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Choosing a Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags come in various fabrics, constructions, temperature ratings, sizes and weights. Having a basic understanding of these factors should help you to choose the most suitable sleeping bag for your particular requirements.

Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating

On all Terra Nova Equipment sleeping bags and other good quality bags, there will be an indication on the bag packaging showing the temperature ratings. Comfort temperature and extreme temperature are the ratings that the bag is capable of. You should note that depending on where you are going and what time of the year you are using the bag, it will be very important that you choose a suitable temperature-rated bag. For example, if the comfort rating on a bag is labelled as 5 degrees, this will most likely not be suitable for a harsh UK winter camp where temperatures may reach below zero.

If you’re unsure, ask your retailer what bag you might need for your particular set of circumstances.

When thinking about temperatures, it’s also important to consider what will be underneath your sleeping bag. Remember what you are sleeping on will be as important as what you are sleeping in. This is because the cold can travel up from the ground into your back.

Fabrics and fillings

There are two kinds of sleeping bag filling – down and Synthetic. The benefits of down are that it will be considerably lighter and most likely warmer. It’s important to look at the fill ratio too, which indicates the quality of the down in the sleeping bag. For example, Terra Nova Laser 900 sleeping bags use exceptionally high quality down with 95/5 filling. This means the down is made up of 95% plume and 5% feathers. Lower quality bags may use less plume and more feathers.

Synthetic bags may be slightly cheaper and can offer good warmth too, but they are generally heavier. For those who are carrying their sleeping bag for any length of time, it’s usually advisable to go for a down-filled sleeping bag rather than a synthetic filling.


Some high-quality sleeping bags use what is known as baffle construction. Baffles are thin strips of fabric sewn between the inside and the outside of the sleeping bag, to give each compartment depth. This allows the down to reach maximum loft and therefore, maximum thermal performance. It also eliminates cold spots which can be caused by sewn-through construction. The sewn-through construction method is simpler but can lead to cold spots.

Always consider a sleeping bag with a good hood, as this will keep your head warm during the night. This is extremely important to minimise heat loss from the body.

To Summarise

When conducting your research for the most suitable sleeping bag, ask yourself “where am I going to take it?” and “in what weather will I be using it in?”. This will ensure that for your own safety, you get a bag that is going to keep your body warm enough. Then consider the pack size and weight if you plan to carry it. Your final choice should come down to a compromise on achieving the lowest weight and pack size you can, against the most suitable temperature rating for your particular requirement. Generally, as the temperature rating of the bag lowers, the pack size and weight increase.

If you’re unsure about which sleeping bag is right for you, we’re here to help, so do contact us for further advice.