Selecting a Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags and pads are some of the most vital and important items when it comes to overnight camping. A warm and comfortable bag and pad can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a trip ruined. The quality of sleep you receive while on a camping trip will have a dramatic effect on the quality of your day time activities.

There are many factors that go in to choosing the right sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

Answer these important questions while shopping for a bag or pad:

  • What type of weather will you be camping in?

    • Will temperatures generally be cold, warm, or hot?

    • Will the area be wet or is there a forecast for rain?

  • How important is durability to you?

    • How often will you use your sleeping bag and pad?

    • Will your bag or pad be put through a lot of wear and tear while on your trip?

  • Is weight and packability a consideration?

    • Are you going on a long backpacking trip or packing a vehicle with your gear?

  • How comfortable do you need to be to get a good night’s sleep?

  • What is your budget?

Other features to consider are the length and shape of the bag/pad and the placement of zippers. Length and shape values usually come in long, regular, women’s, and ¾. A ¾ pad is less weight and insulation is only critical for the core part of the body, legs could be put on extra clothes or a pack. When considering the placement of zippers, buy based on whether you are right or left handed. If you are planning on zipping two bags together, you will want to buy a right and a left handed bag.


Once you know what type of features you are looking for in a sleeping bag or pad, it is time to decide which one is right for you.


Use the guides below to see which categories best fit your needs:

Sleeping Bags


  • Generally a 30 degree & above temperature rating*

  • Packs well

  • Lightweight

  • Unzips to be used as quilt


  • Generally a 20 degree or above temperature rating*

  • Can be used in spring, summer, and fall


  • Generally a 20 degree or below temperature rating*

  • More insulation

  • Bulkier to pack

*Temperature ratings identify the lowest temperature at which a bag is intended to keep the average sleeper warm, assuming that the sleeper is wearing a layer of long underwear and using a sleeping pad under the bag.


  • Lightweight

  • Efficient insulation

  • Can be water resistant; but natural down can take a long time to dry

  • Higher cost


  • Waterproof

  • Heavier and Bulkier

  • Shorter life span

  • Lower cost

Sleeping Pads

Closed-Cell Foam

  • Lightweight

  • Bulkier

  • Good insulation

  • Less comfortable

  • Affordable

  • Won’t rip

  • Can be cut to shape

Self- Inflating

  • Lightweight

  • Compact

  • Good insulation

  • Comfortable

  • Mid-pricey range

  • Ability to be ripped or punctured

Manually Inflated

  • Lightweight

  • Compact

  • Not always the most insulated

  • Comfortable

  • Time consuming

  • Ability to be ripped or punctured

Air Mattress

  • Bulky

  • Not insulated

  • Most comfortable

  • Ability to be ripped or punctured

Sleeping Bag & Pad Shape


  • Generally lighter

  • Have a hood to help insulate the head (bag only)

  • Fewer cold spots

  • Packs down smaller


  • More spacious and comfortable for some

  • Generally heavier

  • Does not pack down as small