How to choose a sleeping bag: 5 tips to help you make the right choice

Is it time for you to get a new sleeping bag?

Maybe your current one is showing the signs of wear and tear?   Or you want to upgrade to a warmer or lighter sort of bag?

Possibly, this could be your first ever purchase of a sleeping bag (which means you could be a little amazed by the variety on the market).

But how do you choose a sleeping bag?    

What do you look for in a sleeping bag?

sleeping bag funny

I am going to tell you straight up – it’s not easy. 

There are so many things to consider.

If you go into a camping store there are a few things you need to know before you go, to make the right choice.   It's thinking about how you like to camp, where you camp, and of course, the weather you camp in.

With that in mind, read on to find out 5 tips to choosing the right sleeping bag.

1.   Temperature Rating

cold camping
Photo Credit: Christopher J. Morley via Compfight cc

The temperature rating on a bag is a guide (and I stress the word, guide) on the lowest temperature the bag is designed to keep you warm in. 

So a bag that has a rating of 5 degrees Celsius, should theoretically keep you warm when the mercury gets to 5 degrees.

But will it?

The manufacturers testing of this temperature rating isn’t known, and a lot of factors also need to be considered on how effective that bag will be.    Your sleeping mat, if you are a warm or cold sleeper, the clothes you are wearing in the bag, the shelter you are in during the night, etc.

All factors that might alter how you feel in the bag.

So what do you look for in a rating?

Think about the lowest temp you think you will be camping in with this bag (not just the first trip, but any trip you are planning on using it).    Then subtract 10 degrees from that temperature.    And with that new temperature, choose a sleeping bag with that rating.

eg.  You think the coldest place you will camp in will be about 0 degrees.    Choose a bag rated to minus 10 degrees.

This might seem a little excessive, but it's easier to cool down in a too-warm sleeping bag, by  unzipping it.     Trying to get warm in a not-warm-enough bag is harder (and can lead to a sleepless night).

Further reading:  How to choose a self inflating mat

What about the ratings on the bag?

You might see on a sleeping bag, 3 levels of comfort rating and this is based on the EN 13537 rating, which means it's the official European standard for the labelling of sleeping bags.

Comfort - that's what a standard night sleep would be like for a 'standard' woman, because women need more insulation than men apparently.    It's the warmth level that women would like for a comfortable night's sleep.  

Limit of comfort
- This is the lowest temperature that a 'standard' man would need for a comfortable nights sleep.     I am not sure what constitutes a 'standard' man, or woman (as above mentions)  but it assumes you are not sleeping naked and have some insulation underneath you.

Extreme - This is the coldest temperature you can survive in, in this particular bag without freezing to death.     Now under the standard EN13537 for sleeping bag ratings, they classify this 'extreme' rating as follows, "a strong sensation of cold has to be expected and there is a risk of health damage due to hypothermia".     Of course, you shouldn't be relying on any sleeping bag to save you from hypothermia, and use this as a guide only.

Here is an example of what you can see on the bags:

sleeping bags how to choose the right one for you?
Found on One Planet bags

How to choose a sleeping bag?

If you want to read more about the EN 13537 rating standards and validity, there is a paper from the Outdoor Industry which discusses in detail.

2.   Synthetic or Down filled 


marmot plasma
Marmot Down filled

Another big choice will be the filling for the bag.   Do you choose synthetic or down?       

What is the difference?

Synthetic –
  • cheaper than its same rated down counterpart
  • heavier and bulky
  • has insulation properties when wet
  • easy care
  • hypoallergenic
  • Not as long lasting – will deteriorate over time

Down –
  • lighter
  • longer lasting than any synthetic when cared for
  • expensive
  • no insulation when wet
  • highly compressible so takes up very little room
  • warmer than any synthetic available
  • more difficult to care for
  • not hypoallergenic

They both have pro’s and con’s about them as you can tell. 

But what one to choose?

That will come down to your budget and your style of camping.        

Down is a good long term choice, and will suit anyone – and where weight and bulk is a consideration, you can’t do better.  There are different sorts of down too, and that affects price and warmth in the bag as well.    The higher the concentration of down feathers, the better.  So a down of 850+ is superior to one of 600+.   Simple!

(read our reviews on 2 Down-filled sleeping bags at

Synthetics are good if you plan on being on in wet conditions, and on a budget.    And if you don’t plan on being a regular camper – the more casual or not so sure about camping sort of person, then this will be a good choice and an economical one.

You might find if you enjoy camping, that you need to upgrade later.

synthetic Black Wolf sleeping bag
Black Wolf Synthetic


Looking for  a good range of sleeping bags?

We use and recommend:    Cotswold Outdoors 


The Ethical Use of Down


Before we move onto the next point, it's very important that we mention the use of down and the ethical treatment of animals to produce this down.     This was raised in comments when we first published this story, and it was remiss of us not to address at the time.

When purchasing a down product (whether it be a sleeping bag or a jacket), you should check that it was ethically sourced.

Unfortunately, big business means ill treatment of animals in the past, and the down from ducks and geese have meant extreme cruelty against these animals.      It still goes on, but you as a consumer can make a choice.    That means looking for companies that follow the Responsible Down Standard.  It's a voluntary standard, so not every company will participate so you need to do some homework.

Read about the Responsible Down Standard and what it means here.

The list of outdoor companies that use this standard can be found here.

Patagonia has their own Traceable Down Standard.

Is this RDS a guarantee?    I am not sure....there can be no guarantees.

PETA has recently put out information saying the unethical treatment of animals continues.    You can read their current story on live plucking.    It is very distressing to read and see.


3.  Shape

The shape of the sleeping bag varies, and the main shapes you will come across is the mummy, tapered rectangular and rectangular.

mummy shapedA mummy shaped is probably the most efficient.   Its wide at the shoulders and then narrows down to the feet, which means less air needs to be heated in the bag.    Less room to wriggle about, though, so if you like to toss and turn in your sleeping bag, this might be a little restrictive.

Tapered rectangular is just as it sounds.   They taper down to the foot of the bag,  like the mummy, but not as much.    More wriggle room and a good all-rounder shaped bag.

tapered rectangular

A rectangular bag is…..rectangular!    Even more wriggle room, and tend to be the sort of bag you would use if you don’t have to worry about weight or size.     Plenty of room inside, and a generalist camping bag.













4.    Fit

This goes together with the shape (point 3).  It’s about finding the bag that suits you.     Not only do bags come in different shapes, but different sizes too.

Some bags are different lengths to cater for tall or short people.

Other bags are based on gender – some female bags might be narrow at the top, but a little wider at the hips.     And typically (but not always), women are considered “cold sleepers” and some bags cater for women, with woman sleeping bags with extra insulation provided.     A pink colored sleeping bag doesn’t make it a women's sleeping bag.

With other bags, regardless of gender, the fit of the bag will depend on the individual, so trying the bag out in a shop is a good idea (if that is possible).

5.  Extra features

The little touches are important when choosing a bag.  Easy to overlook in favour of the above 4 points, but still worth considering.

Look at the zippers – Do they close up easily, or snag a lot on the lining? Do the zips lock in place when pulled up?  Do they go all the way to the bottom or only half way (the former means the bag can be opened up easily to cool you down if you get too hot)?

What is the lining made of?   Polyester or nylon breathes and draws away moisture.  Cotton (like flannelette) is comfortable but moisture stays with you and can leave you feeling damp.

Neck muff – holds the warmth in the bag, not letting it seep out.

A hood – allows you not to wear a hat when in the bag, and provides a soft spot for your head.   Some hoods will have a drawstring that will only show your face when drawn in.

Whatever the sort of sleeping bag you want to choose, do your homework.      

Some bags are not cheap – so make sure you get the one that is right for you and your camping.   

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Editors Note:   This story was originally published in 2014 but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

6 Camping Lanterns that Charge Your Devices Too!

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

Recently, the state I live in, South Australia, lost all power.   The whole state.   Not just a suburb.    And it was like that for hours (and for some people, days).    

All around the state, people at home were looking for candles or torches or lanterns to light up their houses and when I looked outside mid-evening most homes were in pitch darkness.   

Thanks to our camping gear, our house was fairly well lit.

Our love of some decent camp lighting, including headlamps and lights that power from a 12V battery, meant that we had plenty of light in the house and really, the power blackout didn't impact us too much (though the lack of wi-fi did make the children prowl around the house like caged lions).

Another problem with this lack of power situation, was phones all over South Australia, were running low on battery life (many phones did outlast the mobile phone towers, which lost their battery backup mid-evening).  But mobile phones were crucial as we used them to get updates of what was going on, plus, connect with others.     We were told by authorities, to "conserve our mobile phone batteries".     

But it got me thinking in regards to camping gear  - what sort of camping gear could you use in a blackout that would be useful?

A good camping lantern was one thing.

A device that kept a phone charged was another.

How about one device that did both?    For campers, that can only be a good thing!    So what is out there?

Read on to find out how technology and camping can go together harmoniously.

The Helix Rechargeable

This cool looking collapsible lantern, which sort of looks like something that would land on the moon  can charge your devices, whilst running off a lithium battery (or AAA batteries).

Plus it collapses down to half its size.

What's not to love about collapsible camping gear?

The ability to move the legs to aim the light into a spotlight and a burn time of up to 22 hours, this would definitely help many get through any power shortage, at home or when camping.

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

Availability:    Wild Earth

More information at:     Princeton Tec

See all 4 versions in action below:

Moji Charging Station Lantern

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

If you hate your camera or phone running low on battery life, plus like light when camping, then the Moji by Black Diamond could help out.

With a rechargeable Li-ion battery or taking AA batteries, and up to 250 lumens, weighing only 450g, and ability to dim the light, this is a functional camping light that could suit all sorts of campers.

Availability:   Cotswold Outdoors

Vango Rocket

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

Another lantern that looks like a vehicle found in space (maybe, that's why it's called the Rocket.  Duh.)

This rocket lantern has a big plus of being able to be charged by your car adaptor, so no batteries needed - but it does come with the built in rechargeable battery like the other lanterns mentioned.

Once powered up, it has yet another function.   A bluetooth speaker.    So you have sound, light and powered devices.

It does everything but land on the moon.

Availability:   Cotswold Outdoors

Lighthouse 250 Goal Zero Lantern

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

No batteries?   No worries.

This lantern can be charged via the sun - just crank it up for 1 minute, and get 10 minutes of light.     Or you can charge via USB  or connecting it to a portable solar panel and once fully charged, can last up to 7 hours on a single charge.

Plus of course, your MP3 player or phone or GPS can get charged at the same time.

At 250 Lumens, this light is going to be bright enough around your campsite to do all the things you need to do.

Availability:  Wild Earth

Read a review by on this lantern and its capabilities.

See how it works below:

BioLite NanoGrid Kit

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

This is quite the set up.

It's a lantern.

It's a torch.

It's a powerbank that can charge phones, Go-Pros or provide light for up to 72 hours.   Plus you get sitelights, which are chainable overhead lights which means you can string up part of your campsite to get the light you want, where it's needed.

And it all fits in the palm of your hand.

Availability:    Urban Outback Gear

See more below:

Ember Power Light

Camping Lanterns that charge your devices as well

This one differs from the above lanterns, as this is a torch.     Torches don't often get discussed much when talking about camping gear, because everyone loves hands-free lighting don't they?

But this torch does do the one thing it needs to do, apart from light.     It's going to charge your phone via a USB.

So the humble torch might just get a place back in your camping gear thanks to Black Diamond.

Availability:  Wild Earth

In Summary

This is just a few of the lanterns out in the market place which give you light plus more.    Most of the good (and available) ones, are thankfully available from retailers we use and recommend.   

None are cheap.

You are paying for the technology which gives you a multi-function lantern, and when you are out in the bush (not just in suburban home during a storm), that sort of function might be worth paying for.

I know it's nice to camp without technology, but with it being such a big part of our lives these days, and with phones doing so much more than just making and receiving calls, it is definitely handy to be able to have them charged when you need them.

Some of the above links we are affiliated to.     To find out more about our affiliates, please read our Disclosure Policy.

9 Camping Chairs that camper's butts will love

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort

One of the highlights of camping and being outdoors, is just being able to sit and relax.      Especially after a busy day, or a long day's drive to the campsite.

Just chilling out.

Doing nothing. 

If that sounds like something you do, and you enjoy doing, then we have 9 options on how to sit down in style and comfort.     Your bottom will thank you.

Getting lazy never looked so good......

The Inflatable Chair

BYO pump and you get a big chair that wouldn't look out of place in your home.    Just don't forget the pump. 

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort

Price:  $26
Availability here:   Cotswold Outdoors

The Laydle

You may have seen these on the Internet already, and you can expect to see a review by us shortly on this one, but whether you are camping, at the beach or in the backyard, the Laydle (no pump required) is perfect for lounging around.

A bit of practice to get it just right (a day with a bit of a breeze is ideal), but once you do, you may have just found your new summer hangout.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort

Price: $70
Availability here:

The Hammock

We have praised hammock camping for some time on this website, but if you are not ready for sleeping all night in a camping hammock, you can have your own hammock to wile away the daylight hours. 

With it's own fold up frame (and that's the important part), you will be the envy of everyone who is in their chairs!

No trees necessary.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:  $170
Availability here:  Cotswold Outdoors

The Compact

If you are like us, and always overfilling the car, you may want to save space by changing your chair.

The Oztrail Compactlite Discovery is a chair that packs down to roughly the size of a handbag, and weighs in around 2.5kg.     With no armrests, it does differ from the standard camping chair you might be used to but it's one comfortable place to put you your bottom on.     And more room in your car for more gear is the added bonus!

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price: $40
Availability here:    Snowys

Backpacker Bottoms

Not to forget those of you who love lightweight gear, and love to hike to their campsite, your comfort is not forgotten.

After a long hike you probably don't want to sit around on the ground or a log.    The Helinox was one of the first to bring out these lightweight chairs, and if you are watching your space and weight, then this is for you.

At 520g in weight but able to hold up to 120kg,  your rest stops on a long hike, just got more relaxing.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:  $150
Availability here:     Cotswold Outdoors

Hammock Hitch

If you want to sit up but still get that hammock feeling, then you might enjoy this one.    It attaches to your vehicle (when it's not moving - that's an important safety tip),  you and your buddy can just swing around together.

For full details and to find out if it is the hammock for you and your car, please make sure you investigate!

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:  $400
Availability here:

Dual Purpose 

Your sleeping mat is only for sleeping on right?    Well, if you have a Sea to Summit sleeping mat, you can also turn it into a chair.

It involves using a Sea to Summit Air Chair Hiking Chair Sleeve.    That's not easy to type, let alone say out loud, but it's a clever concept.      Take that idle sleeping mat, and place in the sleeve, and you have a chair to rest upon.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:   $59
Availability here:   Wild Earth

Glamper Chair

If you find the above chairs a bit mainstream, or lacking that va-va-voom, then get one with leopard print.

Those who love some glamour in their camping experience will appreciate it.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:  $39
Availability here:   Big W Online (only)

The Cacoon From Cacoon

If you want to escape to your own private retreat when camping, climb into your own relaxing space with the  Cacoon (note:  it's not my spelling, I know that a butterfly comes out of a cocoon).

No guarantee that if you go into this hanging space you will come out looking as beautiful as a butterfly, but it's worth a shot.

It's also so good looking, you might find you use at home instead of camping.

9 Camping chairs to help you relax in style and comfort when camping and outdoors

Price:  $475
Availiability here:    Cacoon Australia

All you have to do now, is find that perfect campsite, get one of the chairs/hammocks from above, grab a cold drink, and sit back and relax.   


Note:  All prices were correct at time of writing.  Photos were reproduced from the websites advertising these products.     Some of the above retailers, we are affiliated with.   To find out more about our affiliates, please read our disclosure policy.