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Sleeping Bags

Best Sleeping Bag Buying Guide For Men, Women & Children 2016

To truly appreciate the great outdoors and the beauty it has to offer, you’re going to need a good night’s sleep. How do you achieve that? You need the best sleeping bag possible – one that’s totally suited to your trip and individual needs. But with so many options around, we’re more than used to hearing just ‘which one should I buy?’
So, we’ve put together this buying guide to help you along the way before you get totally immersed in reviews.

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Recommended Factors To Consider When Purchasing

If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to sleeping outdoors, know there are a few factors you need to consider before you decide on the best option for you.

Seasons & Temperature Ratings

When you’re camping, and where, actually impacts a lot on what type you will need. While if you’re simply camping the summer months away you’ll be fine with a season 1, you might need something a little warmer if you’re looking for travel specific models to keep you warm throughout the year.
Ideal for…

Camping in the Summer and indoor sleepovers for the kids.

Camping at the end of Spring and throughout early Autumn.

Camping in the colder Spring/Autumn months – perfect for mild nights that feel a little nippy.

Camping in the Winter when it’s super cold and you’re expecting frost or even snow!

What Are The Different Insulation Types?

To find the ultimate warmth, you obviously need to consider the temperature ratings described above, but the insulation you choose also makes a huge difference. So what are your options? We’d recommend the following camping insulation types:

We’ve got everything from man made synthetics to natural down made from duck or geese feathers here - keep reading our buying guide for more information on each option.

Down Filled

Sleeping bags with down insulation are great because they’re the most lightweight option.
Is it a little more expensive? Sure, you’ll definitely find down models a little pricier than synthetic alternatives, but there are perks to shelling out a little more for the best down solution for sleeping. Down insulation is known for its durable, breathable qualities and instantly recognisable too with its plump, fluffy style. The fluffy style isn’t just to look good either, it’s this that traps air and retains more heat while you’re sleeping. It keeps its shape over time too, which means it maintains its key insulation qualities for years.
In short, it’s going to last you longer than a synthetic bag and retain more heat, so this might be the best option for you if you’re a regular camper, planning on many trips over a range of seasons in the next few years.
Down is the best option for cold but dry conditions. On the other hand, it’s not as good in wet weather, so if you’re heading out no matter rain or shine – synthetic insulation could be the best option for you.

Synthetic - Allergy Free

Synthetic is so efficient in wet weather because it is known to retain around 50% of their heat, even when damp. Generally made from a puffy polyester material, it doesn’t absorb water in the same way as duck or goose feathers might, so it’s a great if the forecast isn’t looking so good (and let’s face it, the Great British weather isn’t always kind when it knows we’re headed for the outdoors for a few days).
On top of this, it’s hypoallergenic – which makes it perfect for those who are allergic to the bird feathers in down insulation. If the temperature rating is right, then it’s still bound to keep you warm when the temperature drops overnight too, and at a lower price than the best down sleeping bag on the market. Care-wise, they’re the easiest to look after as well.
The downside? Even the best synthetic insulation is going to be heavier and bulkier than the duck and goose feather alternatives. While this is fine if you’re driving to a campsite or don’t have far to walk, we’d recommend that keen trekkers should spend a little more on the lightweight down options.  

Water-repellent Option

Water-repellent insulation takes things a step further than the stuff found in a normal synthetic bag. As the name suggests, this is going to be the best option if you know you’re destined for a few days of terrible weather.
But the surprising fact is that many of these water-repellent sleeping bags actually have down insulation – so it is possible to get the lightweight, warmth of down with water-repellent qualities. Quite often these come with a nylon or polyester outer shell which has been finished with a durable water repellent coating to ensure that the duck or goose feathers don’t get damp – this means that they can continue to retain heat without being affected.
As you can imagine though, these bags come with an even bigger price tag than the normal down sleeping bags. We’d only recommend these if you’re feeling flush and you’re a regular camper who needs something which is built to last in some extreme conditions.

A Summary Of The Best Sleeping Bag Insulation

Down Insulation



Best for cold but dry camping environments, water repellent coating makes it the best all-rounder, but expensive for camping beginners.

Synthetic Insulation



Best for warmer and wet camping environments – a good summer one when you can’t guarantee a dry stay in the great outdoors. Recommended for people with allergies or those looking for a cheaper option – especially great for people heading to a festival for the first time this summer.

Different Shapes

They come in many different shapes, sizes and weights these days, and people can often lose sight of the most important factors when choosing a product that will best suit their circumstances.
It’s not all about looks when it comes to camping sleeping bags, each shape is that way for a reason and will, yet again, impact on how warm you are throughout your outdoor stay.
So what are your options?

Of course it’s fairly obvious whether you need a double or a kids bag, but how about the rest of the options? What separates mummy bags from a square bag or pod bag?

Here’s the guide low-down on shape.


Mummy bags are renowned for performing well in every season – there really is something for everyone here. Whether you’re looking for summer, winter or even expedition kit for sub-zero temperatures then mummies will always perform well.
Designed to provide optimum warmth, by hugging close to your body, its shape gets smaller towards your feet - reducing the amount of space for heat to escape. This makes it ideal for camping in harsh temperatures. If you’re off on an extreme trek, highly insulated bags are an investment - you can be sure to get value for money when looking at our options.
So what’s not so great about the mummy design? The rest comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer square or pod shaped (or even double bags) because they allow you more room to move around, but that will reduce the heat retained as you sleep. We’d only recommend alternatives if you’re camping during the summer months in the UK or in warmer climates.


The rectangle bag is one of the most popular because it’s just that bit roomier. This style isn’t so close to your body, so you have more space to wriggle about, and the square shaped bag can even be opened up as a blanket or throw.  
This is great for spring, summer and autumn, but what about the winter? Although it is widely rumoured that square bags aren’t as warm, many manufacturers are upping their game as far as insulation goes, so you’ll be alright in the UK winter too. Just stick to mummy versions for extreme sub-zero temperature camping.
You do need to consider that these aren’t so compact and lightweight though. More room means more fabric, which means more weight to carry about. If you’re just heading out for a short trip, with a car to drop stuff off at the campsite, square sleeping bags are just fine and they’re usually a cheap option too – but still go for mummy style bags for trekking.


Heading out for a couples camping weekend? Then you should be considering the double sleeping option. One of the best ways to stay warm is by sharing body heat, and this shape doesn’t disrupt your normal sleep pattern if you’re used to sleeping together.
As you’ll see from other double bag reviews, these are ideal for UK camping during the summer or autumn months, or in places with similar climates. However, if you’re headed for extremely cold temperatures, we’d always suggest checking out the mummy bag section, as that’s how you’re going to stay warmest. You can always cuddle up afterwards!

Pod Shape

We like the Pod shape sleeping bags as they are the perfect middle ground between mummy and square – they still fit fairly close to your body to retain heat, but give you a little more room than a mummy bag. This makes them popular for parents buying kids sleeping bags for their children, as it keeps the little ones warm even when they’re wiggling about.
They’re not just for kids though – here at Planet Camping, we stock plenty of adult pod style sleeping options too. The Gelert Curve Sleeping Bag is one of the newest on the market, coming with an easy roll-up design and built-in stuff sac. Ideal for festivals and summer camping, these vibrant, affordable designs are contemporary while also offering the cosy comfort that is necessary for an outdoor trip. These are ideal for sleepovers too.
Just bear in mind that, yet again, these won’t provide quite the same warmth as a mummy bag, and they’re not as lightweight or compact either. Make sure you buy based on the trip you’re planning, using the advice provided in this sleeping bag buying guide.

Which Type Should I Take To A Festival?

Just how do you begin to predict the British weather? A constant battle endured by all, it is something that is particularly important for those of you planning a trip within the British Isles. After all, a festival in the summer months doesn't guarantee dry and warm weather and this is something to think about before you head off.

You need to consider tog ratings and materials just as you would with a normal duvet. Just because you are only at a festival for a few nights, this shouldn't be ignored as a bad nights sleep may seriously hamper your spirits. The tog rating will usually be between 4 and 15 with the higher the rating, the warmer it's going to keep you. You should also make sure that the material has some sort of insulating qualities. Looking for something easy to carry? Well then the Gelert Curve may be the right option for you. Compact and easy to roll with its built-in stuff sac, the pod shape sleeping bag is easily transferable making it the most convenient option whilst in transit. Expecting the weather to take a turn for the worse? Then a mummy may be a slightly more substantial option due to its heat retaining qualities. Going with your partner? Then why not consider a double bag? For that extra bit of space you could also consider a rectangular bag. They also offer the versatility to be opened up into a blanket or throw.

So which one should you chose? Ultimately the decision is yours but we are sure to have something to suit everyone's needs. Alongside your sleeping bag, don't forget the other essentials for catching some much needed shut eye such as roll up beds, sleeping pads and headrests.

General Care Tips

For a one to last you years to come you need to look after it properly, and there are a few general care tips you can follow to ensure it stands the test of time.

  1. Look after the insulation
    By sitting or lying on the sleeping bag when you’re not using it properly, you’re actually squashing and compressing its insulation which – you guessed it- isn’t so hot (get it?!) for the heat retention. The insulation’s ability to trap air influences the season rating hugely, so by crushing the insulation you could be reducing your kit from a 3 season bag to a 2 person bag.
  2. Wear clothes!
    It’s nothing personal, it’s just that a bag is better protected from body oils if there’s a layer between you and the sleeping bag. By making sure you’re wearing socks, for example, you can wash the bag less and simply air it out to get rid of that outdoor smell!
  3. Open it up as soon as you set up camp
    Insulation captures air in your bag, and that’s what keeps you extra warm during a night in the great outdoors. The sooner your sleeping bag is out of its stuff sac, the sooner it can begin to catch the air – and the warmer you’ll be when trying to get to sleep.

Washing Them At Home

Depending on how often you’re using them, the best bags on the market can last you for up to a decade – but obviously that means washing them and caring for them in the right way.
Cleaning your bag is surprisingly easy, if you know how. So how do you get started when it comes to washing these at home? And how do you find out how to wash them in washing machines? We’ve got a few tips.

  1. Close it all up
    As with all of your clothes, when cleaning sleeping bags it’s always best to do up all the zips before you put them in the washing machine. Not only are you guaranteed a more thorough clean (this ensures that all the body oils are removed from the interior) but you’re also less likely to experience tears or wear from the washing machine itself.
  2. ALWAYS read the label
    The majority of products can be cleaned in a washing machine on a cool, gentle setting, but there are exceptions to the rule.
    You should always follow the advice stated on the label (even if it’s different to what you’re reading here). At the end of the day, manufacturers always know what’s best for their products. It might tell you to hand wash, or to use a gentle detergent – all of these suggestions will help maintain your sleeping bag so that it stays in the best state possible for years of happy use!
    TOP TIP: Why not wash your sleeping bag in cold water on a gentle cycle, then set it to an extra rinse afterwards to fully remove all detergent?
  3. Use the right detergent
    So we touched on this point above, but we really can’t stress it enough. If you’re trying to clean down sleeping bag kit then you want to use a product that leaves the essential oils in the duck or goose feathers, because these promote insulation.
    You can get specialist down insulation cleaning products, so this might be the best route if you’ve spent a lot of money on a down sleeping bag. However, you’ll often find a mild detergent does the job too. As we said before, always check the label before washing at home.
  4. Dry it thoroughly
    However you decide to dry it out after cleaning at home, you need to make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you put it back in that stuff sac.

How To Dry After Washing

If you have the room and warmth to dry it out naturally then this is always going to be best, but many bags can also be tumble dried at a low heat to start the drying process. If you do decide to use a tumble drier, especially when you are cleaning down sleeping bags, you need to check on it regularly (perhaps every 30 minutes) and remove it to shake the feathers around.

Terminology Used

‘WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?’ We hear you say. We know that all this information comes along with some strange terms, especially if you’re a bit of a newbie when it comes to outdoor and festival camping.

Here’s our chart of exactly what all the strange terms you may be reading about mean – simply get in touch with our team if you think we’ve missed any!

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