Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag

Considering buying a sleeping bag?

In order to narrow down your choices, first of all you need to think about how you like to camp, where you camp, and of course, the weather you camp in.

Once you have thought about this, here are 5 top tips to help you make your choice.

  1. Temperature Rating

The temperature rating on a bag is a guide i.e a bag that has a rating of 5 degrees Celsius, should theoretically keep you warm when the mercury gets to 5 degrees. But will depend on the environment you are in, the shelter, the clothing you are wearing etc.

Consider the lowest temp you will be camping in with this bag, then subtract 10 degrees from that temperature. This is the bag rating you are looking for.
Remember – it’s easier to cool down when warm by unzipping the bag – it is harder to get warmer.

2.   Synthetic or Down filled

Synthetic –

  • cheaper than its same rated down counterpart
  • heavier and bulky
  • has insulation properties when wet
  • easy care
  • hypoallergenic
  • Not as long lasting – will deteriorate over time

Synthetics are good if you plan on being on in wet conditions, on a budget and for those who do not camp often.

Down –

  • lighter
  • longer lasting than any synthetic when cared for
  • expensive
  • no insulation when wet
  • highly compressible so takes up very little room
  • warmer than any synthetic available
  • more difficult to care for
  • not hypoallergenic

Down is a good long-term choice, and where weight and bulk is a consideration, you can’t do better.  The higher the concentration of down feathers, the better.
Your choice will be based on budget and style of camping.

  1. Shape

The shape of the sleeping bag varies, and the main shapes you will come across is the mummy, tapered rectangular and rectangular.

A mummy shaped is probably the most efficient.   Its wide at the shoulders and then narrows down to the feet, which means less air needs to be heated in the bag.    Less room to wriggle about, though, so if you like to toss and turn in your sleeping bag, this might be a little restrictive.

Tapered rectangular is just as it sounds.   They taper down to the foot of the bag with more wriggle room and a good all-rounder shaped bag.

A rectangular bag allows even more wriggle room, and tend to be the sort of bag you would use if you don’t have to worry about weight or size.


  1. Fit

Not only do bags come in different shapes, but different sizes too. Some bags are different lengths to cater for tall or short people.

Other bags are based on gender – some female bags might be narrow at the top, but a little wider at the hips.     And typically (but not always), women are considered “cold sleepers” and some bags cater for women, with woman sleeping bags with extra insulation provided

  1. Extra features

The little touches are important when choosing a bag.

Look at the zippers – Do they close up easily, or snag a lot on the lining? Do the zips lock in place when pulled up?  Do they go all the way to the bottom or only half way (the former means the bag can be opened up easily to cool you down if you get too hot)?

What is the lining made of?   Polyester or nylon breathes and draws away moisture.  Cotton (like flannelette) is comfortable but moisture stays with you and can leave you feeling damp.

Neck muff – holds the warmth in the bag, not letting it seep out.

A hood – allows you not to wear a hat when in the bag, and provides a soft spot for your head.   Some hoods will have a drawstring that will only show your face when drawn in.


Make a choice that suits you!