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Sleeping gear buying guide

There’s nothing better than finally lying down to sleep after a long, exhausting day on the trail. You crawl inside your cozy sleeping bag and stare up at the stars as you drift off into sweet dreams.

Or maybe you’re sleeping on a bed of roots and rocks, and you roll around all night just trying to get comfortable.

Well, don’t worry — good sleep is easy to come by if you’re prepared with the right gear. You don’t have to spend a lot; you just have to be smart about what you buy and what you pack.

The Gear Guy has you covered.



Never leave home without this! Besides giving you a soft and supportive place to bed down, a sleeping pad provides much-needed insulation. Without a pad, the cold ground can steal precious warmth from your body.

There are several types of pads:

  • Closed-cell foam pads are thin, lightweight and durable. They give you adequate insulation and provide enough comfort for most guys.
  • Open-cell foam pads, often called “egg crate” pads, are lightweight and softer than closed-cell pads, but they won’t be quite as warm or durable. They also absorb water, which is bad for wet-weather trips.
  • Self-inflating pads are thin pads that usually have a nylon shell covering open-cell foam. They provide good insulation and warmth and are the most comfortable choice since you can make the pad harder or softer by inflating it more or less. But they’re also more expensive and can pop or get air leaks.


This is one of the Gear Guy’s favorite pieces of gear because it’s so versatile. You already know about layering your clothes. Well, why not do it with your sleeping bag? Basically a bag liner is an ultra-thin sleeping bag that slips inside your regular sleeping bag.

Bag liners are either rectangular or mummy-shaped and made of materials like cotton (cheapest), silk (expensive) or fleece (super-warm). A liner can boost the warmth of your sleeping bag by 10 degrees or more, or you can use it on its own in the summer. Bonus: Bag liners also keep your sleeping bag cleaner.


It’s definitely a luxury item that takes up space and weight in your pack, but never underestimate the value of a comfy, packable pillow. Sure, you can make your own by stuffing your extra clothing inside an old sleeping bag stuff sack. But inflatable and foam pillows provide comfort you’ll never get from a makeshift pillow.


When you’re hanging out in your tent with friends or reading before bed, a battery-powered lantern provides a diffused glow that’s easier on your eyes than a headlamp or flashlight. Remember: Never ever use lanterns with a flame inside your tent.


The Gear Guy would never recommend bringing one along for a backpacking trip, but for car camping and some Scout camps, a folding cot is a real sleep treat. It gets you up off the ground for better ventilation and a comfortable night’s rest.

48 Comments on Sleeping gear buying guide

  1. Walmart is cheep

  2. Try a Cabela’s cot or sleeping pad! They are AWESOME!!!!!

  3. I have an eno singlenest. It is awesome for the price

  4. Check out the Big Agnes insulated air core for us arctic campers.

  5. Shotgun Scout // June 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm // Reply

    I have the sea to summit pillow shown and the alps foam pad. Together with an ozark trail sleeping bag works pretty good for pretty cheap.

  6. I just like to sleep on the bare ground and I like to not sleep in a tent or hammock the ground is my choice.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm // Reply

      60%-75% of your body heat is lost thru the ground. At least one sleeping pad is a must. Even if it is really warm at night, a sleeping pad can also add extra comfort.

    • If you can do this comfortably you are an experienced camper. Kudos to you for being an advanced camper; I too do the same thing when ever possible. A true ultra light camper learns these sort of things and can really lighten their gear load, it’s not unheard of to have a 6# pack for a 3 day outing; including food. I dehydrate my own meals to reach that weight though.

  7. Hey Gear Guy,
    could you post something about the therma-rest trail scout

  8. Get a compression sack for your clothes, and sew a peice of fleece on the outside. Sleep on the fleece patch. This is very light and minnimises carying a pillow and a compressoin sack.

  9. New Scout Mom // September 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm // Reply

    Thanks for all the info. I’m in my 2nd year of scouts and trying to learn as much as possible. I’ve read all the info that I could about sleeping bags and liners online, but nothing I could find explained it as well as you did. I learned more in the 20 minutes on this page than the 20 hours of my research prior. Thank you for this site!

  10. Xtreme Bakpakr // June 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm // Reply

    buy hte Big agnes air core pad! affordable, and its as comfy as unicorn fur on cloud of cotton candy!

  11. If you really like a pillow, try an inflaitable one. I bought 3 at Wal-Mart about 4 years ago and take one on my backpacking trips simply because they pack so small, so why not. It can inflate from 1/2 – 3″ high and 17′ long. It has 1″ of open cell foam build into the fleece pillow case for extra comfort. I found them on sale for $4.00 each. I used to use a large ziplock 1/2 filled with air and wrape my fleece jacket around it; the air pillow is more solid and less noisy. I don’t roll up my clothes as a pillow because either they’re dirty and smell or I’ll sweat on my clean clothes making them dirty before I wear them.

  12. I bought one from Target and its lasted me 5 years!

  13. You’ll need to cut an X in a tennis ball and put one over each leg/foot of your cot or you will poke a hole in the bottom of your tent. Or get a cot that has a continuous length of tubing across the bottom where it touches the floor.

  14. // August 12, 2011 at 6:55 am // Reply

    My vote goes to the Thermarest NeoAir. It’s nice packing my pad away in my bag rather than strapped to my gear loops on the outside.

  15. runnerdude11 // May 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm // Reply

    Never ever use pillows…They weigh you down on backpacking trips and they can be replaced easily with a bundled up sweatshirt. Most also become obsolete when wet.

    • I agree with the pillows except I have a bad neck so I use a total pillow in my hammockthe small total pillow is tiny it can support my neck and I have a water proof case for it.

    • if you have an inflatable sleeping pad, just stick sum thing underneath the head part to prop it up a bit. that way, you don’t need to bring a pillow and your head is propped up.

    • Isn’t this the same guy that couldn’t have a 4 ounce compass on his watch because it “was to heavy”?

    • Yes -stuff the sweatshirt into its own sleeve for a comfortable pillow. It won’t unfold during the night.

  16. I have one of those Sea To Summit sleeping bag liners. I take it on short summer skiing and mountaineering trips when there is still snow on the peaks. It turns my 30 degree bag into a fifteen degree bag! my liner works great!

  17. I use the awesome Term-a-Rest Trail lite pad. I use the small. Although, it doesn’t cover you completly, it still is great and keeps me warm. It is really lightweight too!

  18. AwesomeOpossumDUDE // September 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm // Reply

    This is totally rockin’!

  19. exped mats and pillows are amazing!

  20. I use a exersize mat from wal-mart its cheap, light, and really comfortable. It came with its own strap so i just hook it to my pack. It works great!

  21. The Slumberjack Super Guide 30 degree sleeping bag is awesome.

  22. I use a Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad. The pad is full length, with 2.5 inches of thickness. It’s great for backpacking because it weighs only 22 ounces and packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle!

  23. Exped pillow is 3 oz and inflatible.

  24. thermarest is the best for there sleeping pads and pillows

  25. HippieScout151 // July 27, 2010 at 9:06 am // Reply

    I like LL Bean all the way for this kind of thing!

  26. I never know what liners were till now!

  27. thermarest pillows work great for backpacking

  28. kaedawg246 // June 26, 2010 at 11:30 am // Reply

    I found a sleepin ba that keeps you warm to temperatures down to -57 Degrees. It is in the $50 to $100 range.

  29. Is there a specific link to the 100th anniversary slleping bag? I am having trouble finding it.

  30. Velocitydude // May 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm // Reply

    Try the Cocoon Airsore Pillow instead. It weights 2 ounces and takes up barely any room.

  31. thanks for the nice selection

  32. it is awesome

  33. It is very helpful to now how I can buy all the stuff I need.

  34. i have found that a sleeping pad is very important for cold weather

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