The Backpackers Handbook by Chris Townsend

The Backpackers Handbook by Chris Townsend

Author:Chris Townsend
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 2005-01-29T05:00:00+00:00

Shape and Size

The most efficient sleeping bag is the one that traps warm air closest to your body. A bag with lots of room is a bag with lots of dead air space to heat. Most bags reduce this dead space by tapering from shoulder to foot. Most also have hoods to prevent heat from being lost through the head and at the neck. The resulting shape is called a mummy bag. It’s the standard shape for high-performance, lightweight sleeping bags and is very efficient at heat retention. Some warm-weather bags dispense with the hood and have a tapered shape sometimes called semirectangular. Actual rectangular bags are fine for warm-weather camping, though heavier than tapered ones. Because they usually have a zipper that runs down one side and across the foot, they can also be used as quilts on a bed. I don’t think they’re really a serious choice for backpacking though. If you find a close-fitting mummy bag restrictive, a broader mummy is a much better choice than a rectangular bag.

A sleeping bag that is too wide or too long won’t keep you as warm as one that fits properly, and the weight will be more than you need to carry. But a bag that is too small will be uncomfortable and won’t keep you warm in spots where you press against the shell and flatten the fill.

For these reasons, bags come in different lengths and shoulder, hip, and foot girths. Many companies offer two sizes in each model, while GoLite’s SmartFit bags come in three lengths and three girths. Finding a reasonable fit isn’t difficult, although very tall and very broad people may find their choices limited, and short people may end up with a bag that’s a little too long and slim ones with a bag that’s too wide. It’s worth climbing into a bag in the store to see how it fits before you buy it, even if you do feel conspicuous. A slightly roomy bag is better than a slightly small one, for both comfort and warmth. Make sure you can toss and turn and lie comfortably in the bag. Check too that the bag will accommodate any clothing you intend to wear in it, such as an insulated jacket in a cold-weather bag.

There’s a theory that most sleeping bags are designed for men and may be too roomy at the shoulders and too tight at the hips for many women. An increasing number of bags are now made for women, some with narrower shoulders, wider hips, shorter lengths, and more fill at the foot and across the chest, where many women report feeling the cold. EMS, Feathered Friends, Lafuma, Marmot, Outbound, REI, Sierra Designs, and The North Face all make women’s bags. However, when GoLite designed its SmartFit bags it measured a number of people and found no significant difference between men and women within girth categories—there were just more women in the trim category and more men in the wide. Wide men and wide women resembled each other in all girth characteristics, as did trim and regular ones.



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