Skip to Content

How to Choose the Perfect Sleeping Bag for Camping & Backpacking

Every backcountry-goer, thru-hiker, and seasoned adventurer understands that the nights out there are only pleasurable when you have the proper gear. And that begins with choosing the perfect sleeping bag!

If you are pretty new to adventures, you will struggle with making the right decision about which sleeping bag to use for your next camping trip, as the variety in the market can make you feel overwhelmed.

You have several confusing terminologies and other features to battle with to arrive at the perfect choice – from a lightweight down sleeping bag to the slightly heavier option of synthetic sleeping bags, they all have warmth features, shape, temperature ratings, packability, and comfort level. So let us guide you through the types and options so you can decide the best choice for your needs. 

How Do Sleeping Bags Work?

One primary duty of the sleeping bag is to offer you top-level comfort while out there. It helps slow your body’s unavoidable heat loss all through the night by utilizing fill materials such as synthetics or down to retain insulating air layers between the air outside the bag and your body. How effective this depends on the insulation inside of it, how fitting the bag is, and how warm your body naturally runs.

Now, let’s dive into how to choose the perfect sleeping bag for your next camping trip.

1. Prioritize Weight and Packability!

The weight and packability of your gear are very critical to your overall outing experience. The less weight, the better. A lightweight down sleeping bag should contain a warm temperature rating for a matching weight, a high fill power, a mummy shape, and a low denier for the shell fabric. For a low-temperature rating, a sleeping bag should have a bigger down-stuffed amount in its baffles. The bag will get warmer with increased insulation stuffed in it.

2. Look at the Temperature Rating

Temperature rating is a key component to ensure your warmth while on a camping trip. Consider the season, climate, and where your camping spots will be situated. Sleeping bags offer consumers the idea of the lowest temperature to look forward to for keeping an average person warm. Modern sleeping bags mostly get their temperature ratings through independent international standards such as “ISO” and “EN.” These ratings help adventurers compare sleeping bags from multiple brands.

Season ratings indicate when the sleeping bag can be used for the best result. The basic season ratings you’ll find include:

  • Winter: 20 Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius) and below.
  • 3-season: 20 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to 0 Celsius)
  • Summer season: 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) and above.

3. Is the Sleeping Bag Shape Suitable for Your Camping Goals?

Sleeping bags come in different shapes which are beneficial for specific occasions. But are generally designed to offer warmth to travelers.

Some campers want to enjoy sufficient spaces to roll around in their sleeping bags, however, this could also mean heavyweight. Most sleeping bags aren’t designed for such. Here are the common sleeping bags you’ll find:

Rectangular Sleeping Bag

This bag type is quite common during summer as they do not retain so much heat because of the spaces they provide. They are therefore widely considered by people who love to enjoy sufficient room when they sleep.

Additionally, rectangular sleeping bags do not have hoods for your head. But they offer other benefits such as being connected with another sleeping bag or converted into a blanket. As earlier stated, they are great options for summer seasons and car camping and are not as costly as the other types.

Semi-Rectangular Shaped

This bag shape is otherwise known as sleeping barrel-shaped modified mummy shape sleeping bags. They commonly have a smaller size than a rectangular-shaped bag, a rounded top, and slight tapering at the bottom. They usually have an additional zipper at the bottom for regulating temperature and are great options for cool-weather camping.

It’s common for these styles to have an additional zipper at the bottom to aid in regulating temperature. Many are fitted with a hood to help maximize insulation on colder nights.  

Mummy Sleeping Bag

Mummy sleeping bags have a drawcord and are designed with a hood to provide additional warmth. They are most suitable for cold weather and backpacking. Their small size provides warmth to a sleeper.

Double Sleeping Bags 

Double sleeping bags are nice options for camping couples who would prefer to share a space big enough to accommodate at least two adults. They are usually double the rectangular sleeping bags. But you’ll find double versions of other types as well.

4. Check If the Sleeping Bag Length Is Perfect for Your Length 

Take a measurement of your height to determine which sleeping bag will be most suitable for you. You can find someone to help you with the measurement and make sure you avoid purchasing sleeping bags that exactly match your height so that you’ll have room to change your position. 

To Put It All Together

While a sleeping bag type may offer sufficient sleeping space to its users, even babies, it may be heavy or bulky to move around, but it depends on whatever you prioritize. If you want a sleeping bag with enough room, you may be giving up enough warmth to enjoy it.

You’ll also need to consider if it is packable and has the perfect temperature rating for your projected camping exercise. And in the end, your budget will determine the cost of the sleeping bag you opt for.