A weekend spent at camp or a long-distance hiking adventure is not complete without a sleeping bag in toll. It’s part of your outdoor dream team, alongside your backpack and tent. However, like any other camping gear, sleeping bags come in all sort of types, sizes and features, which often lead hikers to wonder and ask, “what’s the best sleeping bag to buy”?
It all boils down to research. A sleeping bag has several parts and features that contribute to its use, versatility and longevity. It’s best for hikers, especially first-time users, to get to know these product terms to make an informed buying decision with confidence. To help you out, I’ve picked out some of the best sleeping bags in Australia. Each featured sleeping gear has unique attributes to go with your specific adventure goals and personal preferences.
|Image||Product Name||Dimensions (LxW)||Weight||Limit Temperature||Seasonal Rating||Where to Buy|
|Packed size: 46 x 20cm|
External size: 198 x 85cm
|1.3 kg||-7°C (20°F)||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Packed size: 40 x 21cm|
External size: Fits up to 183cm
|1.1 kg||-7°C (20°F)||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Packed size: 37 x 15cm|
External size: 221 x 81cm
|1.3 kg||-7°C (20°F)||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Packed size: 43 x 31cm|
External size: 208 x 81cm
|2.8 kg||-18°C (0°F)||4||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Packed size: 36 x 20cm|
External size: 221 x 81cm
|1.5 kg||-7°C (20°F)||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
Things to Consider When Buying a Sleeping Bag
When you’re out in the wilderness, a reliable sleeping bag is your secret to a good night’s rest and refreshing forty winks. Check out these features to help you choose the perfect sleeping gear for your next outdoor adventure.
Purpose or activity
When hiking, three things make up your overall load: backpack, sleeping bag and tent. You need to comfortably carry these three pieces of equipment, making the weight factor extremely vital, especially for long-distance hikes.
The place where you are going and its weather conditions are among the first things to think about when buying a sleeping bag. Make sure to balance these factors with your sleeping gear’s insulation and weight. For instance, if you’re using the tent for car camping, then the weight of your sleeping bag will not be an issue. However, if you’re going on a multi-day hike, you need a gear that’s warm enough yet without the extra weight. Here are some sleeping bag types and what they are best for:
- For car or front-country camping, choose a camping sleeping bag. This gear is very comfortable and does not have extraordinary features, making it inexpensive. It’s not ideal for long-distance hikes though as it is quite heavy and bulky.
- For backpacking or back-country travel, a lightweight backpacking or summer sleeping bag is best. Choose a sleeping gear that’s about 1kg but warm and comfortable. A lightweight sleeping bag is usually expensive, so find one that is within your budget, too.
- For mountaineering and alpine climbing, find a winter sleeping bag with excellent insulation and moisture resistance. Aim for gear that’s light with compact packed size as well.
To know whether the sleeping bag will keep you comfortable, depending on your intended camping site, check out its temperature rating. This rating is based on the European Norm (EN 135370) and classified into three: comfort, limit and extreme. Each represents the lowest possible temperature your sleeping bag can keep you warm and comfortable:
- Comfort is the optimum temperature at which an average adult woman will feel warm and comfortable.
- Limit is the optimum temperature at which an average adult man can comfortably sleep for 8 hours in a curled position.
- Extreme is the survival rating for an average adult woman and not recommended for regular use. At this temperature, the person will experience extreme cold and may be at risk of ailments like hypothermia and frostbite.
The temperature rating is just a rough guide when choosing a tent. Other factors like your sleeping clothes, the food you eat, changing weather conditions and body type variations can all affect your comfort level while using the sleeping bag. The safest choice is a -7°C (20°F) sleeping gear. This temperature rating will keep you comfortable under most conditions. Also, you can easily unzip it if it’s too warm, or put on extra layers and pair your sleeping bag with a liner on cold weather.
You can also base your sleeping bag choice according to the season you plan to use it. The temperature range and season level, however, may vary from one manufacturer to another, but here’s a comparison table to give you an idea:
|Season Rating||Approximate Night Temperature||Best For|
|1-Season||10°C or higher||Camping in hot and humid weather, usually in late spring through summer|
|2-Season||5°C or higher||Cooler nights during spring, summer and early autumn|
|3-Season||0°C or higher||Spring, summer and autumn camping and warm winter nights with no frost|
|4-Season||-10°C or higher||Autumn and winter months; can be zipped open during spring or summer|
|5-Season||-40°C or higher||Mountaineers on expedition camping|
Insulation or fill
The fill type of your sleeping bag is an indicator of its weight and warmth. Check out the table to compare the pros and cons:
|Type of Fill||Description||Pros||Cons|
|Down||Superior choice with excellent warmth-to- weight ratio|| |
|Synthetic||Most common type of insulation for sleeping bags|| |
|Wool||Not a popular option due to its weight, but some manufacturers combine it with down for balanced features|| |
If you’re considering a down-filled bag, you’ll likely encounter a numerical specification called fill power. This unit refers to the loft level of the down or the amount of space it can insulate. Basically, the higher the fill power, the warmer and lighter the sleeping bag is. Here are some common fill power values for sleeping bags:
- 500 to 600: These are the most affordable down-filled bags. They are less compressible but still lighter than most synthetic sleeping bags.
- 700: These are your mid-range down-filled bags with balanced performance, weight and cost.
- 800+: These are the most expensive down-filled bags, but they’re ultralight, highly compressible and ideal for winter and long-distance hikes.
Size or length
A sleeping bag that’s too short will not be enough to cover your body. If it’s too big, there will be more spaces for air, making it harder to warm up. Either way, an ill-fitting sleeping bag will make you feel uncomfortable and cold. So, make sure to know the dimensions of your chosen sleeping bag, especially its length. Some brands or manufacturers may have different sizing levels for their products. However, here’s a standard that you can use as a guide for both men and women:
|Type||Length + Ideal User Height|
|Regular (Men)||198cm (fits up to 183cm)|
|Regular (Women)||183cm (fits up to 168cm)|
|Long (Men)||213cm (fits up to 198cm)|
|Long (Women)||198cm (fits up to 183cm)|
Sleeping bags come in several shapes to suit varying comfort levels and weight preferences. So, it’s always best to try on various bag shapes to see which one fits best.
- This sleeping bag is the most common. It’s quite heavy and not very warm, but it gives you more space to sleep in a relaxed position. This versatile bag can work as a blanket or comforter and is ideal for car camping, caravanning, summer festivals and sleepovers.
- This tapered bag, which follows the contours of the shoulders and hips, weighs less and provides excellent heat retention. The snug fit leaves little room for changing sleeping positions though, but it’s best for backpacking and long-distance hikes.
- Semi-rectangular. The barrel or modified mummy bag strikes a balance between space and warmth. This option is best for campers who don’t want the extra weight while hiking and the feeling of being too confined when sleeping.
- Double bags. These sleeping bags are big enough for two people. Some designs come with two rectangular bags that you can zip together or use as two separate blankets. They’re ideal for couples and families.
- This hoodless sleeping gear uses less material and filling. At times, it comes with a significantly small zipper or none at all, making it lighter and less expensive than most traditional sleeping bags. However, the quilt is not a smart choice if you go winter camping a lot or if you prefer an all-around gear that doesn’t require you to wear enough layers to keep your head warm.
- Women’s. Women sleep colder than men, so some sleeping bags come with added insulation, especially in the foot box and hip area. Women’s sleeping bags are also shorter and narrower than unisex ones to reduce weight, size and heat loss.
Parts and accessories
Sleeping bags with specialised parts and accessories help make you feel warmer and more comfortable while sleeping. However, some of them also add bulk and weight, so make sure to choose add-on features based on purpose and your needs.
- This part comes in handy if you’re a cold sleeper or fond of winter camping. For a good fit, choose an adjustable hood that wraps well around your face or comes with a contoured neck baffle.
- Neck baffle. Also called the draught excluder, this tube-like part rests on your shoulder and neck to keep them warm.
- This part covers your upper and lower body and is usually polyester or nylon material. The shell can be lightweight and compressible or bulky and durable. Choose a sleeping bag with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, so you’ll stay dry in humid environments.
- Foot box. Sleeping bags with trapezoidal or contoured foot boxes are ideal as these allow you to stay warmer and lay flat with your toes pointing upwards.
- Some sleeping bags have either full, half or three-quarter length zippers. A sleeping bag with two-way zippers is best as these let you adjust ventilation with ease. Choose a gear with a zipper guard or cover as well to prevent snagging.
- Zip baffle. Like the neck baffle, this part is tube-like padding that covers the zipper gap and prevents heat from escaping.
- Stash pocket. This zippered pocket comes in handy for storing small items like a watch, balm or small flashlight.
- Stuff sack. This bag makes your sleeping gear easier to carry and store after use. Some sleeping bags also include a cotton or mesh sack to prevent your bag from being too compressed during long-term storage.
FAQs About Sleeping Bags
While searching for the best sleeping bag, you might have encountered camping claims like sleeping bags expire or sleeping naked in a bag will keep you warmer. Here’s an FAQ section to debunk these myths.
Are mummy sleeping bags uncomfortable?
There’s little room for movement while sleeping in this bag, and some people dislike the uncomfortable entombed feeling. However, mummy sleeping bags are form-fitting for a purpose, especially at freezing temperatures. This shape effectively eliminates the spaces between you and the bag to keep you warm. It also lessens the weight of the gear, making it easier to carry. There are more spacious rectangular sleeping bags that you can bring to extreme conditions. But they tend to be too heavy and bulky for long-distance treks and back-country camping.
Should I get a 0° sleeping bag?
If you frequently go winter camping, then a 0° is an excellent sleeping bag that can get you through most cold weather conditions. It also comes with useful features like baffles, zipper guards and specialised shell fabric to keep you warm. However, for extreme climates in higher altitudes, a 0° sleeping bag may not be good enough. And if you’re not into cold weather camping at all, sleeping bags for warm conditions are more appropriate, not to mention easy to carry. Make sure that you always match your sleeping bag with your outdoor activity to avoid paying for features that you do not need.
Do sleeping bags expire?
No, they don’t have a specific expiration date. However, years of use and reuse can ultimately cause wear and tear. Its loft or fluffiness may lessen over time, which can affect its insulating properties. When this happens, it’s best to purchase a new one. To keep your sleeping bag in tip-top shape longer, make sure to wash and dry it properly. Also, hang your sleeping bag or store it in a large stuff sack or pillowcase to avoid compressing the filling too much.
What should you wear in a sleeping bag?
Some say the best way to sleep in a bag is to have no sleepwear on. While fewer clothes can reduce your load, it’s not ideal to sleep naked in your sleeping bag. Your metabolism generates heat, and you need clothes to trap the heat and keep it close to your body. The clothes then work with your sleeping bag to keep you warmer. Depending on the actual conditions, excellent choices include long underwear, one or two layers of loose-fitting top and bottom, socks and hat. Just make sure to wear enough clothes that won’t make you sweat as moisture can take the heat away and make you feel cold. Here are other useful tips to make you feel extra toasty:
- Use a sleeping bag liner or mat.
- Eat a snack before going to bed.
- Do simple exercises like a few jumping jacks.
- Place a bottle of hot water at the foot box.
- Stack some clothes at the foot box to reduce air spaces.
- Wear fresh and dry clothes to bed.
What should I look for when buying a sleeping bag?
Essential factors to look for when buying a sleeping bag are probably the temperature rating, size, fill and shape. By knowing these features, you’ll be able to gauge whether the sleeping is perfect for your body type and destination. And if you’re a discerning buyer who wants to make the most of your budget, checking out its add-on features is also recommended.
Your sleeping bag is one of the most expensive gear you need for your outdoor adventure. It’s also one of the most important. So, I recommend that you take the time to compare different sleeping bags, understand their features and weigh your options. This extra preparation prevents you from wasting money. More importantly, it ensures a comfortable sleep whether you’re at a campsite or up the snowy mountains.