Follow Alice sleeping bag

The best sleeping bags for Kilimanjaro

Jul 10, 2024
Reading time: 31 minutes

Looking for a sleeping bag to keep you warm on Kilimanjaro? Well, climb with us and you can use one of ours for free! Or read on to learn what to look for in a winter sleeping bag. We also talk sleeping bag liners, bag rental, how to clean a bag, and more!

Your sleeping bag is one of the single most important items on your Kilimanjaro packing list! Without a quality winter sleeping bag, you're going to be miserably cold on your climb to the highest spot in Africa!

As we discuss in 6 things I wish I knew before climbing Kilimanjaro, all of the campsites on Kilimanjaro are cold at night. That's right – even the campsites in the forest section, which you may well reach after a sweaty day of hiking in a shirt and shorts, are chilly!

And when you reach base camp the day before your summit hike – here you're going to be in alpine conditions, with the temperature at night regularly dropping well below freezing!

So you need to have a good winter sleeping bag for your Kilimanjaro climb, no quibbles. You can rent a sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro, or use one of ours if you climb with us, which we discuss in a moment.

But if you're in the market for a sleeping bag of your own, we now explain the various things to look for to ensure you choose a great winter sleeping bag that will keep you snug even in super cold weather!

Campsite on Kilimanjaro at dawn

Can you feel the cold in this campsite pic taken by our client Romy?

How to choose a winter sleeping bag

Let's discuss the main things to look for when choosing a winter sleeping bag, which are:

  1. Filling
  2. Shell and inner lining
  3. Baffles and insulation chambers
  4. Zip (zipper) and draft tube
  5. Shape
  6. Length and width
  7. Hood and draft collar
  8. Season
  9. Temperature ratings
  10. Weight
  11. Pockets

1. Filling

Winter sleeping bags have either down or synthetic stuffing. Let's look at each in turn ...

Down sleeping bags

White goose down feathers

White goose down feathers

Down-filled bags are made using the soft under feathers from ducks or geese. They're the warmest bags and very lightweight, and hence are very popular.

That said, while sleeping bags with down fill are for sure incredibly cosy, we encourage you to question how the feathers are sourced if you, like us, wish to ensure they're ethically obtained. To learn more on this important topic, please read the NY Time's What Is Ethical Down?

Here's a summary of the pros and cons of down-filled sleeping bags for cold-weather expeditions ...


Retains heat really well

Loses its insulating ability if it gets wet

Very good weight-to-warmth ratio

Some brands use unethically sourced feathers

Long lifespan when looked after


Compresses to a very small size

Requires a special cleaning detergent


Synthetic sleeping bags

Synthetic sleeping bags have fill (filling) made from polyester fibres. They're less expensive than down sleeping bags, and hence popular with those on a budget. They also have the big advantage of retaining most of their heat even if the bag gets damp or wet.

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of winter synthetic sleeping bags ...


Less expensive than down bags

Shorter lifespan compared with down

Retains heat better when it gets wet

Heavier than a down bag offering equal insulation

Easier to wash



2. Shell and inner lining

The fabrics used to create a sleeping bag's shell and inner lining – the two layers that enclose the bag's fill – are also important considerations. Ideally you want a shell that's water-resistant and durable, and a lining that's durable but soft.

Sleeping bag manufacturers use a variety of fabrics for the shells and linings, like polyester, nylon, taffeta and polycotton. Polycotton takes a while to dry, so it's not a good option for a wintry expedition like Kilimanjaro.

Polyester, nylon, silk and taffeta are breathable and quick-drying, which is what you need for an inner lining because you don't want moisture to stay trapped in the bag. These days most sleeping bag shells and inner linings are made from nylon.

Taffeta is a really great fabric choice for the inner lining, but it's also the most expensive. Silk is wonderfully comfortable, but you have to be very careful to ensure it doesn't tear.

Most sleeping bag shells now come with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, which helps to keep you dry. It also extends the life of the bag. Nylon linings are very comfortable.


The thinner (and therefore lighter) the fabric of a sleeping bag, the more expensive it is. The specification that indicates this thinness is called the denier (D).

Nylon with a low denier like 10D is very sheer and lightweight. You can usually see through such nylon to the sleeping bag's fill.

A high denier like 40D indicates a relatively thick and heavy fabric.

Differential cut

Some sleeping bag manufacturers cut the lining smaller than the shell. That's all that's meant by the term 'differential cut'.

A differential cut in a winter sleeping bag is a good thing because it naturally creates more space between the liner and the shell, which in turn allows the down or synthetic fill to loft (fluff) more easily and thus insulate you better. (We discuss loft in detail in just a moment.)

3. Baffles and insulation chambers

Baffled by the term baffles?

Baffles are the internal 'walls' in sleeping bags that create compartments which keep sections of fill (usually down) separate from one another. Without baffles, some or all of a bag's fill would migrate to one or a few spots, leaving parts of you less insulated against the cold.

Note that not all sleeping bags use baffles. You get seamless sleeping bags (some prefer to have unrestricted fill), as well as sewn- or stitched-through sleeping bags (these are usually summer sleeping bags).

But baffles and the insulated chambers or channels that they create are very popular among sleeping bag manufacturers, so let's look at the different types out there ...

Different baffles and insulation chambers

You get various types of baffle and insulation construction in sleeping bags, including (but not limited to):

  • Box baffles
  • Continuous baffles
  • Vertical baffles with long insulation channels
  • Horizontal baffles which create lateral insulation channels
  • A mix of baffles and insulation chambers

Note that while baffles are technically the inner walls creating insulation chambers, the chambers themselves are often referred to as baffles.

Box baffles

Western Mountaineering sleeping bag with box baffles

A sleeping bag with box baffles

Box baffles are inner walls that divvy up the sleeping bag's fill into regularly sized squares, trapezoids or similar. These small insulation chambers are very good at retaining heat. Some sleeping bags even put a second layer of box baffles and insulation chambers – misaligned with those below – for heightened heat retention.

Box baffles produce very insulated sleeping bags, and so are a good option for a Kilimanjaro sleeping bag.

Continuous baffles

Sleeping bag with continuous baffles

A sleeping bag with continuous baffles

Continuous baffles are horizontal baffles that run all the way around the bag and create long, lateral insulation chambers. Continuous baffles run from the zip all the way round to the draft tube that covers the zip when you do up the bag.

Continuous baffles are often used in season three sleeping bags because in warmer weather you may well want to manoeuvre the fill in such a way that parts of your body are less insulated.

Horizontal baffles

 Orange winter sleeping bag with hood and hoizontal baffles

A sleeping bag with horizontal baffles

Horizontal baffles are the same as continuous baffles except that there's a side baffle that runs the length of the bag on the opposite side of the bag to the zip and so divides the lateral insulation chambers in two. Thus the lateral insulation chambers created by horizontal baffles are half as long as those of continuous baffles.

Horizontal baffles are among the best options for winter sleeping bags. For starters, these baffles prevent fill from travelling too far down the bag and so ensure your whole body retains its fair share of insulation. Secondly, if you're especially feeling the cold on the sky-facing half of your body, you can push around the down fill to bunch on that side for further insulation.

It's worth pointing out that many folks who buy a bag for high-altitude trekking opt for horizontal baffles and lateral insulation chambers in mummy-shaped winter sleeping bags.

Vertical baffles

Purple sleeping bag with vertical baffles isolated on white background

A sleeping bag with vertical baffles

Vertical baffles create very long insulation chambers that are good in winter sleeping bags when used by those who lie on their side. This is because the vertical baffles keep the fill from migrating down on either side of you towards the ground.

Mixed baffles

Sleeping bag isolated on white background

A sleeping bag with mixed baffles

Winter sleeping bags sometimes use a mix of baffle styles. For instance, sometimes the foot box in mummy-shaped winter sleeping bags have a vertical baffle just above the feet to create a horizontal insulation chamber over the foot box. This helps to ensure snug feet and so is a good feature.

4. Zip and draft tube

Your sleeping bag's zip (or zipper) usually runs down the one side of the bag. Some, however, can also go down the front middle. Check how far down it goes if you want a really easy in and out.

We recommend that you opt for a zip that's on the left-hand side if you're right handed, and vice versa. The thinking here is that it's easier to reach across your body to zip up than bend your arm in strange ways from inside the bag.

Some sleeping bag zips have both an inside and an outside pull (or tag) attached to the slider (the little mechanism that 'eats' or releases the teeth). A zip with two pulls (often called a dual zipper) is ideal as they let you open and close the bag either from the inside or the outside – and each is convenient at different times.

If you're shopping for a sleeping bag in store, check the zip yourself to check that it opens and closes smoothly.

Draft tube

Sleeping bag zip and draft tube

A red draft tube on a First Ascent bag

In a winter sleeping bag, you want to have a draft tube or insulation chamber (also often called a zip baffle). This is a narrow (but often plush) strip of sleeping bag that runs alongside the one side of the zip and lays over it when the bag is zipped up to help to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

Some winter sleeping bags come with both an inside and outside draft tube – this adds marginally to the weight of the bag, but can be great for better insulation.

5. Shape

Single-person sleeping bags come in a variety of shapes. The most common shapes are:

  • A rectangle
  • A semi-rectangle
  • A mummy
  • A peanut shell

Here's a picture and description of each, as well as the pros and cons of each shape.

A rectangle

Purple sleeping bag rectangular hood

The classic rectangular sleeping bag

A rectangular sleeping bag gives your feet lots of room. This is a good shape for summer sleeping bags as it's nicely roomy. It can also be unzipped and laid flat like a duvet.

A semi-rectangle

semi-rectangular tangerine sleeping bag

A semi-rectangular sleeping bag

A semi-rectangular sleeping bag is a little bit tapered towards the foot box. This shape is a compromise between keeping the bag lightweight while also warm. You can still unzip a semi-rectangular sleeping bag on a hot night to lay it flat across you like a duvet.

A mummy

A mummy-shaped sleeping bag is widest at the shoulders and very narrow from the knees down. It's the most lightweight of the different sleeping bag shapes, and the warmest (because there's less air inside the bag to heat up). So it's a very good option for a Kilimanjaro climb.

Admittedly, some find a tapered foot box a touch claustrophobic. However, if you can get used to it, it's the best option for keeping your feet warm. It suits people who sleep on their backs.


Yellow mummy sleeping bag with hood

The mummy-shaped sleeping bag is designed for winter conditions

Women-specific mummy bags

Most sleeping bags are branded as being unisex. Some brands, however, make mummy sleeping bags designed specifically for women. These bags are slightly narrower at the shoulders, and slightly wider by the hips.

A peanut shell

Men's Spoon sleeping bag by Disco

Disco has branded their peanut shell sleeping bags as Spoon™️ bags

A rare shape is one that resembles a peanut shell: it's pinched at the middle and then widens out on either side. It's made this way because the designers have the knees of side sleepers in mind. And did you know that most people, in fact, are side sleepers?

The peanut shell sleeping bag (this is our own name for it) has more fabric and fill than a mummy sleeping bag, and is therefore a little heavier. But for those who don't want to feel entombed in a mummy bag, or need to sleep on their side, it's ideal.

6. Length and width

Most sleeping bag brands produce bags in a variety of sizes, both in terms of length and width. Let's look first at length.

Sleeping bag length

Most brands offer their various sleeping bags in the following lengths:

SizeLength of bagFits person up to this height

Women’s regular

1.83 m / 72"

1.68 m / 5'6"

Women's long

1.98 m / 78"

1.83 m / 6'

Men’s regular

1.98 m / 78"

1.83 m / 6'

Men’s long

2.13 m / 84"

1.98 m / 6'6"


You can also get kid-sized bags, of course. And some brands sell men's extra long sleeping bags.

Note that you don't want to have extra length within the bag that your feet don't reach, as that's just means more air that needs heating. A too-long bag also provides extra, unnecessary weight (but more on bag weight in a moment).

That said, a too-long sleeping bag can be useful if you want to use the extra space in the foot box to store things. In below-freezing conditions it's a good idea to put electronics in your bag to keep the batteries from being drained by the cold. And you can put a water bottle down there too so that you have water that isn't frozen to drink when you wake up.

Some brands also manufacture wide bags for broader folks. If this is you, you might like to browse REI's The Best Inclusive-Size Sleeping Bags of 2023: Tested. There are oval-shaped sleeping bags that could work well, especially if you want a wider bag that also doesn't feel too restrictive in general.

Whatever your height and girth, we recommend that you shop around for a bag with dimensions that best suit your frame. If you can go into a store to try out the bags before purchasing one, that's ideal.

7. Hood and draft collar

Sleeping bag with draft collar and hood

A cosy hood and draft collar

Most of your heat is your lost through the head. Consequently, almost all single-person winter sleeping bags come with a hood to help keep your bonce and neck as snug as possible. A quality winter sleeping bag will also come with a draft collar (also often called a neck or shoulder baffle) that has a drawstring to help you secure it into place one you're inside the sleeping bag.

8. Season

Sleeping bags are rated by 'season' to let you know their insulating properties. Each season rating designates a specific category of warmth.

You get the following sleeping bag seasons:

Season Temperature range*

Season 1

Above 5℃ (41℉)

Season 2

0 to 5°C (32 to 41℉)

Season 3

0°C to -5℃ (32 to 23℉)

Season 4

-5 to -10℃ (23 to 14℉)

Season 5

Below -10℃ (14℉)

* The temperature range indicates the outside air temperature at which the bag can keep you warm

If you're going to be sleeping in below-freezing temperatures, like those experienced high up on Kilimanjaro, then you want a winter sleeping bag, which is a season four or five bag.

Note that a season five sleeping bag is going to be more expensive, so you may want to go with a season four bag for your Kilimanjaro adventure unless you know you're going to need a season five bag in the future.

On Kilimanjaro, the highest (and therefore coldest) place that you'll sleep is either Barafu Camp (4,673 m / 15,331 ft) or Kibo Hut (4,703 m / 15,430 ft). These are the two base camps for summit attempts. Night-time temperatures at these campsites often drop below freezing.

That said, they rarely go below -10℃ (14℉), so a season four sleeping bag is sufficient for this adventure. However, if you have a season five bag, that's of course perfect too!

At Follow Alice, we provide all of our clients with a season four sleeping bag to use during their Kilimanjaro climb at no extra charge.

Barafu Camp Kilimanjaro

Barafu Camp is one of two base camps on Kilimanjaro for summit attempts

9. Temperature ratings

While the season of a sleeping bag gives you a first indication of the warmth of the bag, its temperature ratings offer more detail in this regard.

And when the temperature ratings is an EN or ISO rating, then you can know that the bag's ratings are based on a standardised testing.

EN and ISO temperature ratings

EN temperature ratings were introduced in Europe at the start of the century for all sleeping bags sold in that market.

Since then the sleeping bag industry introduced ISO ratings, which replaced EN ratings moving forward and are used internationally.

ISO ratings are determined by a standardised, laboratory-based test that checks the warmth of each sleeping bag using a heated mannequin dressed in one layer of thermal clothing. They make it possible for consumers to accurately compare the warmth of different brands of sleeping bags.

The different temperature groupings

To understand a sleeping bag's temperature ratings, you need to know the terminology generally used by sleeping bag manufacturers ...

Most sleeping bags give their temperature ratings using the following terms:



Upper limit temperature

The highest outside air temperature at which the average adult man should be able to sleep well without being too hot or sweating too much.

Comfort temperature

The outside air temperature at which the average adult woman is sure to have a good sleep in that sleeping bag.

Transition temperature range

The temperature range between the comfort temperature and the lower limit temperature. You should mange to sleep within this temperature range.

Limit or lower limit temperature

The coldest outside air temperature at which the average adult man should be warm enough throughout the night so as to not shiver or suffer.

Risk temperature range

The temperature range between the limit temperature and extreme temperature. It's inadvisable to use the sleeping bag for this temperature range, as you will likely shiver and really suffer from the cold.

Extreme temperature

The lowest air temperature for which the bag should be able to ensure the average adult woman can survive.


Most season four sleeping bags like those you'll find used on Kilimanjaro climbs come with a comfort rating of around -5℃ (23℉), a lower limit rating of -15℃ (5℉), and an extreme rating of -25℃ (-13℉).

Where do you find a sleeping bag's temperature ratings?

Different manufacturers tend to showcase temperatures ratings differently. Just look for a tag sewn into the sleeping bag or attached to the compression sack to find the temperature ratings.

Example of sleeping bag temperature rating

Example of a temperature rating tag

Temperature ratings are estimates

Please note that temperature ratings are geared towards the 'average' adult. If you know that you run hot or cold compared to those around you, bear this in mind when looking at a bag's temperature ratings.

10. Weight

Winter sleeping bags naturally weigh more than summer bags as they need more filling to keep you warm. And while you don't want to carry more weight than necessary, you need to balance looking for a lightweight sleeping bag with one that's sufficiently warm.

Down sleeping bags are lighter than synthetic ones. They can also compress smaller.

On a Kilimanjaro climb you have a porter to carry your overnight duffel bag for you, which should ideally include your sleeping bag. Your duffel bag mustn't weigh more than 14 kg (31 lb) to ensure your porter isn't overloaded. So you don't want your sleeping bag to take up too much of that weight allowance.

If your sleeping bag simply can't fit into your duffel bag, our team will strap it onto the bag and carry them like that. But please still stick to the 14 kg (31 lb) overall weight limit.

Whether your sleeping bag goes inside or outside your duffel bag, a waterproof covering will be placed over your belongings when being portered, so you don't need to worry about anything getting wet should it rain.

Down fill power

Note that different down sleeping bags come with different "down fill power". What this means is that some down sleeping bags are fluffier and therefore lighter than others.

Down fill power values usually range between 650 and 950.

A sleeping bag with a high down fill is very light, as it traps lots of air (that's the "power" part) and therefore needs fewer feathers to fill up the sleeping bag. Unsurprisingly, the higher the down fill power, the more expensive the sleeping bag!

If you want a very lightweight down sleeping bag, look for one with a down fill power of 800 or more.

Winter sleeping bag weight

The more insulation that a sleeping bag offers, the heavier it will be. And remember, as discussed, that synthetic sleeping bags are heavier than down sleeping bags providing the same comfort rating. Also, mummy-shaped sleeping bags are the lightest shape, with rectangle sleeping bags being the heaviest.

It's very easy these days to find a winter mummy-shaped sleeping bag with down fill that weighs below – even well below – 90 kg (2 lb).

In fact, you can get extremely lightweight down sleeping bags. The mummy-shaped, down Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32, for instance, has a 900 fill and weighs only 450 g (1 lb)! More commonly, however, you're going to be looking at around 650 to 710 g (1 lb 7 oz to 1 lb 9 oz) for a 900-fill mummy-shaped down sleeping bag.

The North Face is one of the best brands for lightweight winter synthetic sleeping bags. Their synthetic season four Chrysalis 20 Sleeping Bag, for instance, weighs just 729 g (1 lb 9.7 oz)!

Differential fill

Some sleeping bags actually come with differential fill. This is where there's more fill – and thus insulation – on the top half than on the bottom half, which gets compressed under your weight.

For winter sleeping bags, where minimising their weight is important, differential fill can be a great asset. Just ensure that you pair it with a quality sleeping mat that provides excellent insulation from the cold ground.



11. Pockets

It can be very useful to have a small pocket near the head of the sleeping bag for storing an important item or two. You might like to put your camera's batteries in the pocket, for instance, as extreme cold drains batteries.

Red sleeping bag pocket

A sleeping bag side pocket

Pillow pocket

Some sleeping bags come with a built-in pillow pocket. The name is pretty self-explanatory: the pocket lets you slip in a small pillow and then keeps it in place.

If you want to cut down on space and weight in your luggage, you could forget the pillow and simply stuff a soft piece of clothing like a fleece top into the pillow pocket.

Quilts vs sleeping bags

Sleeping quilt

An Alsek sleeping bag quilt

A recent development in camping equipment is the sleeping quilt. This is essentially an open or semi-open sleeping bag.

The idea behind the development of quilts is that the part of the sleeping bag that you lie on and thus compress has little value in terms of providing warmth, so why not remove it altogether? (This is the same thinking that led to the development of differential fill in sleeping bags, as we discussed above.)

A quilt is therefore designed to work in tandem with your sleeping mat (pad) to keep you warm. And it can be more lightweight than a regular sleeping bag as a result.

Quilts come in a variety of configurations. For instance, some zip up half way, and then splay open to cover your top half like a regular quilt. Another example of a quilt is one with elasticated cords that connect the two long sides of the quilt and slip snugly over your sleeping mat to keep the quilt in place on top of you.

The main thing to note if you want to investigate a backpacking winter quilt is that you need to pair it with a quality, insulated sleeping mat. Your sleeping mat is all that you have (besides your clothes) keeping the floor-facing half of you warm. So ensure you choose a sleeping mat that can live up to the task!

backpacking quilt

Example of a backpacking quilt that can convert into a traditional bag

What are the best sleeping bag brands?

We're not really in a position to comment on the different brands of sleeping bags out there, as we haven't conducted a review of our own of a range of bags.

What we can say is that The North Face is an excellent brand, which is why we used them to make our branded, season four Follow Alice sleeping bags. And Marco, our head of IT – who's climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, trekked to Everest Base Camp and much more – has always been very happy with his season four Western Mountaineering sleeping bag.

But if you'd like some detailed advice on particular brands that offer good-quality winter sleeping bags, you might like to read:

Can I rent a sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro?

In many destinations around the world where trekking is a major drawcard you can often simply rent a sleeping bag. And the rental prices usually aren't too hefty.

This is true of Kilimanjaro, where you can rent a sleeping bag in Moshi or Arusha, the two cities at the base of Kilimanjaro. You can usually rent a bag for the duration of a Kilimanjaro trek for about US$30 to $50.

There are a few advantages to renting a sleeping bag, including:

  • You don't have to travel with a bulky sleeping bag in your luggage.
  • You don't have to purchase a costly bag if you're not going to use it often.
  • You can rent a lighter or warmer sleeping bag when trekking in different weather conditions.
  • You can use the rental experience to try out a certain type of sleeping bag to see how you like it before buying your own one.

That said, even better than renting a sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro is being loaned one by your Kilimanjaro tour operator ...

Follow Alice's complimentary sleeping bags

Follow Alice sleeping bag

One of our custom-designed, red-and-black Follow Alice sleeping bags

At Follow Alice we loan each of our climbers a super cosy four-season sleeping bag for use on their Kilimanjaro at no extra charge!

These sleeping bags were made for us by The North Face and were specifically designed to combat the harsh conditions experienced on Kilimanjaro. We've tried them ourselves, and believe us, they keep you nicely toasty even at base camp the night before you summit!

Very few Kilimanjaro tour operators provide free sleeping bags to their customers, so be sure to find out from any prospective operator if they include a sleeping bag or not. As discussed, sleeping bags are hella pricey. So an included sleeping bag can be a make or break factor if you don't already own a suitable one of your own.

Are sleeping bag liners worth it?

Sleeping bag thermal liner

A mummy-shaped thermal sleeping bag liner

A sleeping bag liner is always a good idea. We say this even if you're using your own sleeping bag. This is because a sleeping bag liner:

  • Reduces how often you need to clean the sleeping bag
  • Is more hygienic – you can wash a liner easily and therefore regularly
  • Extends the life of the sleeping bag
  • Can offer a few extra degrees of warmth if it's thermal

You can buy a sleeping bag liner or simply make one yourself using an old sheet or other large piece of material.

For arctic conditions like those you'll experience high up on Kilimanjaro, we recommend packing a thermal sleeping bag liner. This is one made from materials like polyester, nylon, fleece (a bit bulky), micro-fleece or silk (the most expensive option).

Also remember the shape of your sleeping bag when buying a sleeping bag liner. Ideally you want a liner that's the same shape as your bag.



How do you wash a sleeping bag without ruining it?

Woman handwashing a blue and black sleeping bag

Don't use too much detergent when washing your sleeping bag

In one sense, the only answer that's needed here is that you should follow the cleaning instructions for your particular sleeping bag! Sleeping bag manufacturers use various materials for bags' fillings and linings, so cleaning instructions will vary.

You can damage a sleeping bag if you clean it the wrong way!

For instance, a down-filled sleeping bag (which is a good option for a Kilimanjaro climb) can be hand washed or go in your washing machine, but either way you mustn't use a regular washing powder (detergent) nor a softener, as these will damage the down. You also shouldn't add too much washing detergent as this can be hard to rinse out.

Instead, you need to use a technical cleaner that's been formulated for cleaning a down bag. And never use more than what's stated. Choose a delicate cycle and keep the water temperature below 30℃. Also ensure all zips (zippers) are undone and all drawstrings are loosened as far as they'll go.

How often should you wash your sleeping bag?

It's usually enough to launder your sleeping bag just once a year if you're diligent about always using a sleeping bag liner. Of course it also depends on how often you use your bag. Avid trekkers should probably launder their bags more frequently. Just give your bag a sniff now and then, and feel it for dampness.

Most times a good airing in the sun is enough to get you bag dry in between uses and eliminate any musty odours. Sunlight is also a natural disinfectant.

Airing cleaning washing sleeping bag on drying line in Everest

Just air your sleeping bag in between washes

When is the best time to wash your sleeping bag?

A good time to launder your sleeping bag is at the end of a trekking or camping season, or just before putting it away for an extended period of time. In this way you ensure any dampness or smell is eradicated before stowing it.

Your bag is also then ready for action when you next want to head out, and you don't have to remember to first clean it.

How do you restore a down sleeping bag's loft?

Sleeping bags with down fill lose some of their loft (fluff) after many uses. Ever used a down sleeping pillow? Then you know the issue all too well!

What is loft in a sleeping bag?

Loft (or fill power) refers to the space taken up by down feathers. A sleeping bag with high-quality loft is one where the feathers puff out well, thereby taking up lots of space and trapping plenty of air.

Loft is important because the trapped air helps to insulate you.

When a down bag is compressed by being slept on or stuffed into a small bag, some of that trapped air is lost over time and the bag's loft (fluffiness) is diminished.

Winter sleeping bag red in snowy mountains

A winter sleeping bag with good loft

How can you revive your down bag's loft?

To revive the loft in your down sleeping bag, try one or more of the following:

  • Shake the bag and try to fluff it manually. Then lay it flat and leave it for a couple of hours.
  • Wash the bag in cold water, without detergent, then place it in a drying machine with two tennis balls and put the machine on a no-heat cycle.
  • Store the bag in a loose, breathable sack – compression sacks should only be used when transporting the bag.

How should you store a sleeping bag?

Sleeping bags in drawstring compression sacks

Compression sacks should only be used to transport sleeping bags

These days most sleeping bags come with a drawstring compression (stuff) sack that's a great help when transporting the bag.

But you shouldn't actually store your bag in the compression sack. Instead, you should pack it loosely inside a mesh or cotton sack.

Then, stow it in a cool, dry cupboard. And depending on where you live, consider putting a bar of soap, moth balls or whatever next to it for further protection.

Don't rely solely on your sleeping bag to keep warm

Note that a warm night on Kilimanjaro is not all about your sleeping bag. There are three other things that also determine whether or not you're going to have a cosy night:

  1. The tent
  2. Your sleeping mat (also called a sleeping pad)
  3. Your sleeping clothes

1. Tent


A Follow Alice two-person sleeping tent

In terms of your tent, you want a four-season, waterproof tent to keep you dry and protected from the wind.

All Kilimanjaro tour operators provide their clients with sleeping tents as part of the service. We encourage you to always check what sort of tents are provided before signing up with anyone.

At Follow Alice, we provide our Kilimanjaro clients with cosy season four, The North Face tents that sleep two people each. You can opt to have a tent all to yourself, but this comes with an additional fee.

2. Sleeping mat

Man and woman in sleeping bags on sleeping mats by tent

A narrow sleeping mat is good for treks as it's lighter

Sleeping mats not only provide some cushioning, they also help to protect you from the cold emanating from the ground.

In cold conditions, a sleeping pad is essential. You can find a variety of sleeping pads on the market these days, from traditional roll-up foam pads to air-filled pads that have built-in inflating pumps.

On a Follow Alice Kilimanjaro climb we provide you with a foam sleeping mat at no extra charge. They're not insulated sleeping mats, but they do the job sufficiently, which is what's important. If you have your own sleeping mat that you'd like to bring along, please do!

If you decide to purchase a sleeping mat, look for one that's 4 to 6 cm thick for ideal comfort. And be sure to choose a thick sleeping mat if you're a side sleeper to help cushion your hip.

Also look at its thermal properties if you're going to be trekking in very cold climates. Finally, consider its weight, as on many treks you might need to carry the mat yourself and every extra ounce can make a big difference!

3. Clothing

Michaela and tent Kilimanjaro

Our client Michaela sporting a cosy beanie – a critical item of Kili clothing!

Finally, in terms of your clothing, you want cosy, comfy clothes, particularly for your extremities (feet, hands and head).

Your head in particular needs a warm beanie or similar (unless your sleeping bag lets you draw the hood very snugly around your face – and you don't mind the feeling of this). The point here is that if you head is going to be somewhat exposed, a balaclava or a cosy beanie paired with a snood to pull over your mouth and nose is a must.

We also suggest using a hand warmer or hot water bottle at night. If you're climbing Kilimanjaro with Follow Alice, please bring along a hot water bottle and give it to one of your crew members before bed – they'll fill it up for you so that you can be snug as a bug in a rug from the get go!

And that's all you need to know! You're now more than amply armed to go sleeping bag shopping for your upcoming Kilimanjaro climb!