When Did the Sleeping Bag Grow Up?

Yesterday I came home to a package on my doorstep. Inside, a critical piece of equipment for my Greenland/Iceland trip in four months. I dutifully tracked down our on-the-lam scissors, sliced through the packing tape and pulled out my brand-new sleeping bag.

 Always the budget traveler, I will be hopping between hostels and the occasional family run bed and breakfast as I traverse the reaches of the sort-of-far-North (I am not going north of the Arctic Circle, just really, really close.) Unlike the rest of Europe, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have a network of “sleeping bag accommodation”, a classification that includes hostels, campground dorms, B & B’s, and even some hotels. Essentially, you get to lay your head in a bed or bunk bed for an astoundingly cheap price, as long as you provide your own bedding. The most versatile and packable of bedding? The humble sleeping bag.

Only it’s not so humble anymore.

Sleeping bags, as far as I always thought of them, were fairly simple. They were rectangular and thick. You crawled into one while camping under an open sky or giggling at a slumber party. To carry or store them, you rolled them up into a bulky mess (at least for someone with my lack of coordination). Then you threw them into some forgotten corner of the garage to collect dust and insects until your next youth group backpacking trip or teenage girl all-night gossip-thon.

Well, I have grown up, and so apparently has the sleeping bag. As I scanned REI’s prolific sleeping bag offerings, I began to panic. Temperature ratings? Bag silhouettes/shapes? Hood or no hood? Insulation and shell material? Regular stuff sack vs. compression stuff sack? Weight? Double zipper systems? What features did I really need in my sleeping bag?

As a one carry-on bag kind of gal, even for a 6 week trip, I wanted something light as air and as small as possible. Obviously my old fire-engine red middle school sleeping bag no longer cut it. But I am prone to feeling cold even in the height of a wilting Midwestern summer, throwing on a blanket when it’s in the 70’s. I began to feel anxious – what if I bought a bag with the wrong temperature rating? Shivering through Greenland did not sound appealing.

Finally, after much hemming and hawing, I settled on what I can only hope is the holy grail of sleeping bags – a bag designed for backpacking in three seasons, super lightweight, packs down to the size of a couple of pairs of jeans with the help of a compression sack, and rated to temperatures 35 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for an indoor bunk bed. Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope this is a blissful union, and not ill-fated. The joy of my summer sojourn depends on it.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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4 Responses to When Did the Sleeping Bag Grow Up?

  1. Though I am a little bit jealous of your new sleeping bag and of your trip north… I am also happy for you. Enjoy them.

  2. mspelto says:

    What about sleeping out enjoying the Aurora Borealis? I guess you add some long johns. Do you have a map of your itinerary?

    • chronictraveler says:

      Oh, I love that suggestion! Not sure how strong the aurora borealis will be when I’m there, but mid-September may surprise me. Now that you mention it, my blog is rather mapless – good thought! I’ll try to get one up over the weekend.

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