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Sleeping Bag Buying Guide

Sleeping Bag Buying Guide

Using the right sleeping bag can make the difference between an unforgettable experience in the mountains, or one you would rather forget.

Get it right from the start with our comprehensive sleeping bag buying guide.

You’ve never slept better

At Rab, we always start with the activity and conditions before working backward to the product.

Before reading this guide, consider whether you need a sleeping bag for summer camping, a multi week bikepacking trip or to get a good night's sleep in a snowhole.

Wherever you find your night's sleep, we have sleeping bag for you. 

Sleeping bag basics

Sleeping bag basics

Sleeping bags were first manufactured as far back as 1889 in Norway. From their humble beginnings, they have developed into an effective sleeping system for remote environments.

Sleeping bags were first manufactured as far back as 1889 in Norway. From their humble beginnings, they have developed into an effective sleeping system for remote environments.

Modern sleeping bags are filled with down insulation, either using duck, goose down, or synthetic fill. Sleeping bags come in many shapes and sizes. There is not a one-size-fits-all bag on the market that adapts for both summer, and winter use. Many users either have two bags, or compromise with a bag that sits in the middle of the temperature range.

Modern sleeping bags are filled with down insulation, either using duck, goose down, or synthetic fill. Sleeping bags come in many shapes and sizes. There is not a one-size-fits-all bag on the market that adapts for both summer, and winter use. Many users either have two bags, or compromise with a bag that sits in the middle of the temperature range.

What’s the forecast?

A sleeping bag is only as effective as your camping pad

It is a common misconception that your sleeping bag will keep you warm from top to bottom.

Why? The part of your body making contact with the ground compresses the down beneith you significantly reducing its heat retention.

This is because the down is only effective when puffed up (lofted). It’s the air trapped in the down filled baffles that retains your body heat and keeps you warm. That's also why wet down doesn't perform well, as it loses its loft. You can counteract this heat loss from the underside of your bag with a sleep mat. 

You can read our sleeping mat buying guide to learn more about our sleep mat range and their benefits.

Camping in mild weather, Solar Eco sleeping bag picturedCamping in mild weather, Solar Eco sleeping bag pictured

Mild Weather 2 Season Bag

Summer backpacking trips and warm weather bivis in the mountains require a reliable, durable sleeping bag that’s designed for warmer months.

The best features for a mild weather 2 season bag are:

- Duck down fill, offering excellent value for the weight and warmth of the bag

- Durable water-resistant fabrics, designed to repel condensation from your tent

- Full length zips, for easy access in and out of the bag

Camper keeping warm with Solar Ultra in alpine conditionsCamper keeping warm with Solar Ultra in alpine conditions

Changeable Weather 3 Season Bag

From long mountain hikes to bikepacking in changable weather. A 3 season bag is essential for autumn and spring

The best features for a 3 season bag are:

- Goose down and lightweight outer fabrics so your bag takes up less room in your pack

- Tougher outer fabrics designed to keep up with the days, weeks, and even months of use and abuse

- Half zips to help further reduce the weight of the sleeping bag

Mountaineers camping in cold, high-alpine conditionsMountaineers camping in cold, high-alpine conditions

Severe Weather 4 Season Bag

Getting a great night's sleep in the most inhospitable of environments can be a challenge. Yet, with the right sleeping bag to keep you warm against the elements, you can still sleep well in sub-zero temperatures.

The best features for an expedition sleeping bag are:

- Water repellent fabrics & down designed to reduce condensation and the possibility of down freezing

- Chevron style baffles designed to maximise down distribution across the bag

- Filled with a high quality of goose down for optimal warmth in extreme arctic or high altitude climates

Want to see behind the scenes and find out more about fill power and hydrophobic down? Head over to the Rab Lab.

What’s your mountain pursuit?

You know the conditions you'll be sleeping in. Now, what adventure are you going on?

Different mountain sports will determine the levels of warmth, durability and weight required. It is however worth noting that some of our sleeping bag ranges, such as our Neutrino and Ascent bags, have models suitable for 2-4 season use.

Climbers on a portaledge in summer, Neutrino sleeping bag picturedClimbers on a portaledge in summer, Neutrino sleeping bag pictured

Summer camping and bivis

Summer bivis and weekend camping trips require a well designed sleeping bag crafted with reliable fabrics to give you peace of mind on your summer esccape. 

What makes a great summer camping sleeping bag?

- Durable outer fabric designed for the wear and tear of fun weekends away camping or sleeping out under the stars

- A wide comfortable fit with a full-length zipper so the bag does not restrict your movement

- Supplied with a stuff sack for easy storage

- Made with hydrophobic down and using recycled fabrics where possible to reduce the impact of the bag

 

Multi-day trekker carrying sleep mat and camping equipmentMulti-day trekker carrying sleep mat and camping equipment

Multi day trekking & bikepacking

If multi day trekking preoccupies your free time, you need a sleeping bag to keep up with the relentless demands of the trail. Compromise is the key word here. Your bag must balance performance, durability, and warmth.

What to look out for in a sleeping bag for self-propelled adventures?

- Lightweight yet durable outer fabric designed for life on the move

- Down that perfectly balances low weight, high warmth, and effective compression

- Features such as half zips, internal storage pockets, and glow in the dark zip pulls designed to make life in remote environments easier

- Hydrophobic down filling to resist moisture build-up from condensation and wet conditions

Mountain runners with ultralight sleeping bagsMountain runners with ultralight sleeping bags

Fast & light adventures

Ultra-distance adventures are ceaseless in their demands. You need a steadfast mindset to push you through the next mile and gear that doesn’t hold you back. Our fast and light sleeping bags are designed with ultra-distance challenges and fast and light ascents in mind. Designed to offer competitive ultralight warmth to weight credentials, while not compromising on key features.

What makes a great sleeping bag for fast & light adventures?

- Weight saving chevron baffle designs which help to reduce down movement within the baffle and maximise core warmth

- Simple, but effective features such as an adjustable neck baffle for decreased heat loss

- Heat reflective Thermo Ionic Lining Technology (TILT), designed to reflect heat back onto your body

Mountaineer camping in cold conditionsMountaineer camping in cold conditions

Mountaineering

Whether you're sleeping in a snow hole in Scotland or traversing from hut to hut while making ascents of 4000m peaks in the Alps, you need a sleeping bag designed for cold mountainous conditions. With a heritage in crafting down gear for the mountains, we know the formula for an excellent mountaineering sleeping bag.

What should you look out for in a sleeping bag to keep you warm in cold environments?

- Built to last with durable water repellent outer fabrics designed to keep moisture away from the down

- Filled using high quality graded goose or duck down to achieve an excellent warmth to weight ratio

- Baffles constructed with a trapezoidal box wall construction to maximise loft and warmth while limiting down movement 

Expedition members huddle at campExpedition members huddle at camp

Expedition

Having the right equipment on high altitude or polar expedition trips is non-negotiable. A sleeping bag designed to keep you warm in these extremes is an essential part of your expedition equipment.

What should I look for in a sleeping bag for extreme cold?

- Crafted to offer warmth and protection in the most extreme conditions, from polar environments to 8000m peaks.  

- Slightly oversized construction to accommodate larger Expedition clothing

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between goose down and duck down?

You will notice some of our sleeping bags feature duck down, while others feature goose down.  
Both offer a high-quality warmth to weight ratio, yet there’s some differences between them. Duck down isn’t as fine as goose down. Whereas goose down is finer and lighter, resulting in sleeping bags that are be filled with less, lighter weight down for the same available level of warmth.  

Find out more in the Rab Lab

What does fill power mean?

Fill power is a grading system for duck and goose down. Essentially the heavier feathers have a lower fill power, and the finer, lighter feathers have a higher fill power. The heavy feathers will take up more space in a sleeping bag’s baffles, trap less air and offer less warmth for their comparative weight. The light feathers take up less space, are lighter and offer much better warmth for their weight.

You can find out more in the Rab Lab

Is your down responsibly sourced?

All of our virgin down is certified to the Responsible Down Standard. You can learn more about what this means here.

What is hydrophobic down?

Hydrophobic down is down treated with a hydrophobic treatment that resists water, while maintaining the insulating properties of your down gear.  

Find out more in the Rab Lab

Can I buy a recycled sleeping bag?

Although none of our bags are made of fully recycled components, we do use recycled face fabrics. For example, our Outpost and Ascent models feature a recycled Pertex Quantum outer fabric, while our Solar synthetic bags feature a recycled outer fabric, and synthetic fill.

What does fluorocarbon-free DWR mean anyway?

Durable water repellent (DWR) coatings are applied to fabrics to encourage water to bead and roll off. This keeps the fabric free from standing water, preventing it from wetting out. We’re trying our best to find high performance, fluorocarbon-free solutions that have a lower environmental impact. These DWRs are made of a different chemical compound and although they don’t have the same oil repellency as their fluorocarbon-based counterparts, they deliver the water resistant or waterproof performance you need. Regular reproofing will prolong their efficiency and extend the life of your sleeping bag.

Can I wash my sleeping bag?

Washing down gear is a great way to maintain its loft and performance and prolong its life. You should use a specialist wash and proofer, following our instructions, or get them washed professionally. Find out more about the wash services and products we offer at the Service Centre.

Know your MVTR, from your hydrostatic head? Your boxwall baffle, from your stitch-through?