These answers to the five most common questions asked about sleeping bags will help you decide what kind you should buy.

How much am I willing to carry?

When you have to walk several miles to your campsite, every pound you’re carrying counts. That’s why you need to really analyze how much you’re willing to carry that far. The material a sleeping bag is comprised of makes all the difference in how much it weighs. Most bags made with synthetic fibers are light and easy to compact into small spaces such as backpacks. If you’re driving right up to your campsite, on the other hand, down sleeping bags are more high maintenance but naturally warm.

What climate will I be in?

Speaking of warmth, you should consider the temperatures you’ll be up against on the nights you’re set to camp. Check out the weather report for the area where you’ll be and plan accordingly. Snowy mountainsides or winter conditions will require a warmer fabric, such as a flannel-lined sleeping bag; hot summer nights or humid tropical climates should be accommodated with a nylon sleeping bag, which will try out easily if wet and allows more air flow than other fabrics. A blend of fabrics will be able to withstand the harshest conditions.

What shape do I want?

The classic rectangular shaped sleeping bag may be the most appealing option because it’s what you’re used to, but the cocoon-shaped sleeping bag allows you to preserve your warmth, while the tapered style is best for conserving space.

Is it the right fit?

For tall campers, longer sleeping bags are a necessity, and there’s a size of sleeping bag to suit everyone. From over 6 feet to under 5 feet tall, you should find the right fit to ensure that you get the best sleep possible while you’re camping. Don’t forget the kids—they’ll need a sleeping bag that’s sized just for them.

Where will I be using it?

Sleeping bags aren’t just for camping. If the bag will be used for a sleepover, in a camper, or other non-camping arrangement, you’ll probably want a sleeping bag designed just for that type of use rather than hardcore camping.

It’s hard enough to fall asleep while camping. When you buy the right sleeping bag you can get a good night’s sleep for plenty of energy and adventuring in the morning.

Sleeping Bag Fill

Which sleeping bag fill is the best for you? It depends on how, when, and where you will be use your sleeping bag. For example, if you are camping out with the family and not moving around.

A family sleeping bag that is medium weight and less expensive is right for you. However, if you are backpacking and you are going to be carrying your bag to a new location every day. You will want to look at the lighter bags.

Finally, if you are going on a mountain climbing expedition where it will be very cold, you will want to choose a warmer bag perhaps a down bag. Things to consider and general tips are presented below.

The table below show a comparison of bags by the fill material.

Series
Hi/Lo
Temp. Rating
Relative
Price
Key
Features
Relative
Weight
Insulation
Shapes
Available
Down
-10/-35
$$$
Technicality,
Warmth
Mid
Duck Down
Mummy,
Rect.
Polarguard
2/-35
$
Value,
Warmth
Mid
Polarguard�
HV
Mummy,
Taper, Rect.
Lite
Loft
5/-35
$$
Lightness,
Compactibility
Light
Lite Loft
Mummy,
Taper, Rect.

 

Note About Temperature Ratings
Ratings are only a guide in helping you decide on a sleeping bag that best suites you needs. There are many uncontrollable elements that cannot be accounted for in determining temperature ratings.

If you are not sure that a bag is warm enough for your intended use we recommend purchasing a higher rated bag to make sure that you have years of satisfaction and are not stuck with a bag of limited use.

Things to consider

  • What will this sleeping bag be used for?
  • What temperature range and seasons will it be used in?
  • Do you sleep cold or warm?

The majority of sleeping bag users are fair-weather campers, and a general temperature range for summer or cottage users in North America is -5’C to 10’C. If you tend to get cold when you sleep, we suggest purchasing a bag with a rating 5′ to 10′ warmer than what you think you will need.

Is it likely to get wet?

No one expects to end up with a wet sleeping bag, but if it is going to be used for water activities or open air sleeping, attention should be paid to how the insulation behaves when wet.

  1. Down loses its insulating capacity when wet, though it dries quickly hung up in the wind and sun.
  2. Synthetic fills retain their insulating capacities better than down.

Will it be carried a lot, and therefore must it be light and compact?

The ideal insulation would be extremely warm, compact, light, stay dry, and be inexpensive. Unfortunately, trade-offs must be made between these considerations. Pack size and weight are particularly important for activities like hiking and canoeing with lots of portages, so down or Lite Loft bags are recommended.

  • Do you sleep still or move around a lot?
  • Who will use it, and what size and shape should it be?

Rectangular sleeping bags are roomy and most like a normal duvet or blanket. They are often chosen by casual, family, or first-time campers for their comfort and versatility. Tapered bags are wide in the shoulders and narrower at the feet which increases their warmth because there is less air space in the bag. As well, tapered sleeping bags are slightly lighter than rectangular bags.

Mummy bags, as the name indicates, are “worn” by the user; they are meant to fit snugly to the body and to move with the user. As a result of the close fit, mummy bags are warmer and lighter than rectangular and tapered bags, but are less roomy and familiar in use. Mummy bags are often chosen by serious users who will be exposed to extreme conditions, and who prefer the efficiency of the mummy design.

How much am I willing to spend, considering that I will have this bag for many years?

General Tips

If you are not sure what temperature rating you need, it’s always safer to buy a sleeping bag for cooler temperatures because you can always vent through zippers at the foot or side of the bag.

Remember that temperature ratings are decided based on the assumption of the use of a tent and sleeping pad, which helps to insulate the bag from the cold ground.

To get the most out of your purchase when buying two bags to be zipped together, buy bags with different temperature ranges. On cooler evenings put the heavier bag on top and on warmer evenings put the lighter bag on top.

When given the option of left or right hand zippers, left-handed people should buy bags with the zipper on the right side and right-handed people the left side. Reaching across your body is a more natural and easy position in which to adjust your zipper.

When repacking your sleeping bag in its carry bag or stuff sack, you should stuff it rather than roll it. Folding and rolling the same way every time will create creases and cold spots in the insulation.

Most sleeping bags are washable in a front loading machine washer with mild liquid soap. They can usually be dried in a machine drier on low setting or line dried. Polyester fills like Hollofil or Woods

Hi Loft may also be dry cleaned. (These are general rules, but always check the directions on your own bag). Using a sleeping bag liner inside your sleeping bag and washing only it saves the trouble of washing the entire bag and will increase your sleeping bag’s life in the long run.

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