There’s nothing like roughing it. And nothing says roughing it better than sleeping on the ground in your sleeping bag. However, for the best sleep while you’re out camping or backpacking, you don’t want to settle for just a sleeping bag.
Aside from bringing a sleeping pad, you’ll want to make sure that a sleeping-bag liner makes it into your backpack as well. Here’s the scoop on sleeping bag liners, including the types of materials they’re made from, and why you should have one.
The following paragraphs will outline what the sleeping-bag liner is; what it is made of; and finally, whether or not you should have one. You’ll get some additional suggestions about which types to use when and even an explanation of why you should bring one with you no matter what.
What Is a Sleeping Bag Liner?
A sleeping-bag liner is a type of insert that goes into your sleeping bag. It keeps the inside of the bag clean and adds some additional insulation to the sleeping bag (usually about 10 degrees fahrenheit). There are mummy liners and rectangular liners on the market.
Travelers, especially campers and backpackers, will track dirt into their sleeping bags. These same adventurous trekker also need a bag liner to keep out buggies. Yes. It’s an unpleasant thought, but a sleeping-bag liner or sheet can protect travelers like you from questionable sleeping guests, including bed bugs.
A liner also protects the sleeper’s bag from body oils that will get rubbed off the body and into the sleeping bag. In other words, a liner plays the same role in your sleeping bag as sheets do on your bed.
Sleeping bag liners are also great if you are venturing off into temperatures forecasted to be at or near the limit of your sleeping bag.
For example, a 30 degree sleeping bag is said to be good down to 30 degrees (but experience tells us that 30 would be a stretch). So if you are going off into 25-30 degree weather, bringing a sleeping bag liner will help you to stretch the limits of your sleeping bag without having to buy a whole new sleeping bag.
What Are Sleeping Bag Liners Made Of?
Sleeping bag liners come in a number of different materials. You should choose your liner material based how you plan to use the liner.
A cotton/polyester blend counts as a popular option for sleeping bag liners. While silk is a very popular bag liner material (more on that in a minute), cotton is more cost effective. It does have the same natural fiber advantage that silk does.
However, the cotton/poly blend brings something unfortunate to the table that silk alone won’t bring, weight. The liner becomes heavier, which may deter some backpackers from buying it. That said, cotton is comfortable and polyester is durable.
A silk bag liner feels soft and lightweight. Whereas the cotton/ poly blend bag weighs around 300 grams, you can get a good bag liner made of silk that weighs about 200 grams. The other advantage that silk has it that it doesn’t take up a lot of room. If things get tight in your backpack, that’s an important consideration.
Fleece and microfleece count as another sleeping-bag liner material option. While all sleeping-bag liners add extra warmth to your sleeping bag, this one does even more so. It can add up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit to your bag. The downside to fleece/microfleece is the extra weight and bulk that it adds to your bag.
The only liner that adds more heat is an insulated one and it adds up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit to your bag. Insulated sleeping bag liners add, you guessed it, even more weight.
Do You Need a Sleeping Bag Liner?
You probably do. While your sleeping bag is designed to keep you warm, getting a good night’s sleep requires more than just warmth. It’s unlikely that you’d sleep on your bed for very long without a sheet. The sleeping bag liner plays the same role as your sheets do.
A good liner does ensure that you stay warm on cool nights – an important consideration if you do winter camping. However, it has a flip side, too. In warmer climates, when your sleeping bag would be too much, you can lay on the sleeping bag and sleep in just the liner.
Aside from all of this, if you’ve been on the trail for a couple of days with no opportunity for a shower, the bag liner will keep your sleeping bag free of trail dirt and body oils. This would be a God-send on multi-day trail hikes.
Washing a sleeping bag can be unwieldy, especially if you’re attempting to wash it on the road. However, a sleeping bag liner can usually be thrown in with the regular wash with no extra trouble.
Last Thoughts on Sleeping Bag Liners
Sleeping bag liners are akin to the sheets you’d put on your bed. They add extra warmth to your sleeping bag when the temperatures drop. They also keep bed bugs and other crawlies off of you. And a liner also keeps any body oils in the liner and off the bag’s interior, protecting your investment.
Finally, they offer a good substitute for a sleeping bag on those warm nights. These sleeping-bag additions come in a number of different types of materials, making them flexible. While heavier materials like fleece and microfleece will keep you warmer on cold nights, silk or cotton offer good options as sleeping-bag substitutes in warmer climates.