There is so much information out there about packing for camp, but I did want to add just a few more tips. Now mind you, I camp at Council campsites with my troop – which means we have wooden bed frames, 2″ mattresses, and units (tent, cabin, or dorm) which are already set up. Also, I live in the subtropical Houston area. My sleeping bag is only rated to 30 degrees F, and most of the time I open it up and use it as a blanket. Which leads me to my first tip:
Tip #1 – A good set of sleeping gear is versatile.
Our camping weather swings from the high humid 90s to just under 30. I don’t want to buy a sleeping bag for each season for every member of my family. So with my one 30 degree bag, a fitted sheet, and a fleece blanket, I have multiple options. In very warm weather, I put the sheet on the mattress, lay my sleeping bag on top of that (for extra padding), and use my fleece blanket as a cover up or an extra pillow if I’m really hot. In medium weather (50-70), I put the sheet on the mattress, unzip my bag to make a blanket, and use my fleece blanket as a pillow. In cold weather (35-50), I zip myself into my sleeping bag and wear a hat to sleep. In REALLY cold weather, I throw my fleece blanket over my head to trap my warm breath.
Tip #2 – Pick the right sleeping bag.
So, I already mentioned that my bag is a 30 degree bag. But temperature is not the only thing you want to think about when looking at a sleeping bag. If you’re the type to get chilly easily, a mummy style bag holds in body heat much better than a rectangle bag. If you don’t want to carry a heavy bag, a mummy style bag is roughly half the size and weight of an equivalent rectangle bag, with some being MUCH less. But if you’re plus-sized like me, a mummy bag is probably not going to fit. Check the dimensions before you buy a bag and be prepared to return it if it doesn’t fit. Also, if you plan on unzipping your bag to use it as a comforter, check that the zipper goes all the way around the bottom. Some don’t, either for costs, or to increase foot warmth.
Tip #3 – Get a good bag to carry your sleeping gear in.
In order to keep my girls from overpacking, the rule has always been that you have to be carry your own gear to the campsite. I try to set a good example by doing the same. Which means you want to try to pack everything into as few bags as possible, and choose those bags well. You could opt for a true backpacking backpack, complete with a mummy style sleeping bag, and ultralight blanket and pillow. But my girls aren’t ready for that, and frankly aren’t interested. One of my girls found the coolest laundry bag to carry her sleeping gear and personal items in. I tried getting laundry bags for our family’s gear, but they ended up being HUGE and while they will hold everything, they are a pain to carry; so again, check the dimensions. I recently got a new compression bag, since the one that came with my sleeping bag was on its last legs. I got the 31L, and I have fallen in love with it. I loved the compression bag that came with my sleeping bag, but it really only fit my sleeping bag. I can now fit my sleeping bag, my sheet, and my blanket in the compression bag, and then throw my pillow in my clothes bag. It doesn’t weight nearly as much as I thought it would (or as much as it feels like it weighs when strapped to my back).
I would like to note that since we are in the midst of camping season (with one leadership retreat done, a major Community Campout ahead, and a volunteer training session the month after), I tend to keep my gear compressed to make it faster to pack. I come back from camp, wash the sheets and pillowcase, and then throw it all back in the bags, hence the wrinkles everywhere. Over the summer, my sleeping bag is uncompressed and hung to “relax”. 😉 I would also like to point out that since I am allergic to down, my bag is synthetic (which means I can keep it compressed longer than a down bag).
Some good info on these sites, too:
- REI’s Sleeping Bag infographic
- Kammok Thylacine – a modular sleeping bag (pricey, but a fascinating concept)
- Outdoor Gear Lab sleeping bag reviews
- How to use a compression bag from Her Packing List
- Sleeping bag care and feeding from Backpacker Magazine.