For amateur enthusiasts like me , the thought of preparing for a medium size trek into winter regions can be quite mind boggling. What needs to be taken and what need not is one aspect of the entire picture but then there is also the fact as to which brand or model should be the item that one is carrying( also read whats in my back pack ) By using the term “Brand” I am not implying making a fashion statement rather it means the capability of that item to perform the function that it is supposed to do.
A few thoughts on “Sleeping Bags “before I come to what I use. We first need to understand that a right sleeping bag can make all the difference to a peaceful restful sleep while one is on the trek whether it is in wintry conditions or in the tropical forests. Please try to understand the following terms which are the Qualifying Criteria to selection of a sleeping bag:-
(a)Temperature Rating. One of the most important factor. The rating decides where the sleeping bag can be used and what temperature will be comfortable for you. A sleeping bag used for the tropics will definitely be different from the one used for Everest.
As can be seen the sleeping bags are across a wide range of temperature. Out here too there is two factors to remember. One is “Comfortable Rating” which as the name suggests implies the temperature limit which makes an individual to be comfortable. The other is “Survival rating”, which simply stated is the temperature limit at which the sleeping bag will keep you alive as the temperature falls lower and lower.( to know more about clothing , do read on Layering article of mine here )
(b) Season Ratings. This implies the following:-
|Season||Perfect for…||Temperature Range|
|Season One||Summer camping where weather is mild. Indoor use.||+10 degrees|
|Season Two||The late spring to early autumn temperatures.||+5 degrees|
|Season Three||Autumn/Winter. Mild to cold nights, without frost but feeling chilly.||0 to -5 degrees|
|Season Four||Cold winter nights where it may even be frost/snow.||–10 and lower|
(c) Down. This term implies the fine under feathers from ducks or geese. This is the best option for high altitude treks. Alternate to this is synthetic insulation made from poly fibres. Either Down or synthetic, these are used to fill the sleeping bag and it is this material that gives you the warmth that is needed. Hence this factor needs careful consideration while opting for a sleeping bag.( for expedition series sleeping bag ,check out RAB , UK series here )
|Excellent heat retention||Loses heat insulation ability when wet|
|Lightweight- better warmth to weight ratio||Takes a long time to dry out when wet|
|Wider comfort temperature range- making it suitable for cold and warm temperatures||More expensive|
|Long lifespan if looked after||Requires special cleaning|
|Easier to compress and packs small|
|Retains insulation when damp/wet||Does not retain heat as well as down|
|Cheaper than down||Bulkier and heavier|
|Easier to clean|
|Shorter life span|
(d) Shape & weight. There are two main shapes either Rectangular or Mummy shaped. Mummy shaped is preferable for higher altitude as it tapers at the legs and also covers the head thereby ensuring that the heat remains trapped. The weight is also important especially as the sleeping bag has to be fitted inside the backpack and carried on the back.
Now that I have spoken a bit on the key qualifying factors I would like to speak on my choice of medium temperature sleeping bag. The one that I use is from a small time firm called Zanskar Equipments Ltd, based out of Delhi.
I have had the opportunity of using their top of the line sleeping bag for two altitude treks in above 5000 mts though not in deep winter. The sleeping bag performed excellently I must say and was pretty pleased on the buy. The proprietor had assured me that the bag was rated for -10 deg though I have my doubts on that.
The plus points are enumerated below
I used this bag in my recent trip to Mandini valley( mandini trek here ) as well as Satopanth trek( satopanth trek blog report here ) in the Garhwal Himalaya and this bag made all the difference between having a good night’s sleep or shivering and waiting through the chilled darkness for the sun to come up. Definitely a great pick as far as I am concerned.
The Cons out here are primarily two, one is that is touted as -05 deg bag designed for Zanskar treks however in Zanskar the temperatures easily fall below -25 deg and I have my serious doubts on the performance of this model. Secondly the bag should have been given with a decent compression bag which would help in reducing the size considerably. In view of its absence I had to resort to buying one individually online.
Other than these two points I think the sleeping bag is perfect for the uses that I put it through and is value for money. So I hope this small write up helped you to decide what you would like to procure once you decided to trek and explore nature in her element