Sleeping Bags for Camping

I intend to go on a canoe and camping trip and I would like to get opinions about what type of sleeping bag to purchase. Of course the sleeping bags at wally world are way too bulky. I need something that is adequate for mild to summer weather (Louisiana-Mississippi) and able to roll into a small pack. Any help would be appreicated.

Many to Choose From
There are so many to choose from that it’s difficult to recommend a specific bag. Stay away from down unless you have bullet proof dry storage. Down loses all thermal efficiency when wet. Of course, where you intend to paddle it may not be as critical. There are lots of synthetic bags out there that will work for your purpose. The lightest and most compressible are mummy bags, but if you’re like me you will find them too confining. I prefer a semi-rectangular bag. Take a look at REI and other retailers who offer higher end gear.

In warm weather I find myself sleeping on top of the bag. Most tents will retain enough body heat that in summer it is too warm to sleep inside the bag. You might want to consider using a sleeping pad and a wool or microfiber blanket in lieu of a sleeping bag. Don’t use cotton for the same reason as down.

Big Agnes
Big Agnes bag with the appropiate BA pad. Comfy

disagree with rejecting down
I know that synthetic bags have great appeal to novices b/c they are less expensive then a down one and can be washed in a washing machine without too much care but if you have spent a few years camping you might understand the reasons for down.

How can I put it: maybe it’s like plastic kayaks versus FG ones.

Both will be good and have they advantages but to the connoisseur the choice it’s obvious.

Down is so much compressible then synthetic (and if you over compress synthetic it won’t loft well anymore).

Down gives you a much wider temperature range and so much nicer to sleep in.

Admittedly for warm climates there are only a few down bags that are summer rated but they probably won’t pack up bigger then a water bottle (high end ones).

Down is an investment that will last you for many years if looked after.

It must be packed in a dry bag, really bombproof waterproof. Then again I don’t think many of us will appreciate to sleep in a soggy synthetic sleeping bag either, so the dry bag is given no matter what style of bag you take camping.

If you intend to camp a couple of times and can’t see doing too much of that in the future don’t bother spending the extra dollars for a serious bag and go with a compact synthetic one.

After 24 years of outdoor adventures I own 9 sleeping bags: all of them down.

They are of different shape and temperature rating but I just can’t bring myself to own a synthetic one: I can’t see the point.

Feel free to disagree and give me your opinion on why down is so bad.


I agree
I only own down and will not switch. A good dry bag dedicated for the bag and a little care is all the insurance you need to keep the bag dry.

You can get these…

– Last Updated: Jul-06-08 3:33 PM EST –

Cheaper, depending on where you look. I think Sportsman's Guide has a similar for about $100. You can use one or all or any combination of the bags to suite the need.

Paddle easy,


Yes. Big Agnes Mattress Good.

Bags for Down South
I agree with incanoe. You want something as roomy as possible, semi-rectangular to rectangular, with a full length zipper, so you can use it as a quilt. When it’s warm and humid, you are never going to need more than more than a thin quilt. It wouldn’t hurt to get it in a longer size than you need. I can’t imagine using down down south in the summer, it is going to get soaked in the humidity, regardless of if you drop it in the drink. If you are a lightweight backpacker down is another story, we pay incrementally higher prices to save a few ounces and pack a few inches smaller. When your packing a boat I’m not sure how much difference an extra pound makes, although everything adds up. It doesn’t take a very thick bag for 50F in the summer, the main thing is the shell material’s packability. Just buy something that’s reasonably priced. I would take a look at REI or some big retailer and go to their warm weather synthetic bags, sort them priced highest to lowest, and see which one is the cheapest that fits the bill.

Primaloft is nice
Primaloft is really a nice option for a warm weather bag. It’s very light and much more compressible than most other synthetics, very close to down on both accounts.


Down vs Synthetic
After 30+ years of wilderness canoe tripping, there is no way I’d risk hypoothermia from a wet down bag. The original poster may be a novice since he is not already in posession of a sleeping bag. Many novices (and even experienced WW paddlers) end up dumping at some time or another and most drybags are not 100% waterproof so there is always the risk of wet gear. I agree that down bags are more comfortable and more luxurious, but they will not keep you warm if wet. I suppose if you’re car camping or paddling on easy flatwater close to civilization then it might be worth the risk. However, when you’re many miles from the nearest town and your life depends on your gear, then the only logical choice is a symthetic bag.

Down bags
can be over kill in warm weather. I have both but only use down in Fall and Winter. Down bags smash down flat under you so they don’t give much padding if you choose to sleep on top of them. For Summer camping in the South a synthetic bag has advantages over down. When it’s hot at night I sleep on the bag and cover up with a sheet or very light weight blanket.

I have to disagree
I don’t know what kind of dry bags you have but my down bag goes in a waterproof compression bag, it has never leaked. My hatches have never leaked. By the way, wet synthetic won’t keep you warm either, it’ll only dry faster than wet down.

Warm-weather synthetic bags
There are LOTS of them available. For compressibility, the one sold under EMS’s name that fits in a 1-litre Nalgene bottle may be your best bet. If you don’t need to compress that small, many others will work fine if compressed inside a compression dry bag. Any sleeping bag should go into a dry bag anyway, because hatch compartments can leak and you will need to carry the sleeping bag between the boat and the tent. If it’s raining, a sleeping bag not in a dry bag will still get wet. You could use a heavy-duty garbage bag, though it won’t compress the sleeping bag and the bunched plastic itself takes up valuable space.

Down is great if you need its advantages. For the trip you’re talking about, you can use synthetic bags which are less expensive and can be machine-washed.

Obviously you haven’t
had a wet sleeping bag on a trip. I agree with the benefits of down vs synthetic but there are several ways to get the sleeping bag wet. They are a matter of choice and I prefer the synthetic and mine did get wet during a torrential down pour one night and later on a 49 day trip when the foot print and floor (both) leaked water.

Paddlin’ on


Never got mine wet
I bought the “insulates when wet” argument on synthetic bags when I got my first one–after years of seeing my backpacking partners carrying lighter smaller packs because they also carried lighter smaller down sleeping bags, lighter smaller tents, lighter smaller stoves, etc., I traded up and never looked back. I wonder how many people have actually tried sleeping in a wet synthetic bag?

I’ve NEVER gotten my sleeping bag wet on a trip, backcountry or otherwise. With just a little bit of care, one can completely armor a down bag against moisture. And if you choose a good tent and sleeping pad, and choose wisely where you set them up, you won’t have to worry about water wicking through the floor of your shelter.

I also carry a lightweight down jacket on every trip. It’s far superior to fleece or other material to warm up fast. It makes for a good pillow or an extra layer of insulation if the temperature dips below the rating on my sleeping bag. I’ve also never gotten my down jacket wet.

Light; cheap; strong; pick any two.

I agree that down would be the way to go. For the conditions you are describing, hypothermia should not be a big concern. I have an REI Kilo Flash that I bought for the very purpose you are describing . It is comfort rated to 40, perfect for spring and fall camping here in Texas. It packs down very small. I also have a silk Sea to Summit liner, which is tiny and gives a little more versatility. I keep it in a dry bag and haven’t had any problems yet. If you were regularly canoing colder climates in colder water, then the benefits of synthetics might outweigh down, but it sounds to me like you are more concerned with space, weight, and comfort. Go to the REI website and get you a good down bag.

I have used down bags

– Last Updated: Jul-06-08 9:12 PM EST –

for 45 years and only once did I get mine really wet..Its called dumping in Lake Superior and its operator error..we simply did not seal the dry bag correctly.

Even so I got a decent night sleep and it dried the next day. Of course this was August and the temp didnt go much below 45.

I dont even bother with a sleeping bag on Mississippi and Louisiana trips. Of course I do those in March. Go get a light fleece throw.

Or perhaps a Thermolite liner. Its actually designed to work with another bag but it was sufficient last week at 65 degrees alone.

I would go with Primaloft if you are in rain forest. Down will absorb moisture over time. But I am a northern traveller and I prize weight and compressibility above all.

I goofed a couple of weeks ago.. My down bag took a loong swim. In its dry bag it was comfy and dry. Picked it up a couple of miles later and had a good dry sleep.

Oh yeah I spend over 60 days a year camping. So I am not a novice.

FOUND IT! Sorry the other link…

– Last Updated: Jul-06-08 10:06 PM EST –

Didn't work. hope this one does.

Paddle easy,


I third that

– Last Updated: Jul-07-08 12:02 AM EST –

Not everyone needs a Big Agnes, but for an active sleeper (tosser) its a great bag. I love mine. They make an excellent 40+ bag thats nice and light.

If you know you will be sleeping in warm weather (+60F) then you may want to consider a simple sleeping bag liner. This will be ultra light and small, similar to sleeping in a sheet. Just use a good pad with it to insulate you from the ground.

Makes a really nice lightweight quilt, can’t remember if its down or Primaloft but it’s small and good for warm weather.