I remember when we were small and we went to the drive-in movies. It was such an adventure. My parents had a station wagon and they would put the back seat down so my brother, two cousins, and I could sleep. They took two sleeping bags and zipped them together so it made one great big bed for all of us. They figured they could cover more space that way and everyone bundled inside. It seemed the ideal solution until one day a group of us went hiking overnight and one of those people was my girlfriend. What a pain it was lugging around two heavy bags and then in the dark trying to get them together as one. After that first time, we decided right then and there that we would invest in a lightweight double sleeping bag for backpacking.
The basic idea is that you can stay warmer because of the body heat from at least two people. For families with small children, the concept works just as well with more than two. But you still have to buy one that is rated to the temperature of your destination. All the body heat in the world won’t help you if it is frosty cold and below zero.
The selection is actually a lot nicer nowadays because you get them with down filling, quilted exteriors, and interiors made with a cotton polyester fabric blend. The older bags always had nylon inside which was uncomfortable to sleep. It was slippery, noisy and most of all, just plain cold in any weather.
What’s even more amazing about the newer styles is it is common for there to be no zipper. This can be a huge advantage because anyone that has slept in a bag knows that the zipper always snags on the lining. Plus, you will never have the cold teeth touching the body. And, some even have sleeves for pads so that you can get a more comfortable and restful sleep in a compact setting. That means less weight to carry during the day. In fact, the ideal weight of any bag that you have to lug around should be less than five pounds.
Another feature to look for is the foot ventilation. Many people can’t stand their feet covered up, plus in warmer temperatures, you don’t want to get sweaty. Then, there are those with water- resistant fillings. I love this idea because I can’t stand my blankets all damp. When I wake up in the morning, I want to feel refreshed, not like I took a shower while asleep.
Getting back to the pads for a minute, I noticed that a couple excellent models have expandable sleeves from twenty inch to twenty-five. For a family, this is much better so someone is not falling between the cracks.
Now, the coziest of all the features is the hand warmer. I don’t know about you but I can never get my hands warm enough, no matter how hard I try. I put them near the fire, I wear mittens, I wrap a cloth around them, but I still shiver from cold hands. Those little hand pockets are a wonderful solution!
One last thought. Even if you aren’t sharing a double sleeping bag for backpacking with others, it is perfect for those that prefer to sleep on their sides. The bigger size gives added warmth and protection since the single doesn’t have as much fabric to wrap yourself. You have more blanket area to cover up with.
I think it would be to give you an idea of what these bags look like and what benefits there are to having one or two.