When it comes to sleeping bags, your most important considerations should be size, fit, fill, and temperature ratings. So the question remains, should I buy a women’s specific sleeping bag? My answer is no. Here’s why:

woman in sleeping bag

Sleeping bag sizes:

Though it may seem obvious, the correct length for your bag should correlate directly with your height. For instance, if you have a sleeping bag that is too long for your height it causes extra dead space in the bag that your body has to heat, therefore, creating inefficiencies in keeping your body warm. Size matters, so why is size selection still so limited on women’s bags? I’m 5’4 which puts me around the average woman’s height. However, I found it odd that most brands that sold women’s sleeping bags didn’t offer anything that was supposed to fit my height. Surely they considered the average height of a woman while designing their women’s specific bags, right? Wrong. After narrowing down my options to my correct size and also eliminating any bag that was in pink or purple because believe it or not women like colors outside of that color pallette, I was left with 2 options. That’s right, only two sleeping bags amongst all women’s bags that were not pink or purple AND also fit my size. Of those two they were either too heavy, too expensive, not the correct temperature rating, or were missing key features I was looking for.

man and women in sleeping bags sitting on boulderPhoto by: Ben Mathews

Sleeping bag insulation:

Women don’t need a bag specifically for their gender. We just need a bag that will keep us warm at night which can be accomplished by understanding temperature ratings. Most women’s sleeping bags are differentiated by having more insulation at the feet and core as well as having a women’s specific fit. However, several companies have learned that this isn’t just what women want for their bags, it’s what all genders want. This is why more companies are creating unisex bags with a wide range of features, fit, and size. Again, it’s the temperature rating that is most important here not what gender is listed on the packaging. For example Therm-a-Rest has temperature ranges to help you determine which sleeping bag temperature you will be most comfortable in. Because I sleep on the colder side I make sure to find a bag that is within my comfort range. This is the temperature range where the “standard” woman is comfortable. Understand sleeping bag temperature ratings and your own individual sleep comfort needs.

laying out sleeping bagsPhoto by: Ben Mathews

Consider your entire sleep system:

Sleeping bags and sleeping pads go hand in hand when it comes to warmth while sleeping outdoors. Therefore, when considering a sleeping bag purchase you should also re-evaluate your current sleeping pad to make sure you have the best combo for the warmth you are looking for at camp. I was previously using a pad that was rated for temperatures which I later learned can be pretty arbitrary measurement because there isn’t an agreed upon standard for this. Instead, a gearhead friend of mine mentioned the importance of R-value and I began to educate myself learning that there are specific testing standards with an R-value measurement that guarantees the comfort and warmth I needed at camp. I know that I sleep cold so I typically opt for a 3 season rated pad during summer months and a 4 season pad whenever I’m in the high alpine or camping during spring or fall. This change to my sleep system was part one of the equation to keeping me warm at night.

Mistakes made:

I spent many years of sleepless nights in another brand’s bag that I used to curse because how was it that I was always cold in a 15 degree rated bag in 30 degree weather? Well, to be fair, it probably wasn’t that brand’s fault. The problem is that having been frustrated with women’s selections I was in a men’s bag in a size that was too large for my height and a sleeping pad that was made for summer. This was leading to many inefficiencies in my body being able to regulate its temperature. After years of learning more about camp gear it was time to upgrade to make sure I was able to get backcountry rest. I was a more educated on the importance of sleep systems and how these things are measured and knew what I needed this time around.

eating breakfast in sleeping bag

Finding “the one”:

I knew I was asking a lot from one piece of gear but with patience comes great reward. I needed a bag that I could take on virtually any and every trip, an unbeatable warmth to weight ratio, the correct size and fit, and most importantly whatever allowed me to finally rest better under the stars.

The Parsec 20 caught my eye immediately. The fabric feels soft and silky and uses an 800-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down to repel moisture and maintain loft on those misty soggy mornings. There’s an extra draft tube at the zipper to prevent cold air coming through and special straps that connect to your sleeping pad so you don’t slip around at night. I also needed a bag that was comfortable for side sleeping, back sleeping, figure 4 sleeping, and any position you can think of because I’m what you call a toss and turn sleeper. The Parsec delivers. There’s also an underrated discreet zipper pocket that is perfect for keeping my phone nearby and warm so that the cold doesn’t drain the battery preventing my alarm from going off for my alpine start. My absolute favorite feature however, is the toe box that has extra down at the feet to keep me toasty warm from head to toe. The Parsec sleeping bag is lightweight and packs down small to take on any and every adventure I’ve been on in the past two years.

Whether I’m backpacking 20 miles a day, car camping, or snow camping this sleeping bag has provided me a cozy second home when I’m out in nature.

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