Are Sleeping Bags Comfortable? other alternatives

sleeping bag

If you’ve ever looked at a sleeping bag and wondered whether it’s actually comfortable enough that you won’t mind sleeping on the ground well it is a natural question to ask.

Sleeping bags are functional, not comfortable; for someone expecting the level of comfort of a bed, sleeping bags can be disappointing – however, layering your sleeping bag with a sleeping pad or an air mattress can help a lot.

I’ve had a number of experiences with sleeping bags, and I have to say that sleeping bags can be very comfortable, But the level of comfort you get will really depend on three things – the size and shape of the bag, what the weather is like and what position you prefer to sleep in.

Shape and size

sleeping bags

Sleeping bags are made to serve in various situations so need to get one based on what you expect to encounter. The weather and your carrying capacity are the most important things to keep in mind when picking out the right sleeping bag for you.

There are generally three types of sleeping bags based on their size and shape and each of them has varying temperature ratings which indicate what kind of weather they’re meant to be used in.

Mummy-shaped sleeping bag bags are the most common types among backpackers but they are the least comfortable, these bags are wide at the top where your torso will be and much narrower at the bottom where your feet will go.

Mummy bags are made particularly for people who are trying to carry as little bulk as possible and who will need to stay as warm as possible during the night. They’re made for maximum insulation and are therefore pretty tight and may feel constraining for certain people, but they perform great in cold weather and many of them even have hoods to keep your neck and ears warm too.

Rectangular-shaped sleeping bags are probably the second most common shape among campers and backpackers, they probably are the most comfortable, they a great option if you’re not worried about extra weight and would prefer a relatively spacious cocoon to tuck into for the night.

Due to the extra space inside rectangular bags, it takes longer to get warm in them and although there are ones made specifically for cold weather, they’re generally not the best performers on cold nights.

The third type of sleeping bag is the semi-rectangular bags, also known as ‘modified mummy’, ‘barrel’ or ‘spoon-shaped’ bags. These are designed for people who would like a bag that will effectively keep them warm but won’t suffocate them. They try to find a comfortable balance between insulation and space and are generally more spacious and slightly heavier than mummy bags, this shape I would say is the best for side sleepers.

Although picking a sleeping bag that suits your conditions well is an important first step, it’s not the only step you’ll have to take if you want to be as comfortable as possible sleeping on an outdoor adventure. I’ve found myself in situations where I was ill prepared for a trip and ended up sleeping in a tent with nothing to sleep on but a sleeping bag. And although the bag was great, it’s not an experience I’d be eager to repeat.

The cold from the ground slowly crept into my bones as the night wore on and I was painfully aware of a certain annoying bulge in the ground on which I lay. Since then, I did the necessary research, bought the necessary equipment and these days I sleep like a baby when I’m outdoors. You don’t have to experience the discomfort that I did, so here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

Down-filled or Synthetic filled sleeping bag which is more comfortable?

Sleeping bags are further categorized based on what they’re stuffed with. Down filled sleeping bags are lighter, warmer and last longer than synthetic bags because the feathers can easily be compressed and won’t be damaged when it’s taken out and fluffed up again.

Down bags are great but they aren’t the best for wet conditions as they take longer to dry if they get wet not to mention, they can be expensive. Synthetic filled bags which are made of plastic fibers are easier to dry, are better at resisting water and are much cheaper. The downside to getting a synthetic bag is they’re much harder to pack, less comfortable and less durable in the long run. They will however keep you warmer in wet conditions than a down filled bag.

If you ask me I prefer down filled sleeping bags I find them more comfortable and versatile.

how to make your sleeping pad comfortable

You need extra padding

I know – sleeping bags look comfortable enough that you can lay down for a nap anywhere. But that’s just not true. Although they are super comfortable, most sleeping bags are filled with down or synthetic padding for insulation and while these are spongy and will probably keep you warm, the moment you lay your bodyweight on it, the padding will inevitably get super compressed.

Which means that even if you’re not a princess, so long as there’s rocks and roots underneath you – you’ll feel them. And that’s why I highly recommended that you get yourself something to sleep on. There’s lots of options for outdoor bedding – air mattresses, sleeping pads, cots or hammocks. And each of them have their pros and cons.

But generally speaking, sleeping pads are the most versatile of the mentioned alternatives and that’s why most people use them. There are different types of sleeping pads for different weather and temperature conditions, but they all serve the same purpose – to get you off the ground.

Sleeping pads provide great insulation and that’s important because the ground has a tendency to suck away your body heat and leave you freezing even on a summer night. Sleeping pads also keep you from getting sore by providing a soft surface between you and the ground, this is especially useful if you’re accustomed to sleeping on your side.

Whatever kind of adventure you’ll be embarking on, there’s probably a sleeping pad designed for it and considering how important a good night’s rest is – I recommend you get one.

Get yourself a sleeping liner

Sleeping liners are basically bed sheets for your sleeping bag. They’re light and easy to pack and when you’re ready to sleep, all you need to do is fit it into your sleeping bag and you’re good to go. Sleeping liners serve a number of purposes and the most important one is hygiene.

No one wants to bring all the sweat and grime of the day into their sleeping bag and it’s much easier to wash a sleeping liner that it would be to wash a whole sleeping bag. Apart from hygiene, the sleeping liner will add an extra layer of insulation and will keep you warmer. Also, if it’s a warm night you can do away with the sleeping bag and just sleep in the liner.

Heed temperature ratings

I hate feeling too hot when I’m sleeping. I also hate feeling chilly when I’m off in dreamland. And I’d bet that the feeling of intense annoyance that follows the inability to fall asleep due to uncomfortable temperatures is shared by pretty much every human on earth.

Everyone has an ideal temperature when they’re sleeping. Generally speaking, women prefer colder temperatures while men tend to prefer warmer ones. And although one person’s preference varies from the next, the temperature ratings based on the ‘average sleeper’ are usually pretty accurate. Temperature ratings on sleeping bags and sleeping pads and are there to indicate what weather the gear is designed to be used in – disregard at your own peril.

Eat well before bed

This one might seem obvious but a nice warm meal before bed will contribute to your sleep. A bowl of soup or a cup of milk will warm you up. And foods that are harder to digest like nuts, meats and oils will cause your body to produce more heat. Expedition climbers have even been known to have a mouthful of olive oil before bed to keep them warm.

Keep your sleeping bag dry

A wet bag would be just as uncomfortable as a wet blanket which is why you’ll need to take as much precaution as possible to keep your sleeping bag dry. Sleeping bags can get dry from precipitation, morning dew or even internal condensation. Synthetic bags are more water repellent and easier to keep dry while down-filled bags are prone to get wet and take longer to dry. It’s a good idea to pack your sleeping bag inside a waterproof sack and to put it out to dry after a night of use if you can.

sleeping bag alternatives

  • Quilts– Quilts are a lighter version of sleeping bags, and they don’t have hoods.
  • Camping blanket– Camping blankets are just like regular blankets but are way lighter and more versatile, they are good for people who don’t find sleeping bags comfortable.
  • Woobie blanket– these are blankets used by the U.S. military, they are very lightweight, but they are not for cold weather.

Related Questions

Is it good to wear clothes in a sleeping bag?

Putting on a clean and dry set of clothes before getting into your sleeping bag is definitely a good idea. The clean clothes will keep the bag itself clean and dry and will keep you warmer.

Can you sleep in a sleeping bag without a tent?

Sleeping bags are made for the outdoors but if you sleep without a tent you’ll expose yourself to a number of unpleasant things like insects, chilly winds, animals and so on so it’s not recommended that you sleep without a tent. But if you’re in your own backyard and you just want to lay there and stargaze, a sleeping bag will probably be great.
Are there sleeping bags for couples?

Is there sleeping bag for two people?

A single sleeping bag will not be big enough to fit two people and I don’t recommend you try it but sleeping bag manufacturers do make double bags specifically for people who are traveling together. Many of these bags are single bags that zip together to make one larger bag. Sleeping bags like this will keep you warmer and are great for car camping, backpacking and couples camping.