How to choose a sleeping bag

What’s the essential requirement for enjoying adventurous outdoor camping? That’s right, a good nights’ sleep!  And it is even more important when you are camping with your family that everyone is well-rested (and in a good mood).

Therefore, when planning for a camping trip, deciding how to choose a sleeping bag for you and the kids is imperative for a good nights’ sleep. There are a surprising number of factors to consider when buying your camping sleep gear.  Will it keep you warm? Is it comfortable?  Is it light enough to carry and small enough to pack? Will the kids like sleeping in it?

Take a look at some of the important factors you should be considering before you purchase your sleeping bag.

how to choose a sleeping bag

What’s the best sleeping bag for the climate?

Being warm and comfortable is so important for a good nights’ sleep and it is achievable with the right gear for the right climate.  So when purchasing your sleeping bag, think about the types of conditions you will be camping in.  If it is a bit cooler, you’ll need a sleeping bag with a rating for colder climates.  If it is warmer, you will be able to get away with a lighter one. 

Luckily, most sleeping bags come with a temperature rating, to help guide you in your purchasing decisions.   

There are three types of sleeping bags available:

  • Lightweight sleeping bags ( supports 32 – 45 degrees Celcius/90 – 113 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Three season sleeping bags ( supports 15 – 20 degrees Celcius/59 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Winter sleeping bags ( supports -40 – -20 degrees Celcius/-40 – -4 degrees Fahrenheit)

If you’re not sure, or will be camping in different types of climates, it is better to get a lighter weight sleeping bag than you think you’ll need and layer up with an extra blanket or two.

what to consider when buying a sleeping bag

What are sleeping bags made from and how does that impact their size and weight?

How heavy or bulky a sleeping bag is depends on the material it is made from.  Natural fibres are great, but tend to be heavier and bulkier.  Synthetic sleeping bags are designed to be light-weight and compact but you’ll have to get used to that “rustling” sound when you sleep.  If you’re sharing your tent with a restless sleeper, you might want to consider a natural fibre.

The fabrics and inner or outer materials determine the weight of a sleeping bag.

For sleeping bags made from natural fibres – these tend to be heavier to carry & bulkier in size. Also, washing & laundry takes time, so take into consideration when and how you are going to be washing them.

But the advantage is those sleeping gears are very comfortable to sleep & tranquil nature when kids roll around. Also, they are built to last so won’t need replacing for many years if you care for them properly.

Because sleeping bags made from natural fibres tend to be a bit bulkier and heavier, you’ll have to think about whether you have room for these in the car with all your other gear (and remember, there’s one each for every member of the family).

For sleeping bags made from synthetic fibres – they are a little noisy over the natural fibre material and can be a bit sticky when kids sweat in the sleeping bag. But they are light to carry, easier to handle & compact. Laundering synthetic sleeping bags can be a little easier too.

Because they are nice and light, they are a better choice if you need to carry your gear for any length of time or if space in the car is at a premium.

best sleeping bag for camping

What else do you need for a good nights’ sleep?

As well as a good sleeping bag, you’ll also need something under you, and perhaps something on top of you as well.  There are an array of options for camp beds such as mats, air mattresses and stretchers (we’ll discuss these in another post). 

As we mentioned above, if it is going to be a little colder on your trip than your sleeping bag is rated for, throw in a blanket or quilt to add a bit more warmth and comfort.  If you forget, you can always use a towel or wear an extra layer or two to bed. 

Almost as important as the sleeping bed is a good quality pillow.  If your kids are fussy about their pillows consider bringing their usual one from home.  Otherwise to save space you can buy an inflatable pillow, or a smaller pillow (like a cushion). 

Which way should the zip go?

Depending on the design of the sleeping bag, you may just be able to flip it over to turn it from a left-sided zip to a right-sided one.  That becomes a little trickier if the sleeping bag has a built in hood however.  Many modern sleeping bags come with a two-way zip so you can undo it from the top or the bottom, which is useful if you like to pop your feet out the end for a bit of air.  You can also buy sleeping bags that join together, should you wish to double your space to share, or if you find a single sleeping bag a bit narrow for you.

weight and size of sleeping bag

How much are sleeping bags?

There is a huge variety in the price and quality of sleeping bags.  You can pick up sleeping bags from as little as $20, or pay as much as $500 for one with all the bells and whistles.  We recommend you spend as much as you can afford to ensure you get something you are going to be comfortable with.  After all, a good nights’ sleep is worth it’s weight in gold!

What should you avoid when buying a sleeping bag?

Velcro attachments – these are noisy and attract dust and dirt.

Sleeves and hoods – unless you are camping in really cold climates, you probably don’t need a sleeping bag that covers your head.  Sleeves can also be tricky to get in and out of, especially for kids.

Polyester – Polyester does not regulate heat as well as natural fibres or man-made synthetics that are specifically designed for warming or cooling.


We hope you’ve learned some valuable tips about purchasing sleeping gear for your next camping trip.  A good nights’ sleep is so important, and certainly achievable even when camping in the great outdoors. 

bed buyers guide