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What Material Are Sleeping Bags Made Of? (And Why Are They So Slippery?)

Orange and gray sleeping bag on the ground with boots beside it

Have you ever wondered what sleeping bags are made of and what is it that makes them so slippery? Sleeping bags are essential when sleeping outdoors. Not only do they provide somewhere to sleep, but they also help to protect you from nature’s elements, such as the cold, rain, or snow.

Sleeping bags are made with fabrics like nylon, polyester, or ripstop, making the shell fabric quite slippery. Also, they are often finished with a durable water repellent, which helps to minimize the amount of moisture that the sleeping bag can absorb, keeping the sleeper warm and dry. But, it also adds a slippery feel.

Many different things go into creating a sleeping bag so that they can provide the most protection possible. The outside layer, inside layers, shape, and size are all factors to consider when you are deciding on what kind of sleeping bag is best for you. That will depend on the needs and activities of the individual that will be using this sleeping bag.

What Does the Slippery Shell Layer Consist of?

A few different materials can be used for the outside layer of sleeping bags, depending on the quality, price, and amount of protection needed.

Typical sleeping bag shell layers are:

  • Nylon, Polyester, or Taffeta – These are the most common types of shell fabric found in sleeping bags. These materials are best for family activities or sleeping indoors. They are low cost but also less durable, so they may not last as long if the sleeping bag is used regularly.
  • Ripstop – Another common shell fabric, ripstop, is slightly more enforced nylon or polyester. This type is ideal for camping more frequently.
  • DryLoft – As a water-resistant material, it is not only breathable but offers excellent moisture protection.

Besides, you can also add additional water protection to your sleeping bag by using products such as Nikwax TX – Direct Spray-On.

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How Sleeping Bags Are Made

Sleeping bags have multiple layers to keep people warm and cozy all night long.

Insulating Layers

Sleeping bags are made of either synthetic or natural fill, which depends on the preference of the buyer. The outside of the sleeping bag is the shell fabric, which may have different kinds of materials used, depending on the use of the sleeping bag and how often it is going to be used for this activity.

Sleeping bags that have a synthetic fill helps prevent them from getting wet or cold.. The fill helps them to stay insulated, so even if they are to get wet, they will still provide an adequate amount of insulation and protection for the person sleeping inside.

Synthetic Fill

Sleeping bags made of synthetic fill have a difficult time absorbing water. So, they provide additional warmth, even when soaking wet.

While synthetic-filled sleeping bags offer proper protection, they can also be more cumbersome, therefore making them more challenging to hike or travel with on foot. They are also not as easily compressed, which can be bulkier to carry in addition to the added weight.

Natural Fill

Natural fillers used for sleeping bags usually are down, wool, or cotton. Using down provides incredible insulation and warmth, but is usually quite a bit more expensive. If you know you’re going to be going somewhere, that can be difficult withstanding extreme cold and other severe weather, it might be worth investing in a sleeping bag filled with down.

Wool is also an excellent option for warmth and water retention, but it can be quite heavy to carry around. Wool is a good option if you know you’re going to be dealing with frigid temperatures, but hiking in the mountains may not be ideal because of its weight. If it gets wet, that will only increase the amount of weight you have to carry around until it dries out.

Cotton is a very inexpensive alternative, but can also carry more water, therefore making it much more cumbersome if it were to get wet. Cotton may be the best option for indoor camping or family activities that do not involve dealing with real severe weather or sleeping outside.

How to Determine Which Brands Are Best

Different ratings and options can change the quality of a product quite a bit. Here are some things to consider with your sleeping bag:

Temperature Ratings

There are generally four different temperature ratings to help determine which sleeping bag is most suitable for the buyer.

  • The upper limit is the highest temperature rated sleeping bag, which provides maximum protection without excess sweating for the sleeper.
  • The comfort rating is pretty self-explanatory, which determines how comfortable the sleeper is with a proper amount of insulation.
  • The lower limit determines the amount of comfort the sleeper can feel before feeling uncomfortable and restless or having trouble falling asleep in this type of sleeping bag.
  • The extreme rating is the lowest standard for temperature ratings and not usually advised for sleeping outdoors, especially in extreme cold. It has limited insulation that cannot withstand the outdoor elements as well as some others.

Determining What Shape to Buy

What shape of sleeping bag you buy entirely depends on your preference. When trying to decide what sleeping bag you will need, there are four main types of shapes that you can select from.

  • Rectangular sleeping bags are the most standard and provide enough room to sleep and also stretch out to mimic how you would sleep in your bed at home.
  • Double bags are best suited if a couple wants to sleep together in their sleeping bag. It provides plenty of room and comfort for both people.
  • Mummy shaped sleeping bags provide the maximum amount of warmth and also cut down on weight and size, which makes it easier when traveling.
  • Semi Rectangular, which is also called the “modified mummy” to some, is excellent for a variety of activities and provides an adequate amount of roominess and comfort.

Camping is a popular family activity, and many times you will have children along, so is there a better option available than using an adult sleeping bag? Yes, there is, there are also kids sleeping bags, which are just smaller versions of the adult sleeping bags. You can even purchase some that have their favorite cartoon characters on them.

Activity the Sleeping Bag Will Be Used For

Due to all of the different types of activities people use sleeping bags for, it can be challenging to decide which sleeping bag is best. There are multiple types of situations in which the kind of comfort and insulation are factors.

  • Family activities and sleeping indoors, such as in a camper or RV
  • Sleeping in a tent at a campsite or other outdoor park
  • Hiking overnight in the mountains or cold weather
  • Cross country hiking, long journeys

Deciding which of these activities fits best with your lifestyle can help determine which sleeping bag would be most suited to your needs. How you are going to use the sleeping bag also plays a part in how much you need to spend. The more expensive sleeping bags tend to provide better comfort and insulation, which would be best for hiking in the mountains, especially during extreme cold and inclement weather.

Sometimes, a sleeping bag is not all that comfortable, so you might want to consider putting it on an air mattress. We have a post on “How to Inflate an Air Mattress When Camping” that has essential information to make this task easier.

Other Protection Sleeping Bags Provide

Outdoor activities that involve camping and sleeping in nature can be an enjoyable adventure. However, there is a chance of inclement weather, and other unforeseen problems, plus dealing with the bugs and critters that live there.

Because of the protective layering the sleeping bags provide, this can protect from biting and stinging bugs and also small critters who are looking for warmth.

There are very few sleeping bags that are not going to be slippery. While they are out there, they often provide limited insulation and protection. The slippery layer found on the outside of sleeping bags, and usually on the inside as well, will give the maximum amount of insulation and comfort. When doing research, you can find the exact sleeping bag that will fit any of your outdoor sleeping needs.

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Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.