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The very nature of hunting requires those participating to be aware and alert of their surroundings. To be successful when you're out, you need to be able to hear, see and react to changing situations, quickly. From a safety perspective, you need to know what's going on around you at all times. Unfortunately, that's hard to do when you're sleep deprived.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect us in a number of ways, each more serious than the last. And the longer you are sleep deprived, the worse the symptoms are. A single night of missed sleep may not have dire effects on your attention in everyday circumstances. But camping and hunting are not normal circumstances. Getting a good night's rest is critically important when out in the wild, and the best way to ensure you get the rest you need is by being comfortable when you sleep. That means that what you sleep in - and what you sleep on - are some of the most important pieces of equipment that you'll pack for your trip.
So how do you ensure you'll be as comfortable as possible sleeping outdoors? Below you'll find some tips on how to choose the best hunting sleeping bag for your needs. With some careful planning and research, you can get a great night's sleep and be ready for your quarry the next day.
Choosing the right sleeping bag means first knowing where you'll be laying your head. Many hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts have multiple sleeping bags, depending on their activities and the conditions they anticipate experiencing. Whether you're looking for a single bag to handle all your camping and hiking needs or another bag to add to your collection, you'll want to start with understanding the environment.
First up is determining where you'll be sleeping. Will you be in a waterproof bivy or tent? Or only under a tarp? The answer to these questions will help determine how warm you will be, and potentially how dry.
Next up is understanding the time of year and expected weather. Are you going out mid-season or late? Will you be camping in a tent in April or August? Check the historic temperature ranges for the time of year where you'll be, and make special note of the low end of the range.
If you're looking for something to cover several trips throughout the year, be sure that you're ready for wet weather and go for a mid-range in temperature. Time frames that cover March to June have different weather expectations than those that cover August to November.
When it comes to sleeping bags, the last piece of criteria you'll want to know is how much moving around you'll be doing. Are you out for a quick weekend with a single base camp? Or for a week, hiking from game trail to game trail? You won't want to lug around a heavy bag over long distances, or a bulky bag that doesn't pack well.
All of this information should help you choose the size, shape, and filling of your sleeping bag. Sure, there are a number of other bells and whistles when it comes to bags, but those are the three most important elements.
Let's start with size because this one is easy. Are you 6' tall or taller? Then buy a long sleeping bag. Otherwise, a regular bag is fine.
Shape is the next easiest. Your basic choices are rectangular or mummy (so called, because the sleeping bag tapers at both ends, giving a very mummy-like appearance to the bag). Rectangular bags are fine for car camping and shorter hikes. But they tend to be bulky and heavier than the mummy style sleeping bags. If you'll be doing any amount of hiking, go for the mummy bag. Why? They are lighter than the rectangle bags and are frequently warmer, too. Because the bag tapers, it uses less material than the rectangular bag, making it lighter. And because it fits around you more snugly, it helps to hold in warmth more efficiently.
The downside of the mummy bag is the fact that it is more snug. You'll be sleeping in a more confined area than your bed at home, but once you get past that they are the best bet for backpacking, hunting, and fishing.
Now, the big question: filling. What will your sleeping bag's insulation be made of? This is where understanding the weather conditions and average temperature will come in handy. While down is the warmest and lightest of the fills, it is also the most expensive. Because down sleeping bags are filled with the smaller insulating feathers of ducks and geese, the warmth provided is excellent. But as down becomes harder to come by the cost of down sleeping bags increase. Additionally, when these feathers are on the goose or duck, they are covered by an outer layer of feathers, protecting the down from the elements. If your down sleeping bag every gets wet, you'll understand why this is important. When wet, down clumps together and the insulation goes down to almost nothing. It also can take hours or days to completely dry out.
Synthetic fill, on the other hand, handles getting wet much better than down. It dries more quickly, is more cost effective and can be found with comfort ratings as low as any down sleeping bag has. The negative for synthetic fills is they can be heavier than down bags, and harder to compress.
Sleeping bags aren't the only purchase you should consider making when you want to ensure a good night's rest while camping and hunting. Almost as important of a purchase, a sleeping pad will help keep you comfortable while insulating you from the ground, keeping you warmer.
There are several choices with sleeping pads, including foam and air pads. While foam pads may save you a few dollars, air pads will be more comfortable, keep you warmer, are light and decompress and pack well. If you're going to spend good money on a sleeping bag, be sure to invest in a good pad as well to get you the best night's sleep.