Sleeping Bag Buying Guide

A fitful night’s sleep is no preparation for the big day ahead. Sleeping bags can make the difference between a comfortable sleep and suffering through the night.

A sleeping bag is one of your most important pieces of equipment. It keeps you warm, helps you recover, and gives you crucial reassurance. You might not be in your bed, but the right sleeping bag will keep you happy until you’re home.

 

 

Temperature Ratings

There’s nothing exciting abut sleeping bag temperature ratings, but it doesn’t mean they’re not important. Whilst you don’t want to be shivering, you equally want to avoid being too warm or carrying a sleeping bag that is too big and heavy for your trip.


There are various methods that help to determine the temperature ratings for a sleeping bag. However the Standard methods EN 13537 or ISO 23537 have now been adopted by the majority of sleeping bag manufacturers, including by Mountain Equipment. We played a large part in the development of this Standard and our staff continue to be part of the committee that works on its progression.


All of our sleeping bags display EN13537 / ISO23537 temperature ratings except our very warmest sleeping bags: our Extreme Expedition sleeping bags and Glacier Expedition bag fall outside the range of the test.


The EN/ISO tests produce three different temperature ratings:

 

Comfort Rating

This rating is defined as a temperature at which a ‘standard female’ in a relaxed posture will feel comfortable inside a Sleeping Bag. If you are female or a cold-sleeper, this is the temperature rating that is most relevant to you.

Limit Rating

This rating is defined as a temperature at which a ‘standard male’ in a curled-up posture can sleep inside the Sleeping Bag without waking for an eight hour period. If you are a male, or are not a ‘cold sleeper’, then this rating is most relevant to you. This is also the rating which is advertised most widely for most sleeping bags.

Extreme Rating

This rating indicates the minimum temperature at which a ‘standard female’ can remain for a total of six hours before risking the chance of hypothermia and damage to health. Generally this rating should be treated as a guide to how the Sleeping Bag performs under extreme emergency situations, and should not be considered a factor in making a purchase.

Our Good Night’s Sleep Guarantee

In addition to these Standard temperature ratings we also offer our Good Night’s Sleep temperature rating. This is a rating which we feel is the most accurate reflection of a bag’s potential in real-life situations. In most cases our Good Night’s Sleep rating will tally closely to that of the EN/ISO result, but for certain bags the discrepancy might be greater.

 

This is because the EN test is strongly affected by certain aspects of a bag’s makeup which don’t make as much difference in real life, such as the face fabric and the shape of the bag. Our Good Night’s Sleep rating is guaranteed and is based on extensive experience of manufacturing sleeping bags and extremely exhaustive testing in the laboratory, during cold chamber testing, and is influenced by user feedback from countless expeditions stretching back more than fifty years.

 

We suggest you base your sleeping bag purchase most closely on the Good Night’s Sleep temperature rating, but of course if you think you particularly feel the cold or otherwise, then you should take this into consideration.

 

Weight & Pack Size

Be honest: do you tend to car camp, backpack, or bivvy on ledges? If you mostly camp in places where the pack size and weight of your sleeping bag are not important, then consider buying a bigger, more spacious sleeping bag. But if you are alpine climbing or backpacking and carrying your sleeping bag for an extended period, then a lightweight sleeping bag is really important. Look for a sleeping bag that weighs under a kilo (2.2lbs) for a summer sleeping bag, and under 600g (1.3lbs) if you are really serious about shedding weight. If you are looking for a year-round sleeping bag that’s suitable for a variety of temperatures, then anything up to about 1.5kg (3.3lbs) will suit you perfectly.


The packed size of a Sleeping bag is closely allied to its weight, but there is also a huge difference between down and synthetic sleeping bags. A down sleeping bag with a Good Night’s Sleep rating of -20°C/-4°F may actually compress smaller than a synthetic sleeping bag with a temperature rating of -5°C/23°F!

 

Insulation - W

Sleeping bags are either filled with down or with synthetic insulation. Down is warmer for its weight and packs smaller, so is a better choice for those who regularly carry their sleeping bag. Down is also longer-lasting and more comfortable to sleep in. However, synthetic sleeping bags are less expensive than down sleeping bags, they are more effective if the sleeping bag gets very wet, and they are easier to clean and launder. For most performance applications, down is superior to synthetic, but if you expect exceedingly wet conditions, then synthetic is the way to go.

 

Synthetic

Synthetic insulations might all look similar to the untrained eye, but they vary greatly in their warmth, softness, compressibility, durability, water resistance and compression recovery.

 

The warmer the synthetic sleeping bag, the more weight of synthetic insulation it has inside it, usually in the form of a greater number of layers of insulation and/or thicker layers of insulation.

 

Our range of Polarloft® synthetic insulations used in our Sleeping bags are a result of scouring the globe for the best possible materials. They offer a fantastic blend of warmth, comfort, compressibility, and durability which is ideal for all but the most demanding situations.

 

Down

The greatest factor determining how warm a down sleeping bag will be is the fill weight: how many grams of down are in the bag. The measure of the quality of that down is the fill power, with a greater number indicating greater quality. Roughly speaking, down above 700 fill power is very good down, down above 800 fill power is exceptional down. We use three different types of down in our sleeping bags:

 

800 Fill Power Goose Down

Our very best Eastern European goose down. Sourced from Western Russia and DOWN CODEX™ approved. Amongst the best downs available anywhere.

 

700 Fill Power Duck Down

Sourced from two suppliers, one in Germany and one in China, both of which are DOWN CODEX™ approved. An extremely good all round down insulation.

 

700 Fill Power Recycled Down

Taken from post-consumer down products, cleaned, sterilised, and sorted to leave an excellent down insulation.

DOWN CODEX®

In 2009 Mountain Equipment became one of the first outdoor brands to introduce independent auditing of our down supply chain. Quietly introduced, without fanfare or press-releases, DOWN CODEX® set out to understand an industry and supply-chain that was largely ignored and certainly little understood.

 

All products contain a code that can be entered into our DOWN CODEX® website to trace the down that they contain. Not only can you identify the source of your down but the audit relating to that source and the down batch test results can also be viewed.

 

Outer Fabrics

Outer face fabrics are a sleeping bag’s first line of defence against moisture, snow, and spilt drinks. They stop insulation escaping the sleeping bag, but also allow perspiration out, and are an important factor in comfort. The table below summarises our various outer fabrics’ performances, with further details given below:

 

GORE-TEX INFINIUM™

For extreme conditions, GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ will protect against exposure to moisture thanks to its durably light, exceptionally breathable and rain-resistant membrane. With an incredibly light 10 denier outer face fabric and protective PTFE membrane it weighs just 38g/m² yet will defend against snowfall, snow-melt and the effects of condensation; ensuring that down maintains its loft even in cold and damp conditions.

DRILITE® Xero

Exceeding the impressive 1500 mm hydrostatic head of the original DRILITE® LOFT but with a staggering weight of only 28g/m², DRILITE® Loft Xero is a class-leading fabric for the most serious users: it’s amongst the lightest highly water resistant shell fabrics in the world. Ideal for Super Alpine climbing and the most lightweight expeditions where protection, pack size and weight are critical to success.

Plasma

One of the lightest downproof fabrics on the planet. Perfect for alpinists and backpackers for whom weight is absolutely critical. Despite being just 26g/m², the fabric has exceptional tear resistance, giving you peace of mind on longer or more remote trips.

DRILITE® Loft 30

Considerably lighter than the original DRILITE® Loft Fabric, but still with the same highly water resistant 1500 mm hydrostatic head, DRILITE® Loft 30 weighs 55g/m² and is the ideal fabric for sleeping bags destined for serious mountaineering, climbing, and backpacking in difficult conditions.

DRILITE® Loft 20

One of the lightest versions of DRILITE® Loft available. Our 20 denier version weighs just 36g/m² yet still affords the same highly water resistant properties of the original with an impressive 1500mm hydrostatic head.

HELIUM™ 20

Weighing just 38g/m², HELIUM™ 20 uses 20 denier yarns to create a fabric that is compressible, tough, and extremely comfortable. Its densely woven construction ensures the highest levels of downproofing, wind resistance and resistance to heat loss. The new HELIUM™ 20 offers greater handfeel over previous HELIUM™ fabrics as well as reduced seam slippage, resulting in even greater durability than the previous fabric.

HELIUM™ 40

A durable and well-proven version of our Helium™ fabrics offers great all round long-term performance without adding undue cost. It’s easily cared for and offers excellent comfort. It is 53g/m².

Sleeping Bag Fit

It's worth getting a bag that fits you. One that is too tight and restrictive will be uncomfortable if used for any length of time, while one that is too big can feel cold as the air inside may circulate freely.


Every Mountain Equipment Sleeping Bag is specified to one of five different fits: Expedition, Mountain, Alpine, Valley, and GT.


In turn, our sleeping bags are available in either Regular or Long lengths, and our women’s specific shape and specification in certain models. Women’s sleeping bags are shorter than the equivalent men’s sleeping bag by 15 cm/6 inches and also offer a marginally smaller footbox to suit smaller feet. They also come with EXL® stitching at the midriff which provides greater comfort, warmth, and an improved fit.

 

Expedition Fit

Wider and marginally longer than our Mountain Fit, the Expedition Fit caters for the needs of high altitude mountaineers and polar explorers who need to wear or store additional items of clothing or even their boots inside their sleeping bag.

Mountain Fit

The foundation of all our fit blocks, this semi-tapered mummy profile combines excellent thermal efficiency and comfort for all-round mountain use.

Alpine Fit

Slightly more tapered in the upper body and in the legs than our Mountain Fit this fit maximises thermal performance and minimises weight for the upmost performance.

 

Valley Fit

Providing the greatest possible room and comfort. The hood of the bag will accommodate a full-size pillow, and the bag’s main body profile will easily accommodate relaxed postures whilst the enlarged foot box gives extra wiggle room.

 

GT (‘Grand Tourer’) Fit

Our largest fit block, this is our Alpine fit but with every dimension increased by approximately 15%. It follows the same tapered shape as the Alpine fit but offers greater room for larger sleepers.

 

Standard

Regular:

Designed to fit a maximum user height of 185cm / 6ft 1” It will perform optimally for those users who are between 178cm and 183cm (5ft 8” and 6ft) in height.

Long:

Designed to fit a maximum user height of 200cm / 6ft 6” It will perform optimally for those users who are between 185cm and 197cm (6ft 1” and 6ft 5”) in height.

 

Women's Specific

Regular Women's:

Designed to fit a maximum user height of 170cm / 5ft 6” It will perform optimally for those users who are between 163cm and 168cm (5ft 3” and 5ft 5”) in height.

Long Women's:

Designed to fit a maximum user height of 185cm / 6ft 1” It will perform optimally for those users who are between 178cm and 183cm 5ft 8” and 6ft) in height.

 

Construction

How a sleeping bag is constructed makes a big difference to durability, its ability to maintain warmth in wet conditions, and its weight. We use more complex construction methods than any other brand, but we do this because on longer or extreme trips, it really matters. It is also key to ensuring even warmth throughout a sleeping bag, as there is no point in having a warm torso if your feet and head are freezing.


Sleeping bag construction relates to how the insulation is held in place. For down sleeping bags that means how the baffles are constructed, and for synthetic sleeping bags it relates to how the sheets of insulation are sewn together.


You can find out more about the baffle type or construction type for each of our sleeping bags on their product pages.

 

Down Sleeping Bag Construction

Down control is key to a sleeping bag: ensuring the down is key in place throughout the sleeping bag’s lifetime. All of our sleeping bags feature excellent down control, but some of our sleeping bags have truly exceptional down control. The only real disadvantage to better down control is marginally greater weight, and being much harder to sew together. We use five main types of baffle construction in the body of our down sleeping bags.

 

Synthetic Sleeping Bag Construction

For synthetic sleeping bags, construction is all about trying to make the sleeping bag as warm and thick as possible. It’s not as simple as laying more sheets of insulation on top of each other, as greater benefits can be had by lapping insulations, or by sewing them offset or unevenly, as this creates greater bulk. We use four main types of construction.

 

 

 

Discover the Range

Extreme Alpine

Extreme Light

Helium

Extreme Expedition

Nova

Earthrise

Goose Down Sleeping Bags

Our Goose Down Sleeping Bags are our most exceptional Sleeping Bags, designed for users who want to push their limits or for those who simply want one of the best Sleeping Bags ever made. We make three different ranges of Goose Down Sleeping Bag.

GORE® THERMIUM™ 10D outer shell is durably light, highly breathable and rain-resistant

Extreme Expedition

Engineered to withstand extreme cold in the most hostile environments on earth. With durably rain-resistant fabrics and construction optimised to maximise and maintain warmth for extended periods these bags are built specifically for the needs of explorers and mountaineers undertaking the most committing journeys in the highest, coldest and most remote locations.

 

DRILITE® LOFT™ XERO 10D outer shell is ultra-light, highly breathable and water-resistant

Extreme Alpine

True expedition bags in all but weight, re-defining what is possible for those in need of high levels of protection and reliable warmth. Developed specifically for climbers and mountaineers tackling the world’s last great problems and pushing the envelope of possibility to its limit, these lightweight, protective Sleeping Bags are anything but simple. Providing absolute confidence for self-supported trips in remote locations, these are designed for alpinism’s leading edge.

 

Plasma™ 10D outer shell is incredibly light and exceptionally breathable

Extreme Light

The lightest, most efficient Sleeping Bags we have ever developed. If you want reliable warmth for minimum weight, look no further. Their advanced design and cutting edge fabric technology has opened up a new standard in superlight bag construction. Developed for alpinists, ultra-distance backpackers and mountain athletes these bags will help you reach your destination faster, more efficiently and more comfortably than ever before.

 

Duck Down Sleeping Bags

Our duck down sleeping bags offer similar performance to our goose down sleeping bags but at a fraction of the cost. They are a great choice for all but the most discerning of customers. We make three different ranges of duck down sleeping bags.

GORE® THERMIUM™ 10D outer shell is durably light, highly breathable and rain-resistant

Glacier

Glaciers offer true all-round performance and protection for unreliable conditions. Whether you are on a 3-week tent-based trek in the Himalaya, hauling a pulk across the Greenland icecap or mountaineering in the Cascades there is a Glacier Sleeping Bag for almost every mountain and cold weather adventure.

 

DRILITE® LOFT™ XERO 10D outer shell is ultra-light, highly breathable and water-resistant

Helium

Efficiently sized, supremely comfortable and low in weight each Helium bag offers outstanding all-round performance for backpackers, cycle-tourers and trekkers. These bags don’t skimp on features and will keep you warm and comfortable whether on a summer road-trip or extended trek.

 

Plasma™ 10D outer shell is incredibly light and exceptionally breathable

Classic

A benchmark in down sleeping bag design. Low in weight and easy to pack they offer great all-round performance in a roomier, more generously sized design. With features that would put many rivals more expensive bags to shame, the Classic collection is ideally suited to all-forms of self-supported travel whether backpacking across Europe, trekking in the Himalaya or venturing through South America.

 

Earthrise Sleeping Bags

Recycled down offers almost all the performance of virgin down but with less environmental impact. A superb option for all but high performance users.

 

Recycled down, recycled fabrics; the Earthrise is our most sustainable range of sleeping bags which will give you years of excellent service. Based on the design of our best-selling Helium models, Earthrise bags are high performance products that boast both serious warmth and outstanding green credentials.

 

Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Synthetic Sleeping Bags excel when you need totally reliable protection whatever the elements throw at you. Versus Down they are easier to care for and are usually cheaper. We make threedifferent ranges of Synthetic Sleeping bag.

GORE® THERMIUM™ 10D outer shell is durably light, highly breathable and rain-resistant

Nova

The perfect all round synthetic bag giving exceptional performance from spring through ‘til winter in a comfortable, lightweight design. Efficiently sized, supremely comfortable and featuring our innovative Keystone shingle construction, Novas offers a comprehensive specification of features and are well suited to trekking, backpacking and other far-flung adventures.

 

DRILITE® LOFT™ XERO 10D outer shell is ultra-light, highly breathable and water-resistant

Starlight

An excellent range of synthetic bags, offering proven performance and dependable warmth. Lighter and more packable than many of their rivals, they offer improved efficiency and remain a reliable choice for those wanting an easy-to-care-for sleeping bag that can cope with unpredictable conditions.

 

POLARLOFT® insulation

Lunar

Simple, lightweight and using the same proven POLARLOFT® fill as some of our most high performance synthetic bags, Lunars are a superb introduction to the Mountain Equipment sleeping bag range. Excellent performance from great value bags, Lunars should inspire both the current and next generation of budding mountaineers.

 

Get Some Sleep, Tomorrow is a Big Day

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