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How to Pick the Perfect Sleeping Bag

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The Pacific Crest Trail is a long-distance hiking trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, which lie 100 to 150 miles east of the U.S. Pacific coast.

The trail’s southern end is at the U.S. border with Mexico and its northern end on the Canada–US border.

The trail is 2,653 miles long and runs through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, passing through 25 national forests and seven national parks.

Robert C., a native of Philadelphia, started hiking the famed Pacific Crest Trail on the U.S.-Mexican border on May 4, 2019, determined to make it all the way to the other end on the Canadian border.

The previous year he hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, so he was an experienced and capable hiker.

One evening, as Robert hiked through the Oregon mountains trouble began when the first snow of the season started falling.

Robert made camp for the night but stayed up all night long continuously clearing snow from around and atop his tent.

As he hiked the next day, the snow buried the trail. Unfortunately, Robert relied on a smartphone app that was supposed to map the trail, but it wasn’t working.

Straying miles off the trail and into a boulder field, he stepped into a crack hidden in the snow, trapping his foot.

He struggled for minutes before he could free himself.

After realizing he was lost and needed help, Robert called 911, but the line dropped and there was no phone signal.

After the 911 call was made, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office sent out a search and rescue team putting out a notice saying “the area of focus is very expansive and there is limited information available.”

Meanwhile, Robert stumbled into a campground where fresh tire tracks gave him hope that some visitors might be around, but he was unable to find anyone.

At this point, Robert was thoroughly soaked, shivering, with only his wet sleeping bag covering him when he was found by a search team from the local sheriff’s department who followed his footprints in the snow.

Clearly, Robert was running out of options and thankfully, he had his sleeping bag to cover himself.

There is no question that having a quality, durable sleeping bag kept Robert warm enough to stay alive.

With that being said, we all know that a sleeping bag is a critical part of our survival gear, so here are some things to consider when choosing your sleeping bag.

Choosing the size. Obviously, we all are different shapes and sizes and you should pick a sleeping bag that fits you right.

You don’t want to be cramped, but you also don’t want a sleeping bag that is too roomy because it will not work as well at keeping you warm.

In fact, if you are a smaller person or have a tiny spouse, you may be able to save a little money and reduce the weight of the bag you need to carry if you purchase a youth size sleeping bag rather than an adult size that may simply waste space.

The key is to go to your local camping gear store and try the bags out to make sure you are comfy and have just the right amount of space.

Bag material. When it comes to what material your sleeping bag is made from, down or synthetic material are usually considered the best materials. Down is better overall for warmth, however it can bunch up a lot if it gets wet, so you must keep it dry.

For this reason, you’ll want to make sure that your sleeping bags are stored in a waterproof sack or even trash bags as a last resort.

Synthetic materials are sometimes heavier than down, so those that are trying to reduce weight may want to avoid some synthetics.

In addition, I would avoid sleeping bags made from any cotton materials, including cotton flannel lining, as they tend to be heavier and are not the best materials for staying warm.

Climate and temperature ratings. If you live in a warmer climate, then you probably don’t need to purchase a sleeping bag that is designed for negative temperatures.

The thing is, bags that are designed for colder temps are usually heavier and more expensive, so it’s a waste if you don’t need it.

On the other hand, if you live somewhere with four seasons, you should be prepared for all temperatures and inclement weather.

At the very least, you should have a heavy-duty sleeping bag or a middle weight bag, in addition to another bivy type bag that can go over your sleeping bag.

When shopping for a sleeping bag you’ll see that manufacturers provide temperature ratings. These are basically estimates by the manufacturer on what temperature the bag will still keep you warm.

Of course, some people typically get cold easier, compared to other people. So, if you have a spouse who is always cold, you may want to go with a bag rated to a lower temperature than what is typical in your region.

The bottom line is, there isn’t the one perfect sleeping bag since there are so many different variables to consider when choosing a bag.

A few different sleeping bags I would check out are the Teton Sports Altos Ultralight, the Kelty Tuck 22F and the Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20.

Don’t forget to find the right bag for you and it always helps to check out the bags in person to make sure they are the right fit.

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