I’ve spent many nights camping with something other than a sleeping bag, and not just because I forgot it!
Yes, I have forgotten my camping sleeping bag and had to use something different to sleep in, but I also often purposely opt for sleeping bag alternatives when I’m camping.
In this post, I will discuss why you may want to ditch your sleeping bag, share six great alternatives, and also include three that I don’t recommend.
Let’s get started!
Table Of Contents
- Reasons To Consider Sleeping Bag Alternatives
- Good Alternatives To Sleeping Bags
- Sleeping Bag Alternatives To Avoid
Reasons To Consider Sleeping Bag Alternatives
Replace traditional sleeping bags with alternatives that are cost-effective, lightweight, provide temperature control, and offer more convenience.
Traditional sleeping bags are pricey, and some alternatives can be much more wallet-friendly! If you’re an adult and have never needed a sleeping bag and you think you may only need one for a few nights for an upcoming trip, you may very well have quality alternatives laying around your house already. They may not be perfect, but they may be able to get the job done.
Lightweight sleeping bag alternatives are ideal for camping trips, especially if you plan on traveling long distances or backpacking. Instead of bringing a bulky and heavy sleeping bag, opting for something lighter will make your trip much more manageable.
For example, camping quilts are lightweight and durable enough to keep you comfortable throughout the night. Moreover, sleeping bags liners provide extra insulation without increasing pack weight too much.
Nothing is more important to good night’s sleep when camping than keeping a consistent temperature. I run hot and but my wife would still want to bundle up even if she were sleeping on the surface of the sun. Regardless of where you land on that spectrum, choosing a sleeping bag alternative can be useful if your bag is too heavy or too light for the weather outside.
When you’re camping, your gear has to be lightweight and take up as little space as possible. If a sleeping bag is too heavy or bulky for your trip, alternatives can give you the convenience of taking only what you need with no added stress.
Related: How To Wash A Sleeping Bag (And Dry It Too!)
If packing light is important to you then searching for an alternative could be the right choice. You can find many products that provide less weight and volume than a traditional sleeping bag while still ensuring warmth and comfort during sleep time.
Good Alternatives To Sleeping Bags
Up first, are five choices I recommend if you’re looking for an alternative to using a sleeping bag on your next camping trip.
My top choice for the best sleeping bag alternative is a camping quilt. A quilt is a great alternative for people who don’t like the tight feeling of traditional sleeping bags. They provide plenty of warmth without being too bulky or heavy. I use them frequently when I’m on longer backpacking trips or when I’m camping in a hammock.
Quilts rose to popularity with the ultra-light backpacking crowd due their weight-saving design. They also are beloved by people who toss and turn because they provide more flexibility to sleep however you’d like (on your side, stomach, etc).
Sleeping Bag Liners
Sleeping bag liners are a nice alternative for when temperatures rise. They are lightweight and designed to fit inside your sleeping bag, providing increased insulation and protection from dirt, dust, or other particles while still being breathable. But just because they were designed to go inside a bag, doesn’t mean they have to be used that way. They work great as a stand-alone sleep system too.
They’re also relatively inexpensive compared to buying a new sleeping bag. Choose from a variety of fabrics—including down and synthetic materials—based on the temperature outside and how much insulation you need for optimal comfort.
I will also frequently take a sleeping bag liner with me when staying in hotels too…they are a fantastic backup option if you find yourself in a room where the sheets aren’t quite as sparkling fresh as you’d like them to be.
Layering basics like long johns, sweaters, jackets, pants, and socks make a great substitute for a heavy sleeping bag, and could be your only alternative in an emergency situation.
For colder climates consider wool or synthetics that are designed to be insulating as well as water repellent. When camping in warmer weather go for light materials such as cotton or linen.
Camping blankets are useful for keeping warm and comfortable when camping. They provide an affordable, lightweight alternative to a sleeping bag that can still keep you cozy on your trip. When camping in my truck I often choose a blanket instead of a sleeping bag.
They can also be used to snuggle up around a campfire, sleep in a hammock, or as an extra layer on extremely cold nights. Furthermore, they’re easy to pack away into a duffel bag or backpack if needed, giving campers the freedom to be flexible during their camping trips!
A Woobie is an acronym for “wool-blend blanket” and is slang that comes from the US Army and other service members serving in the armed forces. They are a combination of a nylon outershell and a wool blend material on the inside. I’ve heard from folks that they are quite effective in mild temperatures and for survival situations. They are also easy to take care of – just fold it up when not using it and shake off any dirt before packing away!
The simplest and easiest option for a sleeping bag alternative is to simply use a comforter or other blanket you already have at home.
Comforters are often bulky but they can provide extra warmth, depending on the type of material you choose. Drawbacks include having to lug them around and finding the right place to hang or lay them out during the day.
It’s best suited to car camping when pack weight isn’t much of a concern
Sleeping Bag Alternatives To Avoid
One of the things that frustrate me as an outdoor blogger who actually goes outdoors and tests camping gear, is that many other websites will occasionally make some really bad recommendations. So if you happen to have been looking for advice on sleeping bag alternatives before you landed here, this is for you.
Related: How To Properly Store A Sleeping Bag
To be clear, I do NOT recommend these options but I chose to include them on the list since many other websites do and I want to address their bad advice. That doesn’t mean you can’t use one of these if you have no other options, I just don’t recommend that you do so.
Space blankets aren’t on my list of sleeping bag alternatives because they don’t provide near enough insulation, and they are flimsy and tear easily in rough conditions. Space blankets also don’t protect you from insects or moisture buildup like other alternatives d. A space blanket is good to have in emergencies and has many useful functions, but being a primary alternative to a sleeping bag isn’t one of them.
A bivy bag is billed as a combination shelter and sleep system all-in-one. In my opinion, it doesn’t do either function very well, but I would consider a bivy bag more as an alternative to a tent than to a sleeping bag. If you’re using one you wont have anything to wrap around yourself or snuggle up with. It protects you from the elements, but that is about it.
I once had to use a tarp as a sleeping bag alternative on a survival campout when I was 17 and in the Boy Scouts. It was awful. I have nothing good to say about that night and I recall tossing and turning all night and being bone shivering cold.
If you are in an emergency situation, then by all means, use a tarp or anything else you can as a layer between you and mother nature, but I seriously advise you against making if your first choice for a sleeping bag alternative.
Can You Go Camping Without A Sleeping Bag?
Yes, you can go camping without a sleeping bag. There are many great sleeping bag alternatives like camping quilts, layering extra clothing, or packing a comforter or blanket from home.
Is It Really Necessary To Have A Sleeping Bag?
No, it is not necessary to have a sleeping bag in all situations such as when its very warm or if you’re on a backpacking trip and want to reduce the weight in your pack.
What Can Be Used Instead Of A Sleeping Bag?
My personal favorite to use instead of a sleeping bag is a camping quilt. They are lightweight, warm, and suit my style of sleeping. Other alternatives you could consider are camping blankets or using a comforter from your home.