What is a Sleeping Bag Liner and Do You Really Need One – Decide Outside – Making Adventure Happen

sleeping bag liner

It’s a cold fall night and you’ve just curled up in your new, down sleeping bag after a nice evening by the fire. Even though you’re sleeping bag is rated for the conditions you’re in and you’re wearing all of the clothes you’ve brought, you just can’t seem to get warm. The solution? A sleeping bag liner. But what is a sleeping bag liner and how do you use it?

Sleeping bag liners are sleeping bag-shaped pieces of fabric designed to be an intermediary layer between you and your sleeping bag. They’re really handy pieces of gear as they can help extend the comfort range of your sleeping bag in colder months. Thus, instead of buying a new, warmer sleeping bag that you might only get a few month’s use out of each year, you can get a sleeping bag liner to use when your current bag just isn’t warm enough.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a sleeping bag liner, but want to know more about them before you do, we’re here to help you out. Coming up, we’ll discuss the benefits of sleeping bag liners and how to choose the one that’s right for you. We’ll wrap things up with a short discussion on how to wash your liner, too, so you can be sure you’re taking proper care of your gear. Let’s get to it!

Should You Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

Whether or not you should use a sleeping bag liner depends when you camp and what your sleeping bag is like. If you spend a lot of time camping in colder weather during the shoulder seasons (early spring and late fall), but you only have one sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner could be really useful.

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Additionally, if you spend a lot of time traveling, particularly with stays in hostels or huts, a sleeping bag liner (without a sleeping bag) can be a useful barrier between you and the bed linens. Since many places, especially remote trekking and hunting huts/lodges, don’t wash their bedsheets as often as they should, a sleeping bag liner is a great way to maintain some personal hygiene in the outdoors.

Can They Really Keep You Warmer

Whether or not a sleeping bag liner keeps you warm depends on the kind of liner you purchase. Some liners are made of silk or silk substitutes and are designed for use in hostels, huts, and lodges. These liners don’t really keep you warm but are rather designed to form a moisture-wicking barrier between you and the bedsheets.

Other sleeping bag liners are, indeed, designed to keep you warm. Usually, these liners are made from some sort of performance fleece, which helps add a slightly larger amount of insulation to your sleeping bag when used together. There are varying warmth ratings on sleeping bag liners, so take a good look at the packaging before you buy one.

How to Choose a Sleeping Bag Liner

Choosing a specific sleeping bag liner really comes down to identifying what you’re using it for. If you’re looking for a sleeping bag liner just for use inside hostels and huts, then your main decision is whether or not you want to splurge on silk. Sleeping bag liners made from silk do cost more, though they make up for this added expense with their light weight and compact size. Plus, silk feels awesome against the skin, which makes it a lovely alternative to old bedsheets.

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The alternative to a silk sleeping bag liner for hostel and hut purposes is a cotton or synthetic liner. Cotton liners are often the cheapest but can be bulky. Additionally, they can be really uncomfortable when they get wet as cotton loses all of its insulating properties once soaked.

Synthetic liners tend to cost a little bit more than cotton liners but are usually more durable, lighter, and less bulky. The main downsides to a synthetic liner are that they tend to smell bad after a few uses and that some people don’t like how they feel against the skin. But, synthetic liners retain their insulating properties when wet, which is nice if you spend time in particularly rainy locales.

If you’re looking for a sleeping bag liner to increase the temperature range of your sleeping bag, then you first need to identify the coldest temperatures that you might face. Compare this temperature with the temperature rating of your sleeping bag. If there’s less than a temperature difference of 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit or less, then you’re in luck – a sleeping bag liner can probably help.

From here, you can identify the sleeping bag liner you need. Generally speaking, insulating sleeping bag liners are sold using temperature ratings. For example, some liners will add 15 degrees Fahrenheit, while others will add 20 degrees Fahrenheit to your sleeping bag. The one you choose is dictated by how much warmer you need your sleeping bag to be.

Once you identify the temperature rating you need for your sleeping bag liner, you can start to look at some of the other technical specifications involved. Most insulating sleeping bag liners use some form of microfleece, which can be bulky and heavy if made with low-quality materials. Thus, if weight and compactness are important to you, then you might consider splurging on a slightly more expensive sleeping bag liner.

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Is It Okay to Wash a Sleeping Bag Liner

The “washability” of a sleeping bag liner is one of its biggest benefits. Although you can (and should) wash your sleeping bag, it’s definitely way less of a chore to wash a sleeping bag liner. Plus, if you accidentally mess up the washing or drying process with a sleeping bag liner, it’s not nearly as bad as destroying a $400 down sleeping bag.

Washing a sleeping bag liner isn’t too terribly difficult and the best advice we can offer you is to follow the manufacturer’s specifications for cleaning and care. Although some sleeping bag liners can just get tossed in with the rest of your clothes, others, especially those made from silk, require a bit more care.

Ultimately, using a sleeping bag liner is a great way to reduce the amount of dirt and grime your expensive sleeping bag is exposed to. Washing your sleeping bag liner after every camping trip can help extend the lifespan of your sleeping bag, so it’s a great long-term benefit of a relatively small investment.


Sleeping bag liners are versatile and effective pieces of gear for a variety of situations. Whether you’re looking to make your sleeping bag a bit longer for a late fall camping trip or you want something cozy to curl up into at an alpine hut, sleeping bag liners are a great way to stay warm and comfortable at night while extending the lifespan of your sleeping bag.

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