Swags Buying Guide
Getting away from it all is easy with a swag - a compact, all-in-one shelter and bed. Swag camping is a quintessentially Australian way of camping too. Anyone who's ever listened to 'Waltzing Matilda' will know that 'swagging' goes back a fair way in this country - they were even invented here. It started back in the 1800s when seasonal workers would move from farm to farm for work. They'd sleep outside, where they'd lay out a piece of canvas and a blanket to keep warm. When it was time to move on, they'd roll it all up and head off - their swag and billy (for cooking) were often everything these workers owned.
Swags come with a mattress and are made from sturdy materials to protect you from the elements. They're small, portable and extremely easy to set up, so you can find a spot and set up camp fast. This buying guide outlines the key things to consider when choosing the right swag for you.
- Small, light and easy to carry
- Extremely easy to set up
- Comfy thanks to an included mattress
- Waterproof and long-lasting
- Sturdy in rainy, windy conditions
- Warm in winter and cool in summer
- Popular for motorbikes and 4WD
- The Benefits Of Swag Camping
- Is A Swag Or A Tent Best For Hiking?
- What Is The Best Swag For Camping?
- GSM/Waterproof Rating - What Do The Ratings Mean?
- How To Choose A Swag
- How To Waterproof A Swag
- How To Look After Your Swag
- Complete Your Swag Camping Setup
The Benefits Of Swag Camping
There are plenty of benefits to using a swag, and while it's true that they can be bulkier than a tent, the benefits can far outweigh any negatives provided you've got a vehicle to transport it in.
Ease Of Use
As we touched on above, one of the key benefits of using a swag comes down to how easy they are to use. Because they come with a mattress, the only thing you need to worry about is a sleeping bag and maybe a pillow for extra comfort. What's more, to set up, you literally roll out your swag, connect one, two or three poles (depending on what type of swag you have) and you're ready to go.
Because a swag is made from thicker materials such as canvas, PVC, polyester and polycotton, they provide much better insulation than tents will - so you'll be cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Swags tolerate greater punishment than tents. You can quite literally throw them in the back of a 4WD or roll them out over rough ground without doing any damage.
Swags can be used in a whole range of scenarios. They're great for traditional camping trips, but they'll also double up as a mattress if you want to sleep in your ute, van or 4X4. What's more, because they're so easy to set up they're great for impromptu getaways.
Is A Swag Or A Tent Best For Hiking?
It's really a personal choice, but the two key things to consider are weight and comfort. For more helpful information, check out our Swag Vs Tent Guide.
Most swags will be one of three sizes: single, king single or double. And within each size category, there'll be a bit of variance between each brand and model. Bigger swags that have more headroom and denser mattresses will take up more space when they're rolled up and will also usually weigh more. Consider what matters most for your situation to make sure you get the best swag for your needs.
Swags are made from heavier fabrics (cotton or polycotton) so they're great for motorbike, car and 4WD trips. Hiking tents are made from lighter fabrics (nylon or polyester) and are usually far smaller than a swag when packed so they're easier to carry on your back. If you're looking at a swag for more than one person, it's also worth weighing up whether you'd prefer a double swag or two singles. While a double will take up less room overall, they can be quite long when rolled and won't easily fit into all cars. Double swags can also be very cosy with two adults inside, so weigh up how much room you need to get a good night's sleep.
Swags are lower to the ground so usually have less head height than hiking tents. Swags have a built-in mattress and they're also quick and easy to set up. Swags are insulated and breathable, so you're cool in the heat and warm in the cold. Usually, when deciding on which size is best for you, it comes down to a trade-off between comfort and size.
What Is The Best Swag For Camping?
Swags aren't one-size-fits-all, so it's a good idea to work out which swag will best suit your unique needs before you make a purchase. However, there are plenty of swag options at Anaconda for every type of camper and hiker. If you are hiking solo, then the Oztent ULS-1 Ultra-Lite Single Swag will tick your boxes, featuring No-See-Um mesh screens for protection against insects during the night, 100% waterproof fabric and 8Oz Ripstop Polycotton for impressive durability. Solo adventurers will also love the Dune 4WD Tracker Single Swag. This bad boy is made from 390gsm tough canvas, has vented mesh panels and a 50mm open-cell high-density foam mattress for incredible comfort when sleeping.
Hiking with a friend or want extra room? Not a problem with the Dune 4WD Queen Titan Deluxe Double Swag, which has an incredibly comfortable 70mm foam mattress, fine nylon mosquito netting and a heavy-duty 560gsm PVC vinyl base - perfect for battling tough conditions with plenty of legroom. Another great roomy swag for camping is the Dune 4WD King Titan Deluxe Double Swag, which features high head clearance for extra space, is made from durable 400gsm ripstop canvas and has mesh windows for efficient ventilation.
GSM/Waterproof Rating - What Do The Ratings Mean?
In the context of swags, the GSM rating refers to the grams per square meter measurement of the fabric's weight and density. It's commonly used to indicate the quality and thickness of materials in items like blankets, towels and bedding. A higher GSM rating generally indicates a thicker and more absorbent fabric.
The waterproof rating in a swag refers to the level of water resistance or protection that the fabric can provide against moisture. It's typically measured in millimetres (mm) and indicates how much water pressure the fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. A higher waterproof rating means the fabric is more effective at keeping water out. For example, a swag with a 1000mm waterproof rating can withstand the pressure exerted by a column of water that's 1000mm tall before any water starts to penetrate through the fabric.
How To Choose A Swag
Choosing a swag is simple when you break it down into these four steps:
Swags are designed for one or two people, and it's often a trade-off between comfort and weight. Bigger swags with more headroom and more legroom are heavier, whereas double swags are usually too long to fit in a car boot, so you'll need a set of roof racks. Swags generally come in three sizes:
|King Single Swag||190-230cm||90-115cm|
Your swag needs to be long enough for you to sleep lying straight and be wide enough to comfortably fit yourself and anything else you want with you in the swag overnight.
The materials a swag is made from determine how sturdy, weatherproof and long-lasting the swag will be. The different types of fabric used for the swag's walls, top and floor are:
Canvas/cotton is waterproof but needs to be seasoned before first use and then every few years afterwards. It is breathable, making it cool in hot, dry summer weather and warm in cold winter. Canvas/cotton is heavy, especially when it gets wet, and is more prone to tear, shrink and wrinkle than polyester and polycotton - unless it's a Ripstop® fabric. Putting a tarp underneath prevents rain from seeping in and gives you an outside mat.
PVC & Polyester
Many swags now use PVC or polyester for the floor section. This provides great protection against moisture and is also very durable and fast drying. But these materials don't have the same breathability as cotton or canvas so can cause condensation to form inside the swag in some conditions. It is also more waterproof than cotton as well as more durable.
Arguably the best of both worlds, polycotton (a blend of polyester and cotton fibres) is probably the most common material used to make swags today. Polycotton combines the benefits of both fabrics in that it's lighter, hardier and dries faster than cotton while being more breathable than polyester. It is also more tear and wrinkle-resistant than cotton and dries faster than a pure cotton swag.
Also think about the fabric's:
- Ripstop® fabric helps prevent rips so your swag lasts longer.
- Rot-proof fabric prevents mould and mildew from forming.
- UV treatment - so you're protected from the sun's harsh UV rays.
- Ability to block out sunlight - unless you want to rise with the sun!
- Thread count - like sheets, the higher the thread count, the more breathable the fabric is.
- It's not relevant to how waterproof a swag is, only how heavy and breathable.
- The fabric's thickness is measured in gsm (grams per square metre).
- A higher gsm swag is more waterproof and able to handle stronger winds.
- A low gsm fabric is lighter and less durable than a higher gsm fabric.
|Floor Fabric||Cotton/Canvas Polycotton||PVC|
|Most breathable & least condensation||X|
|Coolest in the sun & warmest at night||X|
|Mould & mildew maintenance required||X|
Some swags have a rope that attaches the swag to the ground with pegs to keep the swag stable and secure in rough weather and also helps rainwater run off your swag.
Some swags have mesh door and/or window ventilation panels that let air flow through the swag to keep you cool on hot nights and keep the mozzies, flies and bugs out, so you sleep well (though it's still a good idea to take insect protection with you). Ventilation mesh will help to prevent moist air from being trapped inside the swag, which can cause condensation that makes the inside of your swag damp. It is positioned under a fabric panel that zips down over the mesh when it's raining or cold to keep you warm and dry.
Choosing a swag that has tough, non-rusting zips is essential if you want to keep out creepy crawlies. When comparing swag zips, look for numbers (#10 zips) - the higher the number the tougher they'll be, and longer they will last. They must also feature ease of use - try opening and closing zips to see if it's smooth or sticks/catches the fabric. Another important factor to consider is the stitching quality - make sure zips are all sewn into the swag fabric securely and evenly.
Some swags have poles, while others don't. Swags with better quality poles won't snap in high winds, enabling them to last much longer. Swag poles can be made from a range of materials such as alloy, steel, aluminium, fibreglass and carbon fibre.
- Alloy - is extremely strong and can handle pressure and bend a bit.
- Steel - is stronger than aluminium, fibreglass and carbon fibre, but it is not as strong as alloy.
- Aluminium - is stronger and lighter than fibreglass and lasts longer than carbon fibre.
- Fibreglass - won't last as long as aluminium, alloy, steel and carbon fibre poles.
- Carbon fibre - is extremely light and strong, but not as long-lasting as aluminium.
A vestibule is a covered storage space that extends out from the front or side of the swag. It gives you more space to store your gear and protect it from the elements. Perfect for drying wet gear outside overnight so it's clean and dry inside the swag. A swag with two vestibules (over two doors) gives you even more storage space.
Some swags come with handy pockets, so it's easy to stay organised and find your phone, torch and toilet paper, as well as a hook on the ceiling so you can hang up a camping light or torch.
Swags have a built-in mattress. Thickness is measured in mm and most swags have a mattress thickness of 35mm to 70mm. Mattress quality and comfort levels will differ between different types of swags. The swag mattress also acts as insulation from the cold ground. It's often a trade-off between weight and comfort: thick, high-density mattresses are more comfortable and keep you warmer, whereas thin, low-density foam is lighter but less comfortable and can collapse over time. Self-inflating mattresses and pillows are comfortable, compact and great for hiking. Some swag mattresses have a removable, washable cover so they're easy to keep clean. You can also always upgrade your mattress for a more comfortable sleep as well.
Swags come in different types and the choice comes down to personal preference, such as a simple envelope shape with a canvas over your face. Some may also come with poles (one vertical apex pole at the end or a dome-shaped pole or with entrances into the swag from one or both sides or via the top.
These swags are light, compact and easy to carry and set up very fast - just roll and insert the pole. Apex swags feature a higher design while still being roomy.
Dome swags are also known as tunnel swags and are shaped like a dome thanks to flexible poles that bend. They are more spacious inside, so better if you sleep on your side. They are shaped to direct rain off the swag and can withstand bad weather and are also usually ventilated with mesh panels. Dome swags are designed to keep creepy crawlies out and are higher inside for sitting up/getting dressed. Dome swags are made in both small and large sizes.
When you're trying to work out which swag to buy, weigh up the quality against the cost. Single swags are cheaper than double swags, but double swags can sleep two. Swags with more head height are more comfortable but they cost more. Swags made with polycotton fabric are cheaper than 100% cotton swags. The thicker and more comfortable the mattress is, the more the swag generally costs. If you look after a swag, it can give you decades of comfortable camping, so it's worth spending a bit more on a high-quality swag if you can. Swags also come in handy if you're staying at someone's house and want a comfortable night's sleep.
How To Waterproof A Swag
Waterproofing a swag is also called 'seasoning'. Seasoning swells the canvas and stitching thread, before shrinking it and sealing all the tiny needle holes created when the swag was made. You'll need to season your swag before you use it, otherwise you'll get wet if it rains when you're camping. Every few years, so it always keeps the rain out and you're a happy camper.
Season your swag in four simple steps:
- Set up the swag outside at home for a few days and be sure to close the swag windows and doors.
- Hose the swag forcefully for 5 to 10 minutes, saturating the whole swag. Focus on the seams and give areas with lots of needle holes an extra soak.
- Let the swag dry by leaving it outside in the sun. Make sure it is completely dry, then repeat steps 2 and 3 twice.
- Check the swag is waterproof by climbing inside the swag. Then get someone to hose it and check the inside for any leaks. Hose any leaky areas again and then let the swag dry completely. Finally, test the swag and hose again if needed.
How To Look After Your Swag
Maintaining your swag is very simple and easy. Just always remember to clean away all dirt, grime and debris off with warm water after every camping trip. Also, do not ever use aerosol sprays in or anywhere near your swag. And lastly, always make sure you completely dry your swag off before packing it up or dry it as soon as you get home. For more helpful tips, check out our guide to Swag Care Basics.
Complete Your Swag Camping Setup
Once you've got your swag sorted, you'll need to make sure you're decked out with a full camping setup so you can relax in comfort. Here are a few things to consider when working out the best setup for you:
Whether you are on the move or simply need a convenient carry bag for your swag, a swag bag is perfect for completing your swag setup. For example, the Dune 4WD Double/Queen Swag Bag is made from extremely durable 600D ripstop polyester and is designed with heavy-duty webbing handles, making it the perfect ultra-sturdy storage bag to conveniently pack away your swag and get on with your outdoor adventure.
Unless you fancy sitting on a log (and there's nothing wrong with that!) you're going to need a camping chair for your setup. Anaconda has a huge range of camping chairs to suit any budget.
Whether you need protection from the elements such as rain, wind or the harsh sun or want a little more privacy, a swag awning is another great addition for completing your swag setup. The Oztrail Universal Swag Awning, for example, not only provides shade and privacy with its heavy-duty 280 gsm Ripstop® polycotton canvas, but can also easily join two swags together to create a common area in between.
Once you've worked out how you'll cook your food, you'll need a way to keep it (and any drinks and bait you may need to bring) cold. The traditional Aussie cooler will be more than adequate for most short camping trips, while a powered camping fridge will ensure even the most intrepid adventurer can reach for a cold one at the end of a long day of adventuring.
Gazebos & Awnings
It's a good idea to bring along some extra shelter so you don't have to lie in your swag every time it rains. Setting up an awning or gazebo will ensure you stay comfortable and dry, even if the weather turns bad. Check out our Awnings Buying Guide to find the ideal solution for you.
Health & Safety
Accidents can happen and the best thing you can do is make sure you're prepared for them if they do. Make sure you have your health and safety needs covered to ensure your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
A good sleeping bag is essential when you're out in the elements. The best sleeping bag for you will depend on what kind of temperatures you'll be using it in. For an in-depth look at how to choose a sleeping bag check out our Sleeping Bag Buying Guide.
A stretcher can literally elevate your camping experience by lifting you up off the ground. This will increase airflow, minimise condensation and help you stay dry in even the wettest conditions.
Most swag sleeping mats are more than adequate for a comfortable sleep while camping. However, upgrading to a premium sleeping mat will provide added padding and insulation making you even more comfortable when it's time for some shut-eye.
Discover The Best Swags At Anaconda Today
Because they give you the ability to set up and pack down your camp quickly and easily, swags can enable you to get out into nature more often. Whether you're into fishing, hiking, 4x4ing or just getting away from it all, a swag lets you pick up and go whenever you feel like it. What's more, you'll stay cosy and dry while you're at it.
Keep these important factors in mind when choosing a new swag to make sure you find the best one for your next big outdoor camping adventure. Before you head out though, make sure you are fully stocked up on all your camping gear needs such as swags, camp furniture, packs & bags and much more. Make sure you check out our Adventure Centre for more awesome and helpful camping tips such as: