If you're new to camping gear, or getting ready to take on a big expedition, the first thing you should be shopping for is a sleeping bag. When you're exposed to the elements, nothing is more important than staying warm and dry.
But the number of options for sleeping bags in Australia can be overwhelming. Do you really need a down mummy bag for car camping? Will a rectangular shape do for backpacking?
These are all valid questions most people have when they start shopping.
That's why we created this guide. To ease confusion, and help you find the right sleeping bag. So whether you're hiking long distances, car camping, or just looking for a good value, you'll stay warm, dry, and happy.
My Review Process
I've been camping almost my whole life. I've backpacked huge distances, huddled through cold nights, and seen more sunsets than I can remember.
I've used a lot of sleeping bags in a lot of situations, and I've learned what separates the best from the rest.
In this article, I'll be judging sleeping bags on a few criteria. First is versatility, because it's always better to only have to buy something once. The other deciding factors are warmth, packability, materials, and, of course, comfort.
The North Face has been making quality outdoor goods since 1966. They're a huge name in camping, and their sleeping bags are top quality.
The Green Kazoo does a lot of jobs well. It's fairly packable for how warm it is. The insulation is 700 fill ProDown (The North Face's proprietary down material) that can keep you cozy down to -18°C. For adventures across Australia, that's plenty.
Features-wise it's not lacking much. The design integrates a fitted hood and draft collar. This adds additional protection in colder temperatures. And the whole thing comes in a compression sack, making it easier to pack.
On the flip side, it may be overkill for midsummer camping. And while it's typically good to prepare for anything, if you're only camping in warm weather conditions, you might be better off with something less technical.
If you're new to camping and want something cheap, high quality, and good enough to get you started, this is it. Kelty is a trusted name in outdoor gear and the Cosmic delivers versatility and packability for a bargain.
The Kelty Cosmic is a 3-season down mummy bag rated to 6.6°C. This temperature range is plenty for camping most places in the spring, summer, and autumn.
It packs light, and has a few extra features like a phone pocket to make life easier. With a price tag of around $200, this is an easy buy.
But in cold temperatures, you'll want something warmer. Make no mistake: a 3-season bag is for three seasons only.
If you're planning a trip outside of Aus, The North Face Inferno will make you feel ready for anything. Its extreme cold rating is good for serious expeditions out of your comfort zone.
The Inferno will keep you comfy down to -29°C, backed by 800 fill ProDown and aluminized XReflex material for extra warmth.
XReflex is a proprietary technology that reflects heat. It's got all the other bells and whistles too, from a draft collar to a vaulted footbox.
But it's very expensive, and will be overkill for camping in the summer months. Unless you need it, you'll be better off saving your money with something cheaper and lighter.
If you're camping on a warm night in the summer, there's no need to carry extra weight. You're better off going for something cheap that will get the job done.
The Marmot Trestles 45 is a perfect lightweight companion for warm weather camping. Rated to 7.2°C, it's just enough warmth to keep you comfortable, without leaving you sweating. It's very budget-friendly too, which is always a big plus.
But be warned: if you are depending on your bag in below-freezing weather, you'll need something warmer. The Trestles 45 is a more minimalist bag for days when you're worried about sweating to death.
When you're car camping and carrying your things isn't a concern, go for comfort. The Coleman Pilbara C0 works fantastically when you don't have to worry about packing light.
The Pilbara C0 features an old-school rectangular design, full-length zippers, synthetic insulation, and cotton material. It's soft to the touch, warm enough for three-season camping, and spacious. It's also very affordable, as well as washing machine friendly.
But you wouldn't want to carry the Pilbara C0 on any long backpacking trips. Synthetic insulation doesn't pack well, being both bulky and heavy. It also lacks fancy features like phone pockets or a hood.
Nothing is better than cuddling up under the stars with your partner. The Teton Sports Mammoth Queen-Size Double Sleeping Bag offers amazing comfort and warmth; for two.
The Mammoth values comfort, warmth, and space over everything. If you're car camping and don't plan on packing your stuff back up soon, that's a good thing. It's the size of a queen bed, rated to 0°1C.
But if you're trying to go light, look elsewhere. Its gross weight alone - 7.5 kg, will scare off anyone who values portability. It's only really suited to situations where you don't have to worry about packing, like car camping.
The Marmot Sawtooth 15 is an ideal sleeping bag for hiking, trekking, or any situation where you have to carry your gear with you. It offers comfort down to -6°C, plenty of warmth for spring, summer, and autumn camping.
It also packs exceptionally well. I've used this bag for several years now and am always surprised at how small it compresses.
It weighs around 1.5 kg, so not ultralight, but good for how warm it is. There's only one issue here- it doesn't come with a compression sack.
On top of that minor flaw, you wouldn't want to take it winter camping. While the 650 fill Power Down makes it a capable 3-season bag, it won't hold up in winter weather.
Finding a women's sleeping bag can be a pain. Not all brands offer them, and some just don't fit right. Luckily, with The North Face Blue Kazoo, you don't have to sacrifice quality for something that fits your body.
The Blue Kazoo is a great all-rounder. It uses 700 fill down to -7°C, sufficient for almost anything you might encounter camping in Aus. It packs well and includes features like shockcords to keep your sleeping pad in place.
But if you're planning to camp for a long time in cold weather, you may want to look for something warmer. It's also on the expensive side compared to warm weather sleeping bags.
"Big and tall" people have a lot of the same issues women do in finding a sleeping bag that fits. Most sleeping bags are for males of average height. For above average campers, this can be a pain.
But fret not! Sea to Summit's Trek Sleeping Bag comes in three temperature ratings ranging from -1°C to -12°C.
More importantly, it comes in three sizes, to accommodate every kind of body. It's an affordable, high quality, 3-season down bag without many frills.
Because of that, don't expect the same warmth as a 4-season bag. Like the Marmot Sawtooth, you'll also have to buy your own compression sack for it.
How to Shop For A Sleeping Bag
If this is your first time buying a sleeping bag, it's hard to know what to look for. There are tons of different designs, materials, and uses. Here are a few tips to get the right sleeping bag for Australia.
The first thing you should look at when buying a sleeping bag is the temperature rating or temperature range. This number tells you the lowest temperature your bag can tolerate, while keeping you comfortable.
Sleeping bags have another temperature rating, the "extreme" rating. This indicates the coldest temperature your bag could withstand to keep you from getting hypothermia.
While it's good to know the extreme rating, don't plan your sleeping bag purchase around it. Surviving the night does not mean enjoying it, and your bag's extreme rating is well beyond the limit of comfort.
For 3-season sleeping bags, temperature ratings typically range from 0°C to -5°C or so. 4-season sleeping bags go much lower, to around -15°C.
Synthetic vs Down Insulation
The main factor that determines how a sleeping bag works is the kind of insulation it uses. Synthetic filling is usually the less expensive of the two. It's also heavier, but the upside is that synthetic will keep you warm when wet.
Down is commonly preferred by campers. It's warmer and lighter, meaning easier to pack. But if it gets wet, it won't work as well. It's also the more expensive of the two.
Weight And Packed Size
If you plan on carrying your sleeping bag, for example while backpacking, you should consider its packability. This factors down to two things: packed size and weight.
Both of these are important. If you're hiking for a long time, you want to keep your pack as light as possible. And having something small when it's packed means you have more room in your backpack for other gear.
Synthetic sleeping bags are usually much larger and heavier than down. For some hikers, this isn't an issue. Especially when you're expecting lots of rain, having some extra weight is worth staying warm.
But ultralight fiends will always opt for down. Down is used more often in lightweight sleeping bags, and it's often even warmer than synthetic filling. If you can spare the extra money, I always recommend buying sustainably-sourced down.
Sleeping bags come in four basic shapes. These are: rectangular, semi-rectangular, mummy, and double. The first two are what they sound like. If you have an old sleeping bag lying around from when you were a kid, chances are it's a rectangular bag.
But the rectangular and semi-rectangular designs have improved a lot over the years. The new standard is the mummy bag, so called because of its resemblance to a sarcophagus. Mummy bags conform much better to the shape of the human body, trapping heat more efficiently.
The trade-off here is a lack of space. Mummy bags are far less roomy than rectangular sleeping bags. If your main concern is comfort, by all means, go with a rectangular bag.
Last are double sleeping bags. This design is double-wide to fit two sleepers. If you like to camp with your partner, double bags provide lots of extra space and let you use a larger, cushier camping mattress. They have the added bonus of letting you share heat, keeping you warmer.
One of the main features you should pay attention to when buying a sleeping bag is the zippers. Sleeping bags usually have one main full-length zipper for getting in and out. Depending on your handedness, you may want to have the zipper on either the right or left side.
But sleeping bags (particularly mummy bags) often have zippers on both sides. The off-handed zipper goes halfway up the bag, allowing you to take both arms out.
This design lets you organize gear, make tea, read a book, or do whatever you want, without getting out of your bag. If it's cold out, this is a very helpful feature to have.
Pockets And Other Features
Sleeping bags may come with a whole host of other features to make life easier. The main example is the phone pocket, which helps keep your phone warm so the battery doesn't drain.
But there are lots of other features you might see, too. Some sleeping bags have hoods and collars, which help to trap heat. Hoods often come with a cinch cord, so you can close the opening around your face.
Sleeping bags may also have shockcords, which wrap around your sleeping pad. This ensures you don't slide off your pad in the middle of the night.
The best all-around sleeping bag for Australia is The North Face Green Kazoo. The best budget-friendly option is the Kelty Cosmic. The warmest is The North Face Inferno. The best for hiking and backpacking is the Marmot Sawtooth.
Feathered Friends is commonly considered the gold standard for sleeping bags. Marmot, The North Face, and Sea to Summit are also contenders.
The four types of sleeping bags are rectangular, semi-rectangular, mummy, and double. Mummy bags are the best for providing the maximum warmth.
The Feathered Friends Snowy Owl mummy bag is the warmest, rated to -51.1 C. It is a popular choice for high altitude expeditions.
Sleeping bags can range from less than $100 to well over $1,000 depending on the temperature rating and materials.
Down mummy bags are the best for camping. They are the most efficient at trapping heat, and the easiest to pack.
*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.