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Sleeping Bags Buying Guide

Sleeping bags keep you warm & comfortable on your camping trip, but their shape, weight & quality can differ. Learn which bag is right for you.


After a tiring day of hiking or canoeing, nothing is more rejuvenating than sleep. Ensuring you sleep well while camping means investing in the right sleeping bag to help your body maintain optimum temperature & comfort. Be ready to start the next day’s adventure by giving some thought to what kind of sleeping bag you’ll need.

How to Choose

Types of Sleeping Bags


The rectangular bag is the typical family sleeping bag. Versatile and roomy, the rectangular bag is similar to a quilted blanket, allowing you to toss and turn as you would at home and you can even zip two bags together for extra space. Contrarily, these bags promote heat loss, making them best suited for warm weather camping. They are also the most bulky, typically measuring 80 cm by 200 cm, meaning they are a poor choice for backpacking.


The mummy bag is designed to prevent heat loss while you sleep. The tapered, cocoon shape means your body heat doesn’t travel, keeping you snug and warm. Mummy bags are tight around the feet and may come with a hood to prevent heat from escaping through your head. Both features are vital during cold weather camping. Because mummy bags use less space, they are easy to compress and pack away. Their light-weight design has made them a favourite of experienced, extreme-climate campers.


For those who don’t like the confinement of a mummy bag but still require more warmth than the standard rectangular bag, barrel bags make a great compromise. Narrow at the feet, but roomy around the shoulders, arms & hips, barrel bags ensure you can move and not feel restrained. This freedom of movement means these bags are not as warm as mummy bags or as light-weight.

Things to Consider


What time of year will you be using your sleeping bag? Most sleeping bags come with a temperature rating that can help you determine which bag is best for your needs. 1 kg of fill will keep you warm during the summer, whereas 2 – 3 kg is suitable for colder weather.


Are you short, tall or wide? Depending on your size, you may wish to look for a sleeping bag that comes in different lengths. Certain styles of sleeping bags, such as rectangular or barrel, can accommodate extra width. Child-size sleeping bags are also available to fit kids of all ages.


Will you be driving, hiking or canoeing to your campsite? Considering that sleeping bags can come in different sizes & weights, it is important to know how you will be packing your bag and if you will be carrying it for a long distance. Portaging across difficult territory will require a lightweight, easy-to-pack bag, while driving makes a bulkier bag a viable option.



Down or synthetic? These are your two choices when selecting what kind of fill you want for your sleeping bag. Synthetic is often less expensive and easier to care for; however, it is generally heavier than down. Down fill is light, long-lasting and often softer than synthetic fill. Down will also keep you warmer than synthetic, but may come with specific care instructions.


Since down fill is loose, quilting helps ensure the fill is evenly distributed throughout the bag. Stitched-through down construction, like you’ll find on more inexpensive bags, may cause cold spots. Offset quilting, like trapezoidal stitching, can prevent the down from shifting. Double insulation also helps prevent cold spots along the stitch line. Always remember, the more complex the construction, the more expensive the bag.


One place where cold spots can occur is along the zipper. More expensive bags may have a draft tube that can shield you from the cold air, or an insulated flap that covers the metal zipper. Also, for warm weather camping, some bags have vents along the sides of the zippers which can be opened to give you some control over the internal temperature of your sleeping bag.