I’m on my way to Peru (hooray for vacations!). In preparation for the hike on the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu I needed to get a new sleeping bag. My old one, a Coleman bag circa 1892 or so, was lost to the Appalachian Trail (AT) last fall. Which was fine, since it was heavy. Really heavy. And not super warm, either, which I discovered when the AT turned into a winter wonderland. 60° and sunny? Nope!

Picking a new sleeping bag is sort of daunting. You’ve got a number of different materials, shapes, and sizes to choose from. What impressed me, though, is recent efforts to simplify temperature ratings for consumers. The new EN 13537 standard actually takes into account the differences between men and women, and then expresses it in an easy to read label:


This is exactly the way a label should be: clear, consise, and informative, telling you exactly what you need to know. If you know your gender and what temperature you want to sleep in you can instantly eliminate temperature from the choices you need to make (down vs. synthetic, regular vs. long, etc.).

As an IT guy that works very hard to simplify things for himself, coworkers, and customers it’s nice to see other industries doing the same. As a result I’m much more confident that the sleeping bag I spent $250 on is going to do exactly what I need it to, when I need it to. Which is always my goal when I’m simplifying IT processes, too.

REI has a nice article on the new standards, and in case you’re curious I bought the Marmot Sawtooth Long.

See you all in two weeks!

2 thoughts on “Simplification”

  1. As someone who isn’t already familiar with the expectations of sleeping bags, I find it confusing. What does the color gradient indicate? If it’s temperature, why is 26°F in the red zone? It seems cold to me. What is the infinity sign telling me? That I’ll find the sleeping bag comfortable at 300°F? The division into two “bars” makes it look like I’m looking at two data sets, when in fact I’m looking at one converted into two units. The labels of “comfort” and “lower limit” are so non-obvious that they needed to have a legend for their labels. Even after reviewing the labels, I had to go back and forth a few times before the meanings sunk is and I read “comfort” as “female” and “lower limit” as male”. Why is the survival rating only listed for women?

    In the space this wasteful and confusing graphic occupied, a much more enlighting table might have been used:

    Minimum temperature for… °C °F
    female comfort -3.3 26.1
    male comfort -9.8 14.4
    >survival -28.4 -19.1

    There is enough space, a more prose form could be used. While less space efficient, it’s transparent to read:

    Comfortable for a woman sleeping down to -3.3°C (26.1°F)
    Comfortable for a man sleeping down to -9.8°C (14.4°F)
    Suitable for survival down to -28.4°C (19.1°F)

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