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In the face of travel restrictions, 2020-2021 were record-setting years for camping within the UK, as holiday-makers chose to get into the great British outdoors for their vacations.
Now that the borders are open and restrictions relaxed, 2022 is the ideal time to plan a camping holiday - the option of getting out under the stars in a field in France, or in the Italian Dolomites, are freshly returned to us, not to mention great opportunities here within the UK.
You will, then, need a good sleeping bag: an absolutely integral part of the camping experience.
There are, however, a few things to bear in mind when looking at upgrading your sleeping bag, and in this article, we’ll look to tackle a few of these considerations as well as offer up some recommendations of examples we’ve tested.
What kind of sleeping bag do I need?
All sleeping bags have a temperature rating, and they’re generally standardised so you know what you’re looking at. They’ll have a comfort, an extreme and a ‘limit’ figure, which means the there are three temperature numbers to look at, but of course, these figures are largely down to personal preference and limits as well as what the sleeping bag can cope with.
As a general rule, it’s worth looking for a -10C to -20C limit for expedition bags, around a -5 to -10C limit for UK and European mountain adventures and 0C – 5C for general spring and summer camping with the family.
What is it made of?
There are also different materials and styles of sleeping bags to consider – with down being the most effective warmth-to-weight ratio but very easy to pack down small for longer treks and expeditions. Three season sleeping bags is a term for lighter-weight sleeping bags where the need for outright warm is less.
What shape and style is your sleeping bag?
The third thing to consider is the style and shape of your sleeping bag, with ‘mummy’ sleeping bags tapered at the head and the legs allowing for the natural shape of the body. Rectangle sleeping bags are also available, as are sleeping bags that extend at the sides when needed to increase space.
Overall, it pays to be attentive to the kinds of activities you’re doing with your sleeping bag, the types of camping you’ll be doing, and purchase the right bag to suit.
Here are some suggestions for some of the best sleeping bags on the market for a range of different uses.
After a summer sleeping bag? This is our round-up of the best
Rab Alpine Pro 600
Key Specs: Fabric, Pertex® Quantum Pro with down insulation; Temperature Limit, -10C (Comfort 2C); Weight, 1.1kg; Performance, 3-season
A relatively expensive option, this is one of the best bags we’ve tested and is worth an inclusion for the fact that it’s one of the best all-round, ‘do it all’ sleeping bags out there.
Technically a three season, but proficient and well made enough to be a winter use bag too, it’s light, efficient, warm, comfortable and versatile, and we would recommend this bag to anybody from wild campers through to mountain expedition leaders and trekking guides.
Vango Nitestar 300 Quad Sleeping Bag
Key Specs: Fabric, 100% polyester; Temperature Limit, -2C; Weight, 2kg; Performance, 2/3-season
A simple, sturdy, no-nonsense three-season sleeping bag that’s recommended by both the Duke of Edinburgh and Scout Associations.
We especially liked the square-bottom approach, which means there’s a lot more space for your whole body to be comfortable. It comes with a 4-strap compression stuff-sack, so can be compressed neatly for those hillside expeditions.
Jack Wolfskin Smoozip -5
Key Specs: Fabric, 100% polyester; Temperature Limit, -22C (Comfort 1C); Weight, 1.7kg; Performance, 3-season
We should all be mindful about where our outdoor gear comes from, and this option from Jack Wolfskin is made out of recycled materials which is Bluesign-approved, so therefore also free of harmful chemicals.
We’d recommend this for slightly warmer adventures, with a comfort rating of 1C, but we also liked the distinctive S-shaped zip. A good recycled, three-season bag for the money - but not one for extreme cold
Trespass CatNap Double Sleeping Bag
Key Specs: Fabric, 100% Polyester; Temperature Limit, -10C (Comfort +1C); Weight, 2.5kg; Performance, 3-season
This double bag offering from Trespass has a rectangular design and a 2-way zip, alongside a practical design that is easy-clean and water-repellent.
Although for the price, as you’d expect, this sleeping bag isn’t going to protect you down into the extreme temperatures, but it’s nice to include a double sleeping bag option for those who refer warmth in numbers. A good all-round three season double sleeping bag.
Snugpak Softie Expansion 4 Sleeping Bag
Key Specs: Fabric, 100% polyester; Temperature Limit, -15C; Weight, 1.8kg; Performance, All-Season
The Expansion 4 has a neat feature which allows the side baffle to expand, allowing for more room generally, making the bag wide for extra comfort.
This both helps the bag cool down on hotter nights, or allows you to get more comfortable and add extra layers if you’re feeling the cold. It is well rated down to a chilly -10 on the comfort scale too, which we found impressive for a bag of this price.
Nemo Disco 15
Key Specs: Fabric, 30D Nylon Ripstop; Temperature Limit, -10C; Weight, 1.2kg; Performance, All-Season
We’re moving into more premium territory now, with the Nemo Disco down sleeping bag, which provides fantastic warmth and comfort in a lightweight package.
As well as the added benefit of the weight and size that being a down bag provides, we liked the ‘classic spoon’ shape of the Disco 15, which allows for more versatility and a greater range of sleeping positions, adding room at your knees and elbows.
The integrated pillow pocket is a nice touch, too.
Sierra Designs Cloud 800 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag
Key Specs: Fabric, 15D Nylon Ripstop; Temperature Limit, -10C (Comfort -3C); Weight, 800g; Performance, 3-season
We’re a fan of Sierra Designs – they’re backcountry expedition style equipment have a ‘pack and go’ appeal and they’re lightweight, colourful and extremely proficient in terms of technical performance.
We really liked the sense of the space that the Cloud 800 sleeping bag provides, with an oversized comforter and extra padding to really give the sense of a bed-like quality whilst out in the wild.
It’s well vented, too. If you’ve got the money to spend and you’re keen on getting out there this spring, this has won loads of awards, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Alpkit ArcticDream 1200
Key Specs: 20D Nylon Ripstop with 90/10 down insulation; Temperature Limit, -22C; Weight, 1.7kg; Performance, All-Season
For the price, it’s apparent that serious expedition fans only need apply, but this is a product that means business and is primarily designed for polar and high-altitude use.
It has a -22C limit and has been designed for the Himalaya, for example, where keeping insulated, warm and dry is an absolute survival imperative.
We actually though that for its ability as a classic expedition bag, the price of £359 is not too extortionate compared what you can pay for similar offerings from other brands.