How to Choose The Right Sleeping Bag?

As well as your tent acting as a barrier between you an the elements, it is also important to use a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are essentially a piece of material wrapped around your body. I will give you information on all of the main types of bags so that you can choose the correct one for your needs.

When choosing a sleeping bag, it is important to be aware of the different types of sleeping bags like rectangular, mummy, barrel or indoor ones, as they have different pros and cons. It is smart to consider different bag linings, and the main sleeping bag accessories, too. All these factors are important if you want a comfortable, relaxing sleep.

Different Types of Sleeping Bags


Has a zip along up to two sides. It is suitable for most camping needs but not for more extreme environments. It will allow you to move sleeping position more easily than a mummy bag.


This type of bag is smaller at one end than the other. This cuts down on the surface area of the bag and so the amount of heat escaping also. Another feature of the Mummy bag is that the zippers usually extend for ½ of the bag further reducing heat loss through the zip.


This bag has a tapered design but is not as extreme as the mummy shape, allowing you more room to move. This type of bag is preferred by larger framed campers or those that move round around a lot whilst sleeping.

Indoor Bags

These are really not of a suitable standard to be used for camping.

Things to Consider

  1. Weight, usually the ‘warmer’ the bag, the heavier it will be.
  2. Size when compacted, this may be called ‘stuff sack size’.
  3. Length and width that you require. If you are under 6ft a regular length will do, if over you must pick a longer version.
  4. Women tend to require warmer bags than men for the same environments.
  5. If you bag is simply not keeping you warm, put on some extra clothes but don’t blow warm air inside as this will compromise the insulation.
  6. Using a camping mat with your bag will allow it to work most efficiently.
  7. Make sure you air out the bag between uses, as sweat left inside will reduce it’s effectiveness.

Bag Lining

When it comes to the insulation you pick for your bag, there is actually more to this than you may think.

Comfort Rating or Season

This will describe the temperature at which your sleeping bag will effectively keep you warm. It is always a good idea to pick one that is slightly warmer than the environments you will be using it in.


Down is very light, heat efficient choice and can be squashed into very small spaces. Down sadly has a couple of disadvantages. It is more expensive than synthetic materials and is useless when wet. Due to its longevity, if you are looking for a long term option and wont be going near water, I would always suggest down.


Basically made of plastic thread, synthetic filling is quick drying, non-allergenic and cheaper than down. It will also keep you slightly warm when completely soaked, so it is useful in an emergency. The disadvantages of synthetic lining are that it does not squash down as far as down and so will take up more space, it will not last as long and will not sit as closely to your body which will increase the potential heat loss.

sleeping bag in tent

Sleeping Bag Accessories


It is surprising the amount of heat that you will lose from your head if you do not have a hood attachment. These are usually integrated into the bag and will have drawstrings to allow you to seal in the heat.

Pillow Pocket

These can be filled with clothes or a pillow to provide support whilst sleeping.

Compression Sack

The sack will allow you to reduce your bag’s girth to a minimum whilst in transit.


Sleeping bags designed for more extreme conditions will come with collars to further reduce the heat loss.

Zip Technology

As an area where heat can be lost, zips have had a number of advancements to reduce this factor. These include having Velcro at the top to stop it being opened during sleep and draught excluders.

Seam Technology

Seams also allow heat to escape from your bag. To prevent this some manufacturers are now staggering seems so that the inner and outer liners do not match. Another advancement being where fabric is folded in on itself and then re-stitched. It is a good idea to check for these things if you feel they are necessary.