Survival Kit Sleeping Bag


A sleeping bag provides shelter. One of the great risks during a survival situation is developing hypothermia – a condition where your body core temperature drops dangerously low – and it can happen in the summer, and any other season.

The right sleeping bag will virtually prevent hypothermia, a condition that can kill you quicker than you may think. Having only a blanket (for warmth-shelter) in your survival kit or bug-out bag may not be enough…

A sleeping bag however will provide insulation and some protection from the elements in a cocoon of warmth, trapped by your own body heat.

If you keep a 72-hour kit in your vehicle, even during the summer months consider also keeping a sleeping bag. Hypothermia is still a risk even during summer under certain conditions. In many places during the summer it still gets cold enough at night to bring on hypothermia, especially if you get wet.

If you get stranded in a vehicle when it’s cool or cold outside, crawling inside of a sleeping bag while inside the vehicle will be warmer than wrapping in a blanket.

If you have to walk out of a situation, having a sleeping bag (and the rest of your kit gear) will enable higher chances of survival if you have to shelter at night.


What is the best sleeping bag for a survival kit?

The best sleeping bag will be the one that you actually add to your kit, because any sleeping bag is better than none. Having said that, there are only a few main criteria to consider…


Sleeping bag temperature rating

Unless you plan on purposely camping or backpacking during the winter, a sleeping bag rating down to ‘freezing’ would be okay for many or most ordinary situations. However if you do live in a location where temperatures drop below freezing, a lower temperature rating would obviously be better. Or one for a warmer season and another for winter.

Point being, if the purpose for this sleeping bag is for your 72-hour survival kit to be kept in your vehicle (for example), consider the worst-case scenario for the environment that you may be in – and choose the sleeping bag temperature rating accordingly.

Temperature rating: WORD OF CAUTION… temperature ratings are often a survivability rating rather than a comfort rating. For a comfort rating a rule-of-thumb is to add 20 degrees. For example a sleeping bag (survivability) rating of 20-degrees-F would be more like a 40-degree bag for actual comfort. Check with the manufacturer…


Sleeping bag size, shape, and weight

Sleeping bag shapes are either the traditional rectangle shape or the mummy shape bag.

The rectangular bag allows for comfortable movement but is not as efficient at trapping your body heat. They are bigger, heavier, and will not roll up or fit in a ‘stuff-sack’ as small as a mummy bag.

The mummy bag is very good at trapping body heat and are predominately the colder rated bags. There are some very light weight mummy style sleeping bags, some which can roll up (or stuff) small and strap to a backpack, etc.

Be aware that sleeping bag dimensions vary, and for you big and tall folks, this is an important consideration. Be sure that you can fit comfortably inside.


Sleeping bag materials

The comfort of a sleeping bag will depend not only on temperature, but the softness of the inside shell and cushion of the insulation material, etc.

The outside shell material is also very important for durability and weather conditions – especially if considering outdoor use because you will want it to be waterproof or water-resistant as best as possible.


There are a tremendous number of sleeping bags available out there with a variety of features, quality choices, and price ranges.

Here’s one example of a popular ultralight mummy sleeping bag which is well suited for packing into a small space.

Please share your experiences with sleeping bags (and your tips or recommendations).


  1. During the cold months, I keep a Mountain Hardwear mummy style, down filled bag in my get-home bag I keep in my truck. I forget the temperature rating, but do know that it is very comfy in very cold temps. I have used it on winter motorcycle ride’n’camp trips. If it keeps me comfortable at night time temps in the 20’s, after having ridden all day in temps in the 30’s, then I think it’ll suffice for my get-home kit. This bag will compress down into a carry bag about the size of a large coffee can. It’s a bit pricey, but still holding up well after nearly a decade.

    1. Just a bit of friendly advice, down sleeping bags are good but you got to be careful because if you keep it stuffed and compressed in the bottom of a bag then it can crush the down feathers damaging the life of your bag.


  2. Check out the Modular Sleep System available at many online military surplus resellers. It has a rugged camouflage outer bivy cover, inner patrol bag, a heavier cold weather bag along with a heavy duty stuff sack. The seperate components can be used in any combination to cover a wide range of conditions. These sleeping bag systems are currently availabe either used or new unissued for very little money online. Used these sell for about $100 and new unissued the 4-piece MSS is selling for $140. This is a great value. Watch the Uncle Sam’s Retail Outlet site during holiday sales of up to 40% off, and you can score a fantastic deal on these. Again the military stuff is very well made and plenty rugged for long term use. It is heavier than the ultralite types you see in the catalogs, but perfect for rugged use.

  3. During the interstate pile up (due to idiots not believing bad weather forecasts)in Texas, one guy said he used his 20° sleeping bag in his truck when it was 0° outside and he stayed very comfortable.

    Give me comfort when ours are 0° sleeping bags. :-)

    1. Staying out of the wind will improve your chances when it’s cold outside.

  4. couple of points about sleeping bags
    make sure you can tolerate sleeping in a mummy bag
    many people find them too confining
    especially if you toss and turn a lot

    also I have found that on a number of brands
    that the temperature ratings aren’t accurate
    some people “sleep hot” others like myself “sleep cold”
    if the weather prediction is for a low of 20 degrees
    I take a 0 degree bag ,that usually works fine for me
    and I gotta agree on the military modular sleep systems
    great bags ,I picked one up cheap on EBAY

    1. Another reason to be careful about mummy bags is if you intend to sleep with someone else. Spouse or whatever. Mummy bags don’t combine well.

  5. Another good thing to remember is bag storage. You should hang your bags unrolled if they aren’t packed as some part of a BOB. This extends the life of the bag and allows the filling to breathe and maintain it’s maximum thermal rating.

    1. I agree if you are talking about commercial down bags. The Wiggy’s bag, an ultima thule, that I have will last pretty much forever rolled up.

  6. There are 3 parts to keeping warm and dry with a sleeping bag….

    1)I use a USMC Gore-tex Bivy bag. Necessary to keep a Down sleeping bag from getting wet.

    2) I use a 20oF Western Mountaineerng sleeping bag.

    3) Silk Vapor barrier liner for the sleeping bag.

    Combined with a ground mat and you can sleep outside in 0oF weather without freezing to death.
    I used #1 & #2 when the power went out during Hurricane Sandy. The temps were 21oF outside with no heat and electricity inside….

  7. you can use 2 light sleeping bags together (like the old US GI artic bag setup). use a light mummy bag inside a rectangle bag

Comments are closed.