Last Updated on 04/08/2023
In this guide to the different types of sleeping bags, we share everything you need to know to become an expert on sleeping bag shapes and styles. You will learn the best type of sleeping bag for your needs and the needs of your partner, children, and even pets.
There’s a good chance you’re here because you saw the words ‘mummy sleeping bag’ and wondered what the heck that even means. You may be thinking to yourself if that’s the type of sleeping bag you should get or if a rectangular bag might be better. Today I am here to help you understand the different sleeping bag types and when they are right for the task at hand.
14 Types of Sleeping Bag Shape
Synthetic Sleeping Bags
Synthetic sleeping bags are the most common type of sleeping bag because they are cheap and efficient. You can get a brand new synthetic sleeping bag at Target for $10, while the same sleeping bag with a down fill would cost at least 5-10 times that. Another benefit of synthetic sleeping bag types is their water resistance and durability.
A good time to use a synthetic sleeping bag would be if you have a tight budget, or if you are camping in wet weather, or don’t care about weight or pack size. The downsides of synthetic sleeping bags are that they are heavier and more bulky than down sleeping bags. You can get some advanced synthetic down sleeping bags however you have to ask yourself if it’s not just worth getting the real thing.
- PROS: Cheap, durable, water-resistant
- CONS: Bulky, heavier than down
Down Sleeping Bags
Down sleeping bags are at the top of the pack with the best insulation, weight, and pack size among any kind of sleeping bag. They use the lofty down feathers from the underbelly of geese that live in extremely cold environments. There is nothing man has created that can match the benefits of down sleeping bags. However, they do have their Achilles heal.
Down sleeping bags are vulnerable to moisture and, if they get fully wet, can lose up to 90% of their heat-retaining properties. This is why you might see many that are hydrophobically treated and have a DWR coating on the shell.
- PROS: Lightweight, warm, compact, comfortable
- CONS: Expensive, vulnerable to moisture, not suitable for vegans
Mummy Sleeping Bags
Mummy sleeping bags are uniquely designed to contour closely to the shape of your body. Their tapered design, especially at the feet and head, offers an unparalleled thermal efficiency that keeps you warmer with less dead air space. However, for those who move a lot in their sleep, the close fit might feel restrictive and confining.
Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are the most popular among hikers, backpackers, and all-season campers. They are the best type of sleeping bag for most people, and no matter how much sleeping bags evolve over time, the mummy shape has not been improved upon yet.
The zippers and baffles on these bags also aid in heat retention. Ideal for backpacking, they are usually lighter due to less material used and compress well for packing. But if you’re claustrophobic or prefer ample room to toss and turn, these might not be your first choice.
- PROS: Warmth, pack size, weight
- CONS: Less internal space, frustrating for fidgety sleepers
Rectangle Sleeping Bags
Rectangular sleeping bags are considered to be a traditional type of sleeping bag now that the mummy shape has been widely adopted, but rectangle sleeping bags have a tonne of benefits if you aren’t bothered by the downsides. The rectangular shape provides roomy comfort to stretch out your arms and legs and doesn’t feel too different from sleeping in a single bed.
Some other benefits of the straight-edge design are that it can be opened up like a quilt or zipped together with another rectangular sleeping bag to create a double. Some people even call them an envelope-shaped sleeping bag when you use them with the zip fully open like a folded quilt. They are typically cheaper and lower-end than a purpose-built backpacking sleeping bag, with the exception of when they are filled with down insulation.
The lack of a tapered design means this type of sleeping bag might not hold heat as efficiently as mummy-shaped bags. They also weigh more and don’t pack down as small as your average mummy bag, which is why they are often used when car camping or on family trips. Another downside is that they don’t have a hood.
- PROS: Comfortable, spacious, versatile
- CONS: Heavier, larger pack size, no hood, not very heat efficient
Tapered Sleeping Bags With Hoods
Tapered sleeping bags with hoods look like a cross between a rectangle sleeping bag and a mummy sleeping bag. There is very little tapering but the hood gives it a much softer shape.
The hood addition to the rectangle design can be a game-changer. With the spaciousness of the rectangular shape, the hood ensures that warmth doesn’t escape from around the head—a critical area for heat retention. It also provides extra comfort when you don’t have a camping pillow. Being that heat loss and no hood are two of the cons of the standard rectangle shape, the addition of the hood helps solve both those problems.
Not many rectangular sleeping bags have hoods, so it is certainly a plus point for this kind of sleeping bag. You do have to accept the fact that the hood will add even more weight and pack size to an already large one. But if pack size and weight aren’t an issue for you, this type of sleeping bag is perfect for ‘comfort-first’ campers.
- PROS: Comfortable, spacious, versatile
- CONS: Heavier, larger pack size, can leave your feet feeling cool with so much dead space
Double Sleeping Bags
Double sleeping bags make camping as a couple way more fun. They are typically rectangular but can also have a tapered bottom, like an extra wide mummy sleeping bag. With two people sharing the same sleeping bag, you also benefit from the shared body heat and the ability to cuddle up on cold nights.
You can make a double sleeping bag from two single sleeping bags, but the way they fit together and the annoyingly cold zips aren’t as enjoyable as a nice double sleeping bag. A ready-fitted double is always more comfortable and less hassle. However, while they’re spacious and comfortable, they can be bulkier and heavier.
- PROS: Practical, shared body heat, ability to cuddle
- CONS: Has to be carried by one person, heavy, bulky
Sleeping Bag Quilts
Sleeping bag quilts are the ultralightweight backpackers’ new favorite type of sleeping bag because they can be combined with an insulated sleeping pad to minimize the weight as much as possible. They do not typically have hoods, and sometimes they don’t even have a zip. It is not uncommon for a sleeping bag quilt to have a couple of toggles to hold it together at the sides and then a drawstring to cinch up the bottom to make it into a bag,
Sleeping bag quilts are versatile and lighter than traditional bags however score the lowest on comfort. This is one sacrifice most through hikers are willing to make in order to save a couple of ounces. They’re particularly popular among hammock campers who can use them as an extra cover over their sleeping bag or as a hammock underquilt on the outside.
The drawback, however, is that they may not insulate as efficiently in colder temperatures. It’s essential to pair them with a good sleeping pad and ideally, some base layers you can sleep in.
- PROS: Ultralightweight, compact, versatile
- CONS: Require an insulated camping mat, no hood, very basic
2 Season/Summer Sleeping Bags
Summer sleeping bags, aka 2-season sleeping bags, are designed for the warmer months of the year when it isn’t expected to drop below 50°F at night. They are the most lightweight and packable type of sleeping bag after the ultralightweight range because they use the least amount of filling.
Summer sleeping bags prioritize ventilation and breathability over warmth and insulating features. They might have two-way zips so you can open the bottom half as well as the top half without ever fully unzipping it. Some also have vents on the top that can be opened at night without the risk of exposing yourself to mosquitos.
There are very few four-season sleeping bags that are cool enough to use in summer, so I suggest getting two sleeping bags instead of one. A summer sleeping bag for hot weather and a 3-4 season sleeping bag for the rest of the time.
- PROS: Lightweight, packable, breathable
- CONS: Can get cold at night
4-Season Sleeping Bags
4-season sleeping bags provide the warmth and insulating features to be used in the coldest months of the year. Of course, you need to check their temperature rating matches up to your intended camping locations, but for the most part, a 4-season sleeping bag will keep you warm below 0 degrees.
Despite the name suggesting that you can use a 4-season all year long, they are often far too warm to use in summer. The addition of vents and two-way zips can help to regulate the temperature inside the sleeping bag in warmer weather, but you will mostly want this type of sleeping bag for winter use. They are often made from down because they require so much insulation for the colder temperatures.
- PROS: Warm enough for winter camping
- CONS: Too warm for summer, heavy, large pack size
Water Resistant Sleeping Bags
Water-resistant sleeping bags are designed for some of the harshest conditions on earth, where if the sleeping bag insulation gets wet, it could cost you your life. The idea is the waterproof treatment, and sometimes even a GWS (Gore Wind Stopper) membrane prevents moisture from getting in. The only issue is that it also restricts any moisture from escaping, which can become a whole problem of its own.
I have tried a few different water-resistant sleeping bags, and although they are ridiculously warm and comfortable, I found that they got damp on the inside, even when sleeping indoors on a dry bed. I personally believe that hydrophobically treated down and maybe even the use of a bivvy bag would perform better without the sweatiness.
Synthetic sleeping bags are naturally water resistant and still work when wet, although if you dunk any sleeping bag underwater, it will get soaked, so it’s best not to test the waterproofness in the field. Most high-end sleeping bags will use a breathable DWR that protects the outer material without restricting breathability.
- PROS: Good for wet weather camping or camping without a sleeping pad
- CONS: Reduced breathability, very expensive for a GWS lined one
Ultralightweight Sleeping Bags
For backpackers, thru-hikers, and weight-conscious campers, getting the lightest camping gear is one of the highest priorities. Every ounce counts, and getting a lightweight sleeping bag vs a heavy one is the only thing that makes sense. Ultralight sleeping bags cater to this need, focusing on shedding weight while perhaps losing a bit of comfort or warmth.
They’re the minimalist’s choice made with lighter materials and often feature simpler designs without excessive features like pockets or full-length zips. However, you have to be careful not to go too lightweight that you compromise too much on durability or comfort. Ensure you check the temperature ratings and features to make sure it suits your trekking needs.
The most expensive lightweight sleeping bags do a very good job of reducing pack weight without having to accept a colder night’s sleep. They use the most premium down feathers from selected geese that weigh next to nothing. They also use advanced synthetic fibers for the shell and lining which allows them to be ultra-thin yet just as strong as a thicker material.
- PROS: Ultralightweight and packable, uses the best materials in the world
- CONS: Reduced comfort, fewer features, expensive
Womens Sleeping Bags
Women’s sleeping bags are specifically tailored to match the shape of a woman’s body and meet the physiological needs of women. Generally, women feel the cold more intensely than men, especially at the extremities like hands and feet. As a result, women’s bags often have more insulation around the middle and foot boxes of the sleeping bag. Something to be aware of is that the season rating for women sleeping bags is slightly different from those of unisex sleeping bags to account for the extra warmth needed.
Most of the best sleeping bags out there will have multiple variations, including a short, regular, and long, which will suit most people, but then they will also have a women’s version that is both shorter and warmer than the unisex regular. The good thing for the women out there is that this type of sleeping bag is often a little bit cheaper than the men’s version.
- PROS: Tailored fit, enhanced insulation, cheaper
- CONS: There is typically only one size fits all for women, so if you’re tall, you might be better with a unisex version
Youth Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags for teenagers and young children are just miniature versions of their adult counterparts. They are shorter and thinner to reduce the amount of unused space, which in turn makes them more thermally efficient for youths. Don’t expect the kind of high-performance features you would get on an adult sleeping bag, but again, just check for things like the temperature range and season rating to make sure it is warm enough.
- PROS: Cheap, practical, warmer for youths
- CONS: Generally low quality
Dog Sleeping Bags
Yes, dogs need sleeping bags too! When you take your furry friends camping in colder weather, they are going to need some kind of insulation to keep them warm. A dog bed would be ok in milder conditions; a couple of blankets would work, but the easiest type to carry is a dog sleeping bag. They are shaped like a dog bed with all the basic features of a sleeping bag, so you can open it up for them to lay in and then close it up once they are comfortable.
It’s best to get your dog used to sleeping in a sleeping bag at home by introducing it to their usual bed.
- PROS: Lightweight, compact, and practical, saves your own sleeping bag from getting covered in mud and fur
- CONS: One more thing to carry
Types of Synthetic Sleeping Bag Insulation
Synthetic sleeping bag insulation comes in many different forms and from many different manufacturers however, most of them are very similar. Here are some common types you may have heard of before:
- Hollow Fiber: These insulations have hollow fibers that trap warm air, making it a popular choice. They are generally bulkier and heavier than down but dry faster and provide insulation even when wet.
- Primaloft: A type of synthetic insulation known for its lightweight, compactness, and resistance to moisture. It’s often found in high-end sleeping bags due to its similar characteristics to down.
- Thermolite: This insulation type is made from special polyester fibers that are designed to be lightweight and trap more air for better insulation.
- Polyester Fiber: A common and affordable insulation choice, it’s less compact and heavier than Primaloft or down but provides decent warmth and is less affected by moisture.
Types of Down Sleeping Bag Insulation
Down sleeping bags are typically made using goose down or a combination of goose down and feathers. Duck down and feathers are lower quality, and so cost less, and then you can also get treated down and ethically sourced down. Here is what you’ll be looking at:
- Goose Down: The most common type of down insulation, goose down, is known for its high warmth-to-weight ratio and great compressibility. It’s rated by fill power, with higher numbers (like 700, 800, 900) indicating better quality and warmth.
- Duck Down: Generally less expensive than goose down, duck down is still warm and compressible, though it may not achieve the same high fill power ratings as goose down.
- Water-Resistant Down: This is down that has been treated to resist water. It retains loft better in damp conditions than untreated down and dries faster when wet.
- Ethically-Sourced Down: With growing awareness of animal welfare, many brands now ensure their down is sourced ethically, meaning birds are not live-plucked or force-fed.
What to Look for In a Sleeping Bag
Instead of looking at the many different shapes and sizes of sleeping bags to decide which type is best for you, you should decide which features are the most important and then look for a style of sleeping bag that matches your requirements. Here are some of the most basic things we think about when deciding which sleeping bag to use:
Arguably the most crucial factor in a sleeping bag, warmth ensures you’re insulated against the cold outside. If you can’t stay warm at night then good luck getting any sleep when you cant stop shivering. The bag’s warmth will be determined by its insulation type (down vs. synthetic) and its temperature rating. Always opt for a rating slightly colder than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter.
Beyond just keeping you warm, a sleeping bag should also be comfortable. This encompasses its inner lining material, spaciousness, and any added padding. Some people prefer a roomier rectangular shape, while others might opt for the snug fit of a mummy bag.
I personally prioritize a big comfortable hood that keeps my head warm and acts as a pillow. Also, I like a full-length zip so I can stick my feet out to regulate the temperature.
This refers to the dimensions of the bag when it’s unrolled and ready for use. Consider your height and body build. Taller individuals might need a longer bag, while broader folks might require something wider. You can often get sleeping bags in a small, regular, or tall version, and you don’t need to be generous by allowing lots of extra room. Pick a size that fits.
For backpackers and hikers, every ounce counts. The weight of your sleeping bag can make a significant difference in your overall pack weight. Down bags tend to be lighter than synthetic ones, but newer synthetic materials are bridging the weight gap. In summer, you can get away with ultralightweight bags under a kilogram, but in the colder months, you will be looking at a sleeping bag that weighs anywhere from 1-2 kg for the more lightweight options.
How compactly can the sleeping bag be compressed when not in use? This is essential for those with limited backpack space. Down sleeping bags usually compress smaller than their synthetic counterparts. Check out this guide to the smallest sleeping bags when packed for more info about this.
The choice of materials affects warmth, weight, and comfort. While down offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility, synthetic materials are typically more moisture-resistant and might be more budget-friendly. We have a lot of articles covering this if you scroll through our sleeping bag articles.
Sturdy, snag-free zips are a must. Some sleeping bags come with double zippers allowing for ventilation at the feet. The zipper’s placement (side or center) and whether it runs the full length or only partway can also affect your sleeping experience. Something I always recommend looking for is YKK zips which are the best in the business and a good signal you have a solid sleeping bag.
A good hood can trap heat around your head, keeping you significantly warmer and more comfortable. Some hoods are ergonomically shaped or come with drawstrings to adjust the fit which are the best for trapping in body heat. I am not a fan of sleeping bags without hoods. However, the benefit is that you can toss and turn as much as you like without getting the bag all twisted.
Additional features might include internal pockets for valuables, draft collars and zip baffles to seal in warmth, and sleeping pad loops to prevent your pad from shifting. Some might also have a differential cut, meaning the inner lining is cut smaller than the outer layer, ensuring the insulation is evenly distributed without cold spots.
We will constantly be adding to this guide for the different types of sleeping bags, so let us know if you can think of any we missed,