How to Choose the Ideal Sleeping Bag for Car Camping

Car campers have dozens of sleeping bag options to choose from, though there are some key considerations to take into account before you buy.

car camping
One of the great things about car camping is you don’t necessarily need to worry about pack weight like a backpacking camper, so you can get a large, plush, warm bag without worrying about lugging it around.Sleepingo

If you’re new to car camping, one of the first gear purchases you’ll want to make is a sleeping bag. Before you buy, however, think about how you’re going to use your bag. Are you just going camping in the warmer months or will you be taking shoulder-season trips when it’s colder? Do you need lots of wiggle room when you sleep or are you content to slumber in a cozy cocoon? Do you want a bag that will also double as a quilt for the kids in the backseat? Deciding what kind of bag to purchase isn’t an exact science, but it does take a little forethought. Here are some things to consider that will make choosing the right bag for your next car-camping adventure easy.

Mummy vs. Rectangular Designs

sleeping bag for the car
This three-season bag offers ample room around the shoulders so you don’t feel cramped and the half-circle hood can be cinched up with draw strings to keep your head warm.oaskys

If you’re going to do more shoulder-season trips where temps may dip down, mummy-style bags will definitely keep you warmer because they’re designed with a hood that wraps up around your head. Drawstring closures allow you to cinch the hood tight to lock in warmth. The downside to mummy’s is that a lot of folks feel too restricted inside one. If you need room to roll when you sleep, definitely go for a rectangular design that offers more shoulder room. Rectangular bags are generally less expensive (hoods in mummy-style bags add cost) and they can be opened all the way up to give you lots of breathing room on warm nights under the stars.

Down vs. Synthetic

mummy sleeping bag
Mummy-style sleeping bags like this pull up around your head and shoulders to seal in heat.Coleman

What kind of fill your bag employs is an age-old argument among campers. Down is more lightweight and compacts better if you have a small vehicle and you’re worried about having enough space to fit everything in. Down bags are also something to consider if you plan on backpacking (in addition to car camping) and only want to purchase one bag. Synthetic bags are a bit bulkier and weigh a little more, but they will still retain heat even when they’re wet. Once down gets soaked, it loses all of its warmth-trapping loft. Think about when you’re going to do most of your camping. If it’s in the warmer months, a synthetic bag will work just fine and most are machine washable, too.

Full-Zip vs. ¾-Zip

queen-size sleeping bag
This queen-size sleeping bag measures 87x59 inches—perfect for accommodating two adults in total comfort.Sleepingo

Mummy bags generally have a ¾-zip design to retain more heat. If you sleep cold, you may feel very snug and warm with a ¾-zip bag. Most rectangular bags, however, have full-zip designs. The nice part about full zips is that you can completely unzip the bag and use it as a quilt—a nice option if you want to cover up the kids for a nap while you’re driving. You can also zip two rectangular bags together if you need lots of room or you don’t like sleeping alone. If you want to use your full-zip as a picnic blanket, look for designs that have tough outer fabrics that can stand up to rough, abrasive use and ones that clean-up easily if something spills on it.