However cold it is outside, - they keep it warm inside: Winter sleeping bags
What distinguishes a winter sleeping bag from a summer sleeping bag? What is the difference between a sleeping bag with down filling and synthetic sleeping bags? To help you find your way through the sleeping bag jungle, we offer you the following tips on choosing a suitable winter sleeping bag.
Finding the best winter sleeping bags for your needs
Not all winter is created equal. There are different selection criteria, depending on whether you need a winter sleeping bag for spending the night in cool temperatures in the lowlands, or for high-altitude trekking in the mountains.
It is important that you consider how your winter sleeping bag will be transported and in which temperature range you will be able to comfortably spend the night. If you are travelling with a backpack (on foot, horseback, bike, etc.), you should look for the smallest possible pack size and low weight in a winter sleeping bag. When travelling by car or train you don't need to pay so much attention to weight and size; you can get away with a less lightweight model.
In this case choosing the optimal winter sleeping bag comes down to its thermal output. A night in the German winter can be endured with a less insulated winter sleeping bag, while in the Alps even in summer you can encounter extreme minus temperatures. Women are generally advised to follow the comfort temperature, and men the limit rating. These values give the temperatures in which a person of average fitness and weight can comfortably spend the night in a winter sleeping bag (laboratory findings). This value can vary greatly depending on individual condition, fitness level, weight, health, age and especially external conditions. Those who are tired, younger, hungry, have a low body weight or who are out of condition will feel the cold sooner.
But the person who knows you best, is you, therefore: Better go for a level warmer, if you are inclined to feel the cold. In extreme circumstances, warm underclothes or insulating liners in your winter sleeping bag can help (these are recommended anyway, so that you don't need to wash the actual sleeping bag as often!).
Making the right choice of filling for your winter sleeping bag
The age-old question is: Down or synthetic fibre?! While there are many different choices of outer material for winter sleeping bags (nylon for more robust models, polyester for lightweight models, coated or uncoated fabric), when it comes to the filling there are only two choices.
Down is unsurpassed when it comes to the thermal output of a winter sleeping bag. This, along with its minimal weight, makes it ideal for travelling with a backpack, in extremely cold temperatures, for mountain adventures and for lightweight enthusiasts. The disadvantage is its susceptibility to damp. If you need a winter sleeping bag for damp conditions or for survival bivouacs, you should avoid down.
Synthetic fibres offer the opposite of the advantages and disadvantages of down. A winter sleeping bag with synthetic insulation is therefore less warming at the same intrinsic weight and is larger in terms of pack size. But you can enjoy the advantages of an easy-care sleeping bag which will keep you warm, even when the fill gets wet.
Details and care for winter sleeping bags
Winter sleeping bags should definitely come with a draft collar and a two-way zip on the side (for ventilation in warmer climates). Women's and children's models (as well as some men's) also feature extra lining in the foot area. Moreover, some models are elastic, which increases sleep comfort.
Winter sleeping bags should always be stuffed (not rolled or folded), in order to avoid kinks. Open storage increases the life expectancy.
There are also special detergents available for synthetic fibres and down, which better maintain the loft of the fabric than standard products.