Here's the first part of my Traveling Gear posts that'll be appearing sporadically in the next week or two.
Most of the sleeping options available today will give you a sleeping bag, pillow, and a pad that'll pack smaller than most older sleeping bags alone. These are just a few examples of quality gear that's on the market today, but compare the details and see what'll be best for your budget and bike's set-up.
For a better decision on your part, I recommend going to a local gear store to actually see/test out these items. Talk to someone who isn't gonna bullshit you, I would find the manager or ask who would be best for the questions you'll have on these products. Most stores have employees who specify in certain areas or have a lot of experience with this gear. Have the employee pack and un-pack them to get a feel for the products as they will be used on, and off of the bike. Climb in the bag, lay on the pad, and throw them together packed up to get an idea of the amount of space they'll take up. It also doesn't hurt to do a little research before heading over to the store - gives you a head start on what suits your needs and doesn't make you feel like a dunce when they're explaining the little details.
First up is pillows:
Mont Bell UltraLight Inflatable - $30, and it'll fit in your pocket
Cocoon Hyperlite Inflatable- $28, 2.4oz and it'll fit in a yogurt container. Pretty damn small and available at REI
If you don't feel like spending money, I've used my sleeping bag stuff-sack filled with extra clothing - works pretty well.
Next, Sleeping Pads:
MontBell 3/4 Length Self-Inflating Pad - $70, packs small, saves about half the space a foam pad takes up.
ALPS Mountaineering Dual Foam Pad - $34, rolls up larger, but is lightweight and cheaper in price. Available at REI.
Thermarest ZeoAir Pad - $130, most expensive, but also more compact and comfortable than almost any other pad in the industry.
Photo to show you the ZeoAir's packing size.
Pad thickness, packing size, and length are some details to consider when looking at these.
If comfort isn't an issue, anything underneath you at night will keep you warmer in chilly situations(off of the cold ground). I don't take a pad with me on trips, but on a long bike journey a pad can make a world of a difference in comfort after a long, hard day on the road.
Finally, Sleeping Bags:
Mont Bell 40 Degree Super Spiral Synthetic Bag - $125, these bags have a patented Super-Stretch design(making them the best in the industry if you ask me). With this design, the inside and outside of the bag stretches so the bag fits like a glove in any sleeping position. The design also allows the bag to collapse on you as you are in it - eliminating dead space inside. So elastic, you can sit indian style in this thing. Packing size - 6.3" x 12.5"
Mountain Hardwear 45 Degree Ultralamina Synthetic Bag - $185, from a good manufacturer and packs down smaller than most bags in the industry. Packing size - 6" x 8".
Marmot 45 Degree Axiom Synthetic Bag - $150, from a good company, average price, and packs down similar to others listed here. Packing size - 6" x 16"
REI 45 Degree Lumen Synthetic Bag - $125, cheap and easy, but this one packs down a little bigger than the rest. Packing size - 7.5" x 15"
Sleeping bag details include weight(overall), fill weight(amount of fill inside of the bag), baffle set up(how the fill is separated inside of the bag), stitching construction(boxed-not stitched all of the way thru the bag, or full stitch-leaving a "bald spot" all along the seams), denier(thickness of the bag's nylon material), water repellency, max user height, shoulder girth, knee girth, temperature rating, packing size, mummy or box style, right/left zip, etc. In addition, with most bags, you can connect left and right zip bags together if you're with a lady-friend.
Like I said before, when you're on the road riding through different weather conditions, Synthetic-Filled Sleeping Bags are your best bet. Down is a lot harder to take care of in moist climates(you run the risk of spending money on it, then destroying it if it gets wet) - Synthetic retains it's warming abilities when wet, dries quickly, and doesn't get ruined when damp.
And again, always keep your bag hanging in a dry place, out of sunlight when you aren't on the road...
5 weeks ago