A comfortable swag is essential for a good night's sleep

Ian Bellert — 1 May 2023
For the weary traveller, a good night's sleep is essential. Swags are a great option. Let's look at the essentials to look for in a swag.

The humble swag has come a long way from its beginnings. Once the ‘back-pack’ bed was predominantly used by ‘swaggies’ as they traipsed the countryside looking for work during the depression period. Nowadays, they are a much more comfortable affair. They have become bigger and include all you need for a great night's sleep, whether you’re gazing at the stars or tucked in tight from the weather. There are a few options to consider, depending on the level of comfort you want. There are plenty on the market, so it pays to do some research.  

Biker/Horse swag

The biker or horse swag is usually a smaller lightweight swag. They pack up into a compact roll and are lightweight. A spreader pole allows one end to be erected and the swag tapers down to your feet. These simple, traditional swags offer you shelter and place to rest, all the while keeping elements and bugs at bay. The compact nature makes these very popular for bikers and Mr Swagman has been producing them for years. 

The Dome Swag 

By far the most popular for 4WD based touring, dome swags have curved flexible aluminium poles at each end and a spreader pole to hold the canvas off you as you sleep. The space provided inside allows you to sit up and you can have them wide open with the sides rolled up, and each end opened up to create airflow in hot climates and mesh protecting you from insects. Alternatively, you can have the sides and ends zipped close to create a snug sleeping environment, protecting you from the weather outside. 

The dome swag is a bulky proposition compared to the simple biker/horse swag. That bulk does provide comfort (read on for what makes a swag comfortable). They are easy to set up and pack down, travel well on the roof or a ute tub and provide flexible sleeping and are especially comfortable on beach or desert sand. Features included on most dome swags are internal pockets, with some having an awning set up off the spreader bar. They are generally waterproof and can take a beating, both from the weather and long-term use. 

The Dome Swag on a Stand 

This is the next level in comfort. You can easily set your swag on a camp stretcher or go for a model which has the stand integrated into the swag. The benefit of either is you are off the ground. It's easier to get in if your bones are a bit weary. You lose less body heat if you're off the ground. The compromise is a slightly longer set up and they’re a little heavier. Oh, and the price factors into this extra feature as well. One to checkout is the Kulkyne Single Homestead swag. It's a king size swag with an integrated stand.   

How to choose the right swag?

Like all gear for camping and 4WD-driving, you get what you pay for. For starters the zips are your main pain point. The canvas, too, has to be waterproof and tear resistant. Finally, the mattress is all important, particularly if you are using your swag on an extended trip or you getaway a lot during the year. 

There are many swags from which to choose, with prices ranging from a couple of hundred dollars through to north of $1000. The more you are likely to use your swag should determine how much you pay for it. Also determine the size of your swag, as it has a bearing on your cost. If you’re a solo camper, then a single is fine. If you plan to take your better half, then a double or king size swag will add extra comfort. A double will fit a couple of kids quite easily. Set up time for any size swag is pretty minimal. 

Back to the components. 

The zippers - if you can get a swag with YKK zips then you have peace of mind and years of trouble-free use. Other zippers may work very well but may wear and snag over time. Again, it comes down to cost. 

Ripstop heavy duty canvas is the choice for the swags. Good quality swags use 410gsm hard coat waterproofed canvas, such as the Crashpad range among many other brands. Good canvas is durable, waterproof and provides reasonably good insulation. There are other materials used in a modern swag, just make sure it keeps the water out! 

Before purchasing, check things like the seam work. In particular, the PVC floor. Make sure it looks neat and tidy as this is a leak point. There are not many worse situations than a leaking swag in the middle of a storm.  

The mattress can make or break a good sleep. The mattress doesn't have to be overly thick. It just needs to be of good quality. You can always replace a mattress if you find it's not as comfortable as you need it to be. Self-inflating mattresses from any major camp store generally provide comfort over a long period, at the compromise of being a tad bulkier. 

Swag tips

  • If your canvas is seeping onto you, simply attach a guy rope and pegs at either end to stretch the swag out further than your spreader pole. 
  • Usually, the bags that swags come with are tight to repack you use your swag. Check that it's not snug, so you can pack your sleeping gear with your swag. Generally, swags will travel well and not ingress water if they are rolled up tightly. 
  • Always treat your canvas, which is simply wetting the swag when it's set up and allow it to dry in the sun. That tends to do the trick. Ask your swag maker if they have any treatments they recommend. 
  • Run soap around your zip if it gets a bit snaggy. 

Swags may have been around for decades. They are a brilliant way to enjoy the great outdoors. 


If you need help choosing your first Camper or are considering upgrading your existing one, check out all the campers available on TradeRVs today. 

The sellers will be happy to help and answer any inquiries you may have about the products advertised for sale.






Swags Biker/Horse swag The Dome Swag The Dome Swag on a Stand Camping gear Essentials