Sleeping Bag Guide

If you want to have the best chance of getting a good nights sleep then it really is essential that you have a quality sleeping bag. Look at the temperature ratings we have provided and consider the conditions you’re likely to face. Our range of sleeping bags features the latest designs and the highest standards in terms of quality, attention to detail and materials from the most respected and renowned manufacturers.

You'll see that at the bottom of this page, we have included two comparison charts - one for synthetic bags and one for down. These will provide you with a quick overview of each sleeping bag's merits, each with links to the bag itself for you to see it in more detail.

Sleeping Bag Features

Click on the numbers in the diagram to find out more about these parts of a sleeping bag.
  1. Anatomical hood

    The head looses approximately 20% of your body heat in total, it's therefore very important that the sleeping bag has a hood and that the hood is shaped to fit closely round the face for maximum warmth.

  2. Face gasket

    An ergonomically designed face gasket will allow you to get a better fit round your face trapping in more warmth.

  3. Drawcord closure

    A Drawcord around the face allows you to tighten the bag around you when the weather is cold or loosen the bags fit in warm weather.

  4. Ergonomic neck collar

    A neck collar and baffel provide extra warmth on a sleeping bag by sitting above the shoulders and trapping air in with the body.

  5. Side zip plus integral anti snag baffle

    A side zip allows easy entry to the sleeping and venting in warm conditions. Bags with two zippers alow use of your arms whilst in the bag and more venting options. The bags zip should be on the opposite side from your dominent hand so that it is easy to reach across the body and adjust.

  6. Baffle construction

    Baffles are the compartments in the sleeping bag that hold the warm filling. Having them prevents all of the filling ending up in one place in the bag forming a cold spot elsewhere.

  7. Vaulted toebox

    A vaulted toebox is shaped to fit the feet preventing air gaps and keeping the feet warmer in cold weather.

Fill: Down v Synthetic

Down-filled sleeping bags rely on down’s excellent ability to trap air and provide insulation. Down bags are extremely lightweight, with a high warmth-to-weight ratio. They take up less space than synthetic bags which makes them ideal if you’re travelling light. However, while down bags are superbly light, they struggle to provide insulation when wet.

Synthetic bags utilise layers of microfibres to trap air and provide insulation even when wet, often using a shingle construction where the layers overlap like tiles on a roof. Perfect for family trips or festivals, synthetic bags are the less expensive option for camping comfort. They function better in damp conditions and are easier to maintain than down, but they are heavier, bulkier and not as warm.

Down Bags: Loft & Fill

Down bags always quote a loft figure such as 600+. This number denotes the quality of down used. The term "loft" refers to the amount the bag ‘fluffs up’ to trap air, and it’s the heating of this air that gives you warmth.

Shell Fabrics

Most sleeping bags use nylon fabrics as they provide a good balance of comfort and durability. The outer fabric will normally be a rip stop fabric, which will allow for a relatively light bag and prevent damage or a loss of the filling.

The outer fabric will be designed to shed a certain amount of moisture. Some bags use a waterproof fabric to prevent moisture getting in and these are normally designed for expedition use, e.g Rab Summit series. Technologies such as fabric welding (as found in Mountain Hardwear Lamina bags) can do away with the need for seams, and provide a lighter more water resistant bag.

Construction

Down bags are generally constructed using down-filled channels (baffles). Different brands will use various methods, but all are striving to keep the down insulation in the right place for maximum warmth and fewer cold spots, which are formed when the down shifts leaving no insulation in certain areas.

Synthetic bags rely on either an overlapping shingle construction or a single sheet of multiple layers of wadding. With improving technology, the styles of construction and the quality of synthetic insulation gets better creating warmer and more effective bags.

Temperature Ratings

We use 3 temperature ratings to show you the range of comfort for each sleeping bag.

The upper figure we refer to as ‘Comfort’, the middle figure is ‘Limit’ and the lower is ‘Extreme’. These ratings are based on recommendations by the European Outdoor Group and are described as follows:

  • Comfort - The temp at which an adult female can have a comfortable nights sleep.
  • Limit - The lowest temp at which an adult male can have a comfortable nights sleep.
  • Extreme - A survival rating for an adult female, after 8hrs hypothermia may set in.

There can be huge variances between people in the way they sleep and how susceptible they are to the cold caused by a number of factors such as gender, age and weight. This should be taken into account when choosing your bag. Down bags generally offer a larger guide range because they tend to be less clammy than synthetic equivalents, allowing them to be comfortable in warmer temperatures.

Maximising Warmth

The use of sleeping bag accessories such as liners and mats are great ways to keep warm. Sleeping bag liners add an extra boost of warmth to your existing bag, and are much more comfortable than the nylon inner fabric of the sleeping bag. A liner also prevents you from having to wash your whole bag - just wash the liner and prolong the qualities and life of your sleeping bag. Sleeping mats help retain warmth as heat is conducted into the ground easily.

Other ways to stay warm include making sure you’re warm before you get into your bag by exercising or eating, as it is much easier to retain warmth than to generate it. Try wearing a hat, but make sure you don’t wear too many bulky clothes as this will compress the insulation making it less effective - good base layers are ideal.

Care

It is important to store your sleeping bag as loosely as possible as excessive compression damages the fibres of both down and synthetic bags. Many sleeping bags, usually down bags, come with a breathable cotton storage sack, but you can always store them in a pillowcase or leave them loose in the airing cupboard. Synthetic bags are easier to wash in a large washing machine than down, we recommend tumble drying all sleeping bags to ensure that the bag dries evenly throughout. Whilst down bags can be washed at home with Nikwax products they may benefit from professional cleaning whenever possible.

Comparison Table - Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bags

Please note that the prices quoted in this table are the recommended retail price and are subject to change.

Make + Model Price (RRP) Fill Construction Bag Weight Fill Weight LH Zip RH Zip Max°C (Limit) Mid°C (Comfort) Min°C (Extreme)
Vango Wilderness 250 £22.99 Hollow fibre insulation Single layer stitch-through 1.27kg 250g/m2 - 20°C n/a 8°C
Vango Nitestar Junior Midi £24.99 Hollow fibre insulation Offset double layer 1.17kg 2x150g/m2 - 20°C n/a 7°C
Vango Nitestar 250 £29.99 Hollow fibre insulation Offset double layer 1.65kg 2x125g - 3°C -2°C -19°C
Vango Nitestar 350 £39.99 Hollow fibre insulation Offset double layer 1.82kg 2x175g/m2 - -1°C -4°C -22°C
Mountain Hardwear Lamina 45 £89.99 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 788g n/a 9°C 5°C -9°C
Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 £100 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 1.02kg n/a 5°C 0&beg;C -16°C
Mountain Hardwear Women's Lamina 20 £110 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 1.4kg n/a 1°C -5°C -22°C
Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 £110 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 1.4kg n/a 1°C -5°C -22°C
Mountain Hardwear Lamina 0 £120 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 1.69kg n/a -5°C -12°C -31°C
Mountain Hardwear Lamina -15 £140 Thermic Micro Patented Welded Lamina 2.28kg n/a - -12°C -26°C -38°C
The North Face Cats Meow £135 Climashield Prism Overlapping Shingle 1.2kg 710g - 0°C -7°C -24°C
The North Face Women's Cats Meow £135 Climashield Prism Overlapping Shingle 1.2kg 710g - 0°C -7°C -24°C
Mountain Equipment Starlight Micro £69.99 Polarloft Micro Single Layer 880g n/a 14°C 10°C n/a
Mountain Equipment Starlight 1 £89.99 Polarloft Micro Shingle 1.27kg n/a 7°C 3°C -11°C
Mountain Equipment Starlight 2 £100 Polarloft Micro Shingle 1.54kg n/a 3°C -2°C -17°C

Comparison Table - Down Fill Sleeping Bags

Please note that the prices quoted in this table are the recommended retail price and are subject to change.

Make + Model Price (RRP) Fill Construction Bag Weight Fill Power Fill Weight Max°C (Limit) Mid°C (Comfort) Min°C (Extreme)
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45 £240 Goose Down Welded Baffle 480g 800 200g 5°C 0°C -16°C
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 £280 Goose Down Welded Baffle 640g 800 288g 3°C -2°C -18°C
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 £380 Goose Down Welded Baffle 880g 800 574g -3°C -9°C -28°C
Mountain Hardwear Banshee SL (Regular) £500 Goose Down Patented Welded Baffle, Conduit SL Shell 1.53kg 800 680g -4°C -11°C -30°C
Mountain Hardwear Banshee SL (Long) £520 Goose Down Patented Welded Baffle, Conduit SL Shell 1.65kg 800 740g -4°C -11°C -30°C
Rab Ascent 500 £180 80/20 Duck Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 1.2kg 650+ 500g 1°C -5°C -22°C
Rab Ascent 700 £200 80/20 Duck Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 1.4kg 650+ 700g -5°C -12°C -31°C
Rab Neutrino SL £210 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 600g 800+ 200g 5°C 0°C -15°C
Rab Neutrino 200 £210 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 650g 800+ 200g 7°C 2°C -13°C
Rab Neutrino 400 £285 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 850g 800+ 400g 2°C -4°C -20°C
Rab Alpine 200 £225 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal baffle chamber 750g 800+ 200g 5°C 0°C -16°C
The North Face Blue Kazoo (Regular) £180 600 Hungarian Down Trapezoidal baffle 1.25kg 600 624g -4°C -10°C -29°C
Crux Torpedo 500 Medium £400 Polish White Goose Down Baffle 1.19kg 850+ 500g n/a 0°C -6°C
Crux Torpedo 700 Medium £450 Polish White Goose Down Baffle 1.46kg 850+ 700g n/a -4°C -11°C
Rab Andes 800 £410 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal Baffle 1.5kg 800+ 800g -13 -21°C -43°C
Rab Andes 1000 £460 90/10 Goose Down Trapezoidal Baffle 1.7kg 800+ 1000g -17 -26°C -49°C