Editors’ Choice: Camp Sleeping Gear

Photo By: HEST Outdoors

On every journey, even if it’s just a short overnight, your comfort at night can make or break your trip. A restless night due to a sore back or hours spent shivering in an inadequate sleeping bag may make for a good story, but it’s definitely no fun at the moment. 

To make sure you’re well-rested and ready for the next leg of your journey, you have to go prepared with the right sleeping pad and sleeping bag. 

Gear Considerations

Your environment will most likely dictate your equipment, but so will your rig. Even if you’re traveling by motorcycle, you’ll want a high-quality packable sleeping bag and sleeping pad. If your roof-top tent has a great mattress, you can get by with just a good sleeping bag and a pillow.

All high-quality sleeping bags are rated with a comfort rating expressed in degrees. In recent years, many companies have adopted a standardized system, so you don’t have to worry about the trustworthiness of the rating. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and some brands can be rather liberal with their ratings. Just because you don’t freeze to death at the stated temperature doesn’t mean you will have a comfortable night. 

We’re going to offer some suggestions for quality sleep gear below, but if you decide to shop around, make sure you purchase from a reputable brand and read reviews. 

Sleeping Pads

Before we dive into bags, let’s take a look at the often overlooked sleeping pads. Moto campers, overlanders using ground tents, and even those that aren’t happy with their roof-top tent mattress will find that the market has evolved far beyond the flimsy foam pads of years past. 

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Image by REI

The NeoAir XLite is very popular with the ultralight and thru-hiking crowds. These groups prioritize packability and weight over most considerations, but that doesn’t mean this pad is uncomfortable. The regular size weighs in at only 12-ounces but provides 2.5-inches of padding. It also offers a 4.2 R-value, meaning that it’s suitable for cold temperatures, and it won’t let the ground temperature rob you of valuable warmth. 

It all packs down to the size of a water bottle, so if you’re short on space, but you’re looking for a comfortable pad that can take you into the winter season, the NeoAir XLite is a great option. 

MSRP from $179.00

NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad

Image by REI

Foam pads used to be the best option out there, and they still have their place. They’re great to boost the R-value of an inflatable pad, or if you’re using a cot and need a bit more padding. If your roof-top tent mattress is leaving you in need of more support, a foam pad slipped under it is a great way to increase your comfort level.

The Switchback from NEMO upgrades the classic foam pad with an accordion design that’s easier to manage than the rollable options. The shape of the molding provides 20% more space for uncompressed sleeping bag insulation. The Switchback offers an R-value of 2, and one side is made of a heat reflective layer. It’s tough and durable, as you don’t have to worry about the holes and leaks that can plague inflatable pads.

MSRP: $44.95

READ MORE: How to Cook Over an Open Fire

Sleeping Bags

There are different shapes, closure methods, and other various features to consider when choosing a sleeping bag. While most of the options come down to personal preference, the decision on the fill of your bag should be based on where you venture. 

If you find yourself in very cold climates, and you highly value a bag that’s compact when stored, then down insulation is the way to go. However, if you’re often venturing in wet climates, and there’s a chance your bag could be wet, then take a look at some synthetic options. Synthetic-filled bags retain their insulation properties even when wet. 

REI Magma 15 Degree Sleeping Bag

Image by REI

The Magma line has been available for a few years now. It’s award-winning, and for good reasons. It features a water-resistant premium 850-fill-power goose down. The Magma packs down to just over 5 liters and weighs in at 1 pound 12.2 ounces. 

It’s shaped to be trim through the torso and waist but roomier around the knees and feet. It also features plenty of details that boost your warmth. For example, an insulated yoke prevents drafts from coming through the shaped hood, and on the opposite end, the baffled foot box makes sure cold toes don’t keep you awake. 

MSRP: $399

Big Agnes Dream Island 35 Double Sleeping Bag

Image by REI

Adventurers looking for a double bag should check out the newest offering from Big Agnes. The Dream Island weighs just over 6-lbs., but provides a spacious and comfortable night of rest for two. Its 35-degree rating is an excellent middle ground that covers plenty of three-season camping situations. 

 The updated shell is PFC-free and water-repellent. The FireLine Max Synthetic insulation is a 50% post-consumer recycled material. Either two single or one double sleeping pad can be secured to the Dream Island. 

One feature that sets the Dream Island apart from the competition is the zip-off top layer. This can be used as a comforter around camp, and it quickly zips back onto the base when you’re ready to turn in.

MSRP: $229.95

Quilts

Sleepers who don’t like to be restricted by the shape of a sleeping bag should look at some of the quilts available on the market. These are very popular with hammock campers, but they also work great for many overlanders. 

When you’re in a sleeping bag, your body compresses the insulation that’s under you, rendering it almost useless. Backcountry quilts cut out this under-body insulation and offer more freedom of movement in a lighter, more compact package.

Therm-a-Rest Corus 20 Quilt

Image by REI

With 650-fill-power Nikwax hydrophobic down, you can safely venture into the backcountry without stressing about every little shower or the humidity. The Corus quilt’s down-fill absorbs 90% less water and dries three times faster than regular down while remaining PFC free. 

 To keep weight down, Therm-a-Rest uses mesh baffle walls so that the down stays in place without adding unnecessary weight. If you decide to use this quilt with a sleeping pad, there’s a removable strap system that keeps the bag under you, regardless of any tossing and turning throughout the night. 

If you need to batten down the hatches due to a chilly night, the side baffles and snap neck help you seal the quilt against your pad to combat drafts.

The Corus is also available in a 32-degree model. 

MSRP: $299.95

ENO Vesta Hammock Top Quilt

Image by REI

The Vesta from ENO is understandably marketed to the hammock crowd. However, it’s useful in many more situations than hours spent hanging amongst the trees.

With two layers of Primaloft insulation, the Vesta will keep you toasty. It’s rated in the 30-50 degree range, so it’s a great late-spring to early-fall option. When you decide you need a bit of warmth when lounging around camp, the toe box unzips to transform the Vesta into a rectangular comforter. 

MSRP: $179.95

READ MORE: Editors’ Choice: Best Overland Camp Chairs

Pillow

It’s easy to overlook a quality pillow when thinking about camp sleeping gear. Some might choose to bring along their pillow from home, but that’s often a bulky option. There are some great packable and comfortable models of backcountry pillows.

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Image by REI

Like all their gear, Sea to Summit’s Aeros Premium Pillow is a high-quality option for adventurers literally looking for a comfortable place to lay their heads. It’s constructed to provide maximum comfort with a soft outer layer and synthetic insulation. The curved internal baffles make it easy to keep the pillow in the proper position. 

The multifunction valves assist in fine-tuning the firmness to suit any sleeper, and it’s available in three sizes so you can find the pillow that’s just right for you. It’s also available in a range of sizes to fit any sleeper.

MSRP: $44.95-$64.95

Cots

Cot technology has long surpassed the vintage canvas and wood models of the past. If you’re using a ground tent, a cot is a great way to up your comfort. Plus, it allows you to store gear under your sleeping area.

Helinox Lite Cot

Image by REI

If you’re familiar with Helinox’s chairs, you know they take camp furniture very seriously. Their Lite Cot is no exception. It packs down smaller than a pair of boots and offers just a few inches of lift off of the hard ground. 

This cot could be great for moto campers that are in a small tent but who want to avoid relying on only a sleeping pad for comfort. It weighs under 3 lbs. and packs down to a 5 x 21-inch package. It’s rated to support 265 lbs. 

The best part is the internal bungie that self assembles all of the poles, so you won’t be left with a puzzle of parts at the end of the day. 

MSRP: $279.95

Alps Mountaineering Escalade Cot

Image by REI

This cot offers classic construction in modern materials and guarantees years of camp comfort. The Escalada is super simple to set up with just a few folding legs and locking supports.

The large model measures 80 x 31 x 21 inches, so it offers plenty of room to stretch out and roll around. One modern touch to this classic design is the omission of the end bars. You don’t have to worry about hitting your head or your foot going to sleep when pressed against the hard surface.  

MSRP: $179.99

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