In Australia, a swag in toll completes your exploration of the outback. This tent-and-mattress roll is essentially your one-person protection from the elements. However, like any camping gear, no two swags are the same. So, if you’re thinking of buying one, it’s best to know what to look for when choosing the best swag available!
Making the right choice starts with knowing your purpose for buying a swag. How often do you camp? Will you be camping at the beach or in the mountains? Are you travelling on foot or in a trailer? Assessing your camping style should help you decide which swag suits you best. To make it easier, I’ve reviewed the features of some of the best swags available in Australia. Also, learn more about this outdoor dwelling, from style to size to material, with our list of factors to consider when buying a swag.
|Image||Product Name||Capacity||Mattress Thickness||Packed Size & Weight||Dimensions (LxWxH)||Where to Buy|
|2-person||70mm||Packed Size: 150cm x 42cm|
|280cm x 185cm x 95cm||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|1-person||50mm||Packed Size: 89cm x 30cm|
|203cm x 89cm x 69cm||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|1-person||70mm||Packed Size: 95cm x 28cm|
|210cm x 95cm x 74cm||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|2-person||70mm||Packed Size: 150cm x 45cm|
|215cm x 140cm x 95cm||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|1-person||50mm||Packed Size: 80cm x 40cm|
|205cm x 100cm x 69cm||Check Price on Amazon AU|
Things to Consider When Buying a Swag
The only way to make an informed choice is to know more about the product. So, before deciding to invest in the most expensive swag in the market, spend time doing some research and learning these features.
There are two common types of swag, and both of which have distinct attributes:
- This swag, also known as the apex type, is your basic bedroll, where one side is the base while the other works as a cover. In between these layers is a mattress. It has no poles or support included.
- Also called a tunnel swag, this one has the same components as its traditional counterpart. However, its poles and ropes give it a more rounded shape.
Unlike tents that are categorised based on the number of people that can fit in them (or the season rating), swag classification mainly relies on size or dimension range. Swags are typically for individual use, and different single size categories are available to cater to large or tall users. There’s no clear-cut size standard though, as some manufacturers would label their products as jumbo or XXL. You can use this table, however, as a reference of the four categories for swags with approximate size ranges:
|Size Category||Length||Width||Height||Largest Packed Size (LxW)||Weight|
|Biker||190cm to 210cm||75cm or less||55cm to 75cm||60cm x 35cm||5kg to 7kg|
|Single||200cm to 215cm||75cm to 90cm||65cm to 75cm||95cm x 35cm||10kg|
|King Single||230cm to 245cm||95cm to 110cm||80cm to 95cm||100cm x 40cm||8kg to 11kg|
|Double||245cm to 280cm||140cm to 155cm||80cm to 100cm||155cm x 40cm||13kg to 18kg|
- This swag size is small, light and compact. It doesn’t have enough overhead space for sitting or changing clothes. However, you’ll have no problem changing sleeping positions in a biker swag. It’s ideal for motorcycle touring.
- A single swag is your just-right option. It’s not as heavy or bulky as the king single, and it’s longer and more spacious than a biker.
- King single. This size category gives more wiggle room and headspace to sit up, making it ideal for large or tall individuals. It’s ample space, however, adds to its weight.
- If you prefer a luxury of space, then a double swag is for you. And if you’re small, there’s more than enough room to share this swag with a friend. Just remember that a swag this size will be heavier and harder to pack. But if you often travel with a companion, it’s usually cheaper to buy a double than two single swags. This choice is best for couples.
Understanding the materials used to make your swag is essential in determining how well it can stand up against the elements or how heavy it is. If you’re looking for a lightweight swag or one that won’t need repairs in just a few short years, then make sure to be familiar with its three components.
Fabric type and its features determine the durability of the swag’s roof and walls. Here are some points to know:
- Cotton is a breathable fabric that keeps your swag interior cool in the summer and warm in winter. Some manufacturers use 100% cotton for their products. But while durable and versatile, this material weighs more than polyester, especially when wet. It’s prone to shrinkage, tears and wrinkles, and requires occasional seasoning for waterproofing.
- Polycotton combines the lightness and moisture resistance of polyester and the toughness and breathable quality of cotton. It’s more resistant to tears and wrinkles, and it dries up faster than cotton swags, too.
- Ripstop is fabric technology where nylon threads are woven into the canvas, creating a grid-like pattern. This technique reinforces the material and improves its strength-to-weight ratio. A sharp object can still cut through a ripstop canvas. But the nylon thread should prevent the tear from spreading, making repair easier.
- GSM or grams per square meter is the unit of measure for expressing the weight of the canvas. Most swags are around 320gsm to 360gsm; however, others can go as high as 400gsm. A 400gsm canvas is more durable but hefty. Lightweight swag fabric, on the other hand, is more breathable but not suitable for extreme weather conditions.
- Fabric treatment is essential to make the swag last longer. Choose camping swags that are rot-proof and mould-resistant. UV-treated fabric is also excellent for blocking off harmful sun rays.
The base or floor of your swag is the part that comes in contact with the ground, so it has to be impervious to dirt and moisture. Traditional and less expensive swags use canvas or cotton for their base. It’s a breathable option that prevents condensation while in dry campgrounds. It doesn’t work well on wet conditions though, so users would usually lay a small tarp underneath the swag. The tarp also doubles as a mat that keeps your swag base clean.
A better solution would be to get a camping swag with a PVC base. It’s not as breathable as canvas and may cause condensation issues. However, it does protect your mattress from moisture and moulds. This flooring material is common in modern swags and, in general, preferred when camping in Australia’s harsh camp conditions. Some manufacturers offer a stand or stretcher to keep your swag base off the ground. This accessory lets you camp in most regions, too, rain or shine.
Dome-style swags use poles for structure and shape. These also keep your swag stable against strong winds. Here are some common pole materials that you’ll likely encounter when choosing swags:
- This material combines different metals for enhanced strength. Its slightly bendable quality allows your swag to handle wind pressure and makes your poles last longer.
- This one is as flexible as alloy but not as strong. But steel is a better option for poles than those made from other materials.
- Aluminium is an excellent pole material due to its high strength and minimal weight. Aluminium ratings 6000 and 7000 series are the most common, which represents metal quality. For example, the 6000-series poles are sturdy and corrosion-resistant, while the 7000-series aluminium is the gold standard for poles.
- Carbon fibre. Some expensive swags use this metal as it is exceptionally lightweight. However, it doesn’t last as long as aluminium.
- This pole material is the most fragile of all. Manufacturers usually subject fibreglass to UV treatment to make it more snap-resistant and bendable.
Having a pre-installed mattress makes your swag different from a tent. This high-density foam acts as a cushion to keep your body off the hard ground, for a good night’s sleep. The quality of your mattress is dependent on its thickness, which ranges from 50mm to 100mm. A thicker mattress typically makes the swag more comfortable and expensive.
Less expensive biker swags usually have the 50mm mattress, which is more lightweight. However, some users find this too thin and not as comfortable. It doesn’t provide enough insulation either when camping in cold regions. A swag with a 100mm mattress, on the other hand, is too bulky. The best swag mattress is 70mm thick, which is neither too hard nor too soft.
Some users prefer to get a camping swag with self-inflating mattress instead. This one is an air and foam mattress combined. Others find this type more comfortable and compact when rolled up. Just be careful not to get your mattress punctured, or you’ll end up with a rather thin cushion.
Whether you prefer a thin or thick mattress, one thing to remember is to make sure that it has a removable cover. Some campsites do not have bathroom facilities, and there will be times when you have to get in your swag without taking a shower. Choosing a mattress with a removable and washable cover should keep your camping swag smelling fresh again.
Swags, in general, have similar construction and capabilities. So, if you’re having a difficult time deciding which one to buy, check out their unique special features. Most of these do not affect the functionality of your swag, and some may have to be purchased separately. But they can make your camping experience more convenient. Features you may need to look for include:
- spreader pole with adjustable options to keep your swag stable and taut
- shooter windows for insulation, ventilation and insect protection
- storage pockets for keeping small electronics, torches, water bottle, poles and pegs
- swag bag for storing and carrying your swag with ease
- swag protection system for keeping your swag protected while on the roof rack of your vehicle
- doormat for keeping your dirty shoes safe while outside your sleeping area
- 10 heavy-duty YKK zippers that are chunky and have solid pull tabs
Manufacturer, cost and warranty
When choosing a swag, make sure to have a balance of these three factors. Single camping swags in Australia typically cost between $100 and $600, while double swags cost a bit more. But your decision shouldn’t be based on price alone. Consider the manufacturer as well. In Australia, some popular brand choices include 23Zero, Adventure Kings, Arb, Burke & Wills, Darche, OZtrail, Weisshorn and the Australian-made Jolly Swagman. Established manufacturers usually have an edge than lesser-known ones when it comes to product quality, spare parts availability, warranty conditions and after-sales service.
FAQs About Swags
If you’re still wondering whether a swag is better than a tent and whether it’s comfortable enough even without a sleeping bag, this FAQ section should help you decide.
Why is it called a swag?
Swag is a historical term for bedroll in Australia. It originated from the farmworkers and sheep shearers during the late 1800s who were called swagmen. These swagmen would travel along the Australian outback in search of jobs. They would wrap their clothing and blanket or bluey in a tarp or groundsheet. The swagmen would also bring a frying pan, billy and drawstring tucker bag with them. Nowadays, a modern swag is more durable and comfortable, but the name somehow stuck.
What is the difference between a swag and a tent?
Swags are not better than tents, but their performance and reliability depend on how well they match your needs and choice of campsite. Here are some of their most significant points of difference:
|Points of Difference||Swag||Tent|
|Assembly||Takes little time and effort to set and pack up||Large tents can be a struggle to unpack and put together|
|Bedding||The built-in mattress should keep you comfortable||Needs a sleeping bag to keep your body off the ground|
|Head and leg room||Allows shifting to your side but not for changing clothes or sitting up||Allows you to move around and comfortably sit inside|
|Size||Smaller and can accommodate up to two people at maximum||With large-sized options good for up to 10 people|
|Space||Small footprint lets you camp in crowded areas||Requires wide open space and bump-free surface|
|Wind resistance||Compact size makes it more wind resistant||Has to be pegged down properly to avoid flapping|
Are all swags waterproof?
A high-quality swag should be waterproof. However, the addition of zippers and insect mesh into the canvas can reduce its moisture resistance. In this case, consider these tips to ensure excellent waterproofing:
- choose water-resistant cotton or polycotton fabric
- if indicated, purchase one with 1000mm to 1500mm waterproofness rating
- look for swag design that will not allow water to pool
- check for storm flaps or covers that protect its windows and zippers
- choose a swag with tub-style PVC flooring
- season your swag following manufacturer’s instructions
- keep the camping swag clean and dry before storage
Do you need a sleeping bag in a swag?
If you’re camping on a hot summer day, perhaps the mattress of the swag is enough to keep you comfortable at night. However, I recommend using the camping swag with a sleeping bag, especially during fall or winter. The extra layer should keep you warm no matter the condition. Also, some people may not be comfortable without a sleeping bag.
Are swags comfortable?
The size and construction of the swag contribute to the warmth and comfort it provides. Compared with tents, a camping swag is compact and has little space for air. Camping swags generally have less room between you and its top cover, too. While others find this confining, this design ensures that you stay warm inside. The thick PVC floor and built-in mattress also keep your body off the cold ground, and the foam adds insulation.
For first-timers and casual hikers, I recommend focusing on affordable swags from a reliable manufacturer. Choose a swag that offers both comfort and transport convenience. On the other hand, hard-core adventurers should pay attention to the durability factors, warranty conditions and cost. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as the best swag to buy. But, with the right features taken into account, there’s a swag that’s ideal for your camping needs and preferences. Make sure to do your research, weigh your options and decide wisely!