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Sleeping bags provide the insulation to keep you warm and provide comfortable night's sleep. The bags themselves do not generate any warmth. They simply prevent the heat that your body generates from escaping as fast as it would if it was not insulated. So for a warmer night's sleep do something to warm up like eating or drinking something warm or exercising before jumping into your bag for the night.
Bags come in three basic shapes: mummy, semi-rectangular, and rectangular. For backpacking purposes a mummy bag is the most efficient because it provides the best warmth per weight ratio. Rectangular bags are more common for car camping or for use in cabins. Semi-rectangular bags are for those individuals that just feel too claustrophobic in a close fitting mummy bag.
The insulating material used in sleeping bags is either down or synthetic. High quality goose down is the best insulator on a weight basis. But down once it is soaked takes a long time to dry, and it costs more than the synthetic insulators. The drawbacks of the synthetic insulators besides being heavier are a tendency to loose their loft faster when compressed repeatedly in a stuff sack. I have used both types of insulation. My preference is for down bags.
Many hikers have noted that the insulation on the bottom of a sleeping bag gets compressed and does very little to add warmth. To save even more weight some backpackers have made quilts or sleeping covers that have no insulated bottom side. In theory this sounds good, but I have found it difficult to keep these arrangements sealed well enough to prevent heat stealing cold air gaps from forming where the cover meets the ground. This is further aggravated by any movement during the night. A mummy bag on the other hand is designed to move with you, and because it is sealed all the way around prevents this problem.
Marmot's light gas series of bags are very light down bags and recommended for lightweight backpackers who can afford them.
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