If you’re going camping with your partner, you might not love the idea of sleeping in two separate pouches all night long, especially if you’re a couple that likes to snuggle. There are lots of ways to build the perfect camping sleep system and they don’t all revolve around everyone having their own sleeping pad and sleeping bag. For example, you might be looking into using a camping quilt instead of a bag for ultralight backpacking or be looking into options like a camping mattress instead of a foam pad for a little more home comfort if you’re car camping.
And if there’s two of you camping who usually share a bed, you might be looking into a sleeping bag that you can share. But are double sleeping bags a good idea, or are they double the trouble? We weigh up the pros and cons of this camping sleep solution for couples to help you decide.
Double sleeping bags: the cons
Sure, if you love to spoon, a double sleeping bag sounds like a no-brainer – maybe even a bit romantic – but there are some factors to consider that might have you zipping up separately after all. Let’s start with some disadvantages of double sleeping bags.
We’ll qualify this by saying that both single and double sleeping bags come in a variety of weights, and down is usually lighter than synthetic, but a double sleeping bag is going to weigh twice as much (give or take) as its single counterpart. You might not think this is a big deal, since without it you’d obviously be carrying two separate bags for the same weight anyway, and that’s true. The only time that weight might become an issue is if you’re going backpacking, since you won’t be able to split the load between your two packs. One of you will have to carry all it all, which might make packing and weight-sharing tricky.
Like any size of sleeping bags, double bags are rated via a sleeping bag comfort rating system that lets you know at what temperature you’ll be most comfortable, and what is the lowest temperature you can use the bag at. However, there are a few factors that will affect the warmth of your double sleeping bag.
First, because the bag is roomier than a single, there will be more air circulating around within it, making it more drafty. Further, a double bag can’t have the same cinch capacity around the neck, or easily have a functional hood, because there needs to be room for both of you, so you’ll lose warmth there, too.
One other factor to consider that’s highly subjective is your individual ideal sleeping temperatures. If one of you runs hot at night and the other is a cold sleeper, it will be difficult to find a double sleeping bag with a comfort rating that suits you both. Of course, one of you can wear more clothing while the warm person can always unzip, but remember there’s usually only one zip, so you need to organize who sleeps on that side, and of course when they unzip, you cool off too.
If you’re camping somewhere warm or in the summer months only, warmth might not be much of a concern, but in that case you might consider a less restrictive camping blanket instead.
Sleeping pad compatibility
Next up, most of your insulation comes from beneath you in the form of your sleeping pad or air mattress. It’s not impossible that you can use a double bag on top of two single sleeping pads, but the chances are high that there will be a gap between you that lets the cold seep in from the ground below. It’s much more practical to also invest in a double pad or mattress, which again can’t be divided between two packs when you’re backpacking, but is no problem for car camping.
Fit and comfort
Just because a sleeping bag is advertised as a double, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll both actually fit. Some double bags are mummy style, which significantly cuts down on room for your lower body, and if one or both of you are larger than average, you might be sharing some tight quarters. It’s definitely a good idea to test out a double sleeping bag together before you purchase.
Another aspect of comfort is what your sleeping partner is like in bed – and here we’re purely talking about sleeping. If your partner moves around a lot in their sleep, it’s going to be a lot more disruptive for you when you’re swaddled together, and you might find yourself being yanked around or strangled by the sleeping bag in the night, which doesn’t make for a very restful camping trip.
Finally, a double sleeping bag isn't the most versatile piece of camping gear. If you do decide to go camping alone, or with someone you don’t want to share a bag with, you’ll want to also have a single sleeping bag, which increases your costs and means you need more room to store camping gear at home.
Double sleeping bags: the pros
Ok, so you’re looking at cold drafts and potentially being smothered in the night – are there any actual advantages to a double sleeping bag, besides fostering codependency? Well, there are a couple that we can think of.
The same factor that makes double sleeping bags potentially a bit colder may also make them more comfortable. If you go for a rectangular double sleeping bag instead of a single mummy style and neither of you is a Goliath, you should have more room, which you’ll appreciate if you like to sprawl out even a little. It might simply make for more comfortable sleeping for you, though again if you’re camping in hot weather we still might recommend a camping blanket or an unzipped single sleeping bag over a double bag unless you’re both mostly static sleepers.
Shared body heat
Yes, we said that double sleeping bags are draftier affairs than single bags and that’s true, but of course, you’ve got the addition of your partner’s body heat, which can go a long way on a cold night. Your body and your partner’s body are giving off heat while you sleep, and an insulated bag will help to retain this, so you’ll benefit from increased warmth, unless like most couples, you like to roll apart after 20 minutes, then it will just be drafty again.
Can you zip two single sleeping bags together instead?
By now you might be asking yourself a common question – can you not just take two single sleeping bags and zip them together? After all, this means more versatility, because you can carry them separately on backpacking trips and you've got two single sleeping bags for camping separately too.
It is technically possible to zip two single bags together, but they need to be the same length, and the zips on your sleeping bags need to be compatible. You aso need to have one bag with a right zip and the other with a left zip. If you have a warm sleeper/cold sleeper dynamic going on, you might be able to purchase two identical models from the same bag with different comfort ratings and even things out a little.
However, even if you do get compatible sleeping bags, you should also know that you’ll likely lose some warmth where they zip together and there’s less insulation, so on cold nights you might just want to keep your sleeping bags separate. This option, however, does give you more versatility than a double sleeping bag.
Are double sleeping bags a good idea?
So, to answer your question, whether or not double sleeping bags are a good idea probably mostly comes down to your personal preference. There are obviously more disadvantages than advantages, but it’s hard to quantify the benefit of getting to sleep together, like you do at home. That may be the most important thing to you, so as long as you can find one that works for you both, there’s no reason not to give it a go, especially if you’re car camping.
That said, for both car camping and backpacking trips, there are other solutions that allow you to sleep together but are less restrictive and more versatile, such as using two camping blankets, camping quilts or two unzipped single sleeping bags instead.
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.
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