Camping

Sleeping Bag Guide | How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

sleeping-bag-buying-guide

Getting a good night’s sleep is important when you have a full day of activities planned for the next day, and your sleeping bag plays a big role in how comfortable, warm and happy you’ll be once you settle down for the night.

Sleeping bags are extremely versatile and different types will suit different situations and environments, so we’ve put together this guide to help you work out what style is right for you. We’ll also highlight some accessories to work alongside your sleeping bag to ensure you get the best possible nights sleep when either camping under the stars or kipping over at a friend’s.

Styles of Sleeping Bags

– Mummy
– Rectangular
– Double
– Kids’ Style

Temperature Ratings

– Comfort Ratings
– Extreme Ratings

Season Ratings

– 2 Season
– 3 Season
– 4 Season

Material and Insulation

– Down
 – Synthetic
 – Key Features

Camping Accessories

 

Styles of Sleeping Bags

Mummy Bag

The mummy style 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 foot bed, this keeps the heat within the bag close to your body and prevents it from being lost. 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, including our Doze 3-season, Stuffy lightweight, and Chief DLX 3-season down sleeping bags. Each greatly varies in suitability and have a variety of different technical properties, so make sure you check their features in the rest of this guide to gain a full understanding of their benefits and discover whether they’re the right choice for you.

Rectangular Bag

Shaped in a simple rectangular fashion, these old school styles, like our Envelop 3-season sleeping bag, are wider at the feet to allow a wide range of movement. This allows a more comfortable sleep for those who like to move around but does not insulate the same amount of heat as the mummy style.  While they don’t offer the same level of warmth, they are still a great option for campers who move around or need extra space to stretch while they snooze.

Double Bag

A double bag, as the name suggests, sleeps two people making it great for couples. Similar to the rectangular bag, this design will not retain the same level of heat as tighter designed solo sleeping bags, however it does allow you to share body heat which will in turn keep you warm.

Double sleeping bags can be heavier to carry than single sleeping bags so are not the ideal choice for traveling or backpacking. Our Catnap 3-season double sleeping bag comes in this style and is perfect for trips with your partner, children or anyone you’d like to cosy up to at night.

Kids’ Style

We have several children’s sleeping bags which are great to have in the house for sleepovers and family camping trips in warmer weather. This includes our Bunka lightweight kids’ sleeping bag that comes in mummy style and a variety of colours.

If your kids are preparing for outdoor camping trips with friends, school trips or Duke of Edinburgh, we would however recommend getting them an adult designed sleeping bag that will be specially designed to combat the harsher conditions they will be camping in.

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Temperature Ratings

Comfort Ratings

These refer to the optimal temperature you’ll experience comfort and warmth when wrapped inside the sleeping bag. If you use 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 generally feel the cold more than men, comfort ratings are slightly increased in women’s designed sleeping bags, compared to men’s, to cater for this.

Extreme Ratings

These refer to the temperatures that you will be able to survive while in the sleeping bag, 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.

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Sleeping Bag Season Ratings

You will likely have seen season ratings on most sleeping bags and understanding this system is essential for camping in different climates. You will see 2, 3 or 4 season styles in our sleeping bags range.

2-Season

A two-season bag is designed specifically for the warmer weather conditions of summer and spring and work ideally in temperatures above 0°C. Not as heavy as winter styles, these lightweight bags are perfect for warmer and mild conditions to ensure you won’t overheat when spending a night in your tent. Our Siesta style sleeping bag has a 2-season rating making it, and other 2-season sleeping bags, ideal for family camping and indoor trips where warmth is less essential.

3-Season

Three-season sleeping bags will last from spring through to autumn and 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, but they will generally provide ample warmth for cool evenings and colder nights between -5°C to 0°C. An example is our Doze 3-season sleeping bag.

4-Season

If you’re spending the night in your tent right in the depths of winter, you will need a four-season sleeping bag to stay warm. These highly insulated bags will trap in heat and work to keep you warm in low temperatures. 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. An example of a four-season sleeping bag is our Echotec 4-season hollowfibre style.

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Material and Insulation

Down

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 warm!

The Chief DLX 3-season down sleeping bag is one of our more premium models, and is designed to ensure you’re kept warm and comfortable when the times comes to relax after a days worth of adventure.

Bear in mind however, that down is not waterproof on its own so may not be a good choice for wet music festivals or camping in damp and rainy weather conditions (unless the sleeping bag you are using specifies it has waterproofing).

Synthetic

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, with peace of mind, even if your sleeping bag gets wet.

Key Features

Baffles – Baffles are the compartments in the sleeping bag that hold together the insulation 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 (a piece of fabric that is normally fastened with an adjustable strap) 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 draw cord closure allows you to pull the hood tight against your face for added warmth.

Draught collar (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 with a stuff sack with a draw string 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.

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Camping Accessories

Once you have chosen a sleeping bag to match your needs, you’ll need to consider what else you may require to ensure you have a comfortable night’s sleep. Let’s explore some additional items you may want to bring along to help you get the best night’s sleep possible:

Roll mat – When sleeping on the ground in your sleeping bag, you’ll require some extra protection from the cold, hard ground to ensure you don’t wake up with a sore back and joints or are left tossing and turning through the night. A simple roll mat isn’t bulky or heavy to carry but it makes a huge difference to your comfort and warmth. You can even choose self-inflating foam versions if you are looking for extra padding. Have a look at our roll mat collection to find one that will work for you.

Inflatable mattress – If you want to get an even more comfortable night’s sleep, a blow up mattress offers just this! They can be bulky and heavy though, so make sure your tent is big enough to house the bed and you have plenty of room in your backpack or car  if you plan on transporting it. They are also great for keeping in the cupboard or under the bed in the house for surprise guests. If you decide to bring an inflatable mattress on your next trip, don’t forget to also pack a pump!

Camp bed – Another option to make your sleep more comfortable is a camp bed. Camp beds are easy to set up and will raise you off the ground, giving you added comfort and a more comfortable sleeping surface away from the cold and unevenness of the ground. They can take up a fair amount of space so again check that there is plenty of room in your tent and enough space in your bag or car to transport it.

Travel pillow – Travel pillows can really add comfort to your sleep by supporting and cushioning your head. Our Sleepyhead travel pillow is lightweight, compact and easy to store away into the bag supplied. Handy tip: if you’d rather not bring a travel pillow or don’t have enough space to pack one but still would like a soft surface to rest your head on, you can alternatively bring a spare pillow case and stuff it with clothes.

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 and they add 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 will protect you from unclean sheets.

Festival packs – If you’re looking for a sleeping bag and other equipment to bring with you to a music festival, have a look at our festival pack for one person and festival pack for two people, in the likelihood that this option will save you money. Our festival packs include a tent, Envelop 3-season rectangle style sleeping bags, and camping mats to prepare you for festival fun but without breaking the bank.

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When planning your next camping trip, have a good think about the conditions of your camp site and what sort of weather is forecast. With this information, you can use our guide to easily work out what style of sleeping bag you’ll need and remember to bring any extra accessories with you. With the right knowledge and good preparation, you’ll be able to have a relaxed, comfortable and peaceful night’s sleep when heading to bed in your sleeping bag.

 

Last updated: May 11, 2018 at 14:17 pm

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