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GO Outdoors Guide to Sleeping Bags

You've picked out your tent, and now you need to think about your sleeping setup. In this guide, we'll take you through what you'll need to consider when buying a sleeping bag.

Everybody has a different temperature when they sleep, some may sleep warmer than others, men and women are known to have differing comfort temperatures, kids are probably even more likely to feel the cold so it's important to choose a sleeping bag that works for you and will keep you cosy at night.

How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

A brief video with advice on how to choose your sleeping bag.

What are the different types of Sleeping Bag?

Sleeping bags differ in many ways from size, comfort rating, season rating to different types of insulation. There are 3 different shapes of sleeping bag: Square, Mummy and Sleeping Pod.

Square Sleeping Bags

Square Sleeping Bag

Square sleeping bags are the most basic of sleeping bags. These give you room to move your feet if you don't like to feel constricted in your sleep. Square sleeping bags, in some cases, can be doubled up (or come in double size) if you wish to sleep next to your partner.

Mummy Sleeping Bags

Mummy Sleeping Bag

Mummy shaped sleeping bags are tapered at the bottom to help keep warm air inside and close to your body, without circulating and cooling down. They can range from single season use right up to thick expedition sleeping bags, designed for use in sub-zero temperatures.

Sleeping Pods

Sleeping Pods

Sleeping Pods are exclusive to GO Outdoors. They are half as wide as they are long, which means you can move freely inside, making them ideal for people who like to toss and turn in their sleep. Perfect for sleepovers or summer use.

What else to consider when buying a sleeping bag

When choosing your sleeping bag, consider what time of year you're heading out camping and whether or not you're more susceptible to the cold. We'd recommend comparing different sleeping bags' season and comfort ratings, which can give you a great indication of when the bag should be used, and what sort of temperatures you will find most comfortable when sleeping.

Sleeping Bag Season Ratings

Most sleeping bags are rated by season to help buy the right sleeping bag for the time of year you are camping.

  • 1 Season Sleeping Bags - Lightweight, compact and ideal for use in hot summer months (June-August) or when camping abroad in hotter countries.
  • 2 Season Sleeping Bags - Ideal for use in late spring to early autumn, your typical family camping sleeping bag.
  • 3 Season Sleeping Bags - For use in early spring to late autumn, and perhaps a mild winter evening. These bags are generally the sort of sleeping bag recommended for school trips and expeditions such as DofE
  • 4 Season Sleeping Bags - Thick bags, often down insulated 4 season sleeping bags are made for use in winter when temperatures can drop below zero.
  • 5 Season Sleeping Bags - These sleeping bags, also known as expedition bags are for high mountain use and for extreme cold temperatures

Sleeping Bag Comfort/Extreme Ratings

Sleeping Bag Comfort/Extreme Rating

Comfort ratings offer the best chance of being able to judge if a sleeping bag is right for your own personal body temperature. Sleeping bags generally offer a comfort rating and an extreme rating. If you find that you're more susceptible to the cold, choose a higher comfort rating. Extreme ratings are a measure of survival temperature, but this is purely a guide. Everybody sleeps differently, and the difference between men's and women's body temperatures at night can be quite significant. You know better than anybody how much you feel the cold, and these comfort ratings offer a guide to help when choosing.

Left Hand/Right Hand Zip

You may notice that some sleeping bags will mention whether they have a left hand or right-hand zip. While this may seem a trivial feature, it's actually quite awkward to zip up a sleeping bag if the zip is on the wrong side.

Simply remember: Left Hand Zip for Right Handed People, Right Hand Zip for Left-Handed People.

On some square sleeping bags, a pair of opposite-handed bags can be zipped together to create a double sleeping bag. 

Pack Size / Weight

Sleeping Bag Pack Weight

This is generally not an important factor for family campers, however, if you are backpacking or just travelling light, and need your sleeping bag to attach to your rucksack for long periods of time, it's worth noting the pack size (how small the sleeping bag is when packed away) and the weight. For thicker sleeping bags a compression sack can reduce the volume of your packed bag.

Other Sleeping Bag Options Available

A few other sleeping bag options to consider.

Down Sleeping Bags

Down Sleeping Bags are much like down jackets - this type of insulation is generally used in 4 or 5 season sleeping bags, when you need very effective insulation to keep you warm in extreme temperatures. Down sleeping bags can be very warm, and aren't particularly needed for standard summer camping unless you're sensitive to cold.

Women's Sleeping Bags

More technical sleeping bags may have a female variant to them, these help to offer a better fit and insulation for the female figure. They are usually narrower at the shoulders to help trap warm air more effectively and keep air from getting in, while offering more room for a curved body shape.

Kids Sleeping Bags

Since excess space in a bag means that air can circulate and keep you from being as warm as possible, a child's sleeping bag is much shorter in length, helping to keep them insulated far better than if they were to sleep in an adult bag.

Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Synthetic sleeping bags are much more common, ranging from the cheapest through to more expensive bags - they use synthetic insulation to help keep the colder air from reaching your body. These bags can handle water better than down, sometimes keeping their temperature even when damp, and can be used in varying temperatures depending on the rating of the sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag Liners

Sleeping bag liners are a useful addition, these liners can prolong the life of your sleeping bag due to keeping the inside clean which means it has to be washed much less. A liner can also help to keep you warmer in colder climates, or be used on it's own in very hot climates. Liners are available in silk or cotton, a great little addition for any camper.

Compression Sacks

Sleeping Bags can be quite bulky if you're keen to save space in your pack, compressions sacks can be used to reduce the overall volume of your sleeping bag by around a third. These sacks are a good way of adding an extra water-resistant layer for down sleeping bags as well to help keep the integrity of the down insulation intact.