How to choose a sleeping bag
Use this guide to find the best sleeping bag for your camping holiday
When you’re drifting off under the stars, a trusty sleeping bag is an essential piece of camping equipment. Even on hot days, you’ll find it feels a lot cooler at night when there’s only a piece of canvas between you and the elements. The right sleeping bag will keep you and your family cocooned in comfort all night long, so you sleep better and wake happier.
Not sure which sleeping bag to buy? Whether you’re heading up a mountain or caravanning in the South of France, this guide will help you find amazing sleeping bags for the whole family.
Where are you going?
Where and when you’re going to be using your sleeping bag should guide your buying decision.
A summer holiday in the south
You need a light 1-2 season sleeping bag
The south of Europe gets extremely hot in the summer months so you need a sleeping bag that will keep you cool in balmy weather. Outwell lightweight sleeping bags are made for happy summers. Cosy, airy and comfortable, they have less filling so you can snuggle up all night and wake fresh. Look out for special two-way ventilation that lets you open the top and bottom of the sleeping bag, so you can air your feet and upper body at the same time.
See our 1-2 season bags here
A summer holiday in the UK or northern Europe
You need a 2 season summer sleeping bag
Summers in the UK or northern Europe are variable. In a heat wave, it can feel very mild at night. But the weather can change rapidly so it’s best to be prepared for chillier evenings too. A 2 season sleeping bag fits the bill perfectly. These have slightly more filling than a 1 season sleeping bag and are able to cope with cooler temperatures. But handy features, like 2-way zippers, let you open the bag at the top and bottom keeping you comfortable on warmer nights.
See our 2 season bags here
Camping out of season
You need a 2-3 season or a 3 season sleeping bag
Summer camping is amazing. But it’s also wonderful to immerse yourself in the natural wonders that spring and autumn bring. To many, spring is the most beautiful time to go camping. Flowers and trees are blooming, animals are active, it’s lambing season and the trails are quieter. In autumn, the trees are bursting with reds, golds and oranges and once again and there’s less people on the trails. But the weather is trickier so you need a comfortable sleeping that can cope with the unpredictability. For trips in late spring to early autumn, go for a compact 2-3 season sleeping bag that will keep you warm and cosy without weighing you down. If you feel the cold or are holidaying in early spring or later autumn, a 3 season sleeping will keep you toasty all night long.
See out 2-3 season sleeping bags here
Extreme camping and mountaineering adventures
You need a 3-4 season or 4 season sleeping bag
Are you planning on hiking Mount Kilimanjaro? Or trekking round Patagonia? If you’re heading off the beaten track to cooler climates, you’ll need a full body sleeping bag that will keep you comfortable in sub zero temperatures. Our warmest sleeping bags can handle extreme temperatures down to below -25°C. Look for sleeping bags with hoods that you can pull on for extra warmth or in-built pillows for extra comfort. If you are hiking with your kit, go for a compact sleeping bag that packs down to a small lightweight size for easy transportation.
See our 3-4 season sleeping bags here
Backpacking round the world
You need a 2-3 season sleeping bag and a sleeping bag liner
Heading off round the world is an amazing experience. Get prepared for adventure with a versatile, lightweight 2-3 season sleeping bag that will keep you warm in cooler weather – and is easy to carry around. Plus a sleeping bag liner that you can use in tropical climates instead of a sleeping bag. You can also put the liner inside the sleeping bag for extra warmth on chillier nights.
See our Sleeping bag liners here
Kids camping trip
You need junior sized sleeping bags
Junior sleeping bags are perfectly sized to keep kids warmer and more comfortable all night long. Sleeping bags need to be a snug fit to keep you warm. Putting a child in an adult sleeping bag will mean lots of cold air pockets, which will affect your child’s sleep. Our kids’ sleeping bags are just the thing for happy boys and girls. They will keep them snug as a bug throughout the night and come in lots of cool colours and prints. So if your kids are on a summer holiday, school trip or club camping adventure, they’ll sleep better and wake happier.
See our junior bags here
Sleeping bag styles
Do you need a double sleeping bag, mummy-style or a wide sleeping bag? There’s lots of choice to suit every type of camper. Here’s what they all mean.
Double sleeping bag. Double sized for two. Best for couples.
Luxury sleeping bag. Also known as duvet-style sleeping bags. These are brushed for extra softness and feel like your home duvet. Home comforts at the campsite.
Wide sleeping bag. Extra wide, big sleeping bags. People who don’t like to feel constricted or like to stretch out.
Long sleeping bag. XL, king size sleeping bags. Taller people who are over 6ft.
Mummy-style sleeping bag. Tapered sleeping bags that are thinner at the feet and wider at the top. Extra warmth as the tapered style prevents pockets of cold air.
Rectangle sleeping bag. Classic rectangular shaped bags with the same size at the top and bottom. People who like extra wiggle room or those who want to unzip the entire bag to create a duvet.
Hooded sleeping bag. A sleeping bag with a hood. Extra warmth. You lose a lot of heat through your head. A hood helps you lock this heat in, so you stay warmer.
Sleeping bag with in-built pillow. A sleeping bag with pillow in one. Easy comfort on the go.
Sleeping bag season ratings
Sleeping bags have different season ratings to suit different trips and weather conditions. These are also known as sleeping bag warmth ratings or sleeping bag temperature ratings.
These can seem a little confusing as they can be given as a single season or across two seasons. Here’s a full breakdown of what they all mean. The average night-time temperatures indicate comfortable sleeping limits. They are a guide only. Please refer to our sleeping bag specifications in the product descriptions for exact temperature limits for each individual bag.
1 season sleeping bag. Warm Summer nights. Above 10°C
1-2 season sleeping bag. Warmer nights from late Spring and throughout Summer. 5°C to 10°C
2 season sleeping bag. Throughout Spring and Summer. 5°C
2-3 season sleeping bag. From Spring to early Autumn. 0°C to 5°C
3 season sleeping bag. Spring, Summer and Autumn. -5°C
3-4 season sleeping bag. All but very the coldest months. -5°C to -10°C
4 or all season sleeping bag. All year. -10°C
Sleeping bag accessories
Up your comfort levels with the perfect accessories for a great night’s sleep.
Soft and comfortable, Outwell camping pillows come in different shapes and styles so you’re sure to find the perfect place to rest your head. The perfect accessory to your sleeping bag, choose from moon shaped pillows, inflatable pillows and folding pillows.
Shop camping pillows here
Extra warmth, extra versatile. Use our camping blankets as an additional cover over your sleeping bag at night – or at the beach, on picnics and round the campfire.
Shop camping blankets here
Flocks and airbeds
Brilliant inflatable beds that will give you home-from-home comfort at the campsite.
Shop flocks and airbeds here
The ultimate sleeping comfort. Just add a luxury sleeping bag and it’s just like being at home.
Shop sleep systems here
Great for backpacking, weekend breaks and touring, self-inflating mats are easy to carry and easy to use.
Shop self-inflating mats here
Looking after your sleeping bag
With the proper care, your sleeping bag will last for years. Here’s how to look after it at the campsite and at home.
Use a sleeping bag liner
Cotton sleeping bag liners fit perfectly inside your sleeping bag and are soft and breathable for extra comfort. The liners are designed to keep your sleeping bag cleaner and more hygienic. They are much easier to clean than a sleeping bag and can be popped in the washing machine at the end of your holiday.
Shop sleeping bag liners here
Don’t leave wet sleeping bags in storage
If you need to pack up a damp sleeping bag, make sure you dry it out thoroughly when you get home. Any moisture will quickly turn to mould if left, which will ruin your sleeping bag.
Don’t store the sleeping bag in its stuff bag
Keeping your sleeping compressed for long periods will squash the filling and prevent it from expanding. Which means it won’t keep you as warm. Storing the sleeping bag outside its stuff bag and shaking it every now and then will let the filling expand and keep it evenly distributed.
Sponge clean the outside
Sleeping bags are usually easy to wipe clean if you have a spillage or if they get muddy. Spot cleaning is preferable to a full machine wash – as you’ll see below.
Wash your sleeping bag only when necessary
Sleeping bags don’t like to be machine washed. It affects their insulation and they are hard to dry. Which is why we recommend using a sleeping bag liner. But sometimes, needs must. If you do need to thoroughly clean your sleeping bag, wash it at a low temperature (30°C), use natural detergents and tumble dry on a low setting.