Camping 101 - Choosing The Right Winter Sleeping Bag

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While many people prefer camping when the weather is mild, there are others who are interested in sleeping underneath the stars during all seasons including winter. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is important that you prepare well before getting a sleeping bag. In case you are not familiar with the process of selecting a bag that is fitting for the winter season, here is all of the information you will need to make an informed decision.

Temperature Ratings

The temperature rating of a sleeping bag refers to the lowest temperature at which you will be warm when you are inside. Bear in mind that these ratings are calculated under the assumption that you will be using a sleeping pad and wearing warm clothing. If either of those factors is not present, there will be a variable. In addition, everyone does not get cold at the same rate, which means that a bag that is perfect for one camper may not be ideal for others.

Since you are looking to camp in winter, make sure that the bag you select has a rating of 10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This means that you will be prepared when the temperature drops in the evening and it is time to sleep.


The kind of material that is used in the construction of a sleeping bag will have a direct bearing on the warmth and comfort experienced by the user. There are 3 insulation types that are used fairly often and they each have their pros and cons.

  • Synthetic

These are usually made of polyester and they provide a good amount of protection from the cold while managing to be rather cost-effective. The main issue people have with these is that the material is fairly bulky, which makes it a little difficult to carry around.

  • Goose Down

While these are more expensive than synthetic options, many people forge ahead and buy them because they tend to be warmer. They also last a fairly long time and will not have to be replaced as often as other bag types. The main problem with this kind of sleeping bag is the fact that they protect you from the cold, but they don’t offer much protection once they are wet.

  • Water-Resistant Down

This is a goose down insulation that has been treated so that it will stave off moisture. They are a great choice because you will be able to stay warm even if it is snowing and/or raining and your bag gets a bit wet. The downside to this option is the fact that it is more expensive than the other two.

Sleeping Bag Shape

Many do not realize this, but the shape of a sleeping bag plays a role in how warm you will be. If you are in a traditional, rectangular bag that has plenty of room to breathe, it will not be as warm as something that wraps you up like a mummy. Yes, being constricted can be a bit bothersome, but it means that you will be warmer when you are out on your winter camping trip.

Hooded Bags

There are some bags that come with a built-in hood so you can cover your head while you sleep. Since much of your body heat is released from your head, keeping it covered means that you will have better control over staying warm when the temperature is lower than normal. While it might seem like wearing a hat is enough, you should still consider getting this type of bag for an added layer of warmth and protection from the elements.

The Lining

You should seek out a bag that will allow the moisture collected from your body overnight to roll away without soaking into the fabric. As most people know, when you are wet, it makes you colder than ever, which is why your main goal needs to be staying as dry as possible. Which is why you should check out our article on how to keep your tent dry in the rain.

The Cost

Just because a manufacturer is charging more than usual for a sleeping bag, that is no guarantee that it will be the best option available to fit your needs. Keep in mind that those meant to protect against colder temps will be more, but they do not have to be so much that it will put you in a financial lurch. On the flip side, you do not want to be so eager for a discount that you purchase something that is bad quality. The best thing to do is to figure out all of the other aspects, like material and water-resistance before worrying about the price.

Double Bags

This is another good option for people who plan to go camping in the winter. Not only will you have the warmth from the bag itself, but you will also be in close physical contact with another person and body heat is a great way to stay toasty. There are some bags that are technically considered double bags and they are essentially two bags that are meant to be zipped together. While they may provide a little more heat since you will be close to someone else, it will not provide the same level of added warmth as the larger bag that is meant for two.

One cool hack is to take two bags that are meant to be zipped together and roll yourself into them. The additional bag will act as a blanket and cover you more than you would be if you were only using one bag.

The Brand

This may not mean a great deal to some, but others take this really seriously. In many cases, the quality matters the most, but there are some brands that are known for offering great products and they should be considered above others. As with price, this factor should be considered after all of the more important factors, like size and fabric. You do not want to get so caught up in choosing the brand that you allow other factors to fall to the wayside.

Size Matters

There are some sleeping bags that are meant for people of average weight and height, yet there are others that were made to accommodate those who are larger than usual. Consider this when you are in the market for a new bag. You do not want to buy a bag that is so big you will feel like you are rolling around in it. That will give cool winds all of the space they need to come in and make things chilly. While you do not want things to be so cozy that you are uncomfortable, you should aim for something that is fitting to your size.

Do not worry if you are smaller than usual. There are bags out there that were made for children. You can buy one of these if you notice the adult ones are not small enough to accommodate you.


In order to be as warm as possible when you are inside of your sleeping bag, it is a good idea for you to purchase a liner. Not only will this offer you a softer place to sleep, but it will hold in more heat than sleeping without one. Keep in mind that many people sweat a lot when they are in a liner and a bag, which leads to excess moisture. This is why you should try to vent your bag a bit so it will not be so stifling. You will find this useful in the morning when you get up since you will not be soaking wet and forced to get out of the bag and into the cold.

It is not necessary for the liner you buy for your bag to be the same brand as the bag itself. This is an added expense that some would rather not have to deal with and it is not necessary. All that matters is that it is made from an insulating material that will keep you as warm as possible.

This may seem like a lot for someone to go through in order to get a bag, but you do not want a lack of knowledge to lead to you purchasing a bag that is not appropriate for the winter season. This can lead to some very arctic nights if you choose to go camping in the winter. Keep in mind that there are so many bags available on the market that it may be a little overwhelming, but taking your time and considering all of the information here will make the process a bit easier.

While it may take you some time to find the perfect bag, once you do, it will be more than worth the investment of time and money. You probably already knew how to choose a bag that you use for an average camping trip on a decent day, but now you know how to find one that will protect you from the elements when you are out exploring during colder months.

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