sac de couchage pour camping d'hiver

How to Choose the Right Sleeping Bag for Winter

Thinking of going camping? Check out our Winter Camping series for our other 2 articles on mattresses and tents.

Your goal is sleeping under a star-studded sky admiring the Northern Lights, but you don’t have the right equipment to camp in sub-zero temperatures? What you’re missing is the right sleeping bag: warm enough to help you have a good night’s sleep while staying warm and recovering from your long hike. Vicky Larocque, Sales Consultant and winter camping enthusiast, gives you her advice for selecting the right winter sleeping bag for you!

Choosing the right sleeping bag for the right temperatures means that you don’t have to wear layer upon layer upon layer! However, it’s important not to sleep with the same clothes you wore during the day as you’ll be bringing the humidity into your sleeping bag with you.

The mummy sleeping bag and floor mat are both winter camping essentials.

-9 to -12 Sleeping Bags: for Fall temperatures

For the month of October to the beginning of November, you can opt for a sleeping bag with a temperature code of -9 to -12. This means that if you go out camping and the temperature goes down to to -12, you’ll be sure to be comfortable and not feel the effects of the cold*. Sleeping bags with this code are perfect for someone who wants to go winter camping for the first time.

The price for -9 to -12 sleeping bags is affordable, too. If you’re worried about whether this type of sleeping bag is sufficiently warm, but are unsure about spending more for a -18 to -29 bag, you can always buy extra lining which will add insulation to the bag.

* Please note that several factors may affect your heat level during winter camping , such as fatigue, food and humidity. Be sure to consider these factors before purchasing your sleeping bag, as to optimize your winter camping experience.

-18 to -29 Sleeping Bag: for Winter temperatures

If you are now an expert of winter camping and you want to heighten your experience, you’ll need a sleeping bag that will offer guaranteed warmth and comfort no matter where you go. With a -18 to -29 sleeping bag, you can take that trip to the top of the mountain while being excellently bundled up. Although pricier, these sleeping bags have a multitude of uses designed to facilitate your life when it’s cold outside. Taking into account that you will spend much of your time in the bag, some of them are equipped with a front zipper, allowing you to sit up and eat comfortably.

camping d'hiver

Down-filled or synthetic?

When we talk comfort, we’re talking lining. Two types are on the market: natural or synthetic.

 The first type offers unparalleled comfort and warmth. You’ll feel like you are in your own bed, under thick blankets. And, if you want to transport your down-filled sleeping bag over long distances, it doesn’t take up all that much space! This will allow you to have more room for the rest of your gear. Though, comfort like this also comes with it’s inconveniences. The more compressed the down-filling, the higher the risk for it to lose its puffiness, which is what gives it its thermal properties. The majority of the down currently used in sleeping bags are treated with a coating allowing them to be waterproof and water-resistant. In terms of maintenance, down sleeping bags require more attention than synthetic ones (see below for maintenance).

With regards to  synthetic insulated lining, with its equal heat input (in comparison to the down), it will be less compressible. However, its moisture-resistant and its maintenance is easier.

Rectangular or Mummy?

The rectangular sleeping bag is not recommended for winter camping. Why? Because there is a lot of space between your body and the lining, thus more air to heat, which implies heat loss. If you want to maximize your winter camping experience, you’ll need a sleeping bag that hugs your body. This is why you should opt for a mummy sleeping bag; narrower at the feet and larger at the shoulders. What’s more, most mummy bags are equipped with a wind-breaking hood and adjustable collar that protect your head and neck from losing heat (which is mostly lost from the head and feet, so this factor should not be ignored).

camper l'hiver
Winter Camping: down or synthetic sleeping bag?

A Must: The Camping Mat

Even the best sleeping bag will not protect you from the frozen ground without a good camping mat. If you place your sleeping bag directly on the ground, the filling will become flatten out and lose its thermal capacities. Camping mats are rated according to a code. For winter camping, we usually choose a code 4 or higher. When spring arrives, you can go up to 3.5 or more – but never less – or you risk getting too cold.

Tip from our pros: Sleeping Bag Maintenance

In order to maintain the insulating qualities of your sleeping bag, it’s important to take good care of it. After each wash, either filling will begin to lose its thermal capacities. Ideally, wash it the least possible and to air it out after each use. Leave it out for several hours on an elevated surface, and make sure it’s nice and dry.

If you have a sleeping bag filled with synthetic materials, you should read the included instructions attentively. Inadequate washing, the wrong drying cycle, or temperatures that are too high could alter the insulating properties of the bag.

If you have a down-filled sleeping bag, the rule of thumb is that you should wash it the least amount of times possible. It’s better to remove stains by hand using soft soap, or to submerge it in the bathtub and lay it flat to dry (not to be put in the spin cycle, otherwise the duvet can become damaged and lost its thermal qualities). If its absolutely necessary to wash your down-filled sleeping bag and you wish to use the machine, you may set it to “delicate wash”, selecting cold water.