Getting a good night’s sleep is important when you have a full day of activities planned for the next day, and the sleeping bag you choose will play a big role in how comfortable, warm and happy you will be once you settle down for the night.
Sleeping bags are extremely versatile and with different types to suit different situations and environments, so we’ve put together this guide to help you work out which style is right for you: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag. First-time campers may believe that all sleeping bags are the same and perhaps won’t be convinced that they can be very, very comfortable, so we’re here to help.
For optimal comfort outdoors, we’ll also highlight some complementary products that can elevate your overnight stay to hotel-like heights.
Different Styles of Sleeping Bags
The mummy bag is one of the most common styles of sleeping bag due to its high-performance and practicality. Shaped to hug the body with a narrow spot around the footbed, this keeps the heat within the bag close to your body and prevents it from going elsewhere, keeping you totally cosy. This style also features a hood which allows you to cover your head for better heat retention through the night.
We have a wide range of mummy-style sleeping bags available – each one varying in suitability depending on your needs for different technical properties. Make sure to check their other features to gain a full understanding of their benefits and discover the right choice for you.
Shaped in a simple rectangular fashion, these old school styles are wider at the feet for those who move around during the night. This allows a more comfortable sleep for those who like space but doesn’t quite insulate the same amount of heat as the mummy. While they don’t offer the same level of warmth, they are still a great option for campers who prefer to stretch out while they snooze.
A double bag is, as the name suggests, a sleeping bag for two, making it great for couples and anyone else who prefers sharing a bed (or the extra space). Similar to the rectangular style, a double won’t retain the same level of heat as tighter-designed solo sleeping bags, but the extra body heat will make up for that.
As they are an extra wide sleeping bag, doubles can be heavier to carry than single sleeping bags so we would recommend sleeping separately if you’re backpacking or travelling unless you’re feeling particularly strong and want to take one for the team.
We have several children’s sleeping bags which are great to have in the house for sleepovers and for family camping trips in warmer weather.
If your kids are preparing for outdoor camping trips with friends, whether it be school trips or Duke of Edinburgh, we would recommend getting them an adult sleeping bag that will be specially designed to keep them cosy in harsher conditions.
What Do Temperature Ratings Mean?
These refer to the optimal temperature you’ll experience comfort and warmth at when using the sleeping bag. If you’re in your sleeping bag below these temperatures, it won’t provide the level of comfort and protection from the cold that it’s built for. Since women are generally more sensitive to cold than men, sleeping bag ratings are slightly increased in bags designed specifically for women to cater to this.
These refer to the temperatures that you will be able to survive while in the sleeping bag, but without the warmth and comfort associated with comfort ratings. Sleeping bags with these ratings are meant for the harshest of conditions and are only intended to keep you alive without getting frostbite, hypothermia or other extreme temperature related ailments. Regular use of these sleeping bags is not recommended but certainly necessary if you’re planning to venture to riskier conditions.
You will likely have seen sleeping bag seasons on most styles, and understanding this system is essential for camping in different climates. You will see 2, 3 or 4 season styles available in our sleeping bags range.
A two-season bag is designed specifically for the warmer seasons of summer and spring, and should really be avoided in temperatures below 0°C. Not as heavy as winter styles, these lightweight bags are perfect for warmer and milder conditions to ensure you won’t overheat when spending a night in your tent. 2-season sleeping bags are ideal for family camping and indoor trips where warmth is less essential.
Three-season sleeping bags will last from spring through to autumn along with the odd mild winter evening. These are a standard choice for outdoor camping and backpacking, thanks to their versatility. You may feel too warm in this style of sleeping bag on hot summer nights, however, but they will generally provide ample warmth for cool evenings and colder climates between -5°C to 0°C.
A 4 season rating is often considered the warmest sleeping bag. If you’re spending the night in your tent right in the very depths of winter, you will absolutely need a four-season sleeping bag to stay safe. These highly insulated bags will trap in heat and work to keep you warm in low temperatures, popularly used as winter and cold weather sleeping bags. While they are described as four-season, these sleeping bags will likely feel far too warm in the summer months and are best left for autumn and winter temperatures of under -5°C.
Material and Insulation
Down insulation is created from goose or duck feathers and is known as nature’s best insulation, which makes this material perfect for well-insulated sleeping bags. Down creates friction that generates heat to help regulate your body temperature, locks in air and body heat and prevents cold air from penetrating through the sleeping bag. In short, down sleeping bags will keep you warmer than any other!
If it sounds too good to be true, bear in mind that down padding is not waterproof on its own, so perhaps not the best choice for rainy music festivals or camping when there may be showers – unless the specific sleeping bag you’re buying mentions waterproofing.
Synthetic insulation provides good cover and is easy to dry, clean and maintain. It’s also ideal for sleeping bags as moisture does not greatly impact its insulating power, unlike down. This means that you can still camp comfortably even if your sleeping bag gets wet.
Key Feature Definitions
Baffles – Baffles are the compartments in the sleeping bag that hold together the insulative filling so as to evenly distribute it across the entire surface area.
Inner linings – These can be made out of a mixture of polyester and cotton (polycotton), microfibre or super warm hollowfibre for the sleeping bags with extreme ratings.
Outer fabrics – Water-repellent polyester, nylon polyester and nylon ripstop are used for the outer shell due to their durability, water-resistance and breathability.
Left and right-hand zips – Sleeping bags come with a zip on both sides for easy zipping and unzipping. Choose one where the zip is on the opposite side of your leading hand; so for left-handed people, right bags are the best, and vice versa.
Two way zips – These are handy for when you want to ventilate your sleeping bag using a full-length or halfway zip opening.
Zip baffle – Insulated zip baffles behind the zip help to reduce heat loss.
Zip cover – A zip cover is a piece of fabric that is normally fastened with an adjustable strap. This locks the zip into place when the sleeping bag is fully zipped up to prevent the zip coming undone while you’re asleep.
Hood – Since a lot of body heat is lost through your head, shaped hoods reduce the effects of this process and provide additional insulation. A drawcord closure allows you to pull the hood tight against your face for added warmth.
Draught collar (or neck/ shoulder baffle) – An insulated draught collar at the base of the hood helps to stop body heat escaping from the bag and keeps out the cold around neck and shoulders. Most draught collars will have an adjustable draw-cord to tighten if necessary.
Inner pockets – These are usually found near the top of the bag; useful for keeping valuables such as wallets and phones safely tucked away.
Stuff sack – Mummy sleeping bags will come in a stuff sack with a drawstring closure. Unlike a rectangular bag which can be folded, a mummy bag should simply be stuffed into its bag. Compression straps are there to diminish the size of the packed bag.
Sure, you can camp with just a sleeping bag – a tent might help, too – but to really feel at home outdoors, we recommend the following accessories to help you feel a little more at home.
Camping mat – When sleeping on the ground, you might like some extra protection so you don’t wake up with a sore back. Get comfy right away with a simple roll mat. They’re neither heavy nor bulky to carry around, yet can make a huge difference if you’re lying on tricky terrain.
Inflatable mattress – If you fancy something closer to home, then a blow-up mattress is the one for you. While they may take up more room in your rucksack, you’ll have a more luxurious stay with an air bed. Just don’t forget to pack a pump!
Camp bed – Another option to make your sleep more sound is a camp bed. Camp beds are easy to set up and will raise you off the ground, keeping you away from cold and uneven terrain. They can take up a fair amount of space, however, so do make sure that you’ve got enough room.
Travel pillow – Travel pillows can really add comfort to your sleep by supporting and cushioning your head. Pro tip: if you’d rather not spend extra cash on a travel pillow then you can also bring a spare pillowcase and stuff it with clothes. This saves room in your rucksack and keeps your head well-rested.
Sleeping bag liner – A sleeping bag liner is a lightweight extra layer that slips inside your sleeping bag and offers several benefits to any camper. They come in both kids’ and adult sizes, adding extra comfort while offering a small boost of warmth in cold conditions. Sleeping bag liners are also more hygienic as they form a protective barrier between you and the sleeping bag, preventing the sleeping bag from becoming dirty inside and allowing you to remove the liner to wash with ease. A sleeping bag liner is also a great companion when backpacking, as they protect you from unwashed sheets.
Festival pack – If you’re looking to buy a sleeping bag and other camping essentials in one, then why not have a look at our festival pack for two people, an option that can save you money and hassle. Our festival pack includes a tent, two rectangular sleeping bags, and two camping mats, preparing you for festival fun without breaking the bank.
When planning a camping trip, always have a good think about the conditions and check what the weather forecast is to prepare for the best night’s sleep. With the right knowledge – and this guide – you’ll be able to have a relaxed, comfortable and peaceful rest – even in the middle of a music festival campsite – after finding which sleeping bag is right for you.