Although sleeping bags are a convenient option for campers, you do not need a sleeping bag to go camping; warm blankets from home can work just as well. Many people prefer a snug, lightweight sleeping bag as they are warm, easy to pack and take up less space. Bring along a thin sheet to use while sleeping on top of your sleeping bag if it is a warm night.
Warmth: Check out the bag’s temperature rating. Nearly all sleeping bags will list the temperature range they are designed for. Do you plan on winter camping? If not, you probably don’t need a -20◦C bag.
Feel the inside of the bag: You may prefer a flannel lining over the more common cotton or polyester.
Consider fill (insulation) type: Most sleeping bags are filled with down or synthetic insulation to keep you warm. Down is the best material from a warmth perspective but it will not work as well if it gets wet. Synthetic insulation works well but tends to break down over time.
Choose the shape that is right for you:
Rectangular bags are the most common choice. They can be zipped together with another bag for couples (make sure the bags are compatible). They are the most spacious option, but lose more heat and are less compact than other bags.
Mummy bags narrow towards the feet and have a hood, making them warmer. They are very warm and compact; however, some people find them restricting to sleep in.
Pro Tip: Always check the weather forecast before you leave on your trip. Note the daily lows and be sure to pack a sleeping bag or blanket that will keep you warm at night.
A mattress is an essential piece of camping equipment. They keep you comfortable and warm. Like tents, there are a wide variety of camping mattresses available.
Air beds (large air mattress): Very comfortable and come in an assortment of sizes. Can be covered with a fitted sheet from home for extra comfort. Downside: they need to be inflated, so you will need to purchase an air pump.
Self-inflating sleeping pads: These mattresses are compact, easy to pack and are self-inflating. Although they are not quite as comfortable as air beds, they are much smaller and lighter.
Closed-cell foam sleeping pad: This is a light and cost-effective option which gets you off the ground, but not it is not as comfortable as an air bed or self-inflating sleeping pad.
Sleeping cots: Cots are a more expensive option that will get you completely off the ground. Cots take up a lot of space and they are not needed if you have a good air mattress.