Rolling up a sleeping bag can be a challenge, even to those who’ve spent many hours out camping and hiking. It’s one thing learning how to fold the sleeping bag correctly, but then you still have the challenge of trying to get it to fit inside it’s cover/ bag. Sort of like learning to fold a fitted sheet, learning to roll up your sleeping bag is a skill everyone needs to master.
In this guide we’ll be looking at the different shapes of sleeping bags to help you select the right on for your needs. We’ll also walk you through the quickest and easiest way to roll up your sleeping bag. These skills are essential for your expeditions like camping and the outdoors.
Sleeping bag shapes
For the purpose of this guide, we’ve broken the shapes down into six different categories. We’ll include a picture next to each description so that you can identify which category your sleeping bag falls into. There is some variance within each category depending on the brand (one mummy shape sleeping bag might be narrower than another’s, for example). The purpose of these categories is to help you select the right sleeping bag shape depending on your specific needs. Alternatively, if you’ve already purchased a sleeping bag and just want to learn how to fold it correctly, you can skip ahead to our how-to guide.
First on our list is the stock standard rectangular sleeping bag. As the name suggests, it’s rectangular in shape. This sleeping bag shape is the traditional style of sleeping bag. These bags are best suited towards casual camping trips or camping. The great thing about rectangular sleeping bags is that they have plenty of room. If you’re a bit of a fidgety sleeper or move around often, this sleeping bag shape will be best suited for you. One down side to this shape is that they generally don’t come with a hood, so they’re not really suitable for really cold temperatures. Rectangular sleeping bags are often inexpensive, and you can zip them open and use them as a quilt for your summer picnicking too. Make sure it’s comfortable to avoid any unnecessary body pain issues
Next, we have the barrel-shaped sleeping bag. These are a happy medium between those wanting the extra space which rectangular sleeping bags provide, which enjoying the extra warmth that a mummy shape offers. Barrel-shaped sleeping bags feature tapered shoulders as well as a tapered footbox, which helps to insulate and keep you warm. Due to the tapered shape, this style of sleeping bag is better suited toward colder temperate that rectangular sleeping bags aren’t suitable for. Another benefit to this shape is that they often also come with a hood, which further helps to insulate and keep warm.
Mummy sleeping bag shapes are designed for the coldest weather conditions. They are contoured to fit the body-shape closely, with the footbox being very narrow. They’re the best sleeping bag for keeping you warm and are also generally a lot lighter to carry than the previous two shapes. This shape does not allow for any turning or moving inside the sleeping bag though, so bear that in mind if you’re still looking to purchase. They do feature a drawcord hood which allows you keep your head and neck area warm as well as a draft tube that runs along the length of the zip to further insulate.
Also known as a two-person sleeping bag, these are designed to fit two adult-size people comfortably. These bags are ideal for couples who love to cuddle, as well as people who find standard-sized sleeping bags too restrictive and want the extra room. Due to their loose fit, double sleeping bags aren’t as efficient in insulating as the other sleeping bag shapes, but you do gain the added benefit of combined body heat if you’re sharing with another person.
Quilt Sleeping bags, or sleeping bag quilts, are growing in popularity. They closely resemble the mummy shaped sleeping bag but have some unique differences. Quilts are ideal for warmer weather camping when a standard sleeping bag is just too warm. Sleeping bag quilts feature clips which attach around a sleeping pad, which means they’re also great for sleeping in a hammock too. When sleeping in a hammock, the compression against the underside of your body against the hammock means that you lose a lot of the insulation. Having a good sleeping pad to keep you insulated from the underside too means that quilts can keep you just as warm as other style sleeping bags too.
The elephant foot shape sleeping bag is the most minimal sleeping bag of them all. This style is shorter than all the other bags and requires you to wear an insulated jacket as it only covers the bottom half of your body. They’re designed to be ultra-lightweight, with the zips only being ¾ in length, or even without a zip altogether and just clips to hold the top half of the sleeping bag to the sleeping pad (like the quilt-style sleeping bag). You’ll sometimes find shoulder straps on these sleeping bags, which help to stop it from slipping off your legs if you’re a fidgety sleeper.
How to Roll up your sleeping bag
The best way to care for your sleeping bag and ensure it lasts you many years, is to roll it up correctly and store it in its bag after every use. We’ve put together a step-by-step tutorial on how to fold and roll up your sleeping bag easily.
Find a clear floor space and lay your sleeping bag flat on the ground.
Zip your sleeping bag up. This will help you a lot when trying to fold your sleeping bag and keep the edges together.
With two hands, grasp one side of the sleeping bag and fold it in half so that both sides of the sleeping bag are now touching. You should have folded it so that the length hasn’t changed but is now really narrow in its width. This is the step you want to take your time on in order to get your sleeping bag folded as neatly and tightly as possible. Make sure the edges are all lined up as closely as possible.
If you have a double/ two-person sleeping bag, you’ll fold your sleeping bag in three parts instead of in half. Take one side of the sleeping bag and bring it in two-thirds of the width of the sleeping bag. Next, take the other side and fold it in one-third of the way. Then you’ll follow the rest of the steps as normal.
Next, you’ll move to the end of the sleeping bag that does not have any ties or straps. You’re going to want to be rolling the bag towards the straps. This step is just as crucial, if not more, in making sure it’s rolled small enough to fit into the bag. Starting at the bottom (or top, depending on where your ties are) use both hands to grab the edge of the sleeping bag. Keeping squeezing the sleeping bag edge to push out the air and begin to slowly roll the sleeping bag up while keeping the sleeping bag squeeze to push out the air. The trick here is to move slowly, rolling it in small increments as you go along. This helps make sure it’s rolled up compactly and will fit into the stuff sack or bag.
How to fold a sleeping bag into a stuff sack. You might also find kneeling on it helps you to keep it compressed.
Once you’ve rolled it up completely, you’ll need to secure the roll with the straps. This has to be done while keeping it compressed, otherwise you’ll struggle to fit it into the sack. If your sleeping bag does not have straps or ties, or if they have broken and pulled off – you can purchase compression straps at most outdoor or hiking stores.
Once tied up and bound, your sleeping bag is ready to go into the sack and be stored away for next time. The easiest way to do this without help, is to sit on the floor with the roll of sleeping bag between your knees. Manoeuvre the stuff sack over the sleeping bag roll, sliding it over equally. If you compressed your sleeping bag well, this step should be quite easy as the stuff sack will slide down the roll easily. If not, it might be a tighter fit and you’ll need to spend some time slowly working the sack down the roll. If the fit is too tight, unroll your sleeping bag and reroll it again – ensuring that you get out as much air as possible.