In a SHTF situation, sleep is going to be a critical component of your survival. Especially if you have to bug out, proper sleeping gear can be of paramount importance. So how do you go about selecting proper sleeping gear, especially a sleeping bag?
There are some basic considerations you need to think about first. The climate of the area you will be operating in (especially winter, which will determine the temperature rating your bag needs to be), the type of filling the bag will have, and the weight of the bag.
Climate: I live in the Arizona desert. Summers are brutally hot, but winters can get a bit cold as well as wet during our monsoon season. I can probably get by year round with a G.I. poncho and a G.I. poncho liner. (both of which are in my bug out bag), but I also carry my two season SnugPak Softie 3 Merlin. The poncho and liner are a good addition to a sleeping bag for use as a ground sheet and extra insulation. I also still have my Army issue Extreme Cold Weather bag that is good to -20 degrees that I brought home when I retired in reserve. This is an excellnt bag, but it is large and weighs about 7.5 pounds.. I have carried it on an Alice rucksack for long marches in Germany, but this bag has been replaced in the military by the modular system I describe below.
Bags are rated according to the temperature range they are designed for. In the United States a sleeping bag’s rating typically indicates the lowest temperature at which it will keep the average sleeper warm.
- Summer season – +35° and higher
- 3-season – +10° to +35°
- Winter – +10° and lower
However there is no real standardization between companies, so you need to do your research and study the test reports before making a final decision. In Europe, they have developed the EN 13537 standard which rates sleeping bags as follows:
- the upper limit is the highest temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult man is able to have a comfortable night’s sleep without excess sweating.
- the comfort rating is based on a ‘standard’ adult woman having a comfortable night’s sleep.
- the lower limit is based on the lowest temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult man is deemed to be able to have a comfortable night’s sleep.
- the extreme rating is a survival only rating for a ‘standard’ adult man. This is an extreme survival rating only and it is not advisable to rely on this rating for general use. (Wikipedia)
The transition zone, in between the comfort and lower temperature, is usually considered as the best purchase guideline.
Filling: Goose Down is lighter, compresses easier and is warmer per equal weight. However, if it gets wet, it is pretty much useless as for heat retention. Some of the newer insulation such as Lamilite or Polarguard 3D will still retain some warmth when wet.
Weight: If you plan on carrying your bag on your rucksack, such as when bugging out, weight is going to be an important factor. Generally, the lower the temperature you bag will keep you comfortable in, the heavier the weight of the bag.
One excellent system available on the market is the U.S. Military sleeping system. This is the older 4 piece modular system that has been replaced by a newer 5 piece system. Includes 4 components: green mummy style Patrol Bag, black mummy style Intermediate Bag, weather resistant camouflage GorTex Bivy Cover and 6 or 9 strap Compression Stuff Sack. Rated down to -50°F. This lower rating is assuming a soldier is wearing military Extended Cold Weather clothing. In warmer climates you can use the patrol bag by itself which is rated for use at 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The Intermediate bag is designed for use in cold climates ranging from -10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Added together and you should be able to stay warm at temperature found in most of the country. The whole ensemble weighs in at about 9 pounds, and the Gortex bivy bag makes it truly waterproof. At just under $200.00, this set is field proven by the military, and to me, an excellent value considering it’s quality and flexibility.
There are a number of excellent sleeping bag systems on the market. Using your weather and weight criteria, you really need to get the best bag that you can afford. This is one area that scrimping on money could be very costly in the long run.
As always, do your research and buy carefully.