Questions and answers
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – SLEEPING BAGS
1. When should I use the heat collar on my sleeping bag?
It’s very important to use the heat collar when in low temperatures, as only by using it will you get the full temperature range out of your bag. Always tighten it as much as you can, within the limits of what feels comfortable. If you get very warm in your bag it’s often better to open the zipper at your feet a bit to let in some air, rather than opening the heat collar.
2. How do I pack my sleeping bag?
You should always stuff your bag in its stuff sack, never roll it, regardless of whether you have a synthetic or a down bag. For winter sleeping bags with lots of filling it usually helps to turn your bag inside out before packing it away. Since the inner material is more “breathable”, turning it inside out allows the air to escape more easily.
3. Can I wash my sleeping bag?
Yes. Down bags are best washed in a washing machine, at low temperature, on a slow spin-cycle, using a special down detergent that doesn’t leave any residue that could damage the loft of the down. The same goes for synthetic bags, particularly using a detergent that doesn’t leave residue in the filling. If you have allergies and need to wash your bag at 60°C, you can only do this with synthetic bags. Put a couple of tennis balls or clean sports shoes in the drier with your sleeping bag, these will help retain the loft under the drying process. Washing a sleeping bag is simple and easy, but everytime you wash your sleeping bag you shorten its lifespan a little. We therefore advise not to do it too often, and instead recommend you use a liner.
4. How do I take care of my sleeping bag while on a trip?
We recommend using a sleeping bag liner inside your bag, as well as trying to air and dry your bag as often as possible. Weather permitting, it’s a good idea to open up your bag and lay it on top of your tent while you’re eating breakfast.
5. Should I wear clothes when I’m inside my sleeping bag (in low temperatures)?
In cold temperatures it can be good to wear thermal underwear (wool or synthetic), socks, and a hat or balaclava. If it gets colder than expected and you’re at the limit of the temperature range of your bag, never wear too many clothes when inside the bag. This sounds counter-intuitive, but your heavy-weight clothing will compress the filling and your bag will lose its ability to retain warm air. Instead, it’s much better to put your warm clothes underneath your bag, to provide extra insulation against the cold coming from the ground. You can also put a fleece or a down vest around the lower part of your bag and around your chest (body core) to retain your heat and stay warmer.
6. Is it important to use a moisture barrier liner inside the bag in the winter?
This is only important if you’re doing longer trips/expeditions in very cold climates (-30 to -50C), where it’s essential that your sleeping bag stays as dry as possible and retains its full insulating properties. The moisture barrier liner however doesn’t make for an especially comfortable sleep. If you need to use a liner, it’s important to also wear thermal underwear that can absorb sweat during the night.
7. What about using a pillow in my sleeping bag?
Almost all Helsport sleeping bags come with an integrated pillow pocket, into which you can stuff the Helsport airpillow, a fleece, or a down vest. A stuff sack filled with your clothes also makes an effective additional pillow if you want more elevation for reading etc in the evening – and also means it’s easy to find your clothes the next morning!
8. How do I decide which sleeping pad to use?
Basically your options are self-inflating or cell foam. For summer trips light, self-inflating mattresses are a great option, and they’re available in different thicknesses and lengths. Generally speaking, the thicker the mattress the warmer it is, and a thicker heavier mattress provides greater sleeping comfort. In the summer you can more or less base your comfort level how much weight you want to carry.
Cell foam mattresses are cheaper but offer considerably less comfort. If you opt for a cell foam mattress make sure it’s closed-cell foam, since these are warmer and do not soak up water like the cheaper open-cell mattresses. The highest quality closed-cell mattresses, such as the Helsport X-TREM foam mat, also have thermally-formed surfaces for greater warmth. [A normal closed-cell mat is cut from a sheet of foam, such that the top and bottom surfaces consist of half-cut cells which snow can stick to. Thermally-formed mats are “baked”, ensuring smooth surfaces that snow can’t stick to].
A good combination for winter is a thick closed-cell mat with a self-inflating mat on top. This gives the best comfort and insulation, and also provides a margin of safety should your inflatable mattress be damaged beyond repair (e.g. stepped on by crampons, etc).
9. Fiber, down or both?
This is a hard one, with quite a few different schools of thought. In the end it comes down to personal preference and what you like the best, so consider this info as more of a guide.
Down bags (here we’re only talking about serious high quality bags of at least 80/20 600cuin or better) are always warmer, and lighter in weight and packed volume compared to synthetic bags. You need to take care of down bags, and ensure they are not stored in a compressed state. They are also more expensive than synthetic bags, for a similar lifespan. Synthetic bags tend to insulate better if/when they get wet. For longer trips, especially in late fall or winter, a synthetic bag usually works better since it retains its insulating capabilities even when wet. This being said though, with a good liner plus ensuring you air out or freeze out any moisture, a down bag will also work. For shorter trips, like a long weekend in the mountains in the winter, nothing really beats a winter down bag.
Helsport also has some fiber/down combination bags. Here you get a little of both worlds, with that cosy warm feeling of down plus the water-repellent protective qualities of fiber. Weighing a bit more than a pure down bag and at a cheaper price, these combination bags work well on long trips.
10. Do I need a sleeping bag liner?
We think the answer is yes! A liner is a great and affordable way to protect your sleeping bag. You can wash it as often as you like and it adds some extra warmth to your bag . Liners come in different shapes and fabrics. Square-shaped liners are best suited for sleeping in cabins/huts, or with a box-shaped sleeping bag. Mummy-shaped liners are best suited for sleeping in tents, and of course for mummy bags.
Liner fabrics include fleece, cotton, synthetic, cotton/synthetic mix, and silk. Fleece is the warmest but is heavy, hard to dry and can feel somewhat bulky inside a sleeping bag. Cotton liners are the cheapest but tend to soak up and retain moisture, so that they can actually have a cooling effect on your body inside the bag. Silk has the best warmth-to-weight ratio. Synthetic liners are not quite as good as silk, but are cheaper. Mixed liners are somewhere in between all of the above. We recommend silk: it’s lightweight, keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and doesn’t restrict your movement inside the sleeping bag.