Sleeping Bag and Mats Buying Guide

Sleeping Bag and Mats Buying Guide

At the end of the day, when it’s all been said and done, there is only one thing that really matters – a comfortable, warm, dry sleeping bag.

I don’t believe there is a single piece of camping equipment that has not been affected by today’s high-tech world. In the world of sleeping bags they have become warmer, dryer, and lighter. Of course, as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Here is a simple guide to help you decide what type of sleeping bag you will need for your outdoor adventure and how much you should spend.

Key items or functions to look for in your sleeping bag;

Temperature rating –

sleeping bag

The temperature rating on a sleeping bag is a short range of numbers expressed in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, depending on where you live.

The numbers represent the temperature range that that particular sleeping bag should be expected to keep you comfortably warm.

Example: 15 – 25 degrees Fahrenheit. A sleeping bag with this rating should keep you comfortably warm when the temperature outside falls between 15 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are several factors that will affect the outcome of this rating such as; your bodies natural ability to create heat, what you wear inside your sleeping bag, and whether you have a sleeping pad or not.

These ratings should be taken as a general guide.

I would recommend getting a bag that will go at least 10 degrees colder than what you will be expecting.

Size –

Yes, sleeping bags do in fact come in different sizes. There are several reasons why you need to make sure you get the right size. Just like your clothing, the sleeping bag will perform better if it fits you properly. Here are things to look for when sizing a sleeping bag.


You should be able to lie naturally flat in your sleeping bag. Your head should fit within whatever type of hood the bag may come with and your feet should go all the way to the bottom of the bag. Be sure to stretch your toes all the way out.

Although you may not sleep like this all the time, you will need the room for when you stretch and move around in your sleep. You should only allow for an inch or two of free space passed your toes, any more room than that is only dead space and will take away from you bags ability to keep you warm.


Depending on how much you move when you sleep, or if you curl up in a ball, the width of your sleeping bag may vary from someone the same size as you. It helps if you are aware of how you sleep when choosing the width of your bag.

If you move very little or not at all when you sleep, a thinner width will do. If you tend to toss and turn or curl up in a ball with your knees up near your chest, then you will want to get a wide sleeping bag. Get inside a sleeping bag and try out some different positions that you may find yourself in. Not being able to move around naturally can be very claustrophobic and will keep you from having a good nights rest.


When you are carrying everything you need for a few days in the woods on your back, size and weight will always be a significant factor.

There are a variety of materials that make up sleeping bags today. All sleeping bags are filled with either down (feathers) or synthetic fibers. Down sleeping bags are generally lighter and can compress into very small sizes for stuffing into the bottom of your backpack. Synthetic materials tend to weigh more and do not compress as tightly as down.

Outer Shell

The outer shell of your sleeping bag can be made of a variety of fabrics. If you don’t anticipate getting wet most any kind of fabric will do depending on your own personal preference. However, if you anticipate getting any kind of moisture on your sleeping bag you may want to ensure you have at least a water-resistant fabric.

It is common for moisture to build up inside a tent when it is cold outside. This moisture created by your warm breathing builds up condensation on the ceiling and walls of your tent. Although this is not a significant amount of moisture it can become enough to give you a cold and damp experience if you are not prepared.

Tips for keeping warm in your sleeping bag.

Before getting into your sleeping bag ensure that all the clothing you may be wearing are loose and non-restrictive as this will lead to cutting off your circulation. If you are wearing socks be sure they are lose fitting to allow for the free circulation of blood to your feet.

sleeping bag buying guide

If your sleeping bag is too long (more than a couple of inches past the tips of your toes) you can fold the extra portion so that it is tucked under your feet. You can also fill the bottom of your sleeping bag with socks, a coat, or anything that can fill up the empty space. This is also a good way to keep clothes warm that you may be putting on first thing in the morning.

Be sure to use an insulating layer between you and the ground.


Sleeping pads are more than just a luxury item they are a necessity. A good sleeping pad should provide adequate cushion from the lumps of the hard forest or desert floor, as well as provide an insulation layer between you and the cold ground. If you expect complete comfort and don’t mind the extra price and weight you can purchase the extreme cushion pad. This type of sleeping pad will provide maximum thickness and length.

The thickness of your sleeping pad is totally up to you and your comfort needs. The length, however, should be at least as long as your sleeping bag. Sleeping pads can range from a piece of foam material to a self-inflating mattress. Even the simplest sleeping pad can provide significant insulation between you and the ground and is recommended for anyone planning on spending a night on the ground. Comfort, however, is a completely different story.

You can choose between less than an inch of cushion up to a full-size mattress if you like, it’s pretty much up to whatever you want to carry or can afford. Most outdoor mattresses are a combination of foam and self-inflating. Self-inflating does not mean that the mattress will blow itself up. What self-inflating actually does is, once the mattress is rolled out the foam inside will begin to expand, this expansion will draw in air and fill your mattress slightly, with air. If you feel the cushion is not quite adequate you can blow in more air.

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