Many campers haven’t discovered the comforts of a sleeping bag liner – then they wonder why their sleeping bag is smelling funky, why it isn’t feeling as warm as it is supposed to be and why they have to wash the darn thing so often.
Along comes the sleeping bag liner to sort out all those problems and then some – like insects, and hostel bedding that could seriously use some laundry time. Liners fold up pretty small and are worth the dollar spend, but how does one choose the best?
There are many different types of sleeping bag liners and the best is the one that suits your particular needs.
Those needs may change depending on the temperatures in which you will be camping as well as the type of fabric you enjoy next to your skin.
Other qualities like moisture wicking, where, and how the liner will be used all need to be considered.
So, the short answer is that there are a number of ‘bests’ for liners, and we’ll give you the lowdown on the best in various classes, but first there are a few factors to consider before choosing your liner.
Factors When Choosing a Liner
If you are backpacking every gram or portion of an ounce counts – so check out the weight and bulk of the liner you’re thinking of.
If travelling to your camp spot with a vehicle then you can afford to go for the slightly bulkier microfiber liners for warmth.
Remember not to skimp on size to save a few grams in weight, otherwise the liner may rip and a snug liner may be irritating for those who like a bit of freedom of movement.
Liners come in various sizes like standard, long and mummy (to conveniently fit in the mummy shaped bags) so take notice of this when you order.
No one likes to feel like their feet are restricted by a liner that is too short. Usually liners are around 36” wide but some come right down to 29” – if you like a bit of kick room then the wider ones will be best.
There are even double width versions for people who like lots of space when they sleep, or for two people who can’t be separated.
Then you get the Traveller versions of liners specially designed to be a bit wider and with a built-in pillow space if you are staying in a mountain hut, hostel or dorm.
This way, when backpacking around various countries you at least don’t have to touch the sheets which often are in serious need of seeing the inside of a washing machine.
Also, sometimes dorm mates in strange places can be dodgy – so the wide liner enables you to keep valuables hidden inside with you.
Silk is super smooth against the skin, doesn’t need washing as frequently as other liners and weighs practically nothing, plus it won’t take up much more space than your closed fist.
The only drawback is having to wash it by hand – there’s no throwing this baby in a machine – particularly a top loading one where the impeller may damage it.
Polycotton, cotton and microfiber liners can go in the machine – just don’t use fabric softener (yes, we know it smells so good), but it can affect the moisture wicking properties of the liner.
The cotton/polycotton liners are a bit bulkier than the silk, but still pretty small when compared to the microfiber liners. But then cotton is warmer than silk, and microfiber is super warm.
5 Best Sleeping Bag Liners to Consider
Best All-Purpose Liner: The Wild Wind Liner
- Moisture wicking
- Large and comfy
- Poppers on side – no zip to contend with
- Dries fast
- Could be considered a little on the heavy side
The Wild Wind liner dries super quick. Made from a quality Han cotton, the liner will wick moisture away from the body so it’s a good one to have if you’re in warm climates and want to use it alone without a sleeping bag.
The cotton will also help keep you warmer in cold climates when used inside a regular sleeping bag.
Backpackers like that it folds up fairly small and can be shaken out and used to place on the bedding in hostels and dorms.
It gives you some privacy in those mixed dorms you come across – and you can even put a couple of your valuables in it to keep them safe.
It comes with a pillow insert so your skin doesn’t even come in contact with some of the dodgy pillows provided in dorms.
Apparently, it will also keep bed bugs at bay, although we are not 100% sure on this claim and not keen to test whether bed bugs will be able to find their way between the poppers.
For kids, you want a bag liner primarily to keep the sleeping bag clean.
Kids are notorious for having a bath then running around getting dirty before bed and you don’t want grubby foot marks in their sleeping bags that result in excess laundry.
It’s much easier to whip out the liner and launder it.
Best for Warm Climates: The Coolmax Liner
- Made from Coolmax polyester that is considered as comfortable as cotton.
- Insect repellent – treated with permethrin
- Moisture wicking
- Quick drying
- The insect repellent used won’t repel arachnids and scorpions – so if camping in the desert, take care.
The Coolmax sleeping bag liner is an ideal one for hot humid climates where you want to be sure you’re not sharing your sleeping bag with any insects.
Heat brings out the flies, midges and mosquitoes that can make camping very uncomfortable.
After a day in the sun and on the water, you want a good night’s rest and this is where the Coolmax comes in with its inbuilt insect repellent properties.
It is lightweight and can be used with a sleeping bag or even on its own if it is really hot.
People are buying this liner for use in hostels, for as many backpackers have been made uncomfortably aware, bedbugs may have hitch-hiked in with the previous occupant of the bed and then, wham bam, as you lie down to sleep you get that itchy feeling!
Best for Icy Conditions: The Bmc Monster Microfibre Sleep Sack
- Made from microfiber – warm and comfy
- Will give you around 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit of extra warmth
- Moisture wicking
- Machine washable
- A bit bulky.
- Zip can get cold if you are using it alone and not inside a sleeping bag.
- At 29” its less roomy than other liners – but the smaller the liner and sleeping bag the quicker it heats up and stays warm.
With the BMC Bundle Monster Microfibre sleep sack you’ll be toasty warm inside the hypoallergenic, lint-free and non-abrasive, microfiber liner.
Rated at 55 degrees, this can be used in cold weather inside a sleeping bag or if it’s warmer it can be used alone. The zips go down ¾ of the sides so feet don’t slip out and get frigid in the night.
Best Silk Liner: Purple Mulberry Silk Sleeping Liner
- Super smooth and comfortable
- Leaves hair and skin looking good
- Very lightweight
- Wash by hand
- Price may be a factor at over $30.
For a luxury feel when camping or travelling the Purple Mulberry silk liner will feel whisper soft against your skin. At 85” by 33” it’s a decent size and packs up to a little package weighing no more than 140grams.
Pure silk has been hitting the news for its anti-ageing properties with beauty conscious women choosing to use silk – the reason being that silk will not drag or pull on the skin – reducing the appearance of crease lines on the face and body.
Pure silk is also less prone to absorbing products you may have used before sleeping, and being a 100% handcrafted natural mulberry silk, this liner will minimize sweat and irritations that could lead to pimple breakouts.
Instead of waking with camp-hair – all tousled and on end, silk will not rough up the hair cuticles like cotton – leaving hair far smoother.
Best Foot Comfort: the Coolmax Mummy Liner
If you are one of those people who cannot stand having fabric pressing on your feet when you sleep then the Sea to Summit Adaptor Coolmax Liner will have you tap dancing with joy when you wake up because it comes with a built in foot box!
It can be used alone in warm climates and will not get sticky like silk can in warm temperatures, also the cotton is soft, cool, and comfortable, with moisture wicking properties.
Weighing in at 225g (0.5 oz) and folding up to a neat 3×5 inches it’s worth the spend as it can be used along in warm weather or to boost the temperature of your sleeping bag in cooler weather.
- Cotton comfort (it feels like a soft blend T-shirt) with moisture wicking
- Good for stand-alone use in hot climates
- Built in foot box
- Great as a protective layer between hostel bedding and skin
- Price may be a factor
- Mummy style liner, so not everyone’s favorite shape
Choosing an appropriate liner can take your trip from average to great when it comes to comfortable sleeping – as long as you have a good camping cot or mattress to go with it and choose a liner that’s roomy, cool or warm enough and is lightweight.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor. Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.
Over the years on numerous trips to wild places and cities I’ve learned all sorts of survival hacks, but there is always someone out there who can teach you a new trick so I remain an eternal student and forever humble.