The right sleeping bag should offer the perfect blend of cosiness and warmth for a good night’s sleep. Here’s our pick of the best.
Whether you want a sleeping bag for backpacking in the Himalayas or for rather tamer caravan trips in the UK, you’ll need to find the right one to ensure a decent night’s kip. Perhaps you only need one for occasional use at this year’s festivals – or maybe you want a stand-out double one to share with your significant other in the great outdoors.
Should you buy down or synthetic? Right or left hand zip? Rectangular or mummy shape? And then there’s the price tag, which can range from just a few quid up to over a grand. Whatever your needs, we’ve got it covered – not only in terms of which features to look out for, but our top recommendations.
How to buy the best sleeping bag for you
How do I choose the right season and temperature ratings?
To help quickly compare sleeping bags, they are roughly classified by season ratings one to four. Season one bags are made for summer camping, when the weather is mild, as well as for indoor use. Season two bags are ideal for late spring to early autumn temperatures. Season three bags are made for autumn and winter weather but not frost. And season four bags are designed to keep you toasty on cold, frosty and even snowy winter nights.
Meanwhile, temperature ratings are split into the ‘comfort’ rating and the ‘extreme’ temperature. The former is the optimum temperature at which you’ll feel warm and comfortable – meaning that if the bag is used in temperatures below that rating, you’ll probably get cold. The ‘extreme’ temperature rating (on more technical bags) refers to survival conditions – in other words, the limit at which the bag will keep you alive without frostbite and suchlike.
But don’t just think about the air temperature. Also consider how much you personally feel the cold, what clothing you intend to sleep in and what will be underneath you. In particular, remember the inner bag – not only does it add about half a season to the rating (too hot in summer? simply use the inner bag on its own), but it also keeps your sleeping bag clean and easier to wash, thereby increasing your bag’s lifespan and hygiene. If in doubt, go for a warmer sleeping bag than you think you’ll need – and that goes particularly for women, who tend to feel the cold more than men.
What about size, weight and shape?
If you’re only ever going to transport your sleeping bag in the spacious boot of your 4X4, you may not mind if your sleeping bag is on the bulkier, heavier side. But if you’ve got to backpack around the mountains with it, a tiny, lightweight option may be more tempting. In this case, be sure to check the packed size and weight.
In terms of shape, traditional sleeping bags are rectangular, with a zip that goes round two sides. The benefits of these are that they’re spacious and can be opened up to use as a blanket. But on the downside they don’t tend to retain the heat all that well – meaning that they’re best suited to caravanning, summer camping and indoor use, while mummy-shaped ones are better for more serious camping and people who feel the cold. Mummy-shaped ones also tend to weigh less.
How about the materials?
Down is the best filling for warmth-to-weight ratio, heat retention and temperature range – meaning that you can use it in both warm and cold conditions. Sleeping bags made from down also tend to last longer and are easier to pack up in small bags.
While synthetically insulated sleeping bags are usually heavier and bulkier, they are generally better at keeping you warmer when it’s wet or humid – as well as drying out quicker – and they are easier to clean and generally a good deal cheaper. And for people who are allergic to down, synthetic will be their only choice.
What do I need to consider about the zip?
Is the zip in the most practical place and does it work smoothly without sticking? Do you want it to be left or right hand opening (if you’re right handed, choose a left-hand bag and vice versa – and if you’re buying two that may need to connect together, buy one of each)? Do you need a two-way zip (good for easy opening when you need ventilation)? And do you want the zip to be full-length or only go half-way? Some bags have an insulated zip baffle behind the zip, which will stop the cold getting in, while others have a zip cover to stop it coming undone while you’re asleep.
The best sleeping bags to buy
1. Snugpak Softie 9: The best all-round sleeping bag
This is the most versatile sleeping bag – that doesn’t cost a bomb – which we have come across. While officially three-season, you can easily transform it into a four-season one by adding a Snugpak liner (available separately) and you can also make it bigger by buying Snugpak expander panels. It’s got a reinforced foot that means you can sleep with your boots on – good for nights when you need to be on guard or get up at a moment’s notice. The hood with drawstring works wonders for warmth and Snugpak throws in a free pillow (only with the lime green version though) if the hood doesn’t suffice for supporting your head. We were also impressed with the quality of the stitching – a problem with many sleeping bags at this price.
Key specs – Type: 3 season; Comfort temperature: -5°c; Extreme temperature: -10°c; Filling: 100% polyester; Weight: 1.5kg; Pack size: 19 x 21cm; Warranty: 1 year
2. Urban Escape Mummy Sleeping Bag: The best sleeping bag for festivals
If you want a no-frills, budget sleeping bag for under £15 that won’t fall to pieces after just one summer and will keep you cosy but not clammy, then this gets a big thumbs up from us. Unlike many in this price range, it’s double layered with decent stitching and the hood (which you can tighten using the drawstring) will help keep you warm, as well as adding some cushioning under your head. The internal security pocket is a nifty feature that will keep your valuables safe – a boon at festivals – and the zip isn’t prone to snagging. But give yourself a bit of time to fit it back in the bag after use, and don’t expect it to be much cop on very cold nights.
Key specs – Type: 2-3 Season; Comfort temperature: Not stated; Filling: 60% siliconized hollowfibre filling, 40% monofibre filling; Weight: 1.7kg; Pack size: Not stated, Sleeping size: 230 x 80cm; Warranty: 1 year
This is the daddy of all sleeping bags, in our opinion – but with this price-tag, you’ll have to be a seasoned traveller to even think about buying it. Remarkably lightweight, given the warmth it brings on the coldest of nights (we’re talking -20° C), the goose down filling is also nice and lofty – an extremely welcome feature at the end of hard day’s walking. The zips glide like a knife through butter, never sticking, and we also like the internal collar at the base of the hood and hood draw cord – both handy for extra warmth when required. Whether you’re climbing mountains or trekking through the Rockies, you can say goodbye to cold spots at night and hello to a feeling of duvet-like snugness that will leave you fresh as a daisy the following morning, when you can also compress your bag with notable ease. Oh and the Polygiene odour control treatment works a treat too – for which anyone sharing your tent may be particularly grateful.
Key specs – Type: 4 season; Extreme temperature: -20° C; Filling: 800FP European Goose Down / Rab® fluorocarbon free Hydrophobic Down; Weight: 1.22kg; Pack size: 24 x 33cm; Warranty: Lifetime
4. Outwell Cardinal Double: The best double sleeping bag
In days gone by, a double sleeping bag usually meant zipping together two single ones, often fumbling about in the dark cursing the snagging zips that would never seem to marry up. Today, there’s all manner of genuinely double options that feel almost as roomy as your double duvet back at home. This one will set you back a bit more than many, but it even feels like a duvet, thanks to the soft-touch polyester microfibre shell with polycotton lining, lofty filling and zip-less front entry point with duvet cover. We also love the built-in pillows and foot zip in case you get hot and sticky on warmer nights. And while we were dreading trying to fit so much fabric into the compression bag, we found it surprisingly easy.
Key specs – Type: 3 season; Comfort temperature: 7℃; Extreme temperature: -12℃; Filling: Isofill Premium; Weight: 4.6kg; Pack size: 52 x 52 x 26cm; Warranty: 2 years
5. Robens Pamir 250: The best lightweight sleeping bag
You’ll hardly know you’re even carrying this around, thanks to it being ultralight and extremely compressed when in its storage sack. As such, it’s a fabulous sleeping bag for fast action summer outdoor adventures, without compromising on quality. Indeed, it boasts a soft, light and strong shell, along with nylon taffeta lining for comfort and a luxurious duck down filling – as well as full-length insulated zip baffle for extra warmth. Features that help keep it light include the auto-lock half-way centre zip (which still allows easy access) and tapered profile down in the leg area (which also helps improve insulation). And although the sleeping bag itself is less efficient in wet weather, the roll-top carry bag will protect the down in transit. It should last you a very long time too.
Key specs – Type: 1-2 season; Comfort temperature: 11℃; Extreme temperature: -6℃; Filling: 90% down, 10% feathers (700FP); Weight: 590g; Pack size: 30 x 14cm; Warranty: 2 years