Sleeping Bags

Since our first sleeping bag design back in the mid-70s for an expedition to the Patagonian mountains of South America, we have embraced innovation. In fact, we brought a number of technical design ‘firsts’ to Australia and the world, changing sleeping bag manufacture across the globe and stamping us as leaders in the outdoor industry. Our commitment to excellence in construction and design continues, and we offer a variety of down sleeping bags with different loft ratings, enabling you to get a bag to match perfectly your requirements of weight, durability, size and warmth. We also have a wide range of synthetic sleeping bags in various styles and colours, offering different benefits to ensure a good night’s sleep. Whichever bag you choose, rest easy with the quality and fit-for-purpose functionality of a Mountain Designs sleeping bag.

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1. What sleeping bag should I choose?

Choosing the right sleeping bag for your outdoor adventures comes down to several factors including:

Warmth - Match the temperature rating of your sleeping bag with the temperature range that you're likely to be sleeping in. This will ensure that you have the right insulation for the conditions to trap your body heat effectively. You need to be warm enough if it gets cold, but on the flip side you don't need a top of the range alpine sleeping bag for a hot, summer night.

Insulation Type - Down is by far the superior insulating fill when compared to synthetic materials, as it is lightweight, compressible and highly thermally-efficient. However, apart from hydrophobic-treated down, moisture can cause down to clump and reduce its ability to insulate. For humid or wet conditions, a synthetic insulated sleeping bag may be preferable.

Thermal-Efficiency - Insulation itself won't warm you up but rather it will help to trap your body heat within the sleeping bag. Any openings in the bag will allow heat to escape so certain design features are incorporated to minimise this. 3D hood designs and hood tightening systems enhance head and neck comfort and allow you to trap warmth effectively. A draft tube of insulation may be used along the main zip opening to cover the zip and help prevent heat from escaping through. Similarly, a face baffle that runs around the edge of the hood opening will seal the sleeping bag around your face.

Shape - The shape of the sleeping bag can drastically impact its thermal efficiency. The three main shapes available are rectangular, tapered and mummy. The most basic sleeping bags are rectangular-shaped, being designed for general use as they have plenty of room inside for movement and can be unzipped and opened out flat. The down side to this shape is that there is a lot of excess space around your body that reduces thermal efficiency. The tapered shape is designed to minimise this excess space while still providing some room to move. The tapered shape is the most common as it is much more versatile and thermally efficient. The mummy-shaped sleeping bag is designed to remove as much excess space as possible without making you feel claustrophobic. Mummy-shaped bags are used in technical sleeping bags where thermal efficiency is a priority.

Durability - The materials used to make your sleeping bag should be soft to maximise comfort but they also need a certain level of durability to handle outside conditions and use. The best sleeping bag will be made from a ripstop fabric, and use high quality stitching techniques in the construction to optimise wear.

Functional Design - A footbox with a separate zip gives you the option to open the bottom end of the bag for lower leg ventilation and air flow, or even completely unzip the bag and use it like a blanket. When left-hand and right-hand side zip options are offered, this compatibility allows two sleeping bags to be zipped together to be used like a double sleeping bag. Built-in pillow pockets and internal stash pockets are also handy extras.

Weight - A lightweight sleeping bag doesn't seem that relevant when you're lying down but during the day when its packed up and stowed in your backpack, this will be important. Your sleeping bag should also be highly compressible, so you don't use up too much packing space either.

2. What are the best sleeping bags for cold weather?

The best sleeping bag delivers the warmth required to keep you comfortable in the climatic conditions you are sleeping in on your outdoor adventures. This is primarily determined by the temperature. Each design in our wide range of sleeping bags has been crafted to a specific temperature range that it will perform best in, known as the temperature rating of the sleeping bag. The temperature rating comprises three measurements:

  • 'T Comfort' value, which refers to the lowest temperature at which a standard user can expect to sleep comfortably in a relaxed body position, such as lying on their back.
  • 'T Limit' value, which refers to the lowest temperature at which a standard user can expect to sleep in a curled body position and remain asleep.
  • 'T Extreme' value, which refers to the lowest temperature at which a standard user can survive in when using the sleeping bag.

Unless you are using your sleeping bag in extreme conditions (such as an alpine expedition), the rating to look for when choosing your sleeping bag will generally be the T Limit. To learn more about the temperature rating of a sleeping bag, and how these ratings are determined, read on here.

If you think you may need further warmth, a sleeping bag liner can be used for additional insulation and softness. It will also help to maximise the life of your bag or sleeping mat by protecting them from external damage.

3. What materials are sleeping bags made of?

The three major construction components of a sleeping bag include:

Fill - Sleeping bags are typically described by the insulation they contain. A down sleeping bag contains down insulation that is made from goose or duck down, the lofty, fluffy layer found underneath the feathers and predominantly around the chest area. It is commonly mistaken for the feathers but in actual fact is the bird's undercoat, effectively a natural mid-layer. Synthetic sleeping bags on the other hand contain synthetic microfibres made of polyester threading, which is moulded into long single threads or short staples to mimic lofty down clusters. There are a few differences between the two fill types but fundamentally, down has a better warmth-to-weight ratio. This means that ounce for ounce, it is warmer than synthetic. It also retains its shape and loft very well, and is highly compressible, making it easy to pack away and store while outdoors.

Outer Shell - The outer shell should be made from a ripstop fabric (usually nylon) which is hard-wearing and can handle scrapes and abrasions. It will often be treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish as well, to keep light rain and mist from affecting the fill if you're hiking and camping in inclement weather.

Lining - Like the outer shell, the lining is usually a nylon that is durable enough to ensure the fill remains protected. It will also be a bit lighter and softer, for comfort against the skin.

4. Which sleeping bags are lightweight?

As an insulator, down has a better warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic fill meaning that per gram, down is warmer. Because of this, a down sleeping bag can use less fill to achieve the same temperature rating, and will therefore be lighter than a synthetic sleeping bag of the same temperature rating. So if you want a lightweight sleeping bag for hiking and camping, look to our wide range of down sleeping bags for comfort, protection and above all else, lightweight warmth.

5. How should you store your sleeping bag?

Storing your sleeping bag correctly will help to maintain its performance as well as improve its overall lifespan. To start with, you should keep it in a cool, dry place, and uncompressed - either in its storage sack or by hanging it up. This helps to keep the insulation spread evenly, and maintain its loft. You should also ensure it is completely dry before you store it.

6. What are sleeping quilts?

From campsites to couches, and bushwalks to backpacking, a sleeping quilt offers versatility and freedom of movement. Its clever design - an innovative looping system that allows you to tie it down over a mattress, or easily convert it to a lightweight sleeping bag - makes it truly multi-purpose. For simple comfort, you can throw a sleeping quilt over yourself like a blanket, draw it in around your feet or wrap it around yourself completely.

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