Recent Comments

Sleeping bag buying guide

Two Boys Wrapped in Sleeping Bags

You can’t sleep. It’s freezing, so you try to crawl inside your sleeping bag as deep as you can — leaving only a little opening for your mouth to breathe. Or maybe it’s kind of warm out. You’re too toasty inside the bag but too cold without it.

The trick to foolproof camp z-z-z’s is picking the right sleeping bag for the weather conditions. Here’s what to consider when buying your next bag:

The Gear Guy is currently researching new models and writing an update to this article. Watch for his updated tips and reviews in the November 2016 issue of Boys’ Life.


There’s a wide range. Quality backpacking bags can be found for $75 to $150. Double that price if you’re looking for a down-filled bag. In the $30 to $60 range you’ll find bags that are heavier and won’t pack down quite as well.

A good rule of thumb is, the more you spend, the more compressible and lightweight the sleeping bag will be.


The stuff inside a sleeping bag that keeps you warm is called insulation. There are two main types: down (as in goose down) and synthetic, which is man-made insulation with brand names like Quallofil, PrimaLoft and Fiberfill.

Compared with synthetic bags, down is more compressible, durable and lighter for the same warmth. But it doesn’t handle moisture well and is tougher to care for.

Your best option is probably to stick with synthetic bags because they work well, are simple to care for (machine washable) and are much less expensive.


Most bags have a temperature rating on the tag. It’ll say something like: +30° or -20°. This tells you, roughly, the minimum temperature that will be comfortable while in that bag.

It’s important to know there’s no industry standard about how they determine temperature ratings. Those are just generic guidelines.

Also, keep in mind how you sleep — temperature-wise, that is. Are you a hot sleeper? Or do you always seem to be colder than your friends? If you’re a cold sleeper, for example, go with a bag that’s rated for colder temperatures.


Sleeping bags come in two main shapes: rectangle and mummy. Rectangular bags are roomier, giving you more room to roll around and are best for summer camping. They also weigh more and don’t pack down as well. Mummy bags are best for colder conditions. They hug your body, and most come with a hood you can cinch down over your head.

The tighter it fits, the warmer it’s going to be. It’s best to get the smallest bag you can feel comfortable in.

That way your body doesn’t waste energy trying to heat up a lot of extra space. However, you don’t want it so tight that it restricts circulation or compressibility. And in winter you may want a little extra space in the foot area to keep boots warm, dry out gloves or to keep a water bottle from freezing.


If you’re backpacking, it’s important to find a bag that’s lightweight and compressible. The most compressible bags can be stuffed until slightly larger than a volleyball. Sleeping bags can be made to take up less space in your pack by using a compression stuff sack.

28 Comments on Sleeping bag buying guide

  1. A 5lb synthetic fill is good down to plus 10 degrees usually. Dont go by the mfg label number. Only fill weight can describe the temperature that the boys will sleep well in.

  2. Ozark Trail 10-Degree Adult Thinsulate Packable Size Adjustable Sleeping Bag, Blue/Lime is only 39 dollars but is warm. Walmart

  3. Our inside troop joke is that your bag temperature rating is the temperature the manufacturer states you won’t freeze to death. I recommend a bag liner for any bag; increases the rating another 10 degrees or so.

  4. I love rectangular sleeping bags the best! Mummy sleeping bags are not good for those who have claustrophobic issues! Thank you for all your tips on sleeping bags and other information on camping in general! Take care! 🙂

  5. Where can I buy this?

  6. I so would love to have where can i buy !!!?????

  7. I want the wearable sleeping bag! Can I buy one of these somewhere?

  8. I am 62 years old. I would buy a wearable sleeping bag, provided I could find one to fit.

  9. I’m 6 and in 1St grade. I think theu are cool.

  10. I think it is cool I would buy one

  11. Were can we buy one

  12. Want to buy one where can i

  13. Were can I get one

  14. I Would like to know if this could be used on the rare occasions it gets cold down south. my child has Autism and doesn’t like wearing coats. She might would wear this. So is that possible?

  15. where can I purchase some for the homeless people

  16. How much is one to buy

  17. Would like to purchase sleeping bag for my 12 year grandson, he is a scout and lives in the Southwest. Any suggestions?

  18. How good for say winter camping would a 20 degree bag be? Im thinking of getting one

    • Depends where you live. I have a 0 degree and put a liner in it and some nights I’m cold. I’ve camped at -30.

    • It all depends on how cold it will get where you are camping. A 20 degree bag is fine if you temps are not going to drop below 25 or so at night. However, if it is going to drop down to -10 you might want one that can handle those temps.

  19. Seahawks Will Beat The Patriots // January 26, 2015 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    Ive got a 16 degree rated Kelty bag I got for Christmas and it kept we warm at 16 degrees with no other blankets or clothing layers.

  20. North Face down bags are rated at like 17 degrees and weigh about 2 pounds sometimes.

  21. Mummy bags are ok, unless you sleep on your side or back, then they aren’t. I have a Lafuma Patrol Lady, it’s 25F sleeping bag that I’ve used 2-3 times. I didn’t sleep well anytime I used it. Every time I tried to turn over to get comfortable, it felt like I was being constricted. I’m going to let my 9 year see if he likes it any better.

  22. 1MoreBoyScout // February 10, 2014 at 7:29 pm // Reply

    Make sure you are using a closed cell sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag. Cardboard under the pad can be used for a little extra insulation. Wool socks as well. And Keep hydrated! Your body has a hard time regulating heat when you are not hydrated properly. And yes, DRY LONG JOHNS & SOCKS!!

  23. We’ve found Marmot bags to be really great; small compression, strong and handy- double zippered. They are available in mummy and rectangle shapes, down and synthetic. If you think all bags are alike, try one of these and you’ll change your mind right away.

  24. if you can afford it a groe-tex 4 piece modular sleeping system used by the u.s. military for YEARS!! thats what i recommend

  25. hiking scouter // September 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm // Reply

    Guide needs updating. Newer down bags have water repellent down and breathable water resistant shells.

    There is a standard rating system for tempurature

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your real name.

%d bloggers like this: