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 customers to choose the most suitable sleeping bag for their particular requirements.

Temperature Rating

On all Terra Nova sleeping bags, and also on other good quality bags, there will be an indication on the bag packaging showing the ‘comfort temperature’ and ‘extreme temperature’ that the bag is capable of going down to. 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 and the ‘extreme’ is labelled 0 degrees, this will most likely not be suitable for a harsh UK winter camp where temperatures may reach below zero.

If you’re not sure, 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, as the cold can travel up from the ground in to your back!

Fabrics and filling

There are two kinds of sleeping bag filling in the main – 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’ to which indicates the quality of the down in the sleeping bag. For example, Terra Nova Laser 900 sleeping bags use am exceptionally high quality down with ’95/5′ filling – which means the down is made up of 95% plume and 5% feathers. Lower quality bags may use less plume and more feather.

Synthetic bags may be slightly cheaper and can offer good warmth too, but they are usually heavier. For those who are carrying their sleeping bag for any length of time therefore, it’s usually advisable to go for a down filled sleeping bag as opposed to 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’. 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 which is extremely important to minimise heat loss from the body.

In Summary

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, for your own safety, you get a bag which is going to keep your body warm enough. Then consider the pack size and weight, if you plan to carry it. You 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.