Swag Tips: Everything You Need To Know

Swag Tips: Everything You Need To Know

The word 'swag' first came about around the 13th century and comes from the Scandinavian word 'svagga', which translates into 'to rock unsteadily'. Since then, swag can mean a lot of different things: to be cool, money, a painted bundle of flowers, a large amount of something, a curtain hanging down in a drooping curve - but in the Australian outback, a swag is known as a portable shelter when camping. And when it comes to lightweight camping and travelling light, a swag is the compact camper's best friend.

Swag camping has got to be one of the best things going - it's comfortable, free and easy, and you can set up just about anywhere in a couple of minutes. Still, we have to admit, there are times when camping in a swag can feel a little rough around the edges. Luckily, there is a heap of swag tips and tricks that will help iron out any small annoyances and take your swagging experience to the next level. Here are a few to get you started!

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Most Commonly Asked Swag FAQs

What does swag mean in Australia?

In Australia, a swag basically means a portable sleeping unit. Traditionally, a swag was a bundle of personal belongings that were carried around when travelling in the outback. Referred to back in the day as a 'backpack bed', swags were incredibly popular when people had to travel great distances before the trusty 4WD was invented.

What is a swag vs tent?

Both a swag and a tent are used for providing temporary shelter from the elements when camping in the great outdoors - but what is the difference between the two? Well, a swag is designed to typically provide enough room for one or two people whereas a tent is made for a larger amount of people while providing enough for other compartments such as multiple rooms, a shower or a toilet area.

What are the advantages of a swag over a tent?

The main advantage of a swag is that they are incredibly portable and are great for camping on the go. A swag is the perfect option when camping or hiking and you want something that can be easily set up, taken down and packed away. Many swags also come designed with a built-in mattress, maximising comfort while minimising extra luggage to carry around during the day.

Are swag tents warm?

Yes, swags can keep you very warm when you are camping during winter. More specifically, winter swags are designed with a thicker construction and feature more insulating materials like Gore-Tex, polyester and nylon. To make sure you are choosing the right type of swag for your camping needs, check out our guide on How To Choose A Swag.

Can you sleep in a swag in the rain?

Yes, you can, especially when sleeping in a swag that is made from high-quality materials such as cotton or poly-cotton canvas that is specifically designed to provide water resistance. Another tip that will help your swag to waterproof is to season it, which we explain exactly how to do that in our How To Season A Swag article.

Swag Tip #1: Upgrade Your Mattress

Most swags come with a pretty decent mattress as standard - it's part of what makes them great in the first place. But adding an extra mattress, or swapping out the existing mattress for a premium sleeping mat will not only provide next-level comfort with more padding and support, it can actually help keep you warmer.

By better insulating yourself from the ground, you'll stop your body heat from escaping, as well as create a barrier between yourself and the cold ground. It's well known that if you want to stay warm, it's often more effective to layer your clothing than to wear one thicker layer and the same principle applies here. Doubling up your mattress will obviously add an extra layer between you and the ground, and it'll also provide more padding. However, it will also reduce the space in the swag.

This won't be an issue for everyone but as swags are generally pretty low to the ground anyway, you may want to free up as much space as possible. Another option is to replace the mattress that came with your swag with a high-quality 4x4 sleeping mat. These mats are often made up of a high-density foam layer, a PVC layer and a layer of air (when inflated). These layers will help to keep you insulated against the cold ground and will increase your comfort levels significantly.

Swag Tip #2: Allow Airflow

If you're looking to keep cool in your swag, it's a no-brainer to unzip your canvas panels to allow for airflow through the swag, but enabling airflow in your swag can actually help you stay comfortable in cold weather too. Allowing airflow through your swag will help prevent the build-up of condensation inside your swag. Condensation forms when warm, moist air comes into contact with a cool surface. And while a little condensation in your swag is nothing to worry about, if it builds up too much it can start to drip and cause your bedding to get wet - and no one wants that!

When you're sleeping in a swag, your breath and body heat generates a fair amount of warm moist air while the night air cools your swag. This creates ideal conditions for condensation to form. By ventilating your swag, you enable the warmer, moist air to escape while helping to equalise the temperature inside and outside the swag. It might take a bit of experimentation to find the perfect balance between warmth and ventilation, but as a rule, always allow for at least some airflow through your swag while you're sleeping.

Swag Tip #3: Close Your Swag During The Day

Australia is renowned for its wildlife and while it's great to get up close to nature - the last thing you need is an unwanted visitor in your swag at night. By leaving the front of your swag unzipped during the day, you are inviting snakes, insects and nocturnal mammals to take shelter in your swag, which is not a great idea if you plan on getting a good night's sleep! If you aren't packing up your swag and moving on, always make sure you have left it completely zipped up.

Swag Tip #4: Add A Ground Mat Or Stretcher

Swags are pretty hardy, and that's a big part of their appeal, they really can handle being thrown around. Still, over time, being laid out on the rough ground can cause a swag to wear. To extend the life of your swag and take your comfort levels up a notch while you're at it, it's a great idea to add a ground mat or stretcher under your swag.

Ground mats

Many swags do have a ground mat as standard. The thing is, not only are these often quite small and get muddy pretty quickly in wet weather, but they also won't help with insulation or protect the bottom of your swag. There is a heap of materials you can use as a ground mat. Floor matting for caravan annexes is a great option, but most mesh flooring materials will suffice - just cut it to size and lay it under your swag. Not only will this help to extend the life of your swag, but it will also provide extra insulation between you and the ground, giving you a more comfortable night's sleep and less condensation in your swag.


A stretcher takes the benefits of a ground mat even further. Because it raises the swag off the ground completely, a stretcher will significantly improve your chances of staying dry in even the heaviest downpours, allowing the water to run off below the swag. Because it allows air to circulate below the swag as well, a stretcher can also significantly reduce the amount of condensation that forms in your swag. A stretcher also makes rolling your swag a whole lot easier because you don't have to kneel down to do it. What's more, it'll also keep your swag clean and free of mud, dust and dirt.

Swag Tip #5: Get A Good Sleeping Bag

It might sound like a bit of a no-brainer, but a good sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold when you're out in the elements. The best sleeping bag for you will depend on what part of the country you'll be using it in and what time of year you'll be camping. Most sleeping bags will have a comfort rating, for example, a sleeping bag with a -5 degrees comfort rating should keep you warm in temperatures down to -5. However, everyone's different and some people feel the cold more than others so bear that in mind when choosing your sleeping bag. For an in-depth look at how to choose a sleeping bag check out our Sleeping Bag Buying Guide.

Swag Tip #6: Position Your Swag To Suit The Season

While it's important to have the right gear to ensure a comfortable night's sleep in your swag, the position you decide to pitch it in can also make an impact on your comfort levels during the night. For cold weather, it's a good idea to pitch your swag out of the wind. Try using your car, or the landscape around you, as a windbreak so you're not buffeted by icy winds all night. On the other hand, if you're camping in hot weather, try to position your swag where you will get a breeze. This way when you unzip your canvas you can lie under your fly mesh and enjoy a cooling breeze to keep you comfortable.

Try Out These Amazing Swag Tips Today

With the right knowledge and a healthy appetite for adventure, swag camping is one of the best ways to experience the Australian bush. No matter what outdoor activities you're into, a camping swag gives you the ability to get away from it all at the drop of a hat. What's more, they're sturdy, comfortable and provide far better insulation than a tent. While you might not get everything exactly right the first time, with a little trial and error you'll be sleeping like a baby wherever you choose to lay your swag.

Explore our entire range of camping swags and tents, and also make sure you check out our Adventure Centre for more helpful tips and exciting destinations that you can visit with your friends, family and loved ones. If you found these swag tips helpful, then you might also like some of our other helpful articles and guides such as:

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