Sleeping bags are essential on every camping trip, especially in the winter months. Sleeping bag liners are a must-have when camping or traveling with your sleeping bag.
Although a sleeping bag may have a temperature rating that is ideal for the weather that you plan to camp in, you may still need a liner to achieve a comfortable body temperature. Sleeping bag liners also protect the sleeping bag from dirt and skin oils.
What is a sleeping bag liner?
The answer is a sleeping bag liner is made to go on the inside of your sleeping bag to add warmth and even lengthen the lifespan of your sleeping bag. Liners are especially helpful in extreme winter conditions.
Often, if chosen correctly, your sleeping bag will be appropriately rated for the temperature you’re in, but you still may get cold. The reason for this is because sleeping bags won’t always keep you at a comfortable temperature.
Sleeping bags are designed to keep you at a temperature in which you’re safe, more than comfortable. Sleeping bag liners take the edge off of the chill.
When camping, we all tend to get a bit dirty. With no access to a shower, sometimes you won’t be as clean as you’d like. Depending on your sleeping bag brand, material, and rating, your bag was probably expensive. This is where sleeping bag liners can help you. Liners extend the life of your sleeping bag, as you won’t have to wash the sleeping bag as often.
At the end of the day when we’re all dirty from traipsing around in the woods, we still have to get in our sleeping bag. Liners are much less expensive than a quality sleeping bag, as well as much easier to clean. In most cases, sleeping bag liners can be washed in your regular washer/dryer at home.
What types of sleeping bag liners are available?
There are many different sleeping bag liners available. The main difference between liners is the material that it’s made of and the added warmth that it will provide. Packability and weight are some other differences that you’ll find among sleeping bag liners.
Silk is very lightweight and compact, but not the best in some situations. Silk helps insulate in cold weather, but not nearly as much as other materials can. One advantage is that silk is moisture wicking and breathable during warmer months.
Fleece or Microfleece:
Fleece, much warmer and more substantial than silk, can add up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit to your sleeping bag. Fleece is also moisture wicking, as well as quick-drying. The main issue with fleece is that it tends to be heavy and bulky.
Synthetics are a bit lighter than fleece, as well as very lightweight and breathable. Synthetic liners are an excellent choice for warmer months. These liners are mostly designed to keep you cooler.
Insulated sleeping bag liners are for those of you who plan to camp in more extreme temperatures. Typically, insulated liners can add up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit to the rating of your sleeping bag. The Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor is an excellent choice.
Cotton is strong and durable, but not the best for backpacking. It doesn’t dry quickly, and it’s bulky. Cotton is excellent if you’re on a budget, and you know that it’s suitable for the conditions in which you’re staying. Cotton is an excellent choice for summer car camping trips or even for traveling.
Are there alternatives to sleeping bag liners?
Sheets, fleece, or flannel blankets can be used in place of a sleeping bag liner, but they will weigh much more and will not be as compressible. Always consider both weight and size if choosing a blanket as a liner for backpacking.
If you plan to sleep in a hammock in the summer months, sometimes a fleece or flannel blanket can be a good option. These blankets are also a good option for car camping or RV camping.
What to consider when choosing a sleeping bag liner?
Always consider the predicted weather, the temperature rating of your sleeping bag, and be prepared for lower temperatures than expected. These factors will tell you which material and temperature rating you’ll need in a sleeping bag liner.
In addition to the material that the liner is made from, there are two main styles: mummy bag liner or rectangle bag liner. Both of these can be used for backpacking or even traveling, but each has its advantage.
A mummy bag liner is best for backpacking, as it will be tighter to the body, allowing for more warmth. This type of liner will also perform a bit better when trying to keep your sleeping bag clean.
Mummy bag liners are the most common types today and are continuously improving as new technologies arise.
A rectangle bag liner is better for travel, as it has more room to move around inside of, making it more comfortable. Rectangle bags are slightly heavier, but this isn’t as much of an issue when traveling, as compared to backpacking.
Rectangle sleeping bag liners are also great for car camping or RV camping trips. Since you won’t be carrying all of your gear in these situations, weight and size don’t play a significant role in choosing which liner to get.
Choosing a Sleeping Bag Liner
Choosing a sleeping bag liner can be a bit overwhelming at first as there are many different options. With all of these options available, they all have a different purpose. Knowing the situation, that you plan to use the liner in, is most important before you choose.
Backpacking in the Winter:
If you’re backpacking in the winter, you’ll want to use either an insulated mummy sleeping bag liner or a fleece/microfleece sleeping bag liner. The insulated liner will be on the more expensive side, but it will be a little lighter and more packable.
The fleece/microfleece liner may be a little more comfortable and softer, but you may lose a bit of the insulation. Fleece liners are a bit heavier and much bulkier than synthetics, but they’re relatively cost-efficient.
Backpacking in the Summer:
Backpacking in the summer can be a bit of a challenge because it can still be a bit hot even after sunset. Sea to Summit makes the CoolMax liner, which is odor resistant, and designed to wick moisture away from your body.
In addition to being odor resistant, the CoolMax is also treated with an EPA-Registered bug repellent. The CoolMax Sleeping Bag Liner is a great gear addition if you plan to camp in the backwoods. It is also a top priority if you plan to sleep in a hammock.
Traveling in the Winter:
Traveling in the winter is a bit different than backpacking. Weight is still a concern, but not quite as much in most cases. A rectangle sleeping bag liner will be more suitable for traveling.
Rectangle sleeping bags have a bit more room to move around inside of them, but they’re not usually as warm as a mummy bag liner. Fleece is a great option for winter traveling, as it’s warm and comfortable. Consider packability if you are flying to your destination. In some cases, you’ll have to pay to check bags, which makes packability more of a concern.
Traveling in the Summer:
Silk or synthetic are great options for traveling in the summer. Usually, a rectangle bag is better because it will give you more room to breathe, but mummy liners aren’t a bad option either. Both are breathable and lightweight. Of the two, silk will be less than half the weight of a synthetic sleeping bag liner.
Additional reasons to use a sleeping bag liner
Sleeping bag liners can be used in several different situations that aren’t only for added warmth to your sleeping bag.
Many times, especially budget-hotel or hostel travelers may want to use a sleeping bag liner in place of the sheets that are put in your room. This can be for both cleanliness reasons, and some hostels and hotels even require travelers to do so. This habit gives you peace-of-mind about where you’re sleeping.
This is also true when traveling during the winter. Hostels and hotels don’t always provide adequate blankets so that you may need the extra warmth.
Often, summer months can be a bit hot for a sleeping bag. In the summer you sweat more and will be doing more outdoor activities such as hiking or swimming. You don’t want to get your sleeping bag dirty, so replacing your sleeping bag with a liner is an excellent option in the summer months.
In many regions, it still gets a little chilly at night in the summer, especially if there’s a breeze. The liner itself can help cut the wind to prevent you from getting chilled. Using a liner that is breathable will also help reduce the wind while keeping you from getting overheated.
Sleeping bag liners have many uses. Knowing what type of camping or traveling you will be doing, knowing predicted weather, and what purpose each material serves, will allow you to choose the best possible liner to keep you comfortable.
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