How to Buy a Sleeping Bag

A quick guide to buying the right sleeping bag to keep you warm

Flickr/Jesse Wagstaff

After spending a long, strenuous day of hiking, all you want to do is rest. Add having to set up camp and the idea of snuggling up in your cocoon of a sleeping bag becomes the dream. That sleeping bag ends your night in a comfortable happy place. So making sure you buy the perfect sleeping bag is an absolute necessity.

There are a few things to keep in mind when buying a sleeping bag. Comfort comes in many shapes and forms. Comfort means protection against the cold and inclement weather. And comfort also means soft and snuggly like a big teddy bear. In order to find the right sleeping bag there are many things to keep in mind so that you can sleep as comfortable as you would in your own bed.

1. Temperatures. Sleeping bags note the lowest temperature they can comfortably keep you warm in. The best way to pick out the type that you need is to research the average low of the area you will be hiking in. Then, subtract at least 10 degrees, and find sleeping bags based on that temperature. Other things to keep in mind are your tent situation, and how well you are protected from the direct outside.

Related: Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings Explained

2. Insulation. There are two types of insulation to choose from, Down and Synthetic.

  • Down insulation is made of the fluffy undercoating of a bird’s plumage. This type of insulation keeps body heat within but allows unwanted moisture to escape. It is very light weight, yet keeps you warm.
  • Synthetic insulation is made of long threads or short staples of polyester woven together. Synthetic sleeping bags are water resistant and dry very quickly. They are often not as warm as down, but are less expensive and bit heavier.

3. Style. There are so many different types of styles and fits, that it is best to go to the store and ask to try on a sleeping bag. That may sound silly, but you really do want to be comfortable. Think of it like going to a mattress store and finding the perfect fit.

  • Mummy bags. Mummy bags are most popular for cold temperatures and high altitudes. They look like the name suggests, getting tighter towards the feet. The tight fit allows you to sleep nice and snug. Also, because they use less material than most sleeping bags, they are often much lighter. They come with an insulated hood to keep your head warm, too.
  • Rectangular bags. These offer more room than mummy bags, for the sleeper who likes to move around a bit under the covers. Because of the extra space, it does not insulate you as nicely as the mummy bags, making the rectangular bags better for warmer weathered trips. They are hoodless and have zippers that open to become a comforter. They are also heavier which makes them difficult to carry on long backpacking adventures.  
  • Semi-rectangular bags. These bags are a hybrid between rectangular and mummy bags. They offer a bit more room similar to the rectangular bags, but are tighter towards the feet leaving less air space and keeping you warm. This is a good choice if you feel too snug with the mummy bag but still would like to stay warmer than the rectangular bag allows.

Most stores offer bags for all sizes, including special women’s sized bags. Also, you can make your sleep even more comfortable with sleeping pads and bivy sacks.

Take your time to find your perfect sleeping bag so you can snooze in ease. 

For the best sleeping bags for backyard and backcountry camping, click here.


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