Basic Guide On Choosing And Buying A Camping Swag

Getting away from it all is easy with a swag - a compact all-in-one sleeping space and bed. Swags have a built-in mattress and are designed 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. Anaconda's Swag Buying Guide outlines the key things to consider when weighing up swags so choosing the right one is easier.

Swags are:

  • Small, light and easy to carry
  • Extremely easy to set up
  • Comfy thanks to a built-in mattress
  • Waterproof and long-lasting
  • Sturdy in rainy, windy conditions
  • Warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Popular for motorbike and 4WD trips.

Is a swag or a tent best for hiking?

It's really a personal choice, but the two key things to consider are:

  • Weight
    • Swags are made from heavier fabrics (cotton or polycotton) so they're great for motorbike and car trips
    • Hiking tents are made from lighter fabrics (nylon or polyester) so they're easier to carry on your back
  • Comfort
    • 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

Want to know more about what to look for in a hiking tent? Check out the Hiking Buying Guides that cover clothing, footwear, bags, poles and more.

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What is the best swag for camping?

Like so many things in our lives, what's best for one person might not suit someone else. The best swag isn't a one-size-fits-all - it's the one that suits your unique needs best:

  • Where you'll be using the swag (will the weather conditions be hot, cold, wet or dry?)
  • How much space you need (the length and width needs to be the right size for your body)
  • If you'll be sharing the swag (now or in the future, you might want a double swag)
  • How fast you want to be to set up and pack down the swag (will you have help?)
  • How often you'll camp and for how long (only on weekends or for a couple of weeks?)
  • How long you want it to last (do you want a swag you can use for many years to come?)


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What swag should you buy for camping?

Choosing a swag is simple when you break it down into these four steps:

1. Size

Swags are designed for one or two people, and it's a trade-off between comfort and weight:

  • Bigger swagswith more headroom and more legroom are heavier
  • Double swags are usually too long for the boot so you'll need roof racks

Swags generally come in three sizes:

Swag Size Length Width
Single Swag 180-230cm 60-90cm
King Single Swag 190-230cm 90-115cm
Double Swag 190-230cm 110-130cm

The swag length needs to be greater than your height so you can sleep straight, and be wide enough to fit you and anything else you want in the swag overnight (bag, gear etc).

How To Choose Swag For Camping - Single Swag

2. Parts

The 7 Parts of a Swag

  • Fabric: The type of material that's used to make the swag roof, walls and floor.
  • Ventilation:Mesh that improves the air flow, keeps you cool and prevents damp.
  • Zippers: Used to open and close the swag and expose the mesh ventilation panels.
  • Vestibule/Awning: Creates an undercover living/storage space that's weather protected.
  • Mattress: A comfortable mattress is built into the swag so you sleep well.
  • Poles: Used to create the basic structure and shape of some swags.
  • Pegs: Keep some swags securely attached to the ground in high winds.

The Importance of Swag Parts

The materials a swag is made from determines how sturdy, weatherproof and long-lasting the swag will be.

Fabric - used for the swag'swalls, roof and floor:

  • Canvas/cotton
    • Waterproof (needs to be seasoned before first use then every few years )
    • Breathable so is cool in hot, dry summer weather and warm in winter
    • Heavy (especially when wet)
    • More prone to tear, shrink and wrinkle than polyester and polycotton, unless it's a Ripstop® fabric.
    • Putting a tarp underneath prevents rain seeping in and gives you an outside mat
  • PVC and Polyester (used for the floor in some swags)
    • More waterproof than cotton so best for the floor if the camp ground's damp
    • Dries faster than cotton but doesn't breathe well so can cause condensation damp in hot/dry weather (unless it has a breathable coating)
    • More durable than cotton (because it's less prone to tearing)
  • Polycotton
    • A blend of polyester and cotton fibres
    • Combines the benefits of both fabrics
    • Lighter than cotton whilst still strong
    • More breathable than polyester
    • More tear and wrinkle resistance than cotton
    • Dries faster than a pure cotton swag

Also think about the fabric's:

  • Durability
    • Ripstop® fabric helps prevent rips so your swag lasts longer.
    • Rot-proof fabric prevents mould and mildew forming.
  • Sun protection
    • 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.
  • Weight
    • The fabric's thickness is given 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 PolycottonPVC
Most waterproof (once weathered/seasonedX
Fastest drying X
Most breathable & least condensationX
Coolest in the sun & warmest at night X
Mould & mildew maintenance requiredX
Longest lasting X


Some swags have rope that attaches the swag to the ground with pegs to:

  • Keep the swag stable and secure in rough weather.
  • Drains rain water away from your swag.

Ventilation mesh

Some swags have mesh door and/or window ventilation panels that:

  • Let air flow through the swag on hot nights to keep you cool and the mozzies, flies and bugs out so you sleep well.
  • Help prevent moist air from being trapped inside the swag, which can cause condensation that makes your swag and everything in it feel damp in the mornings.
  • Mean they're not as watertight as swags without ventilation, so it's worth weighing up this trade-off based on how rainy and hot your camping trips will be.

A fabric panel 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.
  • A swag you can use for years.

When comparing zippers, look for:

  • Numbers (#10 zips) - the higher the number the tougher they'll be, and longer they'll last.
  • Displays - try opening and closing zippers to see if it's smooth or sticks/catches the fabric.
  • Stitching quality - make sure zippers are all sewn into the swag fabric properly and evenly.


Some swags have poles, while others don't.

Better quality poles won't snap in high winds so will last longer (but they're also usually heavier):

  • Alloy (a mixture of metals) - extremely strong. Can handle pressure and bend a bit.
  • Steel - stronger than aluminium, fibreglass and carbon fibre - not as strong as alloy.
  • Aluminium - stronger and lighter than fibreglass - lasts longer than carbon fibre.
  • Carbon fibre - extremely light and strong, but not as long-lasting as aluminium.
  • Fibreglass - doesn't last as long as aluminium, alloy, steel and carbon fibre poles.


A covered storage space that extends out from the front or side of the swag:

  • 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 more storage space.


Some swags have:

  • Pockets so it's easy to stay organised and find your phone, torch and toilet paper.
  • A hook on the ceiling so you can hang up a light or washing line.


Swags have a built-in mattress:

  • Thickness is given in mm, and most swags have a mattress thickness of 35mm-70mm.
  • The comfort level differs between different swags.
  • The mattress also acts as insulation from the cold ground.
  • It's a trade-off between weight and comfort:
    • Thick, high-density mattresses are more comfortable and keep you warmer.
    • Thin, low-density foam is less comfortable (but lighter), and can collapse over time.
  • Self-inflating mattresses and pillows are comfortable, compact and great for hiking.
  • Some mattresses have a removable, washable cover so they're easy to keep clean.
How To Choose Swag For Camping - Double Swag

3. Types

Swags come in different shapes, and the choice comes down to personal preference:

  • A simple envelope shape with canvas over your face (may feel claustrophobic)
  • With poles - one vertical apex pole at the end, or dome-shaped poles
  • With entrances into the swag from one or both sides, or via the top

Apex Swags

These swags are:

  • Light, compact and easy to carry.
  • Set up fast - just roll and insert the pole.

Dome Swags

Dome swags are also known as tunnel swags and are:

  • Shaped like a dome thanks to flexible poles that bend.
  • More spacious inside, so better if you sleep on your side.
  • Direct rain off the swag and can withstand bad weather.
  • Usually ventilated with mesh panels.
  • Designed to keep creepy crawlies out.
  • Higher inside for sitting up/getting dressed.
  • Made in small and large sizes.

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How To Choose Swag For Camping - Dome Swag

4. Quality

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 so 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 good-quality swag. Think of it this way, whatever you spend on a swag, you're saving on future holiday accommodation because you can camp in your swag instead. Swags also come in handy if you're staying at someone's house and want a comfortable night's sleep.

How much are swags?

Anaconda swags range from $150 to $750, and the majority of Anaconda's swags are $150 to $400.

When you go to the swag section on the Anaconda website, you'll see tick box filters all down the left hand side. Using these filters makes it easier and faster to work out which swag to buy, because you can choose to filter the swags you see by:

  • Price - so you only see swags within your budget range on the page
  • Deal - so you only see swags that are on sale or at clearance prices
  • Size - so you can see which single, kings single or double swags
  • Brand - so you can search for and see specific brands of swags

Getting the most out of your swag

Once you've got your swag, you'll need to know how to look after it so it lasts for as long as possible.

The needle stitching holes in your swag need to be closed over for the swag to be waterproof.

Waterproofing your swag is something you need to do:

  • 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.

How to waterproof a swag?

Waterproofing a swag is also called 'seasoning'.

Seasoning swells the canvas and stitching thread, sealing all the tiny needle holes.

Waterproof or season your swag in four simple steps:

  • Set up the swag
    • Outside at home for a few days
    • Close the swag windows and doors
  • Hose the swag
    • Forcefully for 5-10 minutes
    • Saturate the whole swag
    • Focus on the seams
    • Give areas with lots of needle holes an extra soak
  • Let the swag dry
    • Leave it outside in the sun
    • Make sure it is completely dry
  • Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice
    • Thoroughly hose the swag
    • Let it dry completely
    • Repeat both steps again
  • Check the swag is waterproof
    • Climb inside the swag
    • Get someone to hose it
    • Check the inside for leaks
    • Hose any leaky areas again
    • Let the swag dry completely
    • Test and hose again if needed

How to maintain your swag?

To ensure the swag stays waterproof:

  • Clean dirt and debris off with warm water after every camping trip
  • Don't ever use aerosol sprays in or anywhere near your swag
  • Dry the swag before packing it up (or dry it as soon as you get home)

Other Camping & Hiking Essentials

Check out Anaconda's range of Camping & Hiking products available online or visit your local store.

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