Why You Need This One Item That Campers Always Overlook

Group of mountaineer resting and enjoying view of Moraine Lake at Banff national park, Canada


With the ability to provide added warmth and extend the life of your sleeping bag, sleeping bag liners are extremely useful, yet remain an item left behind by many campers. Highly packable and designed to be slipped into your sleep sack, this undervalued item is ideal for the hygiene-conscious budget traveller, backpacker and anyone else who uses a sleeping bag on their adventures.


Benefits of Using a Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner acts as a barrier between your body and the bag, which helps keep the bag free of dirt and body oils, and from collecting odours. This is especially useful on multi-day adventures where soap, fresh water, showers and even deodorant can be hard to come by or left behind. Tossing a liner into the wash is far easier than laundering a down-filled sleeping bag. This helps extend the life of your sleeping bag by reducing the need to wash the bag itself.

On a sticky summer’s night when it’s too warm to crawl into your sleeping bag, you can sleep in just the liner. Even if you’re half-zipped inside the sleeping bag, the liner can still help protect you from bugs. Sleeping bag liners are also handy for travellers who stay in hostels or budget hotels where the sheets cleanliness is sometimes questionable. Folded up and tucked into its stuff sack, liners take up very little real estate in your backpack.


What To Consider When Shopping for a Sleeping Bag Liner

Liners generally come in two different shapes: a mummy shape and a rectangular shape. The mummy-shaped one, with tapered feet, is designed to fit inside mummy sleeping bags. Some mummy liners even come with a drawstring hood for more protection against the elements. The rectangular liner generally allows for more leg room when slipped into your sleeping bag and is also better when using it on its own. These sometimes come with a wide pocket or stuff sack so you can keep your pillow clean as well.

When shopping for a liner, consider how often you might need to wash it, the temperature you usually feel when you sleep, and which materials feel best on your skin. For example, liners made of synthetics like polyester and ThermoLite can be conveniently tossed into the wash with all your other clothes, while a silk liner will have to be hand-washed to maintain its integrity. Also consider the weight and packability of a liner. While a silk liner is highly packable and ideal for gram-counting lightweight backpackers, a car camper will have the luxury of considering a bulkier microfleece liner for added warmth.

Beyond material and washability, the price point can help you narrow down what you need. More high-end liners might have extra features, like double stitching for a stronger seam, a pillow pocket and antibacterial and anti-odour properties, which could be things you’re compromising if you settle on the least expensive liner option.


What Are Liners Are Made Of?

Depending on the material of the sleeping bag liner, it can add upwards of 10 C of extra warmth to your sleeping bag. This is especially useful for when your summer-rated bag starts to feel a little chilly come September, or if you’re camping in higher elevations. If you’re camping somewhere too warm, you can sleep in the liner itself without the bag.

While silk is extremely lightweight and breathable, it’s one of the most expensive liners out there. Cotton is one of the most economical options and most durable, even if you toss it in the wash consistently, but it’s not as packable or as good against the elements. Microfleece is favoured for its moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities, but the extra warmth means it’s fairly bulky, which isn’t suitable for lightweight thru-hikers.

However, a sleeping bag liner made of synthetics may be the best all-around option when you’re not looking to drop a whole lot of money on a liner but still reap its benefits. This Chilly Nights Sleeping Bag Liner is moisture-wicking and breathable, which also makes it a suitable option for humid conditions. Coming in at 440 grams, the liner is easily packable whether you’re headed to the backcountry for a multi-day camping adventure or to a budget hotel. When neatly stored in its stuff sack, it’s the same size as a folded-up lightweight shell jacket. For under $40, it increases the temperature rating of any sleeping bag by approximately 5 C.


Buy your sleeping bag liner here