You already found the perfect sleeping bag, but now you’re hearing you could also use a sleeping bag liner.
Read on before you throw up your hands and abandon your ever-growing camping supply checklist! You will learn why you should consider a sleeping bag liner and how to choose the right one for your next adventure.
Benefits of a Sleeping Bag Liner
Even if you’ve found the ideal sleeping bag, there are still several reasons to consider purchasing a liner.
First, consider hygiene. A sleeping bag liner protects your sleeping bag from dirt and oils that can shorten the life of your bag. It’s much easier to remove and wash a liner than to wash and dry your entire sleeping bag, and you won’t risk the wear and tear on the bag.
In many parts of the United States, great camping doesn’t just happen in the summer; even during the warm season, temperatures at night can drop low. A sleeping bag liner can help insulate your bag and add a layer of extra warmth. This is especially nice if your sleeping bag isn’t rated for the low nighttime temperature you experience, as sleeping bag liners can add 5-15 degrees of warmth.
What’s more exciting about sleeping bag liners, though, is that they can be used in lieu of a sleeping bag if you’re camping in warmer climates. (In addition, many hostels across the world require guests to use something akin to a sleeping bag liner in their establishments, too, which may be another bonus of getting a liner, depending on your travel habits.)
Let’s be honest: the slick nylon or polyester of even the best sleeping bags lacks that comfortable feel that helps us get cozy enough for good sleep. A removable sleeping bag liner allows you to choose the fabric that’s most comfortable for you without sacrificing the high-tech benefits of your sleeping bag’s material.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sleeping Bag Liner
To max out the comfort potential of your sleeping bag liner, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of different liner fabrics.
Silk sleeping bag liners provide top-notch luxury, for sure. Couple that with their lightweight, and you may decide a silk sleeping bag liner is perfect for you!
Silk provides insulation in cold weather but is also breathable, which is useful when the weather gets warm. Silk is also moisture-wicking and has powerful antimicrobial and anti-odor properties.
One downside to these liners is that they aren’t machine washable, which can be an unwanted inconvenience. Also, they tend to be more expensive, as far as sleeping bag liners go. They’re typically priced anywhere from moderate to high on the spectrum of sleeping bag liners.
Cotton sleeping bag liners are also lightweight, soft, and comfortable. They’re typically more affordable than liners made of different fabrics.
Cotton makes for a warmer sleeping bag liner than silk, though only by a few degrees. On the downside, it’s also heavier than silk.
Sleeping bag liners made from cotton absorb moisture, which keeps things comfortably dry inside your bag; however, that characteristic makes them less than ideal in wet or cold environments, as they tend to hold on to that moisture.
Luckily, cotton sleeping bag liners are machine washable and tend to be more durable than silk, meaning they stand up to multiple washes better than the latter.
Thanks to its ability to insulate, wool has been the go-to material for outdoor activities for decades. It wicks moisture away and breathes in warmer temperatures.
However, wool sleeping bag liners can be expensive and are generally much heavier than any other material of sleeping bag liner.
Sleeping bag liners made from synthetic material (like polyester or fleece) can be moisture-wicking, breathable, and a little stretchy. They work well in humid climates (thanks to the moisture-wicking) but can also provide nice insulation to add warmth on colder nights.
Synthetic sleeping bag liners can be machine-washed (yay!), but any unpleasant odors get harder and harder to eradicate over time. They are, however, less expensive than comparable silk liners.
Size and Shape
Sleeping bag liners come in the two shapes and sizes most likely to fit your sleeping bag: rectangular or mummy. You can also find variations on these two main shapes, such as long-length for taller users and double liners for a bed fit for two.
Rectangular sleeping bag liners are roomier than their mummy-style counterparts but less insulating. This makes them a good choice for warm-weather camping when a full sleeping bag isn’t needed at all. Rectangular sleeping bag liners are also preferred for travelers who want to use their liners while staying in hotels or hostels.
Mummy-style sleeping bag liners are tapered and made to fit into the most popular sleeping bag shape–the mummy. Although they tend to be less roomy than their rectangular counterparts and slightly less stretchy, they do provide more warmth and a snugger fit.
Weight and portability
How do you normally use a sleeping bag? Different sleeping bag liner traits are better suited for different situations, and you should get a liner that will meet most of your needs most of the time.
Ultralight sleeping bag liners are best for hikers and backpackers who carry all their gear on their backs. For these campers, silk liners are the best bet if they want to cut down on weight. Of course, you won’t cut pounds by choosing a silk liner over a synthetic, for example, but if you backpack a lot or if you prefer to carry those extra ounces elsewhere, a silk sleeping bag liner is the way to go.
Compact sleeping bag liners are ideal for those who intend to use them more at hotels and hostels but still want a good option for when they camp. Look for one that doesn’t take up too much space in your bag but is made of the right material to ensure you get a comfortable–and bug-free–night’s rest after a day of adventure.
Should you get a bag liner with a zipper or without one? There are pros and cons to both! Adding a zipper to your sleeping bag liner makes it easier to get in and out of, but if you’re trying to save weight (like, for backpacking), zippers, though they don’t add a lot of extra bulk, can make things unnecessarily cumbersome.
Another feature that appeals to some users is having added pockets in a sleeping bag liner. The coolest use for a pocket in a sleeping bag liner is a pillow pocket–a place to tuck your camp pillow where it will stay put. However, other pockets on the liner can be especially appealing for travelers who use their bag liners for other-than-outdoor adventures, like international travel.
If you think you may stay the night in a place where security is sketchy, a sleeping bag liner with pockets can help you make sure your most important belongings are safe when you travel.
One of the great features of using a sleeping bag liner is that you can easily wash it to get rid of whatever level of camp funk your liner has adopted. However, having a liner with special antimicrobial and anti-odor properties is an extra line of security if you must go for stretches between washings. Consider buying a liner with built-in properties that help keep your liner and bag fresh longer.
Caring for your Sleeping Bag Liner
Although many sleeping bag liners can be machine-washed, handwashing is the best way to extend the life of your liner. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your sleeping bag liner before washing.
Silk sleeping bag liners must be hand washed. First, turn the liner inside out and remove any debris or small pebbles that may be caught in it. If your sleeping bag liner is really dirty or it’s been a while since you’ve washed it, soak it in cool water with a small amount of gentle detergent (be sure to select a detergent designed for hand-washing silk). Soak for a maximum of 5 minutes.
Next, place the sleeping bag liner in a solution of clean water and white vinegar to rinse it and remove any residual detergent, then rinse it with cold water.
Gently squeeze–do not wring–any excess water from the sleeping bag liner. Place it flat on a towel, then roll it up to remove as much water as possible. Lay the liner on another dry towel and leave it to air dry.
Wool can be washed in the washing machine with some extra care. To clean a wool sleeping bag liner, shake it out to remove debris. Using a medium- or soft-bristled brush, gently brush the liner to remove any embedded dirt.
Treat stains with gentle, wool-safe detergent, club soda, or a mixture of vinegar and water (one part vinegar to two parts water). Blot with a clean cloth.
Fill your washer tub with cold water. Add your wool-safe detergent, and put your sleeping bag liner into the tub to soak for about 15 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water at any point in the cleaning process; it can shrink wool.
After 15 minutes, run your washer on a gentle cycle for just about 2 minutes. Cancel the cycle and run a full rinse cycle. Repeat the rinse as needed until all the soap suds are gone.
Most synthetic sleeping bag liners can be machine-washed. If you’re using a top-loading washer, place the liner in a pillowcase so any zippers or drawstrings on the liner don’t get caught on the agitator.
Wash on a delicate or gentle cycle with normal detergent. Do not use fabric softener, which can ruin any moisture-wicking properties the liner may have.
Air dry the sleeping bag liner; putting it in a dryer can damage the fabric.
Cotton sleeping bag liners are the easiest to wash by far. Simply toss them in your machine on cold with regular detergent, then tumble dry on low.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a liner in place of a sleeping bag?
Yes! As long as the climate allows, it may even be better to use a liner than a sleeping bag, as it’s easier to clean and more comfortable in warm weather.
Should I use a liner if I’m sleeping in a hammock with a blanket?
You can use a sleeping bag liner in a hammock to add extra insulation without making things too hot. A liner will also protect your hammock from dirt and sweat, thereby extending its life. Many hammockers find sleeping bag liners to be a great alternative to an under blanket when enjoying their hammocks.
Does the liner attach to my sleeping bag?
Sleeping bag liners do not attach to your sleeping bag; rather, they fit inside the bag, and as long as you have the same size and shape liner as the bag, the liner will stay in place while you sleep.
Should I leave the sleeping bag liner in my bag or pull it out each morning?
It’s best to air out your liner each morning after use. Pull it out of your sleeping bag and hang it up, preferably in an airy, sunny place, until it comes time to use it again.
Worth Adding to Your Camping Gear
Sleeping bag liners extend your sleeping bag’s life, ultimately saving you money. Even better, they make sleeping in a bag more comfortable! Add a liner to your camping gear; you won’t regret it.
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