How To Choose The Best Sleeping Bag For Your Camping Trip

by Zara Mohammed, Lifestyle Columnist


Published in Lifestyle on 9th July, 2019


So you're going on a camping trip and living the simple life, getting back to your roots out in nature, and you have to choose the perfect sleeping bag. Choosing a sleeping bag isn't necessarily as simple as picking your favourite colour and a friendly price tag though.

Not only do you have to take into consideration the weather and whether a bag is easy to store or carry with you, you may also want to think about whether your bag is best suited for your body type, and whether it has all of the features you need for a good night's sleep.

how to choose your camping tent

Check out these tips to make sure you choose the best sleeping bag for your camping trip.

How To Choose A Sleeping Bag With The Right Fit

The fit of the sleeping bag you choose is subject to individual preference, so don't assume that just because one sleeping bag states that it is made for females that it may not be suitable for guys.

The label is just a guide, and it is there to bring your attention to some of the features it offers, which may be of interest to you regardless of whether your gender matches the one recommended on the label.

For example, women's sleeping bags are often make to cater for wider hips and have a narrow shoulder width and more insulation around the feet, but if you are a slim lady who prefers more space to move about in, you may well prefer to opt for a bag labelled for men.

There are unisex options too, so just check them all out and figure out which one is best not only for your body type, but also how you like to sleep and whether you like to feel cocooned or not.

With a mummy-shaped bag for example, when you roll over, you take the bag with you rather then rolling over within the bag.

Keep in mind also, that when choosing the shape of your sleeping bag (mummy or rectangular), the rectangular shaped ones have the added feature of being able to be unzipped and laid out fully flat to make a duvet or padded bottom sheet, whereas the mummy shape retains heat more effectively when zipped up.

If you are a couple you may want to open up both of your bags and lay one underneath and have one as a duvet over the top of both of you.

Alternatively you could also go for a double sleeping bag in which you can both snuggle up together in the same bag along with your pet dog or a young child who decides they are afraid of the dark in the middle of the night and wants to sleep in with mum and dad.

What Are Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings?

Look for the comfort level when checking out a sleeping bag's temperature guage. This will give you information about how cool it can be before you start to feel uncomfortably cold in the bag. You should go for the lowest temperature.

sleeping bag

Keep in mind that everyone feels temperature differently though, so you may also want to make note of the limit and extreme temperature ratings and use the comfort level as a guide to figure out the bag's limitations.

Does The Weight of a Sleeping Bag Make A Difference?

The best combination when looking for a sleeping bag is low weight and high warmth. Weight may be more of an issue if you are hiking or biking and need to carry your sleeping bag with you during the day, but maybe not so much of an issue if you have a vehicle and are parked in a campsite.

The size of the sleeping bag when packed into its compression pack may also be of interest to you if you need to take into consideration as to whether it will fit in your luggage or the boot of your car along with all of your other camping gear.

What Sleeping Bag Features Should You Look Out For

You should always check out what type of zips a sleeping bag gas when you are shopping for a bag for camping. Two-way zips that open the length of the sleeping bag are useful because you will be able to open the bottom end as a vent for your feet if needed.

It can also be an idea to double check that there is enough fabric sewn in behind the zips to keep out draughts.

Some sleeping bags come with a built in mosquito net, which can be very handy and provide you with peace of mind and therefore a better night's sleep, if those buzzing noises freak you out and you hate the thought of being a bug's meal in the middle of the night.

Mosquito bites can be horrible and irritate you for your whole trip, so finding ways to avoid being bitten is always a good idea, especially if you have young children who may end up complaining more.

Look out for sleeping bags with hoods if you need one for colder climates as they are much more effective at retaining heat that would normally escape from your head.

They can also help to make you feel more safe, contained and protected from bugs, although that will mainly be psychological, it is still something to think about if you worry about eating spiders in the night.

sleeping bag sizes

There are some sleeping bags that have the ability to be transformed into a jacket, which you may or may not find useful depending on the weather.

Another nifty feature is a stash pocket, which can be useful for stashing bits and pieces that you may want easy access to in the night or first thing in the morning like lip balm or a watch.

A sleeping bag liner is also very useful as it keeps your sleeping bag clean and fresh. A liner is much easier to keep clean than the whole sleeping bag. It can also offer extra warmth in colder temperatures, or alternatively offer the option of ditching the bag and sleeping in just the liner when it is too warm.

What Sleeping Bag Filling Is Best?

You can choose from down insulation, which is usually goose or duck, or synthetic insulation made up of man-made fibres. Synthetic insulation can be just as warm as down but it doesn't usually pack up as small. Here are a list of pros and cons for each type of filling:

Synthetic

  • Often more affordable
  • Continues to insulate when damp
  • Dries fast
  • Non-allergenic

Down

  • Lightweight
  • Great for cold, dry weather
  • May have a water-resistant treatment to protect during damp weather
  • Compresses smaller for easy packing
  • Durable

What Kinds Of Sleeping Pads Can You Get?

To add a little luxury your camping trip you may choose to opt for a sleeping pad to go underneath your sleep bag, providing extra comfort and insulation from the ground. There is a variety of sleeping pad types to choose from. Here is a quick look at some of your options.

kinds of sleeping bags

Air Pads

These are extremely comfortable and it will feel like you are sleeping in a bed, or a bouncy castle depending on how inflated you like it.

They are also very lightweight which makes them very convenient to bring along, and most of them can be inflated within about three minutes with your own breath. Some models feature a built in hand pump, and you can customize the firmness by releasing air from the valve.

Just be careful not to puncture your pad, so keep all sharp objects far away. Air pads are not usually the best idea if you are camping with dogs that are allowed inside the tent, because sharp nails and air-inflated object are often a deadly combination.

Self -inflating Pads

The chambers in self-inflating pads fill up automatically when you open the valve, which makes them a very easy option when you want to get your bed set up quickly in a limited light situation.

They are made from stronger fabrics than air pads, so these may be a better option for young children, reducing the risk of ripping or puncturing. They also don't feel like they lose any air during the night like air pads do. They do tend to be heavier and more expensive than your normal foam pads though, and not as compact as air pads.

Closed-cell Foam Pads

Made from dense foam with tiny closed air cells, this type of pad is very basic and is usually rolled up like a yoga mat, or folded in a z-shape. The great thing about them is that they are cheap to purchase, durable, and they offer very good insulation.

You can carry them on the outside of your backpack knowing that they won't be damaged. They may be basic, but they are also multi-functional, because in camps they also make great sit-pads if you fold them up.

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