are some tips. Eat before you go to bed - you generate warmth when digesting food. Try to go to bed warm - so make an effort not to get cold while pitching camp and cooking, and if you do, then a run around the tent after taking that last pee may help. If you think you might be cold wear a hat and have extra clothing to hand.
Down has warmth-to-weight and pack size ratios far in excess of even the best quality synthetic bags. So why do synthetic bags exist at all? The first and most important reason is cost. Synthetic inculation is much cheaper to produce than down. The second is, what happens when you get your bag wet? This is where down encounters a problem; once it reaches a certain point, the amount of water involved makes it collapse. This dosen't harm it long term but does reduce its insulating properties to nil. Water dosen't have anything like as severe an effect on synthetic fills, but it's still worth taking stringent measures to keep your sleeping bag dry whatever it's made from.
So to sum up: If you are on a budget, then buy synthetic. If pack size or weight are key issues buy down. If all your kit is going to get soaked, then buy good quality synthetic. But if you like to sleep in the soft fluffy zone buy down.
Down sleeping bags have come a long way in recent years. Ethically sourced down is much more common, especially in our chosen brands. We continue to stock Rab, a powerhouse of the down sleeping bag industry, but the other brands are worth some serious consideration. If you are looking to go super-lightweight, then Lightwave is your brand. Looking for something a little more durable which would pair nicely with a snow hole? Crux’s waterproof bags will do the job. And for a range of impressive bags from expedition to super-lightweight, consider the 45-year old American-made Western Mountaineering bags!
Long-term favourites Ajungilak are back, after their acquisition by Mammut, who are keeping the synthetic bag-maker’s pedigree alive and well. For value-for-money, look to Vango, and for lightweight tropical bags, Snugpak have some good options!
The Deuter Little Star is a kid's sleeping bag with an ergonomic and comfortable build to give children a good night's sleep.Ergonomically shaped foot section can be extended 30cm Functional, 3D shaped hood with extra softness for special comfort around the head Anti-catch strip with extra reinforcement 2-way, centrally placed zip with easy handling for kids Internal valuables pocket Construction: Thermo 1 Layer
Make sure you get a good nights sleep when traveling this time with this ultra-light, super comfortable, lightweight and anatomically shaped air pillow.Size: 15 × 10.6 × 3.9 in Weight: 1.6 oz Weight Packsack: 0.1 oz Package diameter: 2 in
Sleeping Mat Accessories perfect when Camping on multi-day hikes or walks. An inflation aid to help inflate a roll mat or thermarest.
This is a mat for absolute comfort when camping; lofted microfibre insulation, a clever pumpsack & a slip resistant & Removable top fabric Weight: 800g Length: 183cm Weidth: 52cm Thickness: 7cm R-Value: 4.9 Temperature limit: -17Deg
With it's almost 'magical' temperature regulating this bag is an ideal liner for a hot country trip, or as a second layer in a bag with an integrated pillow sleeve as one of its many great features.100% Coolmax - Soft and Stretchy Weight 345g Dimensions 220 x 80cm Polygiene Treated Integrated Pillow Sleeve with Germ Guard Includes Storage Bag
Lifeventure's silicone ear plugs are made from medical grade mouldable silicone. This allows them to be shaped to optimally fit the wearers ears to block out noise as well as water.3 pairs supplied in a clear plastic case Dimensions: 56 x 65 x 18mm Weight: 30g