As we crawl into the tent at night and slip into the sack, we enter into another world. We can create our own microclimate independent of the weather conditions on the outside, we are safe and secure and we are physically and mentally separated, not only from the outside world, but also from our companions. Sleep embraces us. But this only happens if we are warm and comfortable.
At night we find ourselves practically defenseless. Throughout a normal day we are able to withstand a huge amount of situations, rain, snow, fog, wind or scorching sun. We can physically exhaust all our body energy, we can not eat or drink in adequate amounts, cruelly mistreat the body and still be able to smile. We know that a few weeks later we look back and consider these experiences from the point of view of the daily routine and wish to return to be there, outdoors, accepting everything that nature offers us. But at night the discomfort can not be accepted with a good face, the humidity and the cold do not tolerate themselves willingly during the night, when sleep should invade us relaxing our aching muscles. Sleepless nights make us lose everything, including illusion, and without it, the will to remain outdoors dissipates like the vapor of a teapot.
Fortunately, the man has developed many magnificent materials that allow him to stay warm, even in the less welcoming and haunting environments with a tiny weight and volume. The mountaineers in the Arctic or the Everest wrap themselves in a sort of nylon cocoon and goose feathers that weighs less than 2 pounds. We can defend ourselves from winter with a package that weighs less than a pound and is no bigger than a loaf of bread, which becomes our most intimate friend.
But how can you keep us sheltered a lightweight pack of feathers and nylon when temperatures drop below 0 °? This is because the human being constantly produces heat, like a radiator that does not go out, and to feel comfortable, it must lose heat at the same rate that produces it, calling itself energy balance. During a very active day, this balance can be achieved by taking off clothing if it is too hot or wearing clothing if it is too cold. At night, when we intend to sleep, we are inactive and do not produce much heat, but the little that is produced is fundamental and must be captured by some type of insulating barrier, the sleeping bag constitutes a very good barrier.
The main function of a sleeping bag is to maintain body temperature by achieving that the heat does not get lost faster than it is generated. The body also expels water vapor, whose elimination should be allowed to avoid condensation inside the bag, thus maintaining a certain comfort.
The best insulation is hot, dry and still air, but due to practical issues it is impossible to get an air jacket. What is needed then is a medium that holds the air, which allows it to be heated by our body heat and prevent it from moving, to avoid its cooling by convection. It should also be borne in mind that the insulation should weigh very little and should be compressed so well that it does not become a nuisance.
Both feathers and synthetic plush and synthetic fillers such as Polarguard, Hollowfil and Quallofil are excellent insulators. When these fills are used in well-designed bags, they do not only provide a thick cap consisting of more than 95 percent air, as it maintains that same air still.
In dry conditions, the plumes are arguably the best insulation in the world for a sleeping bag, and nothing man invented has its qualities of durability, compressibility and volume. Due to these qualities it is able to keep a person warm, with a weight and a volume smaller than any other insulator.
The elderly feather is the best filling for bed bags that is known, but unfortunately it is almost impossible to obtain since 1940.
Goose feathers are the best insulation that exists today. As it mostly comes from China and the market fluctuates immensely. Normal mountaineer, who does not want to spend too much money on his equipment, will see this equipment as exorbitantly expensive, however, with it obtains excellent bed bags, as they provide greater thickness extended and smaller volume folded, than any other material. The best quality on the market is about 95 percent feathers and not less than 85 percent anywhere, with the remainder being filled by small, crimp feathers that can not be separated from the main feathers.
The duck feathers, the ones of better quality are only slightly inferior to those of goose. They are easier to find and the quality range is much wider. The best is the new, but sometimes it is mixed with recycled, clean and used feathers. These fills are cheaper, but inferior to any kind of new fill.
Mixtures of duck feathers, The best contains only 50 percent feathers and in addition, the quality of feathers varies significantly. The insulation is inferior to that of pure feathers and the weight increases. These blends usually appear in the cheaper types of bags, but in smaller quantities than previously, because most manufacturers currently use synthetic fibers.
The use of synthetic plush for bed bags and especially on the linings of bags has become popular in recent years. This plush has some unique properties as it is very pleasing to the touch, is warm to its thickness and has no rival in wet conditions. It is also good insulation under the clothes and has long life. Unfortunately these bed bags are heavy and very bulky and in order to reduce these features, manufacturers make them with very narrow shapes, which causes a certain claustrophobia to sleep inside them. More successful are the lightweight synthetic plush liners for the bags, which can be used alone on warm summer nights, or with another sack in winter, to combat the colder nights.
Most are polyester fibers of different qualities. The most popular fillers today are Polarguard, Hollowfil and Quallofil, but none of them, say whatever the traders say, reach half the heat that reaches the feather, and yet they all weigh more and are bulky than The latter. They have the advantage that they do not lose practically any of their insulating qualities in wet conditions, unlike that of feathers that becomes soaked and becomes unusable.
Until recently, almost all commercially successful fillers were produced in the form of blocks of material, but synthetic injected filler has now appeared which offers certain real advantages.
The block-shaped filler, This method involves assembling fibers, generally short, to a certain width and thickness and further spraying with a resin to maintain the shape obtained. The block is then covered on both sides with a suitable fabric and sewn together, obtaining a kind of padded sandwich. For lighter models, a single layer is usually used, which can give rise to cold spots, which is combated by placing two opposing layers. The biggest advantage of this method is the filling stability because it can not be moved. The main disadvantages are the weight and the fact that no matter how elastic the filling, it can not reach a volume higher than the limits established by the nearest seam.
Injected bags, In these bed bags is used the system of compartments with straight or diagonal seams to achieve an optimum distribution and volume similar to the feather bags. There are no cold spots, like in single-layer quilted bags and weigh less than layers. The compartments may be distributed to length or width, the width will be better, as this reduces the space available for filling movement. With this type of construction it should be ensured that there is sufficient filling in the bag in order to eliminate any tendency of displacement in the compartments. For this reason, this method is suitable for 3- or 4-station bags.
A-A typical light summer bed bag with synthetic closure. The barrel shape is more effective than the rectangular one, but not as hot as the complete “mummy.” The partial hood provides the head with all the protection needed on summer nights.
B-A bag for 3 stations with mummy shape and complete hood. It has most of the features of a winter bag, minus the padding and feet, which is simpler. A side closure that runs the entire length of the bag, allows to control the ventilation.
C-Complete bag for the 4 stations, built with inclined partitions, complete hood and box-shaped feet that provides greater foot space and better insulation.
D-A bag for the mountain man who likes to sleep outdoors, under a tarpaulin or under the stars.The walls are constructed with straight partitions and have an additional layer of material impermeable to water and wind, which provides greater insulation.
The radiant barrier
This is a relatively new concept in bedding bags, and it has been shown that it can improve the yield of a bag of the same weight by about 20 percent. In practice, the radiant barrier is used to reduce the weight and volume of the bag by about 20 percent while maintaining the same level of results. This places this type of bed bags in terms of weight / volume / heat, between feather and synthetic bags. In addition, synthetics have the advantage of working well under humid conditions. The results obtained with this type of material is due to the fact that it retains all the heat that is normally lost by radiation, whereas the non-radiant bags reduce only the losses of heat by convection and by conduction. Thus, the combination of the radiant barrier and the synthetic filler act on three important mechanisms of heat loss.
These must not be filtered, they must be resistant, they do not rot and they must be light and permeable, to allow the water vapor produced by the body to go out. They should also be insulated from drafts and the inner cover should be pleasing to the touch. The most common materials are:
Two-ounce nylon: it’s simple, sturdy and economical, and still has most of the features needed to cover the bag inside and out.
Nylon Anti-Tear 2-ounce: Similar to the previous but sturdier. Good for exterior coverings.
Tapestry of nylon of 1,5 ounces or less : It is comfortable and very light, also serves to line the bags inside.
Cotton: Comfortable but heavy. It is mainly used for interior coverings and needs a lot of care.
Polyalgodon: Comfortable but heavy. It is more resistant than cotton and is suitable for interior coverings.
Gore-Tex: It is a special material that completely waterproof the outer covering, allowing you to breathe. It is very good for shipping bags and for lining the bags filled with feathers, which may not give good results if they are moistened. It is often used as a removable cover of the sleeping bags.
(Left) A layer of air is the best barrier to avoid heat loss by conduction, however if there is too much room for air, it moves and the convective currents carry the heat.
(Right) If the space is filled, for example with feathers, it holds the air and keeps it as still as possible.
Size and shape: Some bags have certain weights for specific reasons. For example, mountaineering bags are very narrow as this reduces weight. Generally, it should be possible to place the hood without the feet being compressed against the bottom of the bag. We must also remember that inside the bag must have enough space for a person to be able to wear additional clothing. Any extra space, besides this, constitutes more weight and less thermal efficiency.
The size of the seams is important for the longevity of the bag. It should have a minimum of 3 seams per centimeter and preferably four, in both feather and synthetic bags. It is also necessary to pay attention to the seams from behind (loose seams) at the end of the stitching of the synthetic ones.
A bed bag consists of two fabric covers between which the filler is located. To keep the filling evenly distributed and in place, the covers are sewn together. Therefore the method used in making the seams is fundamental with regard to the insulating qualities of the bag.
A- Simple padding. One should not buy a bag with a simple padding, because the filling is so compressed in the seams that it loses its qualities of arresting the air, being its value as practically null insulator.
B- The double quilting consists of joining two simple quilts, matching the seams so that the cold spots that appear in the seams of the simple quilting are eliminated. This type of bag weighs double obviously and depending on the filling, can become too heavy for the mound.
In the construction of the compartment system there are vertical partitions forming a wall between the inner and outer cover, thus providing a thickness along the entire length of the bag.
D- The construction with inclined walls compartments can take more filling than the one with straight walls, so it is more cozy and also more expensive. It is mainly used for feather-filled winter bags.
E- Construction in the form of overlapped pipes or “V” partitions. It is very effective, but it weighs too much and is very expensive.
F- Construction in overlapping blocks eliminates the problem of cold spots, but the result is a rather heavy bag.
Bed Bag Choice
It is necessary to decide first what type of activity is going to be performed more often and then, then decide the type of sleeping bag that we will need. You should not opt for a sleeping bag for extreme situations if you perform this type of activity only once a year. In these cases the differences can be saved by conjugating combined bags or additional clothing. We must decide what matters most to each one, weight, volume, behavior in humid conditions, long duration, easy maintenance or price.
We need to think about how we are going to use the bag in order to try to get the best results from this. It is necessary to find a refuge, it is preferable to sleep in a tent or any type of shelter that protects us from the wind. It is necessary to know that the naked breast of mother nature is a very cold neck, so it will be necessary to protect ourselves in some way to prevent all body heat from being lost. Moisture that may appear in the bag should be dried at the earliest opportunity.This aspect is particularly important with the feather bed bag. The bed bag should be washed from time to time (once a year with normal use) by carefully following the instructions that come with the bag. Feather and synthetic bags should be stored uncompressed.
When we fall asleep at night, the parts of the sleeping bag under the body are compressed, so that between us and the ground are enough crushed feathers or some of the synthetic filling and even more so if it is very thin nylon. One of the secrets to sleeping in warm clothing is to walk away from the ground, for which it is necessary to use a mattress or a mat. There are 3 basic types;
The latter can be a problem because, in addition to having a considerable thickness, the air trapped inside is not immobilized, so the body heat heats the air from the top of the mattress, but this heated air comes into contact with the ground Which is cold, and loses heat.
In addition the pneumatic mats can stick and therefore are not very reliable.
The basic difference between open cell and closed cell foam mats is that in the second the cells are sealed, something that does not occur in the others. The open cells can absorb water, like sponges, which is a shame because with this type of foam we get very comfortable beds, although they swell a lot. The closed cell foam is the closest to a good insulation of the ground, which exists. As the cells are sealed, no water is absorbed, so these mats are impermeable. In terms of size, volume and effectiveness, these have the best results and although some mountaineers prefer to use a piece of foam that protects the whole body, most of it is only a piece that reaches only the waist. Thus, the load decreases slightly. You can always put some clothes, a raincoat, a windbreaker or something similar, under the legs and feet to get a certain isolation, or even empty the backpack and insert feet and legs into it.
It remains for us to wish for very comfortable and warm hot days and for which we have counted on having helped in some way with this article.
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