An unexpected night might be rare but it is something to be prepared for. Fortunately there are a lot of inexpensive options out there that can get you through a dire situation. Not all survival bags are for every situation though. Your climate is a big factor in what you need to have.
When it comes to emergency sleeping bags there are some factors that you should look at when deciding which one to buy for you and members of your family.
We are not all built the same way. If you are a larger, taller person, or both you may want to double check those sleeping bag measurements. A little snug is one thing but you need to have enough room in general. On the other hand if you are smaller you may be able to get a child or teen sized emergency sleeping bag and save some weight and money.
Cheaper bags are often heavy and bulky so you definitely do not want them for a bug out or get home bag. Down and synthetic fills can offer a lot of warmth by weight. Although they are going to cost more, it is well worth the expense.
3. Cold or Temperature Rating
Average temperatures where you live should be a major factor in your decision as to what type of emergency sleeping bag you have. You don’t want to pay for the bag that is good to 20 below zero if you live where the average winter low is 10 degrees.
Those that live in areas where temperatures go from one extreme to another during the course of the year have other considerations because a bag rated to withstand below zero temps is going to be miserable to use during the summer.
The latest and greatest state of the art materials and technology can up the price of any quality outdoor gear. You don’t need this but if you find a good deal I won’t say it shouldn’t be considered. At the same time don’t expect to get high quality materials for Wal-Mart prices.
Shopping clearance and out of season can mean big savings. Camping season ends and then there are closeouts. What is left in the middle of winter can be the biggest savings.
Are you looking for a solution if you have to bug out unexpectedly or do you just need something to get by if you get stuck somewhere in your car? More rugged conditions means you need something that can deal with them.
Some of the better quality bags have feature such as bottoms that unzip for ventilation. This can be a good solution when you have a bag where you need more versatility.
7. Have a backup emergency mylar blanket
If you have a bag that doesn’t quite hold up to the coldest conditions you expect or you want something to help out if you are wet and drying to warm up quicker, then a cheap mylar blanket can help out a lot. Use the mylar blanket over your sleeping bag. Voila you have a much warmer bag for next to nothing.
8. Do you want something that is suitable for using multiple times or just a true emergency bag?
There are bags that can address any need out there but you will pay more for those that are made to last for long term use. A lot of inexpensive solutions will save your life but they are not what you want to take on your next backpacking trip or staying overnight at your relatives.
Sleeping Bags for Emergencies
Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag Thermal Bivvy
SOL Two Person Bivy
This affordable survival sleeping bag is perfect for keeping in your car, boat, utility vehicle or in a go bag where every ounce counts. The reflective mylar interior reflects up to 90% of your body heat back to you. Even the included carry bag is durable and waterproof.
The bag also has paracord for whatever use you may need it for and a whistle that will go to 120 decibels that can alert rescue personnel to where you are or used to frighten wildlife even.
At 7 feet long this bag will accommodate practically anyone and it weights just over 4.1 ounces including the carry bag. This small round roll measures only 3 inches by 4 inches so you can keep one of these in a glovebox or console even.
If you have to drive during challenging conditions this could be a real lifesaver. Those scenes we have all saw where cars are stuck during blizzards are prime examples of when a bag like this could save your life.
So why not just a basic mylar blanket for a few bucks?
While these are better than nothing they are not ideal. For starters mylar can actually get hot enough to be uncomfortable if it touches the skin. They also are not known for being super tough so a puncture is going to be likely. Mylar is a good material but by itself it is a bare minimum. The bivys listed above have a thick layer of plastic over them for better puncture protection and waterproofing,
The weight versus size of this Bivy is impressive. At just 4.3 ounces it is big enough to fit two comfortably. Some may argue that each person needs their own bag for an unexpected night out but I can see the argument for one large enough for two. Two people in a bag are going to have an easier time keeping warm than one.
Although these blankets are not built to withstand a lot of stress they are still valuable to have. You can use them for a lot more than just an emergency blanket too. Anytime insulation or light reflection are needed, these are an economical solution
This bivy is a bit thicker, heavier, and made to withstand a longer term emergency than some of the other options on this list. You can choose between green or orange depending on how visible you want to be. The orange is less expensive for some reason so there is that to consider.
Also if you are in dire straits being visible is a positive a lot of the time. 8.5 ounces and it reflects 70% of your body heat while keeping you dry. This is a bivy you could definitely reuse with a little bit of care. I would rather have this one than any on this list if I had to experience more than one unexpected night out.
This is a very basic bag designed for one use. It will reflect up to 90% of body heat back. The packaging is basic, just a plastic bag with no carry case so it is pretty clear that this is just not meant to be put back in anything at all. It gets reasonable reviews and is less expensive than a lot of the bags on this list.
It wouldn’t be a bad addition to carry in your car but I would not choose this one for a bug out bag when you can get the Life Bivy. A lot of people like this one because it is not bright colored like a lot of emergency bivys.
Colder Weather Sleeping Bags
I don’t want to leave out you readers that have to travel in some very cold temperatures during the winter months.
A lot of the lighter weight sleeping bags out there are only rated for temperatures in the 30 degree and up range which may be just fine for your area. For one that is made for a colder climate you are looking at some extra weight. If a bag is meant to go in you car then weight may not be an issue at all. Here is one example I found of a bag that would be useful for cold weather car travel emergencies.
This bag is rated to -25 F and weighs 9.5 lbs. Although this bag may be too heavy to pack around a lot, it might be good to have in situations like unexpected weather or break downs. I remember over the years seeing a lot of stuck on the side of the road cars during bad blizzards. A bag like this could save a life. You can zip two of these together to make a double bag too.
Synthetics Vs. Goose Down
I really like goose down generally but it does not perform well when wet. If you can find a bag that will keep the down totally dry then go for it but otherwise you are better off with synthetic fills. The downside is that synthetics usually weigh more.
A Combined Approach
Although I was able to find what I think are some great options for those that want an affordable bag for an unexpected night out, I do feel that it is important to point out that a lot of these bags would be greatly improved if they were combined with a basic lightweight fleece blanket.
A fleece blanket with a mylar blanket over it is a big improvement over just mylar which is not going to be the most comfortable thing to sleep in by itself. In extreme circumstances an inexpensive fleece liner will offer additional warmth and protection from moisture.
There are liners made specifically for sleeping bags but you can just buy a fleece blanket for a lot less. In fact you may want to buy up quite a few fleece throws because they are good for so many things and since they are so budget friendly, if one gets messed up it is not like losing a $100 piece of gear or anything like that.
Buying a 12-24 pack of fleece blankets is not a bad idea for emergencies, barter, and a ton of other uses around the home or car.
Put an extra layer between you and the ground. Anything is better than nothing.
The thinnest layer between you and the ground is going to help your sleeping bag perform better and increase you comfort level. Anyone that has ever put a sleeping bag on the ground directly knows that under some conditions it just feels like that cold and moisture seeps in. An extra emergency blanket or mylar would be ideal but anything that you can find that is dry and not too hard will work.
Some preppers may even consider a camping hammock. Even just the type that are just a hammock and not a tent are better than nothing.
The other few things you should have for an unexpected night out.
I really want to encourage readers to keep a water filter or a gallon or two of drinking water in their vehicle during winter travel. Staying warm and hydrated are your first lines of survival. A few survival rations or high calorie foods should also be in your car.
Have you ever had to spend an unexpected night out? What tips and advice do you have for getting through the experience?
Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.
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