The UK’s specialist sleeping bag retailer, Sleeping Bags Outlet, explain the principles of choosing the right slumber sack to fit your adventure, and make sure you sleep tight during your travels.

Whether you’re backpacking across South East Asia or South America, choosing the right sleeping bag can be a tricky affair! Many people will instantly fall into the trap of thinking that they can simply pack the sleeping bag they’ve used for the odd weekend camping trip over the years, but you will find yourself instantly regretting that decision if you do go down that route.

Season Ratings

When travelling abroad you will often find that weather conditions are much warmer and considerably more pleasant compared to in the UK. Choosing a sleeping bag that is designed to keep you comfortable in the climate you will be sleeping in is extremely important. Get one that’s too warm and you’ll find yourself making a desperate bid for freedom during the night… get one that’s not warm enough and you could be in trouble, especially in cold and harsh conditions.

Deciding which sleeping bag is the right one for your destination can be determined by the sleeping bag’s season rating. The season ratings available include:

1 Season – Hot and tropical climates
2 Season – Warm climates (spring/summer in the UK)
3 Season – Mild – Cold Climates (autumn in the UK)
4 Season – Cold climates (winter in the UK)

Each of the above season ratings will help give you an indication of which sleeping bag would be suitable for your trip. For example, if you were travelling to Vietnam or Thailand, you would most likely opt for a 1 season sleeping bag. If you were trekking the Inca trail or camping at altitude, you would choose a 3 or 4 season sleeping bag as temperatures drop significantly during the night. Every manufacturer can differ slightly with their sleeping bag season ratings, so make sure you check the comfort temperature of the bag before you buy.

If you’re camping the Inca Trail you’ll need a season 3 or 4 sleeping bag. Photo Credit: An en Alain

You should always research your destination’s climate before buying a sleeping bag. If you’re travelling to countries during their winter, you will need to ensure your sleeping bag is warm enough. Most sleeping bags on the market will specify a comfort temperature or a suggested usage temperature range, which should make it easier to decide which season sleeping bag you would require.

Useful Travel Related Features

Sleeping bags for camping are different to sleeping bags that have been specifically designed for travelling. They do share some of the same features, including storage stuff/compression sacks, internal pockets and baffles for both the shoulder and zip areas of the sleeping bag, but travel specific sleeping bags such as the Vango Planet range include other features that make them more suitable for travelling abroad, such as mosquito nets in the hood.

With mosquitoes and bed bugs posing a threat to both the comfort and health of travellers, more and more travel sleeping bags are now treated with a special anti-mosquito finish. This helps to repel mosquitoes and other insects so that you can avoid getting bitten during the night, a particularly useful feature in budget accommodation and hostels, where bed bugs can be an issue. In many cases you will find that the anti-mosquito treatment is combined with an anti-bacterial treatment. Anti-bacterial protection helps to keep your sleeping bag fresher for longer and will prevent odours and mould from developing, even when you’re in hot and humid conditions.

Unfortunately not all travel sleeping bags comes with these treatments. However, sleeping bag liners with anti-bacterial & anti-mosquito treatment can be bought and used in addition to your sleeping bag or on their own in hot climates. Sleeping bag liners help to protect your sleeping bag’s lining and add extra warmth, as they are easy to clean and will dry quicker, they provide an easier and safer alternative to attempting to wash your sleeping bag!
Another travel related feature to look out for is an integrated mosquito net, which is positioned over the hood of the sleeping bag. These can be zipped up to protect your face from insects during the night and also can be kept zipped up during the day to stop insects from climbing inside your sleeping bag. In areas where Malaria and other insect-borne diseases are common, you should still take extra precautions such as wearing repellents and using a more comprehensive mosquito net.

Sleeping Bag Fillings & Pack Size

Compared to sleeping bags that you use for camping trips in the UK, travel sleeping bags are much more compact and lightweight. They are designed this way to reduce the amount of space they take up in your backpack and keep the weight of your bag to a minimum. For travellers who are planning on lugging their backpack to their hostel and dumping all their gear there for a while, weight might not be too much of an issue. However, if you’re trekking through the Himalayas or camping under the stars on an expedition, the weight and size of your sleeping bag is of paramount importance.

Chances are if you’re camping in the wilderness, the temperature will drop significantly during the night, so you will need a sleeping bag with a higher season rating… which usually means a larger pack size and weight to go with it! For this reason, many adventure travellers opt for down filled sleeping bags. These are often filled with duck or goose down, which provides an excellent warmth to weight ratio, whilst packing down to a more compact size. It’s worth noting that down does not perform well when damp or wet, so sometimes sleeping bags filled with synthetic fibres can be a wiser option, even if they do weigh a little bit more.

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