How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag

Sleeping well is hard enough in your own bed—it's often too hot or too cold, you might have a lumpy mattress. Which is why taking your nights to the woods might make a restful night sound impossible.

It's not.

The secret to sleeping well in the woods is having the right sleeping bag. From staying comfortable temperature-wise to simply staying comfortable on the ground or in a cramped RV, your sleeping bag can make a world of difference. This key piece of camping gear can easily turn your outdoor adventure from a shivering, get-me-out-of-here experience to one where the whole family sleeps sound and is ready and rested for the next day's adventure.

More: 7 Tips for Sleeping in a Tent

Here are some key tips on how to choose the best sleeping bags for you and your family.

Shape Up

Bags usually come in one of three shapes: mummy, rectangular and a mix between the two. For campers, the most comfortable option is going to be rectangular. Rectangular bags offer more room than a mummy-shaped bag, which is usually used for backpacking. If you need a bag for both camping and backpacking, opt for a semi-rectangular bag that still offers the warmth of a true mummy bag but will be a more comfortable option.

For women and children, go with a kid-specific or women-specific bag. Women-specific bags are shorter, narrower at the shoulders, wider at the hips, and offer extra insulation near the feet and the upper body.

Find a Good Fit

Once you know what shape you want, make sure you find a good fit. If you have too much space you won't heat up as quickly, and if the bag is too tight you'll compress the insulation, which will hinder its ability to keep you warm.

"If the bag is too long and you have extra space, you can't just stick clothes in the end and fill it up," says Rob Peterson, a customer service representative with Big Agnes. "Your own body heat is what works with the loft that creates the heat."

You might feel a bit goofy, but if you can test out the bag before buying it, do it," says Peterson. "Get in it just to get the entire feel of it, especially for people who are side sleepers," he says. "See if you have that room to turn sideways."

More: 5 Ways to Be a Happy Camper

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