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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

These sleeping bags are squared at the top and bottom for that rectangular shape. These sleeping bags give you that home comfort feeling by having zips on both sides so it can be unzipped fully turning it into a duvet, whilst also being able to zip together with an identical bag to create a double sleeping bag. Ideal for when you have little more room to spare, perfect for caravanning or indoor use. Whilst the rectangular shape may give you familiar home comforts the sacrifice is that you will not get the same level of warmth compared to a mummy shaped bag, you’re also adding more bulk and weight because of the design.

Mummy Sleeping Bags

Mummy Sleeping Bag

This design is best for when you will be carrying a sleeping bag in a rucksack. The close to the body shape that tapers follows the natural contour of the human body. This shape is best for retaining the most heat possible, whilst also removing excess bulk, reducing the pack size for easy transport. It is also worth noting that if you prefer to stretch and move in your sleep, it’s worth considering a different design. 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.
  • 4+ 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, limit and 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. Do not fall under the impression that you’ll be fine because the extreme temperature says you will. If you use a sleeping bag in the extreme temperature range it’s going to be a dangerous night’s sleep.

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.

It's also worth knowing depending on which side you normally sleep on it’s better to the keep the zip at your back rather than your front for added comfort.

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. Down Sleeping bags are known for their excellent compressibility so if lightweight pack size is an imperative then a down sleeping bag is best.  



Other Sleeping Bag Options Available

Down Sleeping Bags

Down sleeping bags is the pinnacle of warmth to weight, delivering impressive warmth in a lightweight, low bulk design. Considered the best for winter expeditions where warmth and weight are the most important things. If you do decide to invest you will reap the benefits for the foreseeable future. However, down sleeping bags do need a lot of care when wet these bags lose their insulating properties, so it's best to be careful and treat them with care.

Down sleeping bags will have differing down ratios and a variety of fill powers. The former will tell you the amount of down in the sleeping bag for example 90/10 will contain 90% down plume feathers and 10% non-down feathers. The latter informs you how lofty the down is, 600 fill is considered good, 700 is high quality and 800+ is the best and used for winter expeditions in an alpine environment.

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 is wasted and will keep you from being as warm as possible, a kids' 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 use a synthetic form of insulation to help keep the colder air from reaching your body. Synthetic insulation is the most common form of insulation in sleeping bags. It is less expensive than down and will be able to hold around 50% of their insulating properties when wet. Synthetic insulation works the same as down by trapping in as much warm air as possible. Synthetic and down share the same temperature ratings however synthetic tends to weigh more and have a larger pack size.

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 its 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. When packing away your sleeping bag into the compression sack it is always better to stuff it in randomly, rather than roll it. If you roll the bag each time then the fill will be always be affected at the same spots, which can damage the construction.