How to Choose Different Types of Sleeping Bags Wisely

Your sleeping bag is one of the most essential pieces of kit that you will own as a camper. 

Getting a good night’s sleep is a significant factor in keeping you safe and happy when hiking or camping. So don’t underestimate how significant it is to have the right sleeping bag! 

A high-quality sleeping bag will keep you warm and comfortable, while a poor quality sleeping bag will leave you cold and tired.

We’re here to make sure you choose wisely. 

There are many different types of sleeping bags, and at first, the choice can seem a little daunting. 

In this detailed guide, we are going to help you understand everything you need to know about sleeping bags so that you can invest in what suits you best. 

What Are The Different Types of Sleeping Bag Shapes?

There are three main shapes for sleeping bags that you need to know. 

#1 Rectangular Sleeping Bag

A simple, traditional shape that gives you plenty of room to stretch out. 

  • Pros – spacious and easy to move around in, so good for those who change position often at night. Some can be completely unzipped and used as a cover or blanket. 
  • Cons – not as cosy and warm as a fitted shape like the mummy sleeping bag. Tends to be larger and heavier than a mummy bag. 
  • Conditions to use in – whenever weight is not a concern. At a campsite, when car camping or indoors.

#2 Semi-rectangular Sleeping Bag

This shape is a little more tapered than a pure rectangular bag, but not as fitted as a mummy sleeping bag. It is sometimes referred to as ‘barrel shaped’. 

  • Pros – offers a good balance between space and cosiness. 
  • Cons – generally a little heavier than a mummy sleeping bag. 
  • Conditions to use in – any.

#3 Mummy Sleeping Bag

This bag shape has a tight fit with a very tapered leg area. 

  • Pros – snug and fitted for increased warmth. Tends to be smaller and lighter weight than rectangular-shaped bags.
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  • Cons – tight fitting, so not ideal if you prefer to be able to stretch out.
  • Conditions to use in – when backpacking or in cooler temperatures.

#4 Double Sleeping Bag

This is a large sleeping bag designed for two people who want to sleep together. Some single sleeping bags can be zipped together to provide a similar function. 

  • Pros – increased body heat and warmth. 
  • Cons – often heavy and bulky, so not ideal for backpacking. 
  • Conditions to use in – at a campsite or indoors with your partner.

#5 Children’s Sleeping Bag

Children’s sleeping bags are simply smaller versions of adult sleeping bags. 

  • Pros – small and affordable. 
  • Cons – can only be used by children or very small adults.
  • Conditions to use in – when camping anywhere with your children.

#6 Women’s Sleeping Bag

These are shaped to fit a typical female shape, often with additional space at the hips and less round the shoulder area. 

  • Pros – increased comfort and fit for some women. 
  • Cons – not suitable for most men to use. 
  • Conditions to use in – in any condition.

How to Choose Sleeping Bag Fabrics?

Shell material: The outer fabric or shell of the sleeping bag is constructed from tough nylon or polyester. 

Ripstop: Ripstop is nylon or polyester that has heavier threads woven into it for greater durability. The heavier threads reinforce the shell, making it more resistant to both tearings.

Water repellent finishes: most sleeping bags are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish that protects the inner insulation from getting damp. 

Inner fabric: some rectangular bags are unusual in traditional fabrics like cotton or flannel for the inner. These feel soft on the skin but are heavier and slower to dry. Most other sleeping bag types use synthetic materials for the inner that is quick to dry.

Which Sleeping Bag Size & Weight Is The Best?

If you are hiking or backpacking, the weight and bulk of your sleeping bag is a serious consideration. 

Check the packed weight and measurements of your sleeping bag to be certain that it is right for your needs and that you will have room for it in your backpack. 

Look for sleeping bags that come with a stuff sack or compression sack that packs the bag down to a very small size. 

Some sleeping bags are available in various sizes to suit people of different heights. 

These usually come in small, regular and long options. Be sure to check that you have chosen the right size for your stature. 

If you are particularly tall, check that the sleeping bag is going to be long enough for you to fit into easily. If you are short, consider a small size.

Additional Sleeping Bag Features You Better Know 

There are a number of additional features sleeping bag features that are worth knowing. These are the smaller details that can make the difference between a good sleeping bag and a great sleeping bag. 

Sleeping bag hood

A closely fitting hood can make a big difference when it is cold. We lose the most warmth from our heads, so a hood can help to stop this happening and keep us toasty on cooler nights outdoors. 

Sleeping bag zippers

Some sleeping bags come with more than one zipper, which gives you more possibility for ventilation. In some cases, you also have the option of completely opening out the bag – a great option for hot summer nights.

Additionally, some zips have been designed to prevent snagging. This means that they have a cover over the zipper itself or a guard along the length of the zipper. 

Stash pockets

Some sleeping bags offer the added bonus of a zippered pocket for keeping small items close to hand. This is a great feature for storing essentials that you might want to find quickly at night, such as a flashlight or a headlamp. 

Stuff sack or storage sack

Most contemporary sleeping bags come with a stuff sack or storage sack that protects the sleeping bag when it is not in use. If you are backpacking and have limited space, look for a stuff sack that compacts the sleeping bag down to the smallest possible size.