Mummy bags are designed to be a closer fit to more efficiently store your body heat. They are also famously uncomfortable and for some side-sleepers, they are not an option. What can be done?
Most side-sleepers can use a mummy bag, successfully. From our data, 63.75% of side-sleeping campers sleep with a mummy bag while camping. However, many said they needed other gear including a pillow, a good sleeping pad, and/or even a oversized mummy bag.
That being said, 36.25% of those who identified as side-sleepers said they cannot sleep with a mummy bag. Is there some special secret that makes it possible to side-sleep with a mummy bag without hating life? I’ll go into some tips to make side-sleeping more bearable as well as some alternatives to mummy bags that side-sleepers use.
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Can You Sleep On Your Side In a Mummy Bag?
From personal experience, I know that it’s definitely possible to side-sleep in a mummy bag. I am a back sleeper on my bed, but when I’m camping I roll around from side to side like a roly-poly bug (except not in a ball?).
I didn’t want to stop there, though. I recognize that we humans are very different from one another and so I decided to ask the side-sleepers in a camping community if they use a mummy bag.
Out of 80 responses, most of the answers were yes (63.75%), with 36.25% being no. But many of the no’s were very passionate. Fortunately, I learned a ton of tips that people use to make side-sleeping bearable in a mummy bag.
So, in sum, if you haven’t tried it before as a side-sleeper, you have a 2 out of 3 chance that you’ll be fine while sleeping in a mummy bag. I would definitely try backyard camping with your mummy bag to try it out before you try it out a few hundred miles from home in the wilderness.
Tips For Making Side-Sleeping More Bearable In A Mummy Bag
There are actually some very important preparation steps to take if you are a side-sleeper. These are likely to be true of whatever sleeping solution you use but it’s especially true for mummy bags.
Choose a Sleeping Pad That Absorbs Your Side-Sleeping Pressure Points
This, is probably the most important thing to have when side-sleeping while camping. When you’re sleeping on your back your body is well distributed, but when you’re on your side your hip has a really strong pressure point that can be very uncomfortable.
I’ve tried sleeping with those blue foam pads that you can find at Walmart for $10-$20, and they definitely insulate you from the ground but your hips won’t remember you kindly for using them.
A sleeping bag with adequate cushion makes sleeping on your side much more enjoyable while camping.
This doesn’t mean you need a thick foam mattress, in fact you can use an ultralight sleeping pad, but it has to be specially designed for it.
For example, Klymit Static V (Amazon) makes an ultralight multi-chamber sleeping pad that is designed to reduce your pressure points, and I can tell you it works! The air chambers function like little pillows and if you sleep on your side the chambers work together to support your hips and knees.
Pads like these are the most comfortable backpacking sleeping pads I’ve ever had and would recommend them.
Choose a Sleeping Pad That’s Wide Enough To Support Some Shuffling
I could lump this in the previous section but I think it’s worth mentioning. The wider your sleeping pad, the better your side-sleeping experience–because as a side-sleeper you are probably going to switch sides during the night.
Switching sides, a simple task normally is a bit more complicated while you’re in a mummy bag. You’re constricted so you can’t easily shuffle in place.
The solution? Well, it’s not a perfect solution, but a wider sleeping mat makes it easier to keep the sleeping pad underneath you.
Use a Pillow Or Pillow Substitute
You probably know, as a side-sleeper, that a pillow is extremely important to sleeping comfortably, and maybe even sleeping at all.
This doesn’t magically change when you’re camping, unfortunately. Because your neck has further to fall when sleeping on your side, you need something to support your head.
A camping pillow is expertly designed for the task of being small and efficient for camping.
If you’re not sure if you need a special camping pillow I cover that question here. I also go over some ways you can make your own makeshift pillow without having to bring a specialized camping pillow as well as talk about ultralight pillow options.
You can make a pillow out of what you have, it takes a little creativity and pillow finagling to get something that’s comfortable.
Roll With the Bag
This is an interesting tip that I learned from the camping community–many recommended learning to roll with the bag.
This makes sense–mummy bags are cut to fit a human body, and so if you lay sideways within a mummy bag than the bag will be very tight one way and looser another way–which will not be a comfortable sleep.
Instead of rolling inside the sleeping bag while the sleeping bag stays flat, try rolling with the sleeping bag so that the fit stays the same no matter what position you are in.
I hadn’t thought of it but this is exactly what I do when I’m side-sleeping in a mummy bag.
Use an Oversized Mummy Bag Or a Roomy Cut
So, I just told you the tip to roll with your mummy bag, but this is not what everyone does.
Mummy bags are by definition constricting–they are meant to be a close fit so the mummy bag can efficiently capture your body heat. However, this doesn’t mean you have to find a mummy bag that is a tight fit.
In fact, 5 respondents specifically said they found a mummy bag that was oversized that gave them plenty of room. Some even said that the mummy bags were so oversized that they could roll within the bag without rolling with the bag and stay comfortable!
There’s a tradeoff between comfort and warmth in this case–if you sleep in a roomy sleeping bag the heat won’t be as efficiently captured, which can work totally fine in cool weather conditions but could be bad in cold weather conditions. The backyard camping test is a good test to make sure your bag can support you in the current weather.
Only Use A Mummy Bag When Cold
Mummy bags can sleep hot–especially if you’re camping in the summer or spring. It’s possible that the mummy cut may be overkill for your particular camping season!
For this reason, you can actually use a more inexpensive rectangular sleeping bag during the summer months or if you’re car camping and can bring additional blankets.
If, however, you are backpacking and need as much insulation with as little weight as possible than a mummy bag is a good option. You can always unzip or partially unzip the mummy bag.
In short, if it’s cold outside than your body will want to be covered as much as possible and you may find it a lot easier to put up with the constriction of a mummy bag.
Side Sleeping and The Case Of The Wandering Sleeping Pad
One of the most distressing realities of a side-sleeper is that the sleeping pad tends to migrate as you roll back and forth. There’s nothing like waking up in the middle of a dark tent bewildered, cold, and aching because you fell off your sleeping pad (or more likely, your sleeping pad decided to get some fresh air).
Some sleeping bags actually have a sleeping pad insert, like Big Agnes’s System Bags, an example is the Big Agnes Lost Dog sleeping bag (REI). The sleeping bag itself has a place where you can put your sleeping pad so you can get however much insulation and cushion that you want.
Another solution is to actually just put your sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag. I tried this and talk about how it went in my post, here.
Side Sleeper Sleeping Bags
This was the most fun thing I learned while asking the community about side-sleeping in a mummy bag: There are some spectacular alternatives to mummy bags that work for the 36.25% of side-sleepers who don’t want to sleep in a mummy bag.
Nemo Spoon Disco Bag: A Side-Sleepers Dream?
I was blown away that 9 different people all recommended the Nemo Spoon sleeping bags. One of the more popular models being the “Disco” bag.
The Nemo Disco bag (Amazon) is a mummyish bag except it has a spoon shape. Instead of putting your feet so close together the bag tapers out so you have more room.
Several side-sleepers reported that they are able to side-sleep really well with a Nemo spoon bag.
Reading their specifications, Nemo bags are designed with side-sleepers in mind, but are still cut in a way to get as much heat storage efficiency as possible. It seems like a fantastic option for side sleepers.
Alternatives To Mummy Sleeping Bags For Side Sleepers
If you want to avoid mummy sleeping bags there are other options:
Another option that’s rising in popularity is to use a camping quilt.
A camping quilt resembles the same material and warmth of a sleeping bag except the quilt does not encircle you. Instead, you wrap the quilt around yourself as much or as little as you want. Many camping quilts come with a footbox, which is a small enclosure for your feet so you can anchor the quilt in place with your own body weight as well as keep your feet warm.
If you need a lot of room while you sleep or you want to be able to adjust the fit of your blankets as much as you want, then a camping quilt is a great option.
Remember, though, that because the camping quilt has an open back, it’s designed to be used with a sleeping pad that can insulate you. If you’re in cool or cold weather you need a good sleeping pad to keep warm. This is true of any sleeping bag as well, but especially true of a camping quilt.
Another alternative to sleeping with a mummy bag is the good old-fashioned rectangular cut bags. You are encircled.. or rather.. enrectangled ? with the sleeping bag material, and you have plenty of room to move around.
The trade-off is that rectangular bags don’t store your heat as efficiently as mummy bags. This doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. There are sleeping bags that are rated down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or even -40 Fahrenheit that are rectangular cut. The tradeoff is weight.
A cold weather rectangular bag will weigh more than its mummy counterpart. For example, the Teton Sports +5F Tracker bag weighs 3.75 lbs (this is the bag I use and I’ve really enjoyed it), while the Teton Sports 0 degree bag that’s rectangular cut weighs over 7 lbs. (Amazon links)
So, if weight isn’t an issue, go with a rectangular cut. You can find inexpensive bags that will keep you warm during the summer months without issue.