Before you compare sleeping bag prices, make sure you are looking at the most suitable types for you. There is a huge choice, but the wrong one could give you a miserable night, and more expense in buying another bag, so don’t immediately choose the cheapest one available. Our advice is to ask yourself these top questions to decide which is the best down or synthetic-filled sleeping bag for you before you begin to compare prices for the best deal. Don’t just choose the cheapest sleeping bag available – give some thought to what you need first.
Which seasons will you use it, and will this be for sleepovers in a heated home, an unheated building, a tent, a caravan…
For versatility, we have 2-3 season bags and upgrade them for winter camping by using thermal liners, rather than having two bags and never being sure which one to take with us.
How much space have you got for storage and for transport? Compression stuff sacks are useful for temporary compaction, but you should store the bag loosely for longevity. Synthetic bags are bulkier than down ones.
For comfort in use and for carrying further than from the door to the car.
Zipped or unzipped?
A full length zip makes a bag easier to get in and out of, and to adjust the temperature, but adds to the weight.
Zips also mean you can zip two singles together for the ultimate in closeness. However, in cold camping weather, you really are better off in your own individual sleeping bag. Two bags zipped together don’t drape around you so well and cold air creeps in. It’s even worse when one of you twists and turns.
Rectangular zipped bags can be unzipped to use as an extra layer on a bed.
Sleeping bags trap your body heat, so the more cocooned you are, the warmer you are. So choose singles rather than doubles for maximum warmth when camping.
Children can use an adult bag, but tie off the excess at the foot end with a strap or belt, to reduce the volume of the bag and keep them cosy.
Rectangular shapes are common in cheaper bags, particularly those that can be unzipped all round to use as a quilt on a bed. These thin polyester bags are only suitable for sleepovers and the hottest of nights camping, as it’s surprising how much the temperature outside drops at night, even in summer. A damp night also chills the air.
A mummy shape is more snug, and cutting the corners means losing weight too, but you might find the shape a little restricting. The trick is too curl up with the bag, not try to curl up inside the bag.
There’s even a sleeping bag you can wear! The Selk bag is a very padded suit, so of course you need to get a good fit.
Waterproof or not? You shouldn’t need a waterproof cover unless you’re planning on sleeping outside and are worried about rain or dew. If so, you’ll need a breathable cover otherwise the bag will trap all the moisture given off by your body overnight, and you and your bag will become uncomfortably damp.
Goose or duck down is the warmest and lightest and most compressible, so ideal for backpackers, cycle campers and other lightweight afficinados. However, the frequent compaction when packing and in use will eventually break up the down into dust. Additionally the bags are useless when wet, so must be kept in a waterproof bag (such as Exped rolltop bags) and used in dry conditions. Washing is also not realistic (see below), and although drycleaning is, it will deteriorate with such treatment.
Synthetic materials remain warm when wet so are better if you are not confident of keeping your bag dry when transporting or using it.
Avoid having to clean your bag by always using it with a sleeping bag liner – available in cotton, polycotton and silk, in mummy and rectangular shapes, some with a pillow case attached (such as the youth hostel style liners).
Washing a down bag can ruin it because the feathers and down clump when wet and the weight can damage the inner baffles and stitching. Spinning can also damage the filling. Don’t even think about washing it in the bath as apart from ruining your back, you’ll find a sodden bag hard to handle and easy to damage. You’ll need a very large washing machine, a gentle spin, plus a tumble drier (and deep pockets to fund the electricity bill) to make sure it is thoroughly dry to prevent mould and smells developing. Oh, and special soap (detergents damage natural fibres), and making sure it’s all rinsed out.
Polyester and other synthetic bags are more washable, but again are big bulky items, especially when full of water, and the wadding can be damaged or dislodged by the washing or handling process when wet. Similarly you’ll need to ensure it is thoroughly rinsed and dried.
Sleeping bag liner
Use a cotton, silk or polycotton liner alone in very hot weather, and for hygiene purposes with a sleeping bag proper, to keep it clean. Use a thermal one (fleece or microfibre) to boost the warmth rating of any bag.
Use these links to compare prices:
Children’s sleeping bags
Berghaus sleeping bags
Sleeping bag liners