How To Choose A Camping Or Hiking Sleeping Bag
Sleeping in the great outdoors is magical - when you're comfy and warm (but not too hot). If you're going trekking, hiking, kayaking, biking, fishing, camping, backpacking, caravanning, 4WDing, to a festival or having a sleepover, you'll need a good sleeping bag. This Buying Guides outlines the key things to consider when weighing up different sleeping bags, so it's easier to choose the best one for your needs.
- Where you'll be using it (in hot or cold weather, rain or snow - now and in the future)
- Who'll be using the sleeping bag (someone short, tall, a man, woman, or the kids?)
- What kind of shelter you'll be sleeping under (and how much warmth it will give you)
- How far you have to carry it (are you camping with a car or 4WD, hiking or biking?)
- How much freedom to move you like to have in your sleep (none, a little or a lot?)
- How often you'll be camping and for how long (on weekends only or for a few weeks?)
- How long you want it to last (for a few short trips or for many years of camping?)
Working out which sleeping bag to buy is easier if you break it down into these six steps:
What type of sleeping bag do you need for different weather conditions?
How well your sleeping bag handles the weather can make or break a camping trip. Having the right sleep set up for the weather you'll be facing - hot, cold, rain or snow - will ensure you're comfortable and sleep well. A sleeping bag that can't handle the conditions can lead to uncomfortable nights and unhappy campers.
Most sleeping bags have a temperature rating for both comfort and survival:
- The comfort rating tells you the lowest temperature you'll stay asleep in if you're in that sleeping bag (below that you'll feel so uncomfortable you'll wake up).
- Women - look at the Comfort Rating (generally colder sleepers than men).
- Men - look at the Lower Limit rating (for sleeping curled up for eight hours).
- The Extreme rating
- It's wise not to take these ratings as gospel, and to choose a sleeping bag with a temperature rating 10 degrees lower than the coldest expected temperature.
- You can always unzip your sleeping bag to cool down, but you can't get warmer!
2. Sleep Scenario
How well insulated your sleeping bag needs to be to keep you warm also depends on:
- Whether you're sleeping under the stars, in a tent, or at someone's house.
- How much you generally feel the heat or the cold.
- Who's sleeping in it (women and kids generally feel the cold more when asleep).
- What you'll be wearing in the sleeping bag:
Sleeping bags are made in three shapes:
- Give you more space to move.
- Keep you cooler so suit hot weather camping.
- Bigger and heavier so suit car camping.
- Becomes slightly narrower towards your feet.
- Lighter to carry but you have less room to move.
- The same shape as a mummy (wide shoulders, narrow legs).
- These have the closest fit to your body (so there's less air around you).
- Mummy sleeping bags keep you the warmest so are best for the cold.
- The lightest shape so best for hiking (but you'll have the least room to move).
You can also buy sleeping bags:
- For couples - but if one feels the cold more, solo sleeping bags might be better.
- For kids - these are shorter, made in fun colours and some even glow in the dark.
- That are longer than a standard 185cm sleeping bag for people who are taller.
- With a hood for head warmth (some have a drawstring to keep the cold air out).
- Called sleep suits (a sleeping bag onesie you can walk around in and sleep freely in).
The filling inside the sleeping bag acts as insulation and can be:
- Man-made fibres.
- Keep you warm if they get wet but don't last as long as down.
- Are better for car camping because they're heavier and bulkier.
- Won't aggravate allergies and they're easeasyy to wash.
- Natural duck or goose feathers.
- More breathable and longer lasting but can aggravate allergies.
- Don't keep you warm when wet (unless there's a protective waterproof layer).
- Are warmer, lighter and more compact so better for hiking in dry weatherand travelling.
- The higher the feather concentration number on the box, the warmer it'll be.
- Some brands ethically source down and meet the Responsible Down Standard.
- When down and synthetic sleeping bags have the same temperature rating, down has a better size to heat ratio (same warmth but lighter/more compact).
- Are breathable so suit hot weather camping but heavier so suit car camping.
- Usually have better weather protection than down sleeping bags.
- Won't aggravate allergies and are easy easier to wash.
Tip: When you take your sleeping bag out of its storage bag, shake it so the filling "lofts". Capturing air in and around the filling ensuring optimal heat retention.
Can run all the way, half way, or a quarter of the way down the sleeping bag.
When comparing zippers, look for:
- Numbers - the higher the number the tougher they'll be and longer they'll last.
- Displays - open and close zippers on display to see if they're smooth or sticky.
- Stitching quality - make sure zippers are all sewn into the sleeping bag evenly.
- Polyester and nylon - keeps body heat inside the sleeping bag (so best in the cold).
- Cotton - breathable so won't trap heat and make you sweaty (so best in the heat).
- Sleeping straight on the ground can be cold and miserable.
- A sleeping mat gives you extra comfort and insulation so keeps you warmer.
- Buying different sleeping bags for different weather conditions can be expensive.
- Add a liner instead to suit the temperature and help prolong the sleeping bag's life.
- Liners can be a warm for cold weather, or cool for hot weather.
- They're made from cotton, cotton/silk and stretchy knitted fabrics.
- They can be machine washed so help you keep your sleeping bag hygienic.
When you're weighing up which sleeping bag to buy, think about quality versus cost:
- Synthetic sleeping bags are usually cheaper than down but don't last as long.
- Sleeping bags that have more insulation cost more but keep you warmer.
When it comes to how much you should spend on a sleeping bag:
- If you just want a sleeping bag for sleepovers, a cheap one should do the trick.
- Cheap sleeping bags aren't as warm or waterproof, so you get what you pay for.
- If you camp regularly or for more than a few days a time, spending a bit more:
- Gives you years of comfortable camping.
- Is an investment in being a happy camper.
- Factor in the cost of anything else you may want to buy like a mat, bed, liner, or inflatable pillow.
- Find out which sleeping bags are recommended by Anaconda's camping experts, best for winter camping, best for summer, and the highest rated sleeping bags.
Anaconda sleeping bags range from $25 to $500, and the majority are $50 to $200.
When you go to the sleeping section on the Anaconda website, you'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page. Using these filters makes working out which sleeping bag to buy easier and faster because you can choose to filter what you see by:
- Categories - so you can choose to only see sleeping bags, or mats and beds too.
- Price - so you only see sleeping bag within your budget on the page.
- Deal - so you only see sleeping bags that are on sale or at clearance prices.
- Size - so you can see all the sleeping bags in the size you want.
- Brand - so you can find specific brands like Black Wolf sleeping bags , Spinifex sleeping bags, and Coleman sleeping bags.
Looking after your sleeping bag
Caring for your sleeping bag helps you get the most out of it for as long as possible: