How to Choose a Sleeping Bag
Nothing can ruin a great camping trek or an off-road overnight trip faster than a terrible night’s sleep. No-one wants to be driving home over-tired or hiking back exhausted because you were too cold or too clammy or simply too uncomfortable in your chosen sleeping bag last night. The best sleeping bags will provide real R&R on your next 4x4 or camping adventure, and we’ve got all the facts to answer your FAQs right here.
With so many options and varieties available, choosing the best sleeping bag for your travel needs, budget and personal preferences can seem like a tiring and tiresome task. But rest assured – you now can put your feet up as we zip through everything you need to know about how sleeping bags work, and which one is right for you.
Sleeping Bag Materials
Let’s start in the middle – and that’s the insulated material that will fill your sleeping bag. Deciding between down or synthetic-filled is a key factor in choosing a sleeping bag, so let’s climb on in and cover the main differences.
On the upside, down-filled sleeping bags are lightweight, compressible, warm and long-lasting if well cared for. On the down side (so to speak) they are significantly more expensive than their synthetic counterparts and far more difficult to care for. On top of that, they can cause allergic reactions for some (being duck or goose-feather derived) and are considered unethical by others, plus they can be troublesome in wet weather.
That’s because down filling when wet has no insulating properties (so being warm and dry goes right out the tent flap) and is very slow to dry – so if conditions are damp and you have no chance to properly air your bedding, it’s going to be a long, cold and soggy night’s sleep.
Even the best synthetic-filled sleeping bags cannot achieve being quite as warm or light as down. However, their versatility and convenience make them an intelligent choice for many trekkers, including those of us 4WDing where a slightly heavier or bulkier sleeping bag is no problem, or for keen all-weather hikers where water-resistance is paramount.
Synthetic filling is still insulating even when wet, and dries quickly. It can have a shorter lifespan than well-cared-for down, but remains a tough and robust material and is far less difficult to wash and maintain. Moreover, it is cruelty-free, non-allergenic and far less expensive, which is good for both your values, your sinuses and your finances.
Temperature Rating: Warmth
How cold will you and your campsite destination be this trip? Sleeping bags are rated based on the temperature at which you can comfortably sleep in them, but there are some layers to unroll in choosing the best sleeping bag for your individual needs.
Which Warmth Rating For Me?
If you have a summer night, a cosy tent, a warm companion or are generally a hot-blooded sleeper, you certainly won’t be needing a sleeping bag with a temperature rating of -12°C. However, experienced hikers and 4WDers know to base their choice on the coldest temperature they expect during a trip. It’s far easier to cool down and get comfortable by unzipping or a sleeping bag than it is to get warm and get to sleep in an ineffective sleeping bag with an inadequate temperature rating.
That said, your other 4x4 accessories and camping gear can also influence your sleep-system decision. The quality of your tent will enhance the effectiveness of your sleeping bag warmth, as will your choice of mattress, crashmat or stretcher or your use of additional bedding like a cosy fleece lining. Because of this, factoring in the quality and quantity of your other favourite 4WD accessories and preferred hiking kit is also worthwhile in choosing your ideal sleeping bag.
Sleeping Bag Shape
Sleeping bags come in many designs and sizes, but there are three primary shape types. Mummy sleeping bags are form-fitting, with snug hoods and a cocoon-like design. They may be engineered for maximum insulation, thermal efficiency and ultimate compactness, but be aware there is no wiggle-room here, so they can feel oppressive and constrictive for many sleepers.
Tapered or semi-rectangular bags are still contoured to body shape but are less closely fitting, offer more legroom, and you can unzip them to use as a blanket if necessary which can be handy.
However, it’s the good old traditional rectangular sleeping bags that – while they can be a little heavier or bulkier – offer the most versatility, comfort and spaciousness. Draw cords and shaped hoods mean you can still snuggle in for warmth and cosiness when necessary. Still, there’s room for broad shoulders, restless legs or even unexpected company if the opportunity arises – plus they’re easy to unzip into blankets or zip together with a second bag for romantic interludes or the ultimate in luxurious sleeping space.
Our Sleeping Bag Recommendations
Now we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s unpack our own recommendations for the best sleeping bags for you. No matter the season, situation, sleeping arrangements, or your budget, we’ve got a portable sleep system to suit everyone.
Winter Sleeping Bag
Rugged, resilient, roomy and a resourceful all-rounder? If that sounds like you (or if you’re looking for a versatile winter sleeping bag guaranteed to keep in the heat even on freezing nights), the Darche Cold Mountain 1100 is an ideal fit. Not only is it double-layered with hollow fibre filling and dual-zipped, with draw-cords and a hood for form-fitting heat-retention, this sturdy sleeping bag is warmth-rated at an impressive -12°C.
Hiking Sleeping Bag
Keen and experienced hikers need versatile gear for all conditions and environments, which means the remarkable Crashpad Sleep System has all the answers rolled up into one compression bag. Just one sleeping bag has seven unique sleeping configurations, which means you can zip or unzip only the layers you need to carry for that particular trek. Single, double, twin, winter or summer – this clever and stylish sleep bag has got you covered.
Summer Sleeping Bag
We always love Coleman camp gear for quality and value, so our go-to for comfortable sleep on those warmer nights when off-roading or hiking in summer is the Coleman Mudgee +5°C sleeping bag. Its large dimensions makes it open and airy, the full-length zipper makes an easily convertible quilt instead, and the fact it’s also lightweight and inexpensive is just a cool bonus.
Compact Lightweight Sleeping Bag
Speaking of light on the wallet and in the rucksack – weighing in at under 2kg and with tight-packed dimensions despite its comfortable length and width when unravelled and its winter-warmth rating, the Coleman Mudgee 0° sleeping bag is hard to ignore. You can pack light and sleep tight with this high-quality and compact little beauty.
Value Sleeping Bag
When it comes to value for money, versatility and comfort, there’s no way we could neglect our final Coleman favourite, the Pilbara 0° sleeping bag. The multi-season comfort rating, luxurious flannel lining with cozy foot fleece, and satisfying balance between warm synthetic filling and full-cotton touring bag means you can enjoy counting your blessings rather than sheep on your next trip.
When it comes to overnight camping, off-roading and all your outdoor adventures, you can sleep easy knowing AUSWIDE 4WD has all the products you’ve been dreaming of and the expert advice you need. To ask us more about our extensive range of 4x4 accessories and camping gear, or how to get a good night’s sleep, contact us via email, call us on 1800 4WD AUSWIDE, or message us on Facebook.