Designed to insulate and keep you warm through the night, sleeping bags are perfect for those nights spent away from your bed. Whether you are hiking in the Himalayas, or the kids are sleeping over at a friend’s house, a sleeping bag belongs on your gear list.
No matter what kind of environment you plan on spending the night in, there is a type of sleeping bag to protect you from the elements and give you a great night's sleep. Sleeping bags are designed to be lightweight, portable bedding options for the outdoor adventurer. Sometimes it just isn't feasible to take the doona (duvet), pillows and mattress with you: a sleeping bag is your solution.
Sleeping bags come in a range of shapes and sizes and are constructed from different materials suited to different climates. They are rated by seasons, which helps you judge the level of insulation inside the bag.
For example, one-season sleeping bags are designed for the hot conditions of summer and have a higher temperature rating, while four-season sleeping bags are heavily insulated and have a far lower temperature rating. Although four-season sleeping bags can be used all year round, they are primarily used in winter due to the high levels of insulation inside them and lack of ventilation compared to a one-season bag. They also usually feature a removable sleeping bag liner for use in cold conditions.
Mummy sleeping bags are designed to be compact keeping your extremities very warm by holding your limbs close together in the characteristic mummy sleeping position. Mummy bags often only unzip to the waist or knee saving weight and improving their heat retention.
Tapered sleeping bags are not as thermally efficient as mummy bags but are more comfortable for some people, as they allow for more movement as you sleep. They can usually be fully unzipped so as to form a quilt that can cover more than one person, or opened up if it gets too hot.
Often used by those who are camping in more temperate climates, rectangular sleeping bags are the most comfortable form of sleeping bag as they allow the most room to move around. These are great for sleepovers, camping or as additional bedding at home.
Sleeping bags can be stuffed with a number of different materials to provide insulation. The two most common types of sleeping bag insulation are goose down and synthetic fill.
Down is the most thermally efficient fill you can have in your sleeping bag. Goose down is more expensive, lasts longer and is more easily compressed compared to synthetic fill. Once unpacked, the down returns to its original structure after given a chance to ‘breathe’.
Synthetic fill is more affordable than goose down and depending on your destination, may better suit your needs. Synthetic materials are cheaper, easier to clean and remain more thermally efficient while wet compared to goose down sleeping bags. However, synthetic sleeping bags are heavier and don’t pack down as tightly.
If you're looking for more great advice, our Ultimate Guide to Camping for Beginners is a great introduction to the gear you need to explore the outdoors.