You may have never thought about using a sleeping bag liner, but there are several reasons you may want to. The biggest reason typically being that they can help keep your sleeping bag or quilt cleaner and are easier to wash than a down sleeping bag or quilt.
Purpose of a Sleeping Bag Liner
Sleeping bag liners serve multiple purposes:
Extra Warmth – A sleeping bag liner can add anywhere from an added 5-25 degrees in warmth. They work much like the flat sheet on your bed.
Helps Keep Your Bag Clean – again, it works just like the flat sheet on your bed that helps keep your comforter clean. Down sleeping bags and quilts can be a pain to clean as they require special care. It’s much easier to just toss the liner in the washer/dryer than it is your bag or quilt.
Can Be Used in Hotels/Hostels – Use it as a sheet when you sleep in a hotel or hostel that might be sketchy.
Use on its Own – It works great on warm nights where a sleeping bag is too hot but you still want something on you.
What other uses do you have for sleeping bag liners? Comment below and let me know.
How to Choose a Sleeping Bag Liner
When I choose a liner, I go through a thought process to choose the right one. I have listed my priorities from high to low, but everyone is different and I urge you to decide what is most important to you and rearrange based on your own priorities.
Are you looking to add warmth? Are you just looking for a way to keep your bag cleaner? What is the end game for the reason that you are wanting to purchase a liner? For instance, if I were hiking in a humid climate I would choose the SeaToSummit COOLMAX liner like pictured below.
Weight & Packability
The next thing I look for is how much it weighs and how small it can compress (how much room will it take up in my pack). As you can see from the picture below, the silk liner is much lighter and compresses more than the synthetic blend Coolmax liner.
Material options are almost endless. Cotton, silk, fleece, wool, synthetics, and mixed blends. The choices can be overwhelming. I am currently on my 4th one myself, trying to find my holy grail liner!
- Cotton – very absorbent and strong, but is typically heavy and doesn’t pack well. Cotton also typically takes a while to dry which can be an issue during cooler months if it gets wet. However, it is typically the cheapest option, but most commonly these are used in hostels when backpacking trails where you will be spending nights in hostels instead of in the backcountry.
- Silk – typically the lightest and works great for both cool & warm weather but is typically the most expensive, next to merino wool. Silk also compresses very well, typically better than all the others. My favorite is the COCOON Mummy Liner.
- Fleece – who doesn’t love the feel and warmth of fleece during cold weather?! The downfall is it is bulky and will take up more space in your pack than other options. Prices typically fall in the middle range. Fleece liners also add the most warmth to your bag.
- Synthetics – These are perfect for hot and humid conditions as they are moisture-wicking and dry pretty fast. They are also relatively lightweight and depending on the type of fabric used can be a little stretchy. Prices for these also fall in the middle range and they tend to compress well. One of the most popular (and what I use) is the SeaToSummit COOLMAX Adaptor Liner.
- Merino Wool – Merino wool wicks away moisture and helps regulate temperature which makes it a good choice for a variety of conditions. It naturally resists odors as well. However, they tend to be on the heavier side and prices lean towards the higher end of the range.
- Mixed Blends – You can also find those made of cotton and other blends that attempt to make the best of all worlds. Prices for these can range anywhere from inexpensive to high-priced. It really just depends on the brand and quality of fabrics used.
Liners come in several shapes, but the two most common shapes used by backpackers are mummy and rectangular. Neither one is better than the other and really, the shape is just a personal preference.
- Mummy shape is made to fit into typical mummy-style sleeping bags but can feel restrictive to some.
- Rectangular will give you more room than a mummy shape, but if you are the type that tosses and turns during the night, a rectangular may make you feel like you are getting tangled in sheets. These are typically used on their own or in rectangular-style sleeping bags, but many will also use them in mummy shape bags for extra room.
The last thing I look at is the price. For me, the two most important items are purpose and weight/packability. Prices for sleeping bag liners vary greatly from super cheap to “dang, is that lined in gold?”! Brand name also plays a factor in the price.
What sleeping bag liner do you use? Comment below and let us know what you like or don’t like about it.