When it comes to choosing between an outdoor sleeping bag or slumber bag, there are some stark differences between the two options.
Slumber bags are meant for indoor use and are typically found at a child’s sleepover. Outdoor sleeping bags are generally weather resistant, offer more warmth and comfort, and are designed for camping or backpacking.
Let’s dive deeper into the differences between these two sleeping bag types below to help you decide which one is right for you and your needs.
Sleeping Bag vs. Slumber Bag
No matter if it’s intended for outdoor camping or an indoor slumber party, every sleeping bag on the market includes a zipper, and can be rolled up or shoved into a sack to store for later.
With that said, there are a variety of factors that differentiate a sleeping bag vs. a slumber bag. This includes the filler and fabric materials used, the size, shape, and the temperature rating.
Slumber Bags For Indoor Use
An indoor sleeping bag (or ‘slumber bag’) is typically a lot less costly than an outdoor sleeping bag meant for backpacking or camping outdoors.
Keep in mind, however, that slumber bags do not offer the same level of comfort or warmth as an outdoor sleeping bag.
Slumber bags are generally used indoors for kids’ sleepovers. They might also be used when younger family members come to visit and you don’t have enough beds to accommodate them.
It’s common for slumber bags to include characters from pop culture or animated movies and TV shows on them.
These types of sleeping bags typically are not weatherproof, and thus, are not meant for use outdoors in cold or inclement weather conditions.
- Cheaper than outdoor sleeping bags used for camping
- Ideal for children and sleepovers
- Can be used by houseguests of all ages
- Generally easy to store
- Generally doesn’t provide the level of warmth or comfort as an outdoor sleeping bag
- Not weatherproof, therefore shouldn’t be used outdoors
- Typically made of cheaper, thinner materials
Sleeping Bags For Outdoor Use
Unlike slumber bags, sleeping bags for outdoor use come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, fabrics, and filling materials.
All of these features make outdoor sleeping bags the more comfortable, lightweight, and easier-to-tote option of the two.
Finally, as the name suggests, outdoor sleeping bags are designed for use outside. You can bring these on camping or backpacking trips to stay warm and cozy.
What to Look for in Outdoor Sleeping Bag
Before buying an outdoor sleeping bag, you should consider a few different factors first, including:
- The type of insulation filling the bag is made with
- The temperature rating
- And the size of the sleeping bag
This will help you purchase the right outdoor sleeping bag for your needs.
Sleeping Bag Insulation
The type of insulation an outdoor sleeping bag provides is critical when it comes to backpacking or camping. In terms of insulation, you have two primary options: synthetic fill or down fill.
- Down fill holds water and can be hard to dry out once it has gotten wet, so it isn’t ideal if you intend to use your sleeping bag in wet/rainy weather conditions.
This type of insulation is more lightweight, though, making it easier to carry and more comfortable when using it in dryer/warmer weather conditions.
- Synthetic fill is ideal for camping/backpacking in rainy or humid climates as they are simpler to dry out when damp.
This type of insulation can make your bag a bit thicker/heavier, which isn’t the greatest in warmer climates or for portability.
Sadly, when it comes to sleeping bags, there isn’t any universal temperature rating, only the temperature ratings the manufacturer provides.
With that said, the temperature rating is an important factor to consider as it sets the standard for temperature ranges for a comfortable night’s sleep.
For instance, if you’re camping in colder climates, you’ll want to purchase a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating fit for lower temperatures. You can use a sleeping bag liner inside your sleeping bag to increase the insulation and make your bag easier to clean.
As we mentioned earlier, outdoor sleeping bags come in an array of different sizes, which can help each individual find the perfect fit for their own size and desired comfort level.
Some of the most common sleeping bag sizes and varieties include:
- Double sleeping bags (perfect for couples)
- Mummy bags (provide a tighter, secure fit for more warmth)
- Small sleeping bags (ideal for women and children)
- Can be used outdoors when camping or backpacking
- Typically weatherproof to protect you from the elements
- Includes insulation to keep you warm while outdoors
- Come in various shapes and sizes for all ages
- More expensive than indoor slumber bags
- Not as easy to store
- More options could also be a downside given you have more opportunity to choose the wrong sleeping bag
What Materials Are Used in Sleeping Bags?
Both the inner and outer fabrics of a sleeping bag offer protection for the bag’s insulation, thus they are the only parts that come into contact with the user’s body.
Some of the factors that go into determining what type of fabric to use include:
- Breathability (which keeps the sleeping bag drier on the inside)
- And durability
Fabrics Used For Sleeping Bag Shells
The shell fabrics found in the most basic of sleeping bags — including polyester, nylon, and taffeta — arguably offer the least in terms of durability.
Sleeping bags made with these materials are ideal mostly for indoor use or camping out in the backyard.
These materials do provide a lot of breathability and sleeping bags made from these materials tend to be much cheaper.
Ripstop fabric is either polyester or nylon that has been reinforced slightly with heavier threads to add durability while at the same time retaining breathability.
Bags made with ripstop fabric are best for camping and backpacking trips that are only slightly more testing.
Breathable, Water-resistant, Technical Textiles
These types of sleeping mag materials provide effective moisture protection on the exterior with breathability to keep your bag dry on the interior.
Many sleeping bags you’ll find come with a DWR (or durable water repellent) finish, which will help to minimize moisture absorption.
This is especially crucial when it comes to down sleeping bags, which can be very difficult to dry and will lose most of their insulating capabilities when they get wet.
When it comes to most of your family camping trips — in mild conditions — ripstop or nylon should do the trick as a shell.
However, for those looking to head out in more extreme conditions, you should consider investing in more premium, high-end fabrics.
Fabrics Used For Sleeping Bag Liners:
Sleeping bag lining fabrics should be smooth enough so the fabric doesn’t catch on clothing.
They should also be breathable, and have an ability to avoid trapping too much heat in when you sleep in the same position for an extended period of time.
If not, this can make for one uncomfortable night of sleep.
Nylon, Taffeta, and Polyester
These materials are used across all types of sleeping bags, from cheap to high end and are breathable and soft on the skin.
Out of the three, taffeta is the highest quality.
This material happens to be quite comfortable on skin, but can take a longer time to dry. This makes polycotton less than ideal for camping in cooler climates.
Polycotton is typically found in less technical or inexpensive sleeping bags and is best for camping during the summer or using while indoors.
Silk is a luxurious material that is frequently used in the most expensive sleeping bags on the market.
It’s breathable and soft, but it’s important to note, silk is more likely to tear than other materials and can be more difficult to repair once it does.
If you’re looking for higher performance, you should go with materials like silk or taffeta. On the other hand, a form of nylon is ideal for most camping trips.
Polycotton should only be considered for camping in drier climates or for indoor use.
As you can see, the debate between sleeping bag vs. slumber bag comes down to what it is you need a sleeping bag for in the first place.
If you’re simply needing a bag for your kids’ next sleepover party, or backyard camping on a warm summer night, then a slumber bag should do just fine.
However, for more extreme conditions while backpacking or camping in the wilderness, you’ll need to purchase a sleeping bag designed for the outdoors.
While these sleeping bags might be more costly, they are made to offer optimal warmth, comfort, and weather protection while camping or backpacking.