Finding the best camping sleeping bags depends more on how and when you camp than just the features of the bag.
The choice is more than just traditional vs. mummy sleeping bags.
So before you pull out your wallet – take a minute to consider these basic questions to determine which sleeping bags might be best for your camping needs.
- What is the typical temperature range you camp in?
- There is no need to spend the extra money for a 0° tight-fitting mummy-style bag if you never expect to be camping in temperatures colder than 30°
- How important is pack-weight and size? Are you a car camper, or do you usually have to backpack your sleeping bag on hikes to your campsites?
- The lightest and most compact, (packed size), sleeping bags are also the most expensive – the mummy-style down-filled or similar bags, but why pay two or three times as much as you need to if these aren’t important considerations for your camping style.
- How big and tall are you? And how much “moving around leg room” do you like to have when you sleep?
- This is important. Most regular, (standard-size), sleeping bags are made for campers 5’10” or shorter. If you are taller, or like more “leg” room, be sure to look for longer bags. Also the mummy vs. rectangular shape of the sleeping bag matters. Obviously. A mummy-style bag’s primary feature is their insulating and heat retention factors, but they come at the cost of interior bag room.
- Your budget and the bells and whistles.
- Everyone wants the latest and greatest – regardless of whether the extras are really needed, so think about what features you need first, and look for the bag that has the best quality of these features. Instead of spending more for features you will never need, or even worse, buying a lesser quality bag just because it has more bells and whistles.
If you only camp once a year, in the summer, or even year-round in a camper or RV, then there is no need to buy an expensive 0° sleeping bag, and especially not a mummy-style bag.
But on the other hand, if you are an active and/or year-round tent camper – you will need a good low-temp bag.
Plus there are the special features to consider – some extreme weather bags have features that even most winter campers will never need. Since extra features usually mean extra money – let your wallet be your guide.
When you are considering which sleeping bag features to look for, keep in mind how you intend to use it. Unless of course, cost is no object and you just want the best of the best.
*in that case you can skip the rest of this article and go buy this Marmot Helium MemBrain -20F / -29C Down Sleeping Bag for $535.00
Important Basic Features:
Regardless of your camping style, there are some basic features every quality sleeping bag will have:
- Durable outer-shell material
- Strong double-sided zippers
- Double and reinforced seam and junction stitching
|Basic sleeping bag styles|
Other important sleeping bag features: (details below)
- Zipper draft tubes
– sleeping bag zippers are the bag’s insulation weak-point. Draft tubes seal against the zippered seam to stop body heat from escaping or cold drafts from entering
- Insulation Baffle construction
– using baffle-style containment for the insulation keeps it in place through years of use, rather than non-baffled construction which could allow insulation to “bunch-up,” creating thin cold spots and poor heat retention
- Loops, straps, and pockets
– external loops and straps for bag positioning on cots and sleeping pads, and internal loops and pockets for small gear storage. (like wallets and flashlights)
- Down or Micro-tubular insulation
– most extreme campers still swear by down insulation, but the technological advances of micro-tubular synthetic insulation – by most testing methods, has matched down’s insulating capabilities, and surpassed it in dampness and compression resistance.
- Ground-level side seams and zippers
– inches matter. Lower zipper and seam placement help a bags heat retention and draft resistance
- Cinching head hoods
– this is usually a cold-weather feature of mummy bags. It is a hood with cinch cords that allow you to completely close the bag around your head – like a cocoon.
Sleeping bag outer-shell material:
• Water-repellant – breathable
It is important that the outer shell of a sleeping bag be water-resistant; water-repellant is better, (if not waterproof), breathable, and durable. The reasons for water-resistance are obvious – you don’t want morning dew or ground moisture to wick through the outer shell into the bag. The “breathable” part is just the opposite, a breathable shell allows your body moisture to wick out of the bag, instead of keeping it trapped inside with you.
At a minimum, the outer shell should be rip-stop nylon, (aka nylon rip-stop), and not just “coated nylon” which is what a lot of the more inexpensive bags from department stores have.
Many of the better sleeping bag makers have their own patented outer shell materials, like Marmot’s “MemBrain” or Kelty’s “40D Ripstop.” Some of the best bags even use Goretex.
Sleeping bag zippers:
• Strong Double-sided Zippers
The zipper is an important part of any sleeping bag – the part that gets the most wear. There are three important zipper features to look for:
- A double-sided zipper that can easily be pulled from the inside or outside of the bag and handy, large zipper pulls, (for gloved hands)
- Strong, durable zipper material and construction. Look for large, tightly meshed teeth, and strong double-stitching. You do not want small teeth and inserted stitching like found in clothing.
- An anti-snag zipper lining. (as shown) Many good sleeping bags use a zipper draft tube for this, (another good feature to look for), but the better bags have an anti-snag liner and a draft tube.
Sleeping bag seams and stitching:
• Double-stitch or chevron stitching
The seams and zippers of a sleeping bag are its most abused stress points. It is an important quality and durability feature that these areas be securly stitched.
Single stitching, or even insert-stitching, (like found in clothing) will weaken and separate sooner rather than later. Leaving you with a gaping problem.
*Also – all shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus
Mummy-style Sleeping Bags:
• Kelty Mummy-style Sleeping Bags
★★★★★ Top Pick for Tent Camping
This mummy style sleeping bag from Kelty, The Cosmic 20° is a 3-season bag, with all the same premium features you expect from more expensive models. Rated to 20°, in truth it will keep you warm and toasty in all but the most extreme temperatures.
Like all Kelty premium quality sleeping bags, this version, called the “Cosmic 20-degree” is loaded with features: • Two-layer off-set quilt construction • Two-way, locking blanket zipper • Zipper draft tube with anti-snag design • Can be fully unzipped and opened flat for use as a blanket • Internal liner loops • Sleeping pad security loops • Ground-level side seams prevent heat from escaping • Differential cut to maximize loft and warmth • Extra insulation centered over the chest • FatMan and Ribbon™ drawcords • Captured cordlock
• Eureka Cimarron +15-Degree – Mummy Sleeping Bag
★★★★ Top Pick for Camping and Indoor use
This semi-mummy bag from Eureka is an adapted full mummy design made with kid’s in mind. Rated to 30°, this sleeping bag will keep them warm and toasty to below freezing temperatures, but with a little more wiggle room than a traditional mummy bag.
Eureka quality, (their tents have been prized by campers for decades), is evident in all the features found in this premium camping sleeping bag. The picture and links will take you to see the company’s promos about its technical features, but what you should really check out are the actual customer reviews. This sleeping bag was made for camping and it does the job very well.
Rating: Best Buy in the $58 to $101 price range
Rectangular Sleeping Bags:
• Eureka Regular Style Sleeping Bags
★★★★ Top Pick for Camping and Indoor use
Eureka again, but this time in a three-season traditional rectangular sleeping bag. This bag is rated at 45°, but as with most premium sleeping bags, it will keep the you warm even in much lower temperatures.
Just like the Eureka mummy bag above, their rectangular bags are loaded with all the features you expect to see in quality camping gear. Even their children’s sleeping bags are designed to the same standards as their more rugged camping cousins.
Just click the links to see actual customer reviews from people that have put them to the test. These sleeping bags were made for campers that like a lot of room.
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Related sleeping bag resources:
Here are a few other camping equipment items and resources that may prove helpful:
• Camping Tent Lights
For their convenience, and peace of mind, a portable tent light will make tent camping life easier for everyone. These new LED tent lights make batteries seem to last forever. And many of them also have a night-light setting for younger campers that are used to having them at home.
• Folding Camp Cots
Sleep in comfort with your new sleeping pad on one of these light-weight folding camp cots. From basic to Cadillac, pup tents to family tents, amazon has a camp cot for your needs.
From hats to boots, base layer to outer layer, plus recommended top-picks.
See what to wear, and why cotton is your cold weather enemy.
How to Dress for Winter Camping
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