If you’re going to be going car camping, it stands to reason that you’ll have a lot more space and weight to play with than if you were using public transport or going backpacking. Many car campers make use of small trailers and roof boxes (or bags) to expand the space they have to carry gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and cooking gear.
When it comes to sleeping bags, this is great news as your extra space and weight allowance will make it easier to carry bigger and bulkier bags!
For car camping, the best sleeping bag is one that can handle your main season camping needs and is rated at 0 Celcius or above. These are usually three-season sleeping bags.
Most campers prefer to use an envelope-style synthetic sleeping bag for car camping. This design provides more room without the bulk of traditional mummy-style sleeping bags, as well as an extra foot box area that makes it easier to move your feet around inside the bag.
How To Choose A Good Quality Sleeping Bag For Car Camping
There are two main factors to consider when choosing the best sleeping bag for car camping; cost and price. If you plan on roughing it out in the open country, you will probably want to spend more on a quality sleeping bag. If you’re just going camping in summer for a weekend away with the kids, you could probably get away with a cheaper sleeping bag.
When choosing a sleeping bag for car camping, you should consider the following features:
Insulation: When sleeping in a sleeping bag in cold conditions, you will want to make sure the insulation is designed to keep you warm. The more expensive synthetic (or down) bags will provide better insulating properties than cheaper bags providing lighter weight.
Weight: When car camping, you will want to make sure that your bag is one that is suitable for the conditions you will be using it in. An envelope synthetic bag can weigh more than 1.5 kilograms, this may be fine if you’re car camping, but if you’ll be doing some backpacking and wild camping too it might be too heavy for you to carry.
Stuff Sack: Packing your sleeping bag down after you’ve used it is always tricky. You’ll want to choose a bag that has the best stuff sack possible so you can throw it in your car without too much effort.
Other Sleeping Bag Considerations
Synthetic sleeping bags usually have a rating of 0 degrees Celsius or -10 degrees Fahrenheit, which is exactly what you want if venting an outdoor shelter or spending time in the wild. Down sleeping bags tend to come in four ratings of 10, 20, 30 and 40 degrees.
It’s a good idea to have a lighter bag for summer and a much warmer bag for spring, autumn and winter; you can even add a sleeping bag liner in the colder months for extra insulation. This way you can use the same sleeping bag for most of the year.
This rating also shows in the sleeping bag’s packaging. The more fabric in the design, the warmer you will feel in cold conditions. A 4-season bag will be made of a lot of different materials, whereas a 2-season bag will be made of one material with only a few insulation fillings added.
In the UK, it’s usually best to go with a 3 or 4 season sleeping bag as our summers are not known to be very hot for very long. If you were camping abroad in Europe for example, you may want to consider going for a 2 season sleeping bag for summer and perhaps even autumn (fall) camping.
The Sleeping Bag Fabric
On average, an expensive 3-season bag will be made of durable nylon fabric with a down-like filling inside. An expensive 4-season bag will be made of tougher fabrics and will have even more fillings to keep you warm in the coldest conditions.
Some of the warmer and bulkier sleeping bags have a fleece type liner inside the bag. These are necessary for cold conditions when you need to add extra insulation without adding too much weight. It’s important to remember that they will add bulk, so you’ll need to organise your car packing accordingly.
When comparing different sleeping bags, it’s important to find out what fabric it’s made from, because some are better at resisting water than others. Nylon bags are good at resisting water, whereas cotton bags are not.
You’ll need to check that your sleeping bag has been treated with a waterproofing agent before you buy it. You can always use Nikwax to help improve the water resistance of your bag during its lifetime.
If you’re camping with kids, having waterproof sleeping bags is especially helpful in case of any accidents during the night or spills during the day.
Lastly the colour. You may not think that the colour of your sleeping bag makes much difference, but if everyone in your family has the same sleeping bag it might be helpful to get them in different colours so you can easily differentiate when it comes to getting them out the car.
If your chosen sleeping bags only come in one colour, a coloured carabiner hooked on the stuff sack handle. Even a piece of coloured fabric around the handle will do the job nicely.
Synthetic Sleeping Bags vs Down Sleeping Bags
Down sleeping bags are usually more expensive than synthetic. This is why many campers opt for synthetic insulation, but it doesn’t mean that synthetic is always the best.
There are pros and cons to both synthetic and down sleeping bags, depending on your preferences. Synthetic insulation is not as warm as down but does provide better durability when wet and it dries faster.
Down-like fillings such as goose down and duck down cost more than synthetic fillings such as polyester and Primaloft – a high-loft synthetic filling that is water-resistant. Synthetics also last longer than natural down and don’t require special care and cleaning methods.
If you’re looking for a sleeping bag that will keep you warm in the winter months, it’s best to go with traditional fillings such as down or goose down. If you are looking for a restful night’s sleep in the summer, it might be best to opt for synthetic insulation.
Do You Need a Sleeping Pad for Car Camping?
The answer to this question depends on your comfort and personal preferences. If you’re car camping, then you’re not so concerned about weight. This means that the key thing that you need to think about is how you will be able to sleep comfortably on hard ground. A good night’s sleep doesn’t need anything too expensive.
At the same time, it’s important not to compromise on comfort just because you can get by with something cheaper.
The most important thing is that no matter what sleeping pad or mat you choose, it should provide enough support and insulation under your body. It’s also essential for a good night’s sleep (or restful snooze).