Sleeping Equipment

Sleeping Equipment

  • Sleeping Bags
  • Cleaning of Sleeping Bags
  • Storage of Sleeping Bags
  • What to Sleep On
  • Storage of Self Inflating Mats
  • Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Bags

There are some rules that come into force if you are going to enjoy yourself when you go camping, and a most important one is to have a good nights sleep.

If you have the wrong equipment you could finish up with one of the longest coldest nights you can ever remember. When I was a boy I was told,” I go into the bush to enjoy myself, and a third of the time I spend in bed.” The person who said this was Paddy Pallin and I would like to add to this quote, ‘why not be comfortable’. The correct sleeping bag for the conditions that you could encounter is essential.
The conditions can change dramatically from one day to the next to such an extent I have seen snow fall in January on Barrington Tops where we had 40oC only days before.

We have found from experience over the years that a lot people think Oh, we will just get a sleeping bag and go camping. Off they go to the department store and grab a sleeping bag off the shelf and off they go thinking a sleeping bag is a sleeping bag. There is no one there to give them any guidance. The success of a camping trip depends on having a good night’s sleep so that you are ready to go the next day and this all depends on the correct selection of the sleeping bag and mattress.

There is a lot in choosing the correct sleeping bag, as there are a lot of designs and models available to make a choice from, from summer (+10oC) type bag to the depths of winter(-10oC) and consideration has to be made when selecting a bag of what your budget is.
Apart from the temperature rating there is also the size of the bag to consider, as a standard bag is 75cm wide but there are bags available that are 95cm and even 100cm wide for those that like a large bag with plenty of room. These things have to come into consideration when choosing a sleeping bag. Just remember that you are not buying for the one off event, but for say the next twenty years. This is because it will last that long if it’s looked after (see note on how to look after your sleeping bag).

Sleeping bag design has come a long way in the last few years with the advent of new types of insulation now available. Depending on the actual usage – Bushwalking or for general camping, depends on the type of bag that is selected. For a bushwalking type bag, the bag needs to be compact and as light as possible for the temperature rating required. For general camping, you are not so worried about the bulk of the bag.

Apart from the synthetic bag there is the down type sleeping bag. These are a lot more expensive for the same temperature rating and are manufactured for a particular temperature rating, but are able to cater for number seasons depending on the rating. If you chose the correct down type sleeping bag of the box wall construction, you can have the temperature rating of the bag changed by re-distributing the down, so that the bag can be used from the middle of summer to the middle of winter. With synthetic type bag one would have to have three sleeping bags – One for summer, one for winter, and another for in between. The better manufactures like Roman and Black Wolf have down sleeping bags

It is better to get a good sleeping bag in the beginning than to buy the cheapie that just does not do the job, and then you have to go out and buy the one you should have purchased in the first place. When the cost is spread out over the years of happy times and memories, it’s not very much, but it seems a lot at the time of purchase.

For those wanting to purchase for his and her bags, a left and right or an over and under combination can be obtained depending on make and model.

There are some points I would like to bring to notice at this stage. When two bags are joined together, in the summer with warmer conditions prevailing it is not a critical issue, but when Jack Frost comes round, then all heat generated must be retained. Heat loss can occur out the top of a double combination, as this cannot be closed up like a single bag.

Some facts about the body; A normal adult person can generate enough heat to boil a pint (600mils) of water in an hour and when in a sleeping bag 80% of your body heat can be lost out through the head. If the sleeping bag does not have a hood the wearing of a beanie will assist in retaining body heat.

It is a necessity to place directly under the sleeping bag an insulating mat of some description. See the Section on What to sleep on.

SB-big-Man Outdoor-Research-Advanced-Bivy-(Mojo-Blue) twincots
SB Big Man
for the large man;
SB Flight Advanced SB Gemini Twin ideal
for multiple temperatures

Cleaning of Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags should never be dry-cleaned. This is the quickest way to destroy a sleeping bag. No matter what type of bag, be it down or synthetic, the best way to clean a sleeping bag is to wash the sleeping bag in a front loading washing machine. (These are usually available in Laundromats.) Never use a top loading washing machine to wash a bag as the agitator could rip the bag apart. If a front loader is not available, then a bath will do just as well to wash the sleeping bag in. There are special washers available to wash sleeping bags like ‘Sports Wash’. This product can be used for synthetic and down bags. There are special detergents available especially for washing down products, and can also be used to wash doonas or if you can’t obtain these, a products like lux could be used.

If a front-loading washing machine is not available washing can be done in a bath. Place the sleeping bag in a bath with warm water and the wash and leave for the day after giving it a good working. (I find by walking up and down a few times is an easy way to do it). After returning, bring the water temperature back up to warm and repeat the process. Drain the bath without lifting the bag out, just squeeze against side and remove as much water as possible. The reason for not lifting the bag out while heavy with water is the bag could rip. Refill the bath with clean water and repeat cleaning process. Depending how dirty the bag was, this process might have to be repeated a number of times until you are satisfied with the job. Once the bag has been drained of all surplus water it can now be lifted from the bath and spread out to dry. A clothes drier could also be used to dry the bag.

A way to keep sleeping bags cleaner longer is to use a sleeping bag liner. This is a bag made out of material that slips into the bag like sheets on a bed. It can also make the bag warmer in winter. Different types of liners are available in both single and double.

Storage of sleeping bags

Sleeping Bags are a very important part of your equipment, and if they are not looked after properly then they will not perform to the best of their ability when required.

When a sleeping bag is used a certain amount of moisture is generated by the person that has used it, and this will be trapped in the insulation material be it synthetic or down. To remove this moisture the bag should be aired in the sun inside out. This will keep the bag sweet, for if this is not done mildew could start to form on the fill, and the bag would smell when next used.

After the sleeping bag has been aired then it can be stored till it is required for next use. Most people shove the bag back in its stuff bag (carry bag). This is not the best way to store a sleeping bag as the fill or insulation material will be in a crushed position for a period of time. When the bag is used next the fill will retain the crushed position and as a result will not loft up to its full potential. This means that up to 15% heat Loss of the potential of the bag is lost because of incorrect storage.

Sleeping Bags should be stored either hanging up, or if you don’t have the room for this, then stored in a bag large enough for the sleeping bag to be in a loose or uncrushed condition. It is only when you are going away, then you can put the bag into the stuff bag that the bag came in. The short time that the sleeping bag is in the stuff bag till you use it will not cause any problem. Look after the sleeping bag and it will look after you.

What to sleep on

The older you get the more creature comforts you require. With this in mind children will sleep on anything as long as they are warm. The main thing is to stop ground cold from coming up under you. There are a number of products on the market for putting your sleeping bag on that will do this.

The first is the thin foam EVA camping mattresses that the bush walkers use. These are lightweight. They don’t give much comfort but they do stop the ground cold. These are available in a variety of thicknesses from 8mm to 20mm

Secondly there is the airbed or li-lo. Airbeds are OK in summer but come the cooler months they can be extremely cold. Just remember that they have to be blown up and if you are on a trip this can become a real chore inflating these every night. Some sort of insulation is required on top of an airbed if it is to be used in cooler conditions. This also goes also for stretchers.
A blanket or one of the thin EVA foam mattresses is excellent for this purpose, placed on top of the air mattress or stretcher will stop the cold coming up from underneath.

Foam mattresses covered with a cotton cover can be also used but are very bulky and absorb moisture and are hard to get dry once this happens. They also compress over a period and do not retain their profile or insulation properties.

There are a range of self-inflating mattresses on the market that will cater for all, for the bushwalker, camper, and tourer. The bushwalkers look to the lighter models which are 25mm & 38mm thick. These are available in ¾ length being 122cm length or 183cm the full length models. There are other self inflating models available up to a thickness of 10cm.

For the thicker self-inflating mattresses these are available in single, double and queen size units. One thing to remember and that is they have to be rolled up and carried, as well as stored when you get home.

Storage of Self Inflating Mattresses

All self-inflating mattresses come with an instruction brochure, which most purchasers do not read to their disadvantage. The instruction for storage of Self-Inflating mattresses is to open the valve on the unit and store inflated. To store for an extended time rolled up is deleterious to the mattress and will extend the time that will be required for the mattress to inflate, and this could result in the mattress will not inflate to its full potential. The same thing applies to the Storage of Sleeping bags.See Section on Storage of Sleeping Bags