Liv Nomadic

5 Things to Consider When Buying a Sleeping Bag 

Arguably one of the most important aspects to a good trip is good restful sleep. Let’s face it, no one wants to wake up next to an unhappy camper. In this post we will dive deeper into what makes a good sleeping bag and how to choose the right one for your next getaway.

    1. Sleeping Bag Shape

    Rectangular Bags

    Rectangular bags are arguably the most common choice for front country campers and casual users. These bags are often the most comfortable as they are less restrictive than other kinds of bags. This allows the sleeper to roll over and starfish in their sleep easily. 

    Despite being comfortable, these sleeping bags tend to not be very good with heat retention as there is extra space for the heat to escape. With that being said, this doesn’t mean you cannot use rectangular bags if you plan to sleep in colder environments as heat retention is largely dependent on other variables we will discuss later in this post. 

    The last thing to note is that rectangular bags often can be fully unzipped, turning them into large blankets or can also be zipped together with another rectangular bag to create a double bag. 

    Double Bag

    Double sleeping bags often resemble very wide rectangular bags and are made to fit two people. These bags often resemble the same characteristics as rectangular bags with the addition of being able to cuddle. 

    These bags offer even more space than rectangular bags and are an attractive option as you can share body heat making for a warmer camping experience. 

    The main thing to note with double bags is that they tend to be much heavier than single bags. This may not be ideal if you are hiking and plan to do back country camping or portaging.

    Top Double Bags to Buy:


    Mummy Bags

    As the name suggests, mummy bags mimic the shape of a mummy, tapering out at the person’s feet. This tapering results in the lightest and often warmest construction. 

    One main disadvantage to mummy bags is many people find them very restrictive and claustrophobic. I would recommend only considering a mummy bag if you don’t need the extra space and if you are camping in cooler temperatures. 

    2. Temperature Ratings

      Sleeping bags utilize temperature ratings to help buyers distinguish if the bag will suit their needs. This is probably the most important aspect to note when buying a bag. When looking for a bag, you will note a temperature range on one of the tags. For extra security I always look to the lower temperature when choosing a bag.

      Usually, the lowest temperature that is listed on the bag refers to the absolute lowest you can physically survive in for the night. This is important because many claim that their bag is rated to 0 degrees celsius, but you will find yourself very uncomfortable at that temperature. This is why I recommend always choosing a sleeping bag that is rated about 5-10 degrees colder than the temperature you intend to use it for.

      If you plan to use the sleeping bag throughout the year, during several seasons I would greatly recommend investing in two or three bags that will cater to each season accordingly. If you decide to get a “one temperature fits all” type bag, you will often find yourself having very uncomfortable sleep. Not to mention the bag will wear down faster resulting in you needing to buy a new bag quicker.

      Independent of the temperature of where you are going, another thing to note is where you are traveling to. Altitude has a big impact on temperature and will make a temperature feel much colder and will have greater temperature shifts within a 24 hour period. 

      3. Fill Type

      Sleeping bags generally come in two different fill materials; Down or Synthetic. Down is known to be the most superior choice for sleeping bags as they are lighter and warmer than any Synthetic or Synthetic blend.


      Down naturally has a very high warmth to weight ratio and has the ability to be compressed repeatedly without deteriorating. This is an attractive feature for backpackers as you can stuff it into a compression sack without harming the ability for it to keep you warm. 


      Synthetic bags on the other hand have a major cost advantage over the down ones, not to mention they are animal free and generally seen as the more ethical option. 

      Synthetic blends have the tendency to get clumpy overtime and are generally heavier as they need to have more stuffing to meet the same temperature rating as their down-filled counterparts.

       Synthetic filled bags are a good option for anyone who isn’t concerned about the weight and is looking to get a better deal without sacrificing much.

      4. Sizing

      Sleeping bags are sized according to length; however they do factor in some additional length to help the sleeper stay comfortable. For example, if you are six feet tall you should buy a sleeping bag that is rated as a six foot long bag. 

      However, despite its rating, the sleeping bag will likely be closer to six feet and eight inches. This extra length is used to compensate for when your spine decompresses and allow room for your feet to be pointed without feeling like the bag is too short for you.

      When sizing a bag it is also important to note that a bigger, longer bag will be more comfortable especially for restless sleepers however will also be closer than a properly fitted bag. 

      There are also options specific for men or women. The sleeping bags that are for women are a different shape, they are designed to have extra room in the hips and are more narrow at the shoulders. These bags are usually much shorter in length than other sleeping bags. They also provide extra thermal protection in your feet as women tend to have worse circulation.

      5. Tricks to Get the Most Out of Your Sleeping Bag

      After many months of being cold while sleeping we discovered some tips to help maximize your warmth and get the most out of your sleeping bag.

      Make Sure You Go to Sleep Clean and Dry

      After any eventful day outdoors you are likely to become sweaty and dirty. This buildup of sweat, sunscreen, bug spray and dirt will leave you cold throughout the night. 

      Make sure you change out of your day clothes into clean clothes before sleeping so that you don’t introduce any moisture that will cool you down.

      In order to keep warm throughout the night many people will wear several layers to bed. Although this can be good, you can also overdo it which will result in sweating. Once you sweat your skin and the clothes begin to get moist and will result in you getting very cold very quickly.

      I have found that wearing light layers and throwing in a bottle with hot water near your toes will help you keep warm the best. If you find that you get too warm, you can simply open up the sleeping bag a bit and it will help regulate the temperature. 

      Many people may think that your tent is the most important purchase for camping, but having comfortable sleep and being able to withstand some colder temps is solely reliant on your sleeping bag.

      Consider Bag Liners Rather than Investing in Several Sleeping Bags

      Although investing in proper sleeping bags rated for different temperatures is arguably the best option, many will find this can be expensive, not to mention more stuff to store. Due to this it may be worth considering getting a sleeping bag liner in addition to a mid range bag. 

      This way you can sleep with just the liner in warm conditions, just the bag when it is moderately cold and both the liner and the bag when the temperature drops below the rated temperature of the bag. 

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