Sleeping Bag

How To Choose The Right Sleeping Bag For Camping

A sleeping bag for camping is such an integral piece of camping gear. It is the item that will make or break your camping experience. The right sleeping bag for camping should leave you feeling rested and comfortable. If it doesn’t, it’s time to discover what qualities to look for when choosing the correct sleeping bag for your camping needs.

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Types of Sleeping Bags for Camping and When to Use Them

Sleeping Bags on Mountain Top
Cold-weather sleeping bags

There are so many brands and features to consider when choosing the right sleeping bag for camping, all of which can be daunting. Before making a purchase, ask yourself how many seasons will you be using the sleeping bag. With this in mind, let’s explore the different types of sleeping bags available to you.

Sleeping bags fall into three different categories:

Summer

0° C (32° F)
and higher


  • Lighter
  • Cheaper

3-Season

-6.5 to 0° C
(20 to 32° F)


Cold-Weather

-6.5° C (20° F) and below


  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

These temperature ratings for sleeping bags are not universal and serve as a guideline only. We all feel cold differently. Therefore, you may be required to add or subtract some degrees to find your ideal temperature range. More about this a little further in the post.

RELATED: Camping Gear Essentials: The Ultimate Checklist

Sleeping Bag Comfort and Temperature Ratings

Shopping for the best sleeping bag can be daunting. With so many ratings, manufacturers seem to post whatever they see fit. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides comfort and temperature ratings. Unfortunately, not all brands follow this rating system, which is supposed to help you, the camper, make an informative decision. Since the majority of brands do, let’s take a look at what these ratings mean.

Comfort Rating: based on the air temperature at which the average female can sleep comfortably throughout the night without curling up into a ball. This rating system applies to cold sleepers.

Limit Rating: the temperature at which the average man can maintain thermal equilibrium in a curled-up position. This limit rating would apply to warm sleepers.

Rated Extreme: gives an idea of how cold the air could be before there is a significant risk of death from hypothermia in a matter of hours.

When shopping for a camping sleeping bag, opt for an EN/ISO-rated bag to give yourself the best chance of keeping warm. Your internal thermostat plays a huge role in selecting the right bag. 

If you are a person who tends to run cold, choose a sleeping bag rated for lower temperatures. But if you are not bothered by the colder temperatures, you can take a chance with a sleeping bag rated a bit higher

Before purchasing a sleeping bag, do a bit of research. Reviews and ratings can offer tremendous insights into the quality and warmth of a bag. Do not just focus on the EN/ISO rating, though – look at the down fill power (the quality of down) and fill weight (the total amount of down).

Further Reading: Is the Attractive Nemo Aurora Highrise 6P Worth it?

How Do I Know if I am a Cold or Warm Sleeper?

A warm sleeper tends to kick off the blanket/duvet when sleeping, while a colder sleeper hogs all of the blankets.

Pro Tip:

When choosing a camping sleeping bag, check the forecast and consider the lowest expected temperature at night – then subtract 10 degrees for extra safety. That way, you can rest assured that you will stay warm and cozy no matter what Mother Nature throws your way!

Camping Sleeping Bag Features to Consider

Fit

Getting the right fit in a sleeping bag can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent shivering in your tent. Fortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleeping bags.

All sleeping bags are technically unisex and come in two main sizes: regular and long. New to the market are gender-specific sleeping bags designed for both men and women, with variations that account for the differences in body shape. Sleeping bags for women are wide around the hips and narrower around the shoulders, with extra insulation at the feet.

Sleeping bags for men are slightly larger. These variations help simplify the decision process. No matter your size or gender, choose a sleeping bag that fits you and keeps you comfortable. Uncomfortable people fidget, which leads to sleepless nights and miserable mornings!

Type

Unisex


Women


Men

Regular

6′


5’6″


6′

Long

6’6″


6′


6’2″

The values in the chart above are approximate, as many sleeping bag brands differ in size.

Weight

When shopping for the best sleeping bag, it is essential to consider the weight of the sleeping bag. Backpacking sleeping bags are lightweight, whereas sleeping bags for winter camping are bulkier and heavier. Sleeping bags for summer camping are usually lighter and more compact.

Zips

Look for two-way YKK zippers that open the length of the sleeping bag. That way, you can open the bottom end to vent your feet if necessary. Double-check that there is a good-sized baffle of fabric and fill behind the zips to keep out drafts and prevent zipper snag.

Shape

Sleeping Bag Shapes
Sleeping Bag Shapes

The two most common camping sleeping bag shapes are a tapered ‘mummy’ or a rectangular shape. The rectangular bag offers more space and easily unzips to form a duvet, whereas the mummy shape is intended for maximum heat retention.

Think of a sleeping bag as a thermos: the closer it fits to your body, the more efficient it gets at retaining heat. Too much empty space in your bag can make it hard to stay warm. When shopping for a sleeping bag, opt for one that fits you snugly but still allows movement. That way, you can be sure your camping trips will be cozy and comfortable!

Brands like NEMO have designed a spoon-shaped model for side sleepers, which allows room to toss and turn. NEMO is also one of those companies that has designed gender-specific sleeping bags.

Remember

The roomier the sleeping bag, the cooler you sleep.

Fill

Sleeping bags come with two types of insulation: down (eider, goose or duck) and synthetic (a mixture of human-made fibres). 

Down insulation is famously light and offers a superior warmth-to-weight ratio, so you get plenty of cozy warmth without extra bulk. The down content determines the quality of the bag: higher percentage, more insulation and higher cost. Look for a fill power rating—the higher the number, the better the efficiency. Down sleeping bags are also easier to pack.

Synthetic insulation may not be as light but can prove just as warm, and unlike down, it even works when wet. Synthetic insulation also dries quickly and is non-allergenic. When shopping on a budget, be aware that the cheaper the fill and bag, the lower the performance.

Extra Features

Some bags offer extra quirky features such as – a zippered stash pouch, an attached torch, a built-in mosquito net, a hood, and pillow pockets. Consider whether these features are essential to you. Remember that extra features add to the price of the sleeping bag.

How To Care For and Store Your Camping Sleeping Bag

Packing Away a Sleeping Bag
Packing Away a Sleeping Bag

Proper care and storage should be a priority for the optimal life of your sleeping bag. After your camping adventure is over, start by taking it out of its stuff sack and drying it thoroughly. 

  • Keep it loosely stowed in a large, breathable cotton or mesh sack. Store it in a cool and dry place. 
  • Air it out daily, turning it inside-out to dry out any moisture. 
  • Avoid direct sunlight, as UV light will degrade the fabric. If your sleeping bag gets wet, air it out for several hours.
  • Never store a sleeping bag compressed, as the compressed insulator reduces its effectiveness. 
  • Instead of washing, try alternative cleaning techniques as a first option. Ie. Spot cleaning when applicable.

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Common Mistakes When Buying a Sleeping Bag for Camping

Before you go ahead and purchase your sleeping bag, make sure you avoid these common mistakes. 

  • Unless you are backpacking, avoid a lightweight sleeping bag for camping, which may lead to chilly nights!
  • Do not solely rely on the sleeping bag to keep you warm. Sleeping bags are intended to be part of a sleep system. Incorporate a proper sleeping pad with your sleeping bag for insulation from the cold ground, and remember that sleeping pads also come with an R-value.
  • Avoid choosing the wrong shape and size, which leads to uncomfortable and miserable nights.

What are the Best Brands for Camping Sleeping Bags?

If you love camping and spending time in the backcountry, then you know just how important it is to have a quality sleeping bag. And when it comes to quality, there is no brand quite like Nemo. Their sleeping bags may be a bit more expensive, but their bags are worth every penny.

Nemo sleeping bags are known for their high level of comfort and durability. They are designed to keep you warm, cozy and comfortable even in the harshest weather conditions. And if you love backpacking trips, then the Forte series is worth noting. It is lightweight, easy to carry, and perfect for those long treks in the wilderness. 

Another sleeping bag worth noting is the Marmot Trestles 15. This bag is favoured by the prepper community as well as campers alike. 

Other notable brands are Kelty, North Face, Big Agnes, Coleman, and Kuma – if you are searching for more options. We have had experience with all of these brands, and we can confidently say that they all serve their purpose.

Comparing Sleeping Bags

In this comparison chart, we will compare unisex sleeping bags for camping with a 15-degree F temperature rating. The first chart compares down-filled sleeping bags and the second chart compares synthetic-filled sleeping bags.

Big Agnes Diamond ParkNorth Face Blue KazooBig Agnes Anvil HornMarmot Lost Coast
Price (USD)$320$290$224$249
FillDown (600)Down (700)Down (650)Down (600)
ShapeRectangularMummySemi-RectangularMummy
ZipFull-LengthFull-Length65 in.Full-Length
Height6′ 6″6′ 6″5′ 10″6′ 6″
Fill Weight29 oz1 lb1 lb 1 oz
Weight4 lb 1 oz2 lb 1 oz2 lb 8 oz3 lb 3.1 oz
Extra Features3 pockets, flex pad sleeve, stuff sacks, draft tube,Pad retainer loops, draft tube, stuff sack,Flex pad sleeve, stuff sack,1 pocket, draft tube, stuff sack,
WarrantyLifetimeLifetimeLifetimeLifetime

Comparing Synthetic-Filled Sleeping Bags

Marmot TrestlesColeman Big BasinNorth Face Dolomite OneBig Agnes Lost Dog
Price (USD)$129$90$185$200
FillSyntheticSyntheticSyntheticSynthetic
ShapeMummyMummyRectangularSemi-Rectangular
ZipFull-LengthZipPlowFull-LengthFull-Length
Height6′ 6″6′ 6″6′ 6″6′ 6″
Fill Weight2 lb 4 oz2 lb 14 oz2 lb 1 oz
Weight3 lb 6 oz5 lb 13 oz3 lb 10 oz
Extra Features1 pocket, draft tube, stuff sack,1 pocket, draft tube, stuff sack,1 pocketStuff sack,
WarrantyLifetime5 YearsLifetimeLifetime

Conclusion to Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag for Camping

Don’t let a bad night’s sleep ruin your camping trip! As you plan your next adventure, make sure to prioritize your comfort and invest in a high-quality sleeping bag. With the right sleeping bag, you can rest easy and wake up ready to tackle the day’s adventures. So, take the time to do your research and find the perfect sleeping bag for your needs. Trust us, the reward of a good night’s sleep under the stars is worth every penny!

What is a brand of sleeping bag that you love? What do you look for in a high-quality sleeping bag? Comment down below.

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How To Choose the Right Sleeping Bag for Camping
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Katherine Widziak
Katherine Widziak

Fuelled by the boundless energy of my two adventurous children, my diverse repertoire extends beyond the realms of an ordinary mother. As a seasoned graphic designer, master of social media content, and savvy marketing strategist, I've sculpted my own entrepreneurial journey. My passion for the great outdoors defines me - from igniting fires to setting up camps, my skills are diverse and practical. Skilled in ATV riding, possessing sharpshooting accuracy, and a knack for out-fishing just about any man - even my husband, though that's our little secret.

When not working away at something creative, you'll find me enjoying the outdoors in one form or another. Hopefully, I can inspire many women and men alike to pursue their outdoor goals and embark on new adventures.

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