Thinking Thursdays

Lime by Iris Scherer

Sleeping Bags versus Blanket Nests

I’ve heard this argument back and forth over the years.

Which is better for camping: using a sleeping bag or using a collection of blankets?

There consistently seems to be two main issues at work in these discussions:

  1. space
  2. money

Which are really just the two big issues involved in most purchasing decisions, regardless of intended function.



Now, starting with the issue of space, this argument can devolve into 2 aspects:

  • space while actually camping
  • storage

The space involved with a camping trip is not only the actual tent space that gets taken up by the fabrics; but also the packing space. And that’s the crux of the issue.

In a tent itself, neither blankets or bags really take up that much space. In the list of items that are actually brought into the tents to stay, these are not large or in the way. The actual space the bed area takes may be more than some people want to give up for other areas, but rolling the bedding up or using cots solves that problem pretty thoroughly.

No, the issue is packing space. If you’re using camping backpacks or just trying to make everything fit into a compact car, both styles take up room.

If you’re using a pack, a sleeping bag can hang below it (and is normally designed to by the layout of the bag).

If you’re stuffing your vehicle, it depends on the relative sizes of the bags or blankets. Small choices for either can be stuck in corners, or used as pillows by the kids.

Larger, and therefore warmer options, naturally take up more space. The rolled sleeping bags can’t usually be easily shoved under the heavier objects in the back of the car, while a pile of blankets can be. However, the blankets themselves are the basis of another issue: they just aren’t as warm (more on this below).

So, for packing, blankets are better. For the actual camping itself, it might not matter; but if you’re backpacking or hiking from site to site a sleeping bag wins out.


Storage while not camping is where this argument gets convoluted.

Who actually stores their sleeping bags the right way? Not me!

You don’t store them correctly if you do any of the following:

  • keep them in their bags
  • fold them
  • roll them
  • hang them

The bags are only meant to be used to transport the sleeping bag to and from the camping itself. It’s not designed for year-round storage.

To properly store a sleeping bag, we’re supposed to lay them flat without stacking them.

Really, who does that?!?

The amount of room that would take, regardless of how many bags you actually own, isn’t efficient. And in many places (like mine) isn’t physically possible.

So, in terms of storage, blankets are easier.




Here’s where it’s simple.¬†

A blanket can cost anywhere from a couple dollars to a really overly fancy 50 bucks.

A sleeping bag starts at $30, and at that price is useless in anything but hot temperatures.

A good negative-degree bag will run you at least $70 on clearance (and then you have to make sure that you can handle whatever happens to be wrong with it).

So, money-wise, blankets are cheaper.


But wait … ??? …. huh?????



These arguments miss the point!!

The point in a sleeping bag is to ensure you are warm enough – and that the warmth is trapped near your body, where it matters.

That’s it.

Not fancy, not convoluted, not confusing.

A sleeping bag is meant to keep you warmer than a blanket.

So as you travel, if you get the option and can afford it, buy a good sleeping bag. If there’s more than one of you and you want to be cozy, buy two or two 2-person and zip them together.

Please, for your sanity and my supply stores, buy sleeping bags that are meant to keep you warm in the temperatures you’re headed for.

Blankets aren’t enough once the daytime temperatures drop under 80. Even if you run hot, once the daytime temps are in the 60s, you’re colder than you should be at night.



Disagree? Experiencing troubles?

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I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.

One Comment

  1. The headache I had while writing this was worse than usual, so if you notice any issues or mistakes, please let me know!!

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