Sleeping Bag Guide - Styles, features & season ratings explained

Posted by Gavin Jose on


When you think of sleeping bags, you think cosy, warm and safe. A sleeping bag provides cover all around your body trapping the warmth in offering a comfortable night’s sleep. 


Rectangular Shaped Sleeping Bags

Not everyone can deal with their feet being in an enclosed space with limited room for movement. Rectangular Shaped Sleeping Bags offer more wriggle room than mummy style bags, whilst still offering protection and insulation from the cold.

Rectangular sleeping bags are essentially a quilt/cover that zips up, giving all-around protection by retaining the heat inside the sleeping bag. As most bags not only zips down the side but along the bottom you can open out the sleeping bag to create a double quilt/cover. 


Outwell Campion Single Sleeping BagSunncamp Baubles Sleeping Bag


It is also possible to create a double sleeping bag out of two single rectangular shaped singles (check specifications as not all brands offer this feature). If the sleeping bag has a hood make sure to purchase a left and right hand zipped bag, these are normally labelled L or R on the sleeping bag's stuff sac. 



Mummy Shaped Sleeping Bags

Mummy style sleeping bags have been designed to retain as much heat as possible.The bag tapers towards the feet, reducing the volume and surface area around your body improving overall body heat retention. 

As feet are more vulnerable to heat loss than other areas of the body, the reduced space around the feet keeps this from being such an issue. Mummy sleeping bags also usually feature a hood with a drawstring to protect your head from heat loss. 





Double Sleeping Bags

Sleeping apart in two separate single sleeping bags is now a thing of the past, you can cosy up with another under a double sleeping bag on your adventures. 


Easy Camping Double Sleeping BagVango Double Sleeping Bag

Junior Sleeping Bags

Now, who could forget about the kids?  There are options to keep them warm and cosy with a shorter length and width. Some suppliers also feature convertible junior sleeping bags, like the Outwell Convertible that allows you to adjust the bag's length as the child grows in height. Both mummy and rectangular shaped junior sleeping bags are available.

Kampa Junior Sleeping BagOutwell Junior Sleeping Bag


If you are heading to the Scotland during December you will need a different bag from the one you used last year in Spain. There are two different ratings on a sleeping bag to help you choose: Season & Temperature. 

1 Season - Comfortable down to 10 °C

For summer / indoor use only. 

Quite a few junior sized bags are summer only.

Two Season - Comfortable down to 1 °C

For late Spring to early Autumn, an ideal choice for summer holidays.

Three Season - Comfortable down to -5 °C

If you planning to be out in early Spring or late Autumn it is advisable to purchase a three season sleeping bag. 

Four Season - Comfortable down to -7 °C

If you are considering to go camping during the winter months a four season sleeping bag is essential. 

Four+ or Five Season

These sleeping bags are for campers who explore the far reaches of the globe where the snow lies thick.


Before choosing your bag based on the temperature rating is important to take into account a number of factors: weather forecasts aren't always accurate, what you plan to wear to bed and what you will be sleeping on will all affect the performance of the sleeping bag. 

The 2002 standardised test for sleeping bag temperatures ensures that each brand follows the same set of test parameters. This allowed for temperature ratings given to the consumer to be a more accurate representation of the product's capabilities. The Comfort and Extreme temperature ratings are based on a standard adult female, with the upper and lower limit on a standard adult male. 

The standardised test offers a clearer picture but does not take into account personal habits or the environment you plan to put yourself and the sleeping bag in. The ratings are there to give a guide as to what you will be looking at with any given sleeping bags capabilities. We would advise purchasing a bag that is likely to provide a little more warmth than necessary. It is much easier to zip the sleeping bag open to cool the interior than to spend the night with your teeth chattering wishing you had packed extra blankets. 

The focus should be on the COMFORT temperature, as this is the temperature you should be most comfortable with. 


Upper Limit

This refers to the outside temperature when the inside will become too warm for the occupant. 


This refers to the temperature that you would be most comfortable - the optimum temperature suited for the chosen sleeping bag. When choosing a bag it is advisable to choose a comfort rating that matches the average temperature for the time of year you are planning to camp in. 

Lower & Extreme

This is the ‘the survival temperature': the very limit at which the bag will keep you alive without frostbite, or any other temperature related ailments. 


Hood / Hood with Pillow
The mummy style bag was created for improving overall heat retention, the hood does the same for your head, offering a cosy place to rest your head and to retain heat. A drawstring is often a feature that can pull the hood close around your face.

Draft Collar 
At the top of the bag just before the hood is a collar designed to add more insulation and comfort.

Inner Linings
The type of material that lines the inner part of the sleeping bag. It is usually a fine nylon or polyester. However, cotton is often used but not ideal for colder conditions as the breathable cotton traps moisture. 

Outer Fabrics
Again, the outer material of the sleeping bag needs to be durable. A common material used is nylon-ripstop for its durability. Dryloft is another popular material along with poly cotton.


There are two types of insulation used for sleeping bags, down or synthetic. Down (feathers) has the best ratio between weight and warmth and also compress to small carry size (making them the choice for hikers and explorers). However, they do not hold up as well in damp conditions and are much more expensive than their synthetic rivals. 

Zip Baffle
Zip baffles are a layer of padded material behind the sleeping bag's zip that prevents heat being able to escape.

Stuff Sack
Mummy sleeping bags are harder to roll up and often are just stuffed into their sacks. You can use compression straps to compress the bag and a drawstring to keep the bag in the stuff sack. Rectangular bags are easier to fold in half and roll up to fit in the stuff sack. 






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