OUTDOOR GEAR: I Call BS on All Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings


About 4 or so years ago I was working on a gig in Iraq where I had to fly and drive to FOB’s* all around the country and stay in tents, empty buildings, transit housing and even the great outdoors. But the majority of times I ended up in a transit tent on the ass end of the base.

After spending a about a month freezing my ass off in the tents (believe it or not the AC in transit tents in Iraq is freezing) with no blanket (on some FOB's they have 9 to 5 billeting or they don’t give linen to transient folks) I got smart and started lugging 2 furry-ass hajji blankets around with me base to base.

The problem was the 2 hajji blankets I had took up way too much space (everything I used I had to shove in a ruck) and were a bit heavy, so I decided it was time for my ass to get a real sleeping bag. It had been about 15 years since I last bought a sleeping bag so I really didn’t have a point of reference when looking for one. I basically needed one that was light and took up very little space.

I spotted an ad for a sleeping bag that was rated to 40 F and rolled-up into a pretty small package, I knew it didn’t get anywhere that cold in a tent (probably no colder than 60 F) so I ordered one up. When it arrived I was all too happy that I wouldn’t have to lug my furry bright red hajji blankets around with me anymore.

And luckily for me the day it arrived I ended up going on mission that same night to a FOB where I knew I would be staying in a cold ass tent.

After arriving and settling in the tent I jumped in my brand new 40 F rated sleeping bag expecting a nice warm night’s sleep. Well I still ended up freezing my ass off, not as bad as before but I still couldn’t sleep worth a shit (a combination of anger and cold). My cheap ass hajji blankets kept me warmer than that bag.

40 F rated my ass

So after spending another 20 bucks X2 on hajji blankets I managed to hop on a computer and look for another sleeping bag. This time I was smarter about my purchase, I bought a real full-size “extreme weather” sleeping bag that was rated to 25 F, figuring that I would sacrifice space over comfort.

Confident that my “extreme” sleeping bag would keep me warm I again left my hajji blankets behind on my next mission and rolled-up my brand new big-ass sleeping bag and strapped it to my pack like an 1800’s British adventurer and hopped in a Hummer.

And again I was cold that night, not freezing like before, but still not completely comfortable – and to add insult to injury the bag was so tight I couldn’t even roll over wile inside it. So not only was I chilly – I had to sleep like I was a fucking mummy with my legs stretched out lying on my back the whole night looking like an idiot.

At this point I was pretty damn furious, not only had I spent like 500 bucks on sleeping bags with BS cold ratings that didn’t keep me as warm as two 20 dollar hajji blankets, I was pretty fucking tired.

All I could think was “how in the hell do they rate these sleeping bags, by using a midget wearing 3 layers of thermal underwear in them?”

“Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” – needless to say I didn’t buy another sleeping bag, I ended up just going back to lugging around my 2 hajji blankets for the next year.

Anyway, fuck a bunch of lying-ass sleeping bag companies.


* Forward Operating Base, basically a small to medium sized military base


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and kicking kittens.