Choose Your First Wild Camping Sleeping Bag

Choose Your First Wild Camping Sleeping Bag

Jake // March 29, 2018

When heading off to wild camp for the first time, it’s very important to choose the correct sleeping bag. This will not only make your night out enjoyable but also safe. The following article aims to provide a basic guide for choosing the correct sleeping bag and methods to improve your wild camping experience. A common problem many people encounter is choosing a sleeping bag that’s inappropriate for the season and even general outdoor use. What many people don’t know is that most bags are only suitable in the house or a well insulated tent. I often find people either carry a thin indoor bag or a huge thick bag that weigh a ton. I have been both of these people in the past!

Firstly consider the warmth rating you require. I have included a table below as a basic guide to indicate what to initially look for. However make sure you check each product individually for warmth ratings.

SeasonComfort LimitExtreme LimitSuitable For
110’C5’CHot Summer/ Jungle/ Indoor
25’C0’CUK Summer 
30’C-10’CAutumn/ Spring 
5-15’C-30’CExtreme Winter (mostly abroad)

To test sleeping bags, manufacturers commonly use an average sized woman on a sleep mat, sometimes a tent is also used. As a general rule the larger you are the more warmth your body generates and therefore you will require a thinner bag however this is difficult to judge. Over time you will find out if you are a hot or cold sleeper and can adjust future purchases accordingly. When wild camping, you will often be in exposed areas, sometimes at altitude with high winds, therefore it’s important to take that into consideration. I recommend checking the weather of the area you expect to camp in and judge the temperature based on the “feels like” rating.

Unless you know for certain you will only camp in the warmer summer months I would opt for a three season bag for your first purchase as it’s the most flexible and can be used all year round with added insulation. I currently also own a one season bag that I use for lowland areas in good conditions when I’m trying to be as light as possible. If you decide to opt for a thinner bag and later find it to be too cold or are planning on camping in colder temperatures in the future, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new one.

Firstly consider your clothing options; simply adding a thermal top and a warm hat can have a big effect on your comfort level. Adding a fleece on top of that should be sufficient when pushing a sleeping bag to its limits. However I would recommend always starting with one layer and building up from there if you’re cold, wearing too much clothing will have the opposite effect and actually make you colder. This is due to limiting the amount of warm air the sleeping bag can trap. Another option is adding a liner. These can weigh as little as 150g and can add up to a whole season to a sleeping bag. They also cost very little. I often add a liner to my 3 season bag to increase its limits during the winter months.

In regards to weight and packing size, the more money you are willing to spend, the lighter and smaller the bag will be for its season. Bags within the £100-150 price range usually perform well in this regard. The Snugpack softie 9 weighs 1500g and packs down relatively small.

sleeping bag

When looking at purchasing a bag I would look at spending around £100-£150 minimum for a new sleeping bag. The fantastic 3 season Snugpack softie 9 is within this price range. If you can’t afford that amount it’s highly preferable to buy a good second hand bag instead of a new crappy one. It’s what I did when I was starting out. This will ensure the bag is of good quality and will stand the test of time.

I will undoubtedly get questions about choosing between down and synthetic. However If you’re new to hiking and wild camping in general I would stick to synthetic bags. Down bags have their place and I will undoubtedly cover them in future articles.

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