Finding camping bag more complicated than it seems

Kevin Wilson

The truth can change with the passage of time. But in this case, the truth has simply become stronger.

Last week, I wrote about looking forward to my first time camping since sixth grade. It turns out I should have waited another week until I went shopping for camping equipment. The time has strengthened the truth — I really have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to camping.

My parents are aware that I’m going on a camping trip, which led to this e-mail exchange with my mom:

• We have an old sleeping bag, and I can ship it out today or tomorrow before we take off for our Yellowstone vacation (Translation: You want a bag that smells like campfires that we couldn’t give away at a yard sale?).

• No, I should be fine. It will cost you almost as much to ship it as it would for me to buy a new one, and I have some control over what type of bag I can pick (Translation: No, I don’t want the sleeping bag I never liked in the first place).

• Are you sure? It’s really comfortable, and the mattress I can send inflates pretty quick (Translation: Can I sweeten the deal with something else you don’t need?).

• I don’t need an inflatable mattress. Whatever happened to enjoying nature?

• Fine, enjoy the cold, hard ground (Translation: No, really. Enjoy the cold, hard ground.).

While on a break from work, I stopped by a sporting goods store having a camping sale. I set out on my own exploration in the land of the camping bags. I didn’t ask for help, because I knew I’d feel pretty stupid — I don’t even know where we’re camping yet.

Here’s the conversation that would have ensued:

“Can I help you?”

“Well, I’m looking for a sleeping bag, but I’m a little overwhelmed by how many you have on stock.”

“I can help you narrow it down, sir. What type of bag are you looking for?”

“Ummm … a blue one?”

Bags ranged from $9 to $99. There were some that felt like quilts inside, and others that felt like really long windbreakers. Sleeping bags are still available mostly as blankets that zip together at the ends to form a bag. What piqued my curiosity was something called a “mummy bag,” which has a hood and can envelope the whole body — think of a hooded sweatshirt without arms for a really, really tall guy.

Then I noticed some numbers. One bag is 50 degrees. Another is 40 degrees. I figured out through publications in the sporting goods section that a sleeping bag’s degree rating is the lowest temperature at which somebody can comfortably sleep.

The bags went all the way to 0 degrees, mummy style. That was the $99 bag. I settled on a $25 bag, non-mummy, blue (naturally), with a rating of 30 degrees. I didn’t spend the extra money because the truth got stronger in my mind — don’t spend extra money for the comforts of home when staying home is free.

If I want a hood, I’ll bring a hooded sweatshirt. And if it drops to 0 degrees, I won’t regret holding on to my $74.

Because I’ll use it on a hotel room, where I can e-mail my mom and tell her how awesome the Comfort Inn campground hot tub is.