Essential sleeping bags for the outdoors: From multi-day treks to festivals

Sleep it off with our pick of the best sleeping bags for your outdoor adventures
Essential sleeping bags for the outdoors

If you want to be a happy camper, you’re going to need a sleeping bag that suits your needs. Whether you’re on a multi-day hike, camping in sub-zero temperatures or simply overnighting at a festival, a decent sleeping bag will be the difference between a good and terrible night’s sleep out in the elements.

A key component is the sleeping bag’s filling. There are two types to choose from: synthetic and down. Synthetic is usually cheaper, washable and dries out quicker if it gets wet. Duck or goose down, however, is warmer than synthetic filling, and can last longer because it’s better at coping with the repeated compressions of being squashed into your pack. But it’s also more expensive, requires specialist cleaning and is slow to dry out.

What about temperature ranges?

There are some factors to consider before splashing out. First things first – what season do you need the sleeping bag for? Clearly, the most integral purpose of a sleeping bag is that it keeps you cosy and, just like a duvet’s tog rating, different sleeping bags have different temperature ratings.

Some are given in degrees (for example, a limit of -12℃ means it should keep you warm down to external temperatures of -12℃). Others have a more general “season of use” rating (for example summer is rated as 1 season, while year-round use is rated as 4 season).

Then there’s the shape. Do you prefer a simple rectangular shape (usually the cheapest and most basic type) or the snug “mummy” fit, which is tapered towards the foot to create an insulating layer of warm air? And do you require an inbuilt hood, which keeps you toasty and can double up as a pillow?

To help you make your choice, we’ve checked out some of the best sleeping bags on the market.

Best for all-year-round camping

Vango Fuse -6

Buy now: Amazon | £149.86

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

This is a great option to take camping at any time of year. Offering the best of both worlds, the sleeping bag is filled with a mixture of ethically-sourced duck down and synthetic insulation fibre, trapping air within the bag’s channels. The result? A sleeping bag that is warm yet lightweight at 1.2kg (2.6lb).

It has a hood with a multi-cord closure, keeping your head and shoulders cosy throughout the night, and there’s also a handy internal pocket. The zip is fitted with anti-catch piping so it doesn’t snag on the lining. The bag also has a water resistant finish to help protect it from damp conditions. This model should keep you comfy right down to -6℃ (21°F).

Feathered Friends Swallow UL 20 Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Feathered Friends (US) | $529

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

Another great year-round option, this model is filled with goose down, and should keep you warm to temperatures as low as -6℃ (21°F), though you’d also be comfortable in it in summer conditions. Unlike some mummy-shaped bags, this one offers a good combination of lightweight warmth with room to sleep thanks to a more relaxed cut than most.

The hood gives you an extra cushion of down around your neck to snuggle up in and it can be cinched tight when temperatures start to drop, but it also opens wide for warm nights. It comes with a storage bag and stuff sack, squashing down into a fairly decent 9 litres.

Best for extreme cold

The North Face Inferno -40C/F Sleeping Bag

Buy now: The North Face (UK) / The North Face (US) | $729

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

If you’re off on a sub-zero adventure, this sleeping bag will keep you toasty in your tent. Designed for temperatures that plunge as low as -40℃ (-40°F), it’s the warmest sleeping bag from The North Face, ideal for expeditions to the coldest places on earth. It has been tried and tested by world-class athletes – so you know you’re getting something that works.

Packed with down, it features a full draft collar and hood cinch cord to keep warm air locked in, while water-resistant fabric on the hood, footbox and back prevents moisture build-up. It’s also nice and roomy so you can wear extra layers when the mercury really drops, and the central zip makes getting in and out in all your clobber easier.

Best for women

Marmot Women's Angel Fire Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Marmot (US) / Amazon | $239

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

We love the fact that this women’s sleeping bag isn’t just a pink version of the men’s model. Instead, it’s been specially designed to fit the female body shape optimally, with more insulation in key areas. It’s also a great option for anyone who gets cold feet at night – it is mummy shaped, but has extra room and insulation at the feet, as well as a heater pocket in the footbox.

Filled with high-quality down that has been treated to resist water and dampness, it’s suitable for most conditions (it’s a 3-season bag). It’s also super durable, weighs just over 1.1kg (2.4lb) and packs down into a 7.2 litre sack.

Best for couples

Basecamp 200 Double Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Mountain Warehouse (UK) / Mountain Warehouse (US) | $59.99

Get the best sleeping bag for your multi-day treks – whatever the climate

Couples wanting to snuggle up together under canvas can do so in one of these cracking sleeping bags from Mountain Warehouse. Measuring 193cm by 137cm, the Basecamp 200 Double is ideal for two people – or one person looking for extra space.

It’s not as technical as some of the other sleeping bags on our list, but it’s suitable for relatively warm conditions and should keep you cosy down to around 9℃. Insulated with hollow fibre stuffing, it is graded 2/3-season, so will also work for cooler nights in spring and autumn.

Though it’s not as compact as some other super-lightweight models on the market, it still compresses down into a handy drawstring carry case. Available in green with a grey lining, it’s ideal for couples on a summer camping trip.

Best for festivals

Forclaz Trek 500 0° Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Decathlon (UK) | £49.99

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

This is a great budget option that would work well for those just getting into camping or for summer festival-goers. It still features a decent level of technical factors, without breaking the bank. The mummy-style bag should keep you toasty when external temperatures get as low as 0℃ (32°F), and it has a double zip so you can keep ventilated.

You can also twin it with other models from the same range, zipping them together to form a larger, or double, sleeping bag. Filled with polyester, it’s water repellent and can be machine washed and tumble dried. Though it’s not as light or compressible as some other models (weighing 1.6kg/3.5lb and packing into a 13.3 litre sack), it definitely offers great value for money.

Best for camping newbies

Semoo Envelope Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Amazon | $28.99

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

This rectangular model is ideal for those experimenting with camping for the first time on milder evenings (spring, summer and autumn). It’s super affordable, but offers comfort and cosiness in most conditions (it’s a 3-season model). It’s also fairly lightweight (1.3kg/2.9lb) and features a water resistant shell and a zip at the foot for extra ventilation.

Since it’s made from synthetic material, it’s also easy to machine wash and it packs down into a handy travel bag that is included. It’s a great first-time sleeping bag before you upgrade to a more technical model.

Best ultralight option

Sea to Summit Spark Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Sea to Summit (UK) / Sea to Summit (US) | $229

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

If you’re after a sleeping bag that’s both technical and super compressible, this one’s hard to beat. Filled with premium goose down, it compresses to just 1.5 litres and weighs only 340g (0.7lb). But despite being small and light, it will still keep you warm on chilly evenings (around 5℃/41°F).

The mummy design offers efficient insulation, while water-repellent treatment protects the down from external moisture and condensation from the inside of the bag. The half zip with a single slider keeps weight to a minimum while also providing easy access in and out of the bag, and the sewn through baffles around the chest prevent the down from moving around as you sleep.

Best for kids

Quechua Forclaz 0/5° Camping Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Decathlon (UK) | £29.99

A buyer's guide to sleeping bags

Cosy and compact, this model is a great option for young campers. It’s super comfy and will keep kids warm even when temperatures drop to around 0℃. It’s mummy shaped with a two-way zip that's specifically designed for use by kids, and is ideal for children up to 140cm tall (it’s 165cm long by 65cm wide).

The bag’s synthetic filling means that it’s easy to wash – perfect for children – and you can also tumble dry it at a low heat to get it back in action quickly. It weighs just over 1kg and comes with a stuff bag, packing down to 12 litres. An ideal first time sleeping bag.

Best for hot weather

Traveller 50 Sleeping Bag

Buy now: Mountain Warehouse (UK) / Mountain Warehouse (US) | $59.99

Get the best sleeping bag for your multi-day treks – whatever the climate

When you’re camping in warmer climes, you don’t want a sleeping bag that will leave you tossing and turning in the night, feeling hot and bothered. Thankfully there are plenty of options on the market for lighter models suited to summer weather. The 2-season Traveller 50 Sleeping Bag has some great features but won’t break the bank.

The fabric is super durable to prevent rips while also being breathable, and it features a thin, windproof layer. Inside, you'll find inner pockets to keep your valuables safe while you sleep. You should sleep comfortably in mild temperatures, around 11°C to 14°C.

While this isn’t quite technical enough for extreme hot conditions or jungle expeditions, it’s still a great, affordable option for warm weather.

Tags:    Trekking
Tagged    Trekking