How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

Enjoy some R&R in the great outdoors. Use these tips to find the best sleeping bag for you.

July 01, 2015

When setting up your campsite, a quality night’s sleep should always be in your pack. The right sleeping bag can help you catch some well-deserved Z’s, whether you’re adventuring in the backcountry or the backyard.


There are certain qualities that can suit various camping conditions when it comes to finding the best sleeping bag for you. From temperature rating to shape and insulation, there’s plenty that goes into this nighttime camping necessity.




When searching for the best sleeping bag for you, a great starting point is to consider your campsite conditions. What will the average nighttime temperature be? Once you’ve identified your potential forecast, you can begin to match that with the right sleeping bag temperature rating. Sleeping bags are rated using either the European Norm – EN – or International Standards Organization – ISO. Older sleeping bags often feature EN ratings, but there is no distinct difference between the two testing methods. This can allow you to compare sleeping bags of both ratings when shopping.


Both EN and ISO standards will feature two measurements: a comfort rating and a lower limit rating. Comfort ratings can identify the temperature where cold sleepers might feel most comfortable. Lower limit ratings, on the other hand, can identify comfortable sleeping temperatures for warm sleepers. These numbers are estimates but can still give a good indication of where each sleeping bag is best used.


BONUS PRO TIP: Sleeping bag product names can often feature numbers that don’t exactly match their temperature rating. Be sure to check your bag’s actual temperature rating for a better idea of its warmth level.



Another option to consider when choosing the right sleeping bag is its shape. Your sleeping bag’s shape may affect how well it retains heat, as well as how much pack space you’ll need. There are multiple cuts to choose from to fit your needs.


Mummy sleeping bags resemble pharaoh sarcophagi in their shape and can be warm, snug options for campers. They feature a more contoured fit, which can help lock in heat. This style may also feature full-body coverage with its head-covering hood for added warmth. Mummy sleeping bags can also be better options for backpackers, as they require less pack space than other models.

Rectangular sleeping bags can be great for recreational campers and people looking for more room when they sleep. These comfortable options can sometimes double as comforters, too, unzipping into a full blanket. However, the squared-off design of these sleeping bags can mean more bulk, which can affect pack space and weight.

Semi-rectangular sleeping bags look to combine assets of both mummy and rectangular bags for an all-in-one design. The hooded upper and squared-off lower can provide warmth and space in a lightweight option for campers.

Finally, couples can use double sleeping bags to house two campers in one setup. This efficient bag style allows two campers to sleep together and share their body heat for warmth.


Finally, couples can use double sleeping bags to house two campers in one setup. This efficient bag style allows two campers to sleep together and share their body heat for warmth.



In addition to temperature rating and shape, you should also consider which insulation you’d prefer in your sleeping bag. Your choice will often be between down or synthetic insulation.


Down sleeping bags can be packed tightly and still retain their loft, or volume of given weight. Higher loft can indicate a higher fill power, which is the amount of space one ounce of down occupies when allowed to reach its maximum loft. The more fill a sleeping bag has, the warmer the bag will be.


Synthetic sleeping bags can be a more affordable option than down while still providing optimal performance. Synthetic insulation can be great for damp conditions, as it dries easily and can keep you warm even when soaked.



There are other extras you can look for when searching for the best sleeping bag for you, such as:

  • Hooded designs can provide plenty of head warmth throughout the night.
  • Extra zippers can help make getting in and out of your bag easier while also letting you customize ventilation.
  • Stash pockets can serve as extra storage compartments for your personal belongings.
  • Some sleeping bags can also be compatible with sleeping pads and pillows. This can allow you to improve the comfort of your sleeping bag setup in one contained system.

The proper sleeping bag can be the perfect addition to your campsite. Snooze through the night in comfort with these outdoor Pro Tips.


Looking for more camping coziness? Be sure to pair your perfect sleeping bag with the best sleeping pad for you by using this Pro Tips guide.