Ahh, the humble swag. This simple canvas contraption has been a staple of Australian culture since colonial days, but it has undoubtedly evolved since the days of travelling "swaggies".
Nowadays, you will most likely find swags in the back of someone's car. Tied to their roof racks. Or perhaps just thrown onto the tray of a ute.
But their central purpose remains the same. The swag enables campers and travellers to get a comfy night's sleep virtually anywhere.
Most modern swags feature a foam mattress, a waterproof canvas design, and some sort of poles for support. Some are freestanding, and others are designed to be used like a small tent.
Here, I've drawn on years of experience camping - many of them complete with swags - to bring you my list of the top 10 swags available in Australia today.
How I Made My Selections
I love to travel, and camping is the best type of travel. In between larger adventures, when I'm at home in Albany, I like to head off on small camping trips. Usually, all I take is the absolute basics: a swag, a bit of cooking gear, and little else.
I've found the best swags to be easy to put up and take down, adequately ventilated, durable, comfortable, and transportable. Every option below meets these criteria to a satisfying level, and I'm sure that you'll find something that suits your needs!
The Darche Dusk To Dawn 900 has been the best single swag on the market for some years now. It boasts a tough canvas design for excellent durability and a compact, lightweight design.
On top of this, there's a neat removable hutch that's designed for gear storage. Access points are found on both sides of the swag, and there's plenty of ventilation for those warm nights.
The Dusk To Dawn also comes with a canvas storm cover that you can extend for added protection against the elements. These are supported by two alloy poles.
Setting up the swag takes no more than a couple of minutes. There's a trigger-lock ridge pole and two end poles which simply need to be slipped into place. And when you're finished, all you need to do is ensure the poles are removed, roll it up, and slip it into the storage bag.
Inside, there's a 70mm high-density foam mattress designed for a comfortable night's sleep. There are two internal storage pockets to hold small items, along with fine-mesh window covers to keep the bugs out.
The most notable downside is the size of the Darche Dusk To Dawn 900. But if you need a little extra space for a partner or more gear, you can simply upgrade to an 1100 or 1400 edition.
The Oztrail Mitchell Expedition series is one of the most popular lines of swags in Australia. This is the main swag I've used, and my version has seen beaches, outback sands, and forests throughout Australia. I've had it for more than 10 years. It's starting to get a little rough, but it's still just as comfortable and weather-resistant as it's ever been.
What's more, this is one of the most affordable swags on the market. Sure, there are cheaper options around, but these don't tend to be nearly as durable or comfortable.
One thing I love about the Mitchell Expedition swag is its versatility. It's a freestanding model that comes with three optional poles. On hot nights, you can simply leave the canvas cover off and the mozzie screen zippered up for optimal airflow and complete protection from any nasty insects that are nearby.
The main downside of this swag is its simplicity and relatively small size, but you're getting excellent value for money nonetheless.
The Darche Kozi Outback Swag 1400 is easily my favourite double swag. Although I haven't slept in one a whole lot of times, the few nights that I have were incredible.
For one, it's very comfortable, despite the thinner foam mattress. The ripstop polycotton canvas is super durable. And don't let the low price fool you - this is still one of the best Darche swags on the market.
Looking for the most compact, lightweight swag you can find? Want something that's cheap yet durable? Look no further!
This canvas biker swag is small and simple, but it does the trick. It could do with a thicker mattress and a little more space for taller users, but overall, I'd highly recommend checking it out.
Okay, okay, this one isn't quite a swag, I know. But it's close enough.
The Coleman "Swagger" brings the compact, fast setup of swags and the space associated with a tent. It's built with quality materials and comes with awning poles that you can use to create a little extra storage space.
The OzTrail Lawson Discovery series include more space than the popular Expedition swags. They certainly aren't the lightest swags on the market, but you will find them to be among the most durable around.
For one, the quality canvas and comfortable swag mattress make for a pleasant experience. The removable fabric mattress cover is designed for easy washing, and the internal storage pockets are very convenient.
The AOS Bushman Deluxe Apex Swag is expensive, but it's the perfect swag for those looking for a little more space. It has a 3.21 square metre floor space and a thicker mattress for more comfortable camping.
But despite its size, this is the perfect swag for camping. It's relatively lightweight, easy to set up, and super comfy. I'd highly recommend taking a look at it if your budget lets you!
The Darche Dirty Dee 900 is another favourite of mine. It's an excellent 1-person swag, with heavy-duty canvas, a built-in mattress, and lightweight alloy poles.
This swag is naturally water-resistant, and the level of comfort on offer is excellent. And to top it all off, the pole structure lets you extend the two included awnings for extra protection.
If you need a budget swag for occasional trips, the WEISSHORN single swag presents as a leading option. It's super cheap, with plenty of space for a single model.
But, don't expect this model to be as durable as some of the more expensive alternatives. It also only has a 40mm mattress, which can be quite uncomfortable on hard ground.
There's no denying that the Mountview Double swag is a budget pick, but it's still a great option for camping with your partner.
Not everyone can afford the more expensive options on this list, and the Mountview Double brings a neat mix between functionality and affordability. Of course, you shouldn't expect it to be as durable as higher-quality alternatives, but it still has plenty to bring to the table.
For example, the 420GSM ripstop canvas is designed to prevent tearing. It's water resistant, the breathable design reduces heat buildup in warm conditions.
Swag Buying Guide
I've outlined 10 of the best swags on the market, but this is far from an exhaustive list. I've found that the sheer number of options to choose from can become overwhelming when you're trying to buy a swag.
Should you just go for the cheapest model? Or is something with some extra frills worth paying for? And what sort of size and style do you need?
Here, I've looked at a few things you need to know about swags to help you select the right option for your needs.
Traditional Swag vs Dome Tent
If you ever went camping as a kid, you probably used a basic dome tent. These are convenient and affordable, but they don't offer the same level of comfort or weather protection that swags do.
Heavier swags, especially, come with tough materials that are designed for Australian conditions. They usually have a mesh screen and a comfortable foam mattress, and they are very easy to set up.
Most swags are a similar length, generally ranging from 210 to 220mm. However, the width can vary significantly. Most 1-person swags are around 900mm wide, and sizes increase to 1400mm and even more when looking at more spacious options.
Nowadays, most swags are made of high-quality ripstop canvas. Some use coated ripstop canvas for extra waterproofing, while some have a layer of canvas and a layer of mesh for flexible ventilation.
The most important thing here is to make sure the swag you select has a decent reputation and is built with industry-grade materials.
Your swag base is also super important. Some of the more basic models don't have a special base, which means that water can seep up through the canvas. But the more advanced models usually have a waterproof floor to prevent this from happening.
The quality of mattresses can vary greatly. Some of the cheaper models come with basic 40mm mattresses that can be quite uncomfortable to sleep on. Sizes vary up to 70mm, which might not seem like very much but can make for very comfortable camping adventures.
Swag Set Up Time
The simplest biker swags take no more than a minute or two to set up. More complex options can take longer. Think about whether or not this is important to you and purchase accordingly.
The Importance Of A Waterproofing
All 10 of the swags on this list boast excellent material quality and some of the best waterproofing on the market.
Usually, though, you will need to treat your swag before you first use it to ensure it's fully waterproof. You should receive instructions outlining how to do this. You'll really appreciate having a waterproof swag when the first downpour hits.
A good camping swag should be durable, waterproof, and easy to set up and take down. They should also be comfortable enough to allow a good night's sleep and have enough space for you and a partner (if required). Adequate ventilation is essential if you're camping in hot areas.
There's actually no such thing as a "roof swag". When people use this term, they are usually referring to rooftop tents. And in short, yes, they are worth it. But they are a little less versatile and much more expensive than the traditional swag.
Yes, swags are built with a waterproof canvas material that's designed for durability comfort. Many waterproof swags have a PVC bucket floor that prevents moisture rising up from the ground.
In short, it depends. Tents are more spacious and give you room to store your bags and other gear. On the other hand, swags are very comfortable, fast to set up, and offer great privacy throughout your trip.
The biggest swag on our list is the AOS Bushman Deluxe. Boasting 3.21 square metres of sleeping area, it has plenty of room to relax.
No, Kings swags aren't Australian made. The most popular Australian-made brand is AOS.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.