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Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: what's the difference?

Man and a woman in sleeping bags smiling lit by a lantern at night.
We explain the key differences between women’s vs men’s sleeping bags and what you really need to look for if you want to stay cozy at camp (Image credit: Rick Saez)

If you’re in the market for a new sleeping bag, you’ll be looking into the different types of sleeping bag, such as the popular mummy-style vs rectangular, and you’ll certainly want to consider the temperature rating so you don’t end up shivering the night away in a 30°F bag in sub zero temperatures. One other category that you might be wondering about is the question of women’s vs men’s sleeping bags. Is there really a difference?

For some outdoor gear, gender-specific items might make more sense than others. For example, the best hiking pants made for men and women might be tailored quite differently, whereas the best hiking socks seems like they should work pretty well on anyone’s feet. Meanwhile, many of us just prefer the way clothes intended for the opposite sex fit. So what about a sleeping bag? After all, as long as you can get inside it and zip it up, shouldn't it do the job? We looked into the differences between women’s vs men’s sleeping bags to help you decide if you need to consider a gender-specific bag for your overnights in the wild. 

Is there a difference between mens and womens sleeping bags? 

Deuter Starlight

There are several differences between women’s and men’s sleeping bags when it comes to factors like size, shape, weight and temperature rating (Image credit: Deuter)

As it turns out, there are several differences between women’s sleeping bags and men’s sleeping bags when it comes to factors like size, shape, weight and temperature rating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shop according to your sex. These differences are based on assumptions made by looking at the average shape and size of the average person, so let’s run through those differences and explain what they actually mean for you. 

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: shape 

A woman admiring half dome from inside her tent

The two types of bag are likely to be a slightly different shape, with a women’s sleeping bag a bit wider round the hips and narrower around the shoulders (Image credit: Jordan Siemens)

The two types of bag are likely to be a slightly different shape, with a women’s sleeping bag a bit wider round the hips and narrower around the shoulders and men’s a bit more streamlined. Obviously this assumes a certain body shape that you may not actually have, so perhaps it’s better just to think of these not as women’s vs men’s at all and just pick the one that seems to account for your body best. Basically, a bag with lots of extra space will be harder to heat, but you don’t want it to be so snug you can’t move in it, especially if you’re a side sleeper

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: length 

A man inside his sleeping bag in his tent

Men’s sleeping bags are usually longer than women’s sleeping bags by about six inches (Image credit: Manuel Sulzer)

Men’s sleeping bags are usually longer than women’s sleeping bags by about six inches, which reflects the taller average height of men versus women. Women's bags often come in just one size, meant for a 5'6" tall person, whereas men's bags might have a couple of options. Of course, you could be a tall woman or a short man, so you just need to make sure your bag is long enough for your body. 

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: weight 

backpackers on ridge

Because it’s generally assumed that women are cold sleepers, women’s sleeping bags tend to have more insulation, which makes them a bit heavier. (Image credit: Getty)

Because it’s generally assumed that women are cold sleepers, women’s sleeping bags tend to have more insulation, which makes them a bit heavier. Regardless of sex, if you are a cold sleeper, you might be willing to accept the extra weight and stay warm in a women’s bag. But if you’re planning on ultralight camping, you may want a lighter men’s bag. 

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: temperature rating 

A woman curled up in a sleeping bag on a mountain

The temperature rating on a women’s sleeping bag refers to its comfort rating – as in, what’s the optimum temperature at which you will feel the most comfortable (Image credit: Getty)

Though you’d think a temperature rating would just be a temperature rating, it turns out that these vary between women’s and men’s bags. Whereas the temperature rating on a women’s sleeping bag refers to its comfort rating – as in, what’s the optimum temperature at which you will feel the most comfortable – on the same men’s bag it refers to the lowest temperature limit that it will still keep you warm. 

Additionally, some women’s bags have more insulation in certain areas where you might feel cold, like in the foot box. Again, it’s best just to know what type of conditions you’re likely to be using it in, check the bag’s lower limit and make sure it’s lower than the lowest temperature you’re expecting – you can always unzip if you’re too warm. 

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags
Women's sleeping bagsMen's sleeping bags
ShapeWider around the hips, narrower around the shouldersStraighter
LengthUsually one size, meant for 5'6"Often come in 6' and 6'6" models
WeightA bit heavier, due to extra insulationLighter
Temperature ratingRefers to comfort ratingRefers to lower limit

Women’s vs men’s sleeping bags: the verdict 

A woman sleeping in her tent

It seems like it’s much more effective to ignore the men’s, women’s and even unisex label and pay attention to practical details like whether it is long enough and warm enough (Image credit: Getty images)

So, do you really need a gender-specific bag? It seems like it’s much more effective to ignore the men’s, women’s and even unisex label and pay attention to practical details like whether it is  long enough, warm enough and provides enough room to move. You may find that a women’s bag simply isn’t big enough, or is too warm, or you might find that its snugger fit and added insulation provides the warmth and comfort that’s been eluding you with men’s sleeping bags. Read our article on how to choose a sleeping bag if you’re still undecided, and remember that your bag is just one part of your whole sleep system – you’ll want to consider getting the right sleeping pad too. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.