Sleeping bags can be square based or mummy (tapered) shape. Obviously the mummy shape is generally slightly lighter as less material is needed. However, if you are broad or like to wriggle you might find the mummy shape too restrictive.

Stitched Through or Box Wall

Sleeping bags can be ‘stitched through’ or ‘box wall’. If the sleeping bag has a stitched through construction (that is the top and bottom material are stitched directly together) you might feel cold spots where the stitching is. Heat will escape and cold can enter.

A box wall construction means that the bag becomes 3 dimentional. Think of it as a series of tubes lying side by side, with insulation in each tube and a ‘wall’ between them which keeps all the down in place around the bag.


The bags are stitched to keep the down from migrating to just one area and so keep the insulation even across the bag. The design of how the filling is distributed is scientifically planned and various manufacturers have very exotic names and systems in their products!

Some bags have hood and shoulder baffles. The former you can generally draw tightly round your face. The latter is a ridge of down material that is near the top of the bag and can be drawn tighter around the shoulders. This is surprisingly effective and prevents warm air escaping from the body area out of the top of the bag. When drawn the bag is tighter around your neck usually with a quick release clip.

To avoid any cold spots on the side of the bag check that Zips have insulated baffles covering them. We always recommend using a sleeping bag liner especially with a down bag. This is a cheap and effective way to keep your down bag clean for as long as possible and, depending on the material used, can add warmth if it is made from silk or fleece.

Finally there is a considerable wealth of materials on offer, which is used as the internal and external skin of a sleeping bag. Internally something soft and pleasant against the skin is good and externally you pay more for an outer shell which is water resistant or similar.

Quilts and Top Bags

These can be down or synthetic. Quilts generally are just a top layer of down and a series of straps or cord and clips that pass under the sleeping mat to keep the quilt in place. It must be remembered though that if using a quilt with straps you are “Fixed” to your sleeping pad in a lot of cases. So it becomes harder to sit up!

A top bag is as it sounds. It has down on the top but not on the bottom. The argument being that if it is a ‘normal’ down bag you are compressing the down you are lying on and so it is not as effective, therefore this design does without it and saves the additional weight.


Sleeping Mats and Airbeds

These are recommended if you want some sleep. They are generally light weight but can be bulky to pack. They can be used individually or in combination with each other, depending on the time of year and how soft you like your bedding!

Closed Cell

These are the original foam insulated mat. They are cheap, flexible, light and easy to roll up and cut to size using scissors. They make a basic barrier between you and the ground. They can be a variety of thicknesses and although very light, generally bulky to pack!


These mats are not strictly self-inflating. You need to add some puff. They come in a range of thicknesses and the thicker the pad the more puff will be required to fill it.

Some pads have insulation inside them, some have clever heat reflective baffles, all designed to reflect your body heat back up to for maximum warmth. Down is included in some but this will slightly add to the weight and bulk. The current range of air mats are very light and pack down small and offer a variety of thicknesses, lengths and widths.

However, you are generally advised to take a small repair kit with you as there is always the possibility they may get punctured, which will always spoil a good nights sleep on cold hard ground.