When camping and backpacking, your sleeping bag and sleeping pad make up your bed. They provide a space for you to rest your weary, tired body after a full day of hiking and keep you warm when the weather is cold and wet. Crawling into your sleeping bag at the end of a great day in the outdoors should be equally as satisfying as crawling into your bed at home. With so many different options to choose from, it can be challenging to know what the perfect sleeping setup is. To begin to narrow down the sleeping options, it's important to understand four sleeping categories: ultralight backpacking, comfort backpacking, hammock camping, and car camping.
Sleeping for Ultralight Backpacking
For backpackers and thru-hikers, balancing weight and comfort is the ultimate challenge. If your sleeping setup is too heavy, it will make hiking that much more difficult for your body and you may not meet your mileage goals. But if you go with a bare-minimum sleep setup, you sacrifice comfort and therefore sleep quality which can set you back. Luckily, there are plenty of sleeping bags and sleeping pads that meet all of an ultralight backpacker's needs and are lightweight, small, warm, and comfortable!
While there is no set weight to officially classify a sleeping bag or sleeping pad as “ultralight,” sleeping bags in the category will typically be under three pounds, and sleeping pads in this category will be under one pound. In addition to weight, packed size is a huge consideration for ultralight backpackers. Some sleeping pads boast the ability to pack to the size of a burrito!
While shaving ounces and saving space is important, it's also essential to take some other features into consideration though, too. Lighter sleep set-ups won't have as much insulation as their heavier counterparts. Lightweight, highly compressible down-fill sleeping bags are not as durable in wet conditions as synthetic ones. Before shopping for your sleep setup, it's essential to determine your specific priorities, including budget, and decide what—in addition to weight—are the most important features.
Sleeping for Comfort Backpackers
While the minimalist thru-hikers may opt to sacrifice sleep comfort for less weight on their back, there are many backpackers who would prefer to carry a slightly heavier or bulkier sleep setup in order to ensure a quality night's sleep. Sleeping bags and sleeping pads that fall into this category typically weigh between three and five pounds and one and two pounds, respectively. With the added weight and bulk, you will likely get features such as added insulation and therefore protection from the cold, more thickness and therefore cushioning on the uneven, hard ground, and a wider range of prices to choose from.
Sleeping for Hammock Campers
Hammock camping is a great option for ultralight backpackers since the setup will be very light—you don't even need to carry a tent, as the hammock doubles as your bed and your shelter! But some backpackers and campers who aren't necessarily ultralight minimalists will still choose to sleep suspended above the ground, and if you've ever relaxed in a hammock, you understand why it's tempting!
In addition to the hammock, there are a few things you need to make this system work: a suspension system (often sold separately from the hammock itself), a sleeping pad or underquilt for insulation, a rain fly, bug netting, and of course, trees to suspend from. As hammock camping becomes more popular, there are more and more hammock options with various shapes, designs, and features to make sleeping in a hammock one of the most comfortable, unique options out there!
Sleeping for Car Campers
While there is something so rewarding about hiking for miles with everything you need on your back and finding absolute solitude, the added luxuries of car camping are hard to beat, starting with a sleep system that can be equally as comfortable as your bed at home!
When weight is not a concern, you can have a sleeping bag with enough insulation to keep you warm in temperatures well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, a sleeping pad close to an air mattress with dimensions similar to a queen-size bed and a thickness of over six inches, or even a cot to suspend you inches above the cold, hard ground. Extra blankets, pillows, and even a dog bed are added comforts I always throw in my car as well.
When buying a new mattress, you don't just blindly order one and hope for the best—you read through the features, sift through the reviews, and even test a few out. The same should be done for your camping sleep setup! A Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated can help you determine which category of sleeping setup you need, and then recommend the options that fit most with your specific needs!