Sunday, June 13, 2010


One of the most frequently asked questions about equipment for the camino is,  “Do I need a sleeping bag on the camino?”
The answer is YES. 
Even though you will be sleeping indoors in a bed or bunkbed, if you are planning on staying in the pilgrim shelters you will need either a sleeping bag or a sleeping bag liner. Most pilgrim hostal owners insist that you have a 'sack' of some description. They don’t appreciate having hot, sweaty bodies lying directly on their mattresses - and many don't even have a mattress cover.
Some shelters don’t have blankets and even if they do, you don't really want to wrap yourself up in a blanket that has been used by a million hot, sweaty bodies that season! Some of the monasteries and albergues in high places can be chilly at night so you will need a sleeping bag for colder times of the year, but a sleeping bag liner will suffice for the warm, summer months.

At PHDesigns  you can design your own sleeping bag.  However, most of us will visit an outdoor shop to buy one off the shelf.
Sleeping bags come with two different types of fill, down and synthetic fibre. Down is considered superior because it is more efficient with higher warmth to weight ratio than synthetic fillers. It is also much more expensive than synthetic sleeping bags. Down sleeping bags fill spreads more evenly than synthetic fill and they generally last much longer. The main disadvantage is that if they get wet they are almost impossible to dry and become useless – so they are not easy to wash if you are walking for 35 straight days in a row. Some people have or can develop allergies to goose down, whereas virtually no one is allergic fiberfill. If you have multiple allergies, you probably should get a fiberfill bag. Synthetic bags are cheaper, dry quickly, compact easily and don’t cause allergies.

If you are going to carry a backpack for weeks or months, you obviously don’t want to schlep a sleeping bag that weighs the same or more than your backpack. Most sleeping bags weigh between 500g and 1.5kg. The lighter the better, and the more compact the better. However, you might find that the lighter the bag the higher the cost.  The German company YETI make three ultra-light sleeping bags and claim that the Yeti Passion One is “the lightest sleeping bag in the world" at a mere 255g. But, at €300 - €330 it is not the cheapest bag in the world! (That is $400 or £275)

The new YETI ultra-light bags come in M - 175cm, L- 190cm and XL  -205cm.
Don't buy an extra large sleeping bag just to have more space.  Extra space in a sleeping bag is difficult to keep warm. However, if you are sleeping outdoors in winter, a bag that is longer than your body is a good idea because you can keep a hot water bottle in it, as well as fleece and clothing at the bottom of your bag for the next day. Some manufacturers make bags for ladies and for men – ladies' bags being a little wider at the hip area.

The two main shapes of sleeping bags are mummy and rectangular. Mummy bags are smaller and therefore weigh less; rectangular bags offer more movement and comfort. Mummy bags insulate better – rectangular bags can usually be unzipped and opened to form a duvet.  My Colibri rectabgle bag weighs 600g and is perfect for spring and autum hikes:
If you sleep all night curled up in the foetal position you could get by with a mummy bag but if you sleep like a star-fish, better buy the rectangular bag. A new design is the Montbell Hugger which is a mummy shaped bag reviewed by “The Ultra Light Super Spiral's major tech innovation—spiralled baffles (pockets with fill) —made it the most comfortable and best-functioning bag we tested this year. Because the seams are sewn with elastic thread, the bag literally hugs the 800-fill down insulation to your body at rest, and expands by up to 20 percent when you move around. We could actually sit up and cross our legs inside it — a boon for restless sleepers. Another benefit of the diagonal construction is that the baffles are longer, meaning fewer seams to let heat out.
All this in a tiny package: The gossamer-light 12-denier fabric and high-grade down make for a bag that packs to the size of a bread loaf.” At $379 it is in the upper range for sleeping bags.

Remember - you will sleep indoors, on a bed, with a good chance of blankets being available so don't go for an arctic, -30°C bag!
All bags come with a temperature rating. Some experts claim that temperature ratings are misleading and inaccurate because everyone has a different comfort level and a different body temperature so they really are just a guide. The rating on the bag is the lowest temperature at which the bag should keep you warm.
Unless you are planning to walk in the dead of winter and camp outdoors, you don’t need a -10° or even a +10° down sleeping bag on the camino. Few plces on the camino get colder than 10°C inside.  And remember, the warmer the bag, the more fill it contains and the heavier it will be. If you are planning on staying in the pilgrim shelters, all you really need is lightweight slumber bag – like your children use when on a sleep over!
(Photo from ToyZone)

You might find the perfect, ultra-light sleeping bag that is so big it takes up all the space in your backpack! Carry on looking. There is a perfect bag out there for you – you just have to find it.

Remember, if you walk in summer, a micro fibre, fleece, polyester, thermolite or silk sleeping bag liner is more than sufficient.  Silk is cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather and is luxurious to lie on!   For a really luxurious sleep try the toxin free, 100% organic silk Dream Sack that only weighs 155g (5.5oz) and the extra roomy sack at 7oz (198g).  There are a number of other brands on the market, like Sea to Summit or The Silk Sleeping Bag Company which has bags for tall people, single liners and doubles  that weigh from 200g. Some come with anti-insect properties. 
The 10oC, Mont-bell Sprial down thermal liner weighs 381g (13.8oz) and costs around $190

• If it is cold, do a few warm up exercises before you get into the bag. Your body will generate heat which will help to warm the sleeping bag more quickly.
• If you wear too many layers of clothing your body heat won’t be able to escape and won't raise the temperature of the air inside the bag.
• Long underwear or thermals will help keep you warm and will let some body heat escape.
• Most of your body heat escapes through your feet and your head, so wear socks and a beanie or night-cap to bed  just like grandma and grandpa used to in the olden days!

If you don’t like any of these, you could buy a ‘Snuggie’ or a ‘Selk’ which is like an adult romper!

International Market:  From lightest - 255g to ± 650g

Yeti Passion 1: A total weight 9oz (255g) of which 4oz down fill.  $400
Yeti Passion 3: A total weight 16oz (455g) of which 11oz down fill.
Yeti Passion 5: A total weight 24oz (680g) of which 18oz down fill.

Laser 300 Elite 330g (11.5 oz.) £205
Laser 600 520g (18.3 oz)

Nunatak Arc Edge 10oz 11oz 12oz 283g - 340g   $309 to $361

Minimum Ultra 345g (12oz)  £189
Piqolo 395g (14oz) £152
Minimus Down 465g (16oz) £192
Minimum 400 down  670g  £240

Western Mountaineering Highlite $260 -$280
Short: 15 oz. (425g)
Regular: 16 oz. (453g)
Long: 17 oz. (482g)
Western Mountaineering Tamarak $200
15oz (425g)

Ratatosk Gold  16.5 oz  460g
Ratatosk 200  490gr  $179

Marmot Atom  595g (20 oz)  $259

Nunatak Arc Edge  10oz 11oz 12oz  (283g - 340g)  $309 to $361
Nunatak Ghost  16oz, 16oz, 18oz   $326 to $399
Nunatak Arc Specialist 16oz 17oz 18oz   $365 to $433
Nunatak Alpinist   595g (21 oz)  $399 to $464

Down Unltralite 300  - .600g
& 150 - 440g
KL 250 - 800g
Oxygene - 800g
Tarifa - 600g

Roman Palm  600g  $72 AUD

Mountainsmith Whisp  595g

South African Market

Rab Quantum 200 Sleeping Bag (+2ºC) 480g
R1 999

Cape Storm Midge – 500g (530g with sack) Extreme 0°C
Cost: R1099
Cape Storm Wasp – 630g Extreme – 2°C


Vengo Venom 640g (575g excl sac) - 7°

First Ascent Adventure Light Sleeping Bag (+5ºC) 660g