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How to choose the right sleeping bag

Nothing beats climbing into a soft, warm sleeping bag after a big day outside. If you’re at the start of your journey to find a new sleeping bag, there can be a lot of specs and options that can make choosing a sleeping bag overwhelming.

Here are a couple of things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag:


The temperature rating of your sleeping bag is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag. The temperature rating of sleeping bags show you what lowest temperature you can use the sleeping bag in, while staying warm. If you're planning on camping mostly in the summer you might only want a sleeping bag that will keep you warm up to 1 degree C. If you think you'll be camping during shoulder season, you might want to consider a three season sleeping bag, which will typically keep you warm between between 1 to -10 degrees C. For winter camping in Canada, you'll want a sleeping bag that can handle temperatures as low as -18 to -30 degrees.


The weight of your sleeping bag is important if you're planning on backpacking. You'll want to choose the lightest sleeping bag you can for the warmth rating that you need. Typically down sleeping bags are lighter than synthetic ones.

Packed size

The packing size of sleeping bags matters for backpacking trips where you'll have limited space in your pack. Pay attention to the packing size when reviewing sleeping bag specs and make sure to review the photos that compare the packed size of the sleeping bag to other objects like drink bottles to get a good idea of how much space it will take up when it's packed.

Sleeping bag size

Most sleeping bags come in different size and fit options for both length and width, with some also coming in different options for women's and men's. Make sure to review them and choose the right size for you. You want your sleeping bag to fit snug, but not tight enough that you can't turn in it, for a comfortable and warm sleep.

Down or synthetic

Sleeping bags come in both down and synthetic insulation options. One of the more important decisions to make is whether you want down or synthetic insulation. Synthetic sleeping bags hold their loft if they get wet, stay warmer in damp conditions, and are easier on the wallet – but they are bulkier. Down sleeping bags are super compressible and have the highest warmth-to-weight ratio – but they’re more of an investment. If you're choosing a down sleeping bag, pay attention to the fill power. The fill power number tells you how much loft and insulating efficiency the down has, with higher numbers meaning better insulation and greater loft. You can also get hybrid sleeping bags that contain a combination of both down and synthetic materials.


There are plenty of different sleeping bag shapes and sizes to choose from. A mummy shaped sleeping bag tends to be the most lightweight due to the snug fit. Side sleeper? Check out roomier rectangular or barrel shaped sleeping bags. Double sleeping bags are ideal for couples camping, while quilts are popular with hikers or campers seeking an ultralight solution.

Check out more of our expert tips on how to choose a sleeping bag.

Whether you’re a new camper or backcountry pro, MEC has tons of trusted brands to choose from, like Big Agnes, Therm-a-Rest, Sea to Summit, The North Face and MEC (our own in-house line).