If you’re new to camping, picking the best car camping sleeping bag seems like an intimidating challenge. There are so many sizes, materials, rating systems, and details to weigh through. Good sleeping bags last for years, so you want to choose carefully. Fear not new camper, we’re here to help.
Our buyer’s guide will cover all aspects of sleeping bags you need to consider. We’ll show you what features are most important and how to pick a great bag for your camping adventures.
Picking a great sleeping bag isn’t rocket science, but you’ll want to think about how and where you’ll use your bag. We’ll compare all the best options, review popular sleeping bags, and cover the most essential features and characteristics found in the best car camping sleeping bags today.
Buyer’s Guide – What to Look for in a Sleeping Bag for Car Camping
Car Camping Bags versus Backpacking Bags
Car camping is a great way to explore the outdoors. It only requires a little equipment, just a tent, a car camping sleeping bag, and a mattress pad – but it opens up the door to so many great adventures and opportunities!
Sleeping bags designed for car camping vary from backpacking sleeping bags in a few ways. For one, they are less expensive and less compact. Since space and weight considerations are not the foremost importance to car campers, the bags can have more room to move around and can use bulkier fills.
Many bags are now classified as “hybrid sleeping bags”. These bags share qualities of both car camping and backpacking bags, meaning they are all-around multipurpose sleeping bags. These are the best camping sleeping bag if you aren’t sure how you are going to use the bag in the future and you want the biggest bang for your buck.
Finding the best sleeping bag for car camping is all about finding a balance of comfort, price, and your preferences.
What’s the Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Sleeping Bags?
Most car camping sleeping bags are rectangular, and not usually differentiated by gender. Instead, these bags are sold based on length, which corresponds to the sleeper’s height.
The most critical factor in finding the right sleeping bag for you is to make sure it is long enough. The bottom line is the best men’s sleeping bag for car camping will probably look a lot like the best sleeping bag for women.
Mummy style sleeping bags, mostly used for backpack camping, have different shapes and are sold separately for men or women. This allows the mummy bag to be form fitted for the camper so it can provide the best warmth possible.
Sleeping Bag Styles: Rectangular vs. Mummy
Sleeping bags are broken down into two main styles: rectangular and mummy. Rectangular sleeping bags are used for car camping while mummy sleeping bags are used for backpacking and frigid weather.
The best rectangle sleeping bag has a lot of space inside to move around. For car camping, where compactness is not the primary concern, rectangular bags can offer the most comfort, the most options, and the most value. An added benefit of rectangular bags is the ability to unzip the bag entirely and use it as a large blanket.
Mummy sleeping bags are more compact and fit the body snuggly. They also have the best insulation properties. Since they store more compactly than rectangular bags, they are the most popular choice for backpackers. Mummy bags are also an excellent option for campers who want to use their bags in different situations and colder conditions.
How Do Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating Systems Work?
Great sleeping bags are tested, and the manufacturers rate the bags based on the lowest temperature at which they should be used. These ratings apply a two-part “EN system.” The comfort rating tells you the ideal temperature for which the bag should be used. The limit rating tells you the lowest temperature at which a warm sleeper will feel comfortable, and a cold sleeper will start to feel chilly.
Unfortunately, while these rating systems have been standardized across manufacturers for camping and mummy style bags, car camping bag ratings are not necessarily standardized. Regardless, the manufacturer’s rating should be used as a rough guideline considering everyone’s sleeping temperature preference is different. First try to figure out what the absolute coldest temperature you’re likely to be camping in, take a few degrees lower and use it as a baseline to find the best travel sleeping bag for you.
The best travel sleeping bag for most people is a 20 degree sleeping bag, which is sufficient for recreational car camping during all but the coldest winter months. For winter camping, look for a 0 degree sleeping bag. For cold weather camping, you might want to consider a mummy-style bag since these retain heat a bit better than rectangular bags. In tropical locations and for summer outings when warmth is not a consideration, a lightweight and rectangular 70 degree sleeping bag is perfect for car camping on the beach.
Down Sleeping Bag Fill vs. Synthetic
The most significant difference between bags is the difference between the two types of fill used for insulation: down made from duck or goose feathers and synthetic fibers made from manmade materials. Down is lighter and warmer, and packs away smaller. As such, a mummy down sleeping bag is the choice of those needing to carry their bags great distances.
Unlike a small down sleeping bag, synthetic sleeping bag materials make them most likely to retain their temperature rating and insulating properties even if they get wet. The best synthetic sleeping bag is still going to be bulkier than a down bag, but they still offer an excellent value to buyers. Most bags you find for car camping are going to be filled with a synthetic material.
Down fill is usually reserved for expensive backpacking bags where buyers desire to save a few ounces in weight and a few inches in pack space. Manufacturers rate their best down sleeping bags with a down rating of fill power. The higher the fill rating, the more down is in the bag and more insulating power it has. This number is independent of the temperature ratings, so the best summer down sleeping bag with a temperature rating of 70 degrees and 500-fill bag will be larger and less bulky than an 850-fill bag, but will provide approximately the same amount of warmth. Top down sleeping bags come rated for every weather condition and available to fit any size sleeper.
Weight and Packability of car camping sleeping bag
For car camping, most people will only worry about the amount of space the bag takes up in the trunk of the car and how easy it is to move it from the closet to the car and back again. Since you’re not likely to travel much with it, super lightweight and super small packing sleeping bags aren’t the primary concern. This opens up a few more options and will save some money too.
It’s a good idea to check the packed dimensions before buying a sleeping bag. Large rectangular bags with synthetic fill can be surprisingly heavy and take up a lot of space. Be extra careful if you are considering an oversized bag or a double bag. Some large bags can weigh as much as ten pounds!
If you are looking for the lightest and most packable bag to fit in a small space, you’ll want to look at a mummy-style, packable down sleep bag. These bags work great for car camping or backpacking. The packable down sleeping bag will be more expensive than a synthetic bag, but will keep you warm on really cold nights and will last for years of camping fun.
Sleeping Bag Lining
Sleeping bag lining is the layer of the bag you’ll be in contact with the most, so it goes without saying that it’s worth finding a lining you like.
The top rated sleeping bags for camping have a flannel lining, which is warm and comfortable. It is also easily washed and durable. Flannel is heavier and less packable so you probably won’t find it in the most weight conscious backpacking bags. These bags will feature a lightweight polyester lining.
¾ Zip, Full Zip, No Zip Models of Car Camping Sleeping Bag
Manufacturers make many great sleeping bags designed in different ways, some with full zips, ¾ zips, and some with no zippers.
Depending on the design and your own flexibility, they can be either easy to get in and out of or require some camping yoga. Mummy sleeping bags typically have a ¾ zip design. A few manufacturers have a no-zip design, but this is relatively new and not too common. Both require some effort to wiggle in and out of.
Nothing beats the versatility of a full zip sleeping bag for camping. This camping sleeping bag can be completely unzipped and used as a blanket. Plus, it can be zipped together with another bag to make a double. Having these choices means you’ll find more uses for it, and that’s precisely what makes it the best travel sleeping bag. Bags with tough outer liners make great blankets for picnics or on the beach. With so many uses and options, it’s no wonder this style makes the best sleeping bag for camping.