The beautiful landlocked country of Nepal attracts different types of adventurers. And there’s no destination more popular than the Himalayas. The mountain range is an ultimate backpacker’s destination. Its peaks are awe-inspiring, especially that of Mount Everest.
Of course, a backpacking trip is not complete without the right gear with you. And, one of the most critical protections that you can bring is a sleeping bag. But, how do you select the right bag for potentially extreme conditions that you will encounter in Nepal?
Here are some basics
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sleeping Bag
It is difficult to survive a night in the Himalayas if you do not have the perfect sleeping bag. More than comfort, you need premium protection from the cold. If you are still confused when shopping for a bag, here are the factors that you should look at.
A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is a good guide to determine if it can protect you during your trip. It uses EN or ISO standards that indicate laboratory results. Typically, bags come with a limit rating and a comfort rating. The latter indicates the lowest temperature that the sleeping bag can protect a “cold sleeper.” On the other hand, the limit rating shows the lowest temperature that the bag can keep a “warm sleeper” comfortable.
The most common temperature ratings that you can see are for three-season bags, which are between 30 degrees Fahrenheit (about -1 degrees Celsius) to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (about -10 degrees Celsius). While these can withstand early winter weather, they cannot hold up for a trek in the Himalayas.
For that, you should consider a sleeping bag that is targeted for winter adventures. That means it should at least have a 15 degrees Fahrenheit (about -10 degrees Celsius) temperature rating or lower.
It is possible that you may not encounter such a a temperature anyway. But, in case the conditions are warmer, you can easily open up the sleeping bag anyway.
A sleeping bag is only as good as its insulation. As such, examining the insulation material is as important as taking note of its temperature rating. More often than not, you have a pick of two types: down and synthetic.
Campers and backpackers alike typically choose synthetic insulation. It provides great performance at a reasonable price. Bags with such insulation do not lose their ability to repel cold even when they are wet. Also, they are relatively easier to dry.
That means, they are suitable for adventures in damp locations. However, synthetic insulation does not have a standard fill power indicator. You will need to rely on the bag’s temperature rating to determine its capabilities.
On the other hand, down is the go-to insulation for many extreme backpackers. It compresses well which makes packing much easier. Down sleeping bags are also lightweight compared to their synthetic counterparts. If properly maintained, down can last for decades.
However, they are also known to be expensive, especially those used in extreme weather conditions. If you are expecting freezing cold temperatures, it is best to invest in a sleeping bag with high fill power (around 800-fill). Aside from being ultralight, it can provide comfort throughout the night.
Sleeping Bag Weight
An overseas trip to Nepal entails a lot of walking. And, weight becomes a top priority if you are trekking to the Himalayas. As such, choosing a sleeping bag that balances protection and weight is crucial.
However, remember that high performing bags require more insulation materials. That means you may need to sacrifice a bit on either comfort or weight especially if you are not certain of your activities during the trip.
Fortunately, premium brands now provide high-quality sleeping bags without the extra ounces. To make your shopping easier, start with a bag that’s around 40 ounces. As you compare your options, adjust your preference depending on the prices, temperature rating, or even the shape of the sleeping bag.
Weight, insulation, and temperature rating are just the essentials when selecting the right sleeping bag. You also want to consider the shape of the bag. Overall, you may want to examine your entire sleeping system. That includes your clothing and sleeping pad on top of your sleeping bag. Your tent also contributes to your protection. All these combined should give you decent protection when hiking up the Himalayas.