Thursday, February 14, 2008

Camping Gear - Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag

The last thing you want to happen when you're 20 miles into the woods is to find your sleeping bag is not warm enough. You will be facing a very long and unrestful night which can ruin your spirits and sap your strength for the next day.

So how do you make sure you've selected the best bag for your needs? There are several aspects to consider:


There are pros and cons to most of the options available in sleeping bags.

Goose down is very warm. It is lightweight to carry and can be easily compressed for travel and quickly regain form when shaken out. It is by far a better choice for backpackers who intend to carry the bag with them for extended trips because of the lighter weight and smaller packing. However, goose down is also more expensive and losses its insulating properties when wet - a consideration if sleeping outdoors or travelling in inclement weather.

Synthetic filled bags are cheaper than goose down and retain their warmth even in wet conditions. They dry faster than down and are a good choice if travelling by boat or sleeping outdoors on the ground. However, synthetic bags are heavier and larger which can be a downside if you are hiking long distances with the bag.

For the average family camper synthetic bags are the least expensive and least affected by wet conditions. If travelling by car to a campground the size and weight of a synthetic bag should not be a problem.


As with the insulating materials, the shape of bag you choose will depend on your specific needs with pros and cons for each type.

Rectangle bags are most similar to bed sleeping and most familiar to the average user. They permit room for movement and you can easily zip two bags together for shared sleeping. However, rectangle bags are the biggest and not the best option for carrying on extended hikes.

Tapered bags are somewhat narrower towards the feet area of the sleeping bag. This shape provides less freedom of movement but more warmth because of the restricted space.

Mummy bags are the smallest and lightest to carry. They are very snug to the body (as the name suggests) with a hood that can be fitted around the head to conserve the greatest amount of body heat. While the average user may find the mummy bag uncomfortable to sleep in because of the restriction they are the best choice for cold weather camping and long hikes because of their warmth and small size.


Sleeping bags will list the coldest temperature they are suitable for sleeping in. Depending on if you are camping in the summer or colder months you will need to choose a bag accordingly. Also take into consideration if you are normally cold or hot when sleeping and make the adjustments.

In most cases it is recommended to choose a warmer bag since you can always open it for venting if it is too warm. The temperature rating is based on using a sleeping pad under the sleeping bag which conserves body heat from the ground.


If you frequently camp out you may want to consider a liner for your bag which will increase its warmth and can be washed separately, saving your sleeping bag from extra wear and tear.

You can also purchase sleeping bag covers. Some of these can substitute for a warm weather sleeping bag and can extend an all season bag into a cold weather bag by increasing the warmth. They can also provide extra protection from wet conditions and are a good choice for protecting goose down sleeping bags.

How comfortable you are when you sleep will drastically affect your enjoyment of a camping or hiking trip. Saving five or ten dollars at the expense of a good nights sleep will not seem like a good idea when you are tired and cold out in the woods, so choose wisely.

7 Ways to Improve Your Ski Rental Experience

Do you dread walking into the rental shop every time you take a ski vacation? Do you find the whole rental process to be tedious, tiresome, and utterly frustrating? If so, you are not alone.

Many people find walking into the rental shop to be their least favorite part of their ski trip. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Your rental experience can be extremely pleasant.

In fact, if you adhere to the following seven guidelines, you might even come to find the entire process to be something that you look forward to on your next ski vacation.

1. Avoid the rush! Most rental shops are busiest between 8:00-10:30 AM and 3:00-6:00 PM. Don’t come to rent during these peak hours. If possible, rent during the off hours. You'll find a much less crowded shop during this time, which offers you several benefits. You go through the entire rental process much more quickly when fewer customers are in the shop. You will also receive far better service. When the shop is packed with people, the rental tech’s main goal is to get everyone out as quickly as possible. But when the shop is emptier, he or she can spend much more time with you, answering all your questions, and making sure you receive the best possible fit.

2. Make advance reservations. Many ski shops will take advance reservations online. This speeds up your rental process. When you walk into the shop, they will already have all of your information on file and will have set aside equipment for you. This is especially important if you are renting during a peak time of the year, such as Christmas, or other major holiday weekend.

3. Make sure you know all of your family’s personal information before you arrive at the shop. You will need to know the height, weight, and shoe size of everyone in your family. If you have to figure out this information at the shop, it will slow down the whole process a great deal.

4. Understand that ski gear is not supposed to be comfortable. You are not renting slippers. Ski boots are supposed to fit extremely tight, and they may not be very comfortable. If your boots feel too comfortable, they are probably too big. Many customers get bogged down trying on 7 or 8 different pairs of boots looking for the “perfect fit” (i.e. a comfortable boot). Understanding that the right fit will be very tight and probably not very comfortable will save a lot of time and the needless trying on of lots of boots. However, ski boots aren’t supposed to hurt, either. If they do, you’ll want to try on a different pair.

5. If possible, buy boots and only rent skis. It is easy to rent a pair of brand new, top-of-the-line skis that will make your time on the mountain a lot of fun. However, it is much harder to find a rental boot that fits your foot well. Most rental boots have been on hundreds of people’s feet before you wear them. This doesn’t make for much of a custom fit. If you buy your boots, you can get a pair that is custom fitted to your foot. This will make your ski experience much more enjoyable. It will also cut down on a lot of time in the rental shop, since the boot fitting process takes the most time.

6. Keep everything except your sock out of your boot. Many people try to shove all of their layers (ski underwear, ski pants, etc.) into their ski boots. This actually makes it harder for your boot to fit properly. You only want your sock in your boot. Everything else should go outside of your boot. Also, stick to one pair of socks. Wearing two pairs actually makes your feet colder, and your boot will not fit as well.

7. Don’t be afraid to talk with the rental techs. Most people who work in a ski shop are passionate and knowledgeable about the sport, and love to talk about it. Ask them questions about gear, snow conditions, the best places to ski on the mountain, and the best places to go in town when you get off the mountain. They will most likely give you some good advice that will make your vacation much more enjoyable.

As you can see, it is very easy to drastically improve your rental experience. It no longer has to be the hellish nightmare you’ve always remembered. Prepare to look forward to your time in the rental shop. It can help make your ski trip a vacation to remember.