New to the whole swag thing

Submitted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 at 23:17
ThreadID: 106441 Views:14718 Replies:17 FollowUps:12
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Hello everyone, Just wanted to get your opinion on this, I'm new to the whole swag thing, I thought its time to get one, just not sure what to get. I like the Idea of the traditional swag with the fly screen at the head end, for their simplicity, but also liked the dome style as it doesn't look like it takes long to set up but allows you more options and better shedding of rain and more ventilation. After looking on the Internet for a while I've discovered the southern cross, aos and Burke and wills brands, the southern cross dome in particular caught my attention as it is 'freestanding'. But still I'm lost as to what to look for and what to avoid.
Looking forward to your input.
Many thanks,
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Reply By: equinox - Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 at 23:53

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 at 23:53
Hi PT,

I have the traditional type swag - A Dune 4WD Outback, probably made in China, cannot find a label.

I was at the local 4WD show here in Perth - it had rained the night before at the show and the swag stalls didn't put the swags away.

I felt inside all of the swags for moisture after the rain - the one I picked was the only one that was dry....


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:36

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:36
Hi Alan

Of course its a dry cheated with a

I bet you are busy planning this years trip.

Take care

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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 14:18

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 14:18
Depending on what they're made of SOME swags might require seasoning, just as many canvas tents do. Take them home, set them up and give them a good hose down in any case. If water gets in through the canvas (unlikely), or seams (possible), then return it.
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Follow Up By: equinox - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 20:56

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 20:56
Yeah I know its cheating Stephen, but every little bit helps, that was a bit of a sleety night that one.

Always preparing for the next trip, just waiting for a light bulb moment.


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Reply By: Tony I - Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 at 23:57

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 at 23:57
A traditional swag is a sheet of canvas and a mattress and thats what i stick with, I carry an extra large mozzie net that i can string from a tree, or rope between trees or vehicles. You can have good swags custom made from a canvas works place. Having purchased a number of swags through camping stores for employees i find the custom made ones higher quality and cheaper.
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Reply By: disco driver - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 01:41

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 01:41
When I got my drivers licence back in the late 1950,s, my parents bought me a simple traditional swag, a 3mtr square of good quality aussie canvas hemmed all round and an 0.8mtrx1.7mtr high density foam mattress and pillow and said this lives in your vehicle, because "If you are going to have a few drinks too many, you are to use the swag rather than driving home". And I did and still do when the need arises.

Some 55 years on, I still use the same canvas but the mattress was replaced around 20years ago.
I've tried a few of the modern swags but the similarity to a hootchie/Bivvy bed turns me off so I never bought one.

Properly set up, with both sides folded over I've never had a wet bed even in heavy rain.
Why complicate it when the original still remains the easiest and best.

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Reply By: Member - Boobook - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 05:55

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 05:55
Swags are a very personal choice. Traditional ones often don't offer any insect protection and many swags can be claustrophobic.

I recently went to a dome style swag for the convenience and ease of getting in and out, and had a short list of SC, Travelander, and Kulkyne.

I went for the Kulkyne as it had decent height, protection over the zippers and good reviews. I have been super happy with it and bought one for my son. Great swag.

Also think about the packed size in the car when you consider the size. They are relatively bulky and the king and super king sizes take up a lot of room.
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Follow Up By: Phil P - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:59

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:59
I recently purchased a Biker Swag

I used this once on a Motor Cycle Road Trip. They actually take more time to set up than a dome tent if you include putting up a tarp so you can get in and out of it if it is raining. You also need to consider what you do with your stuff (shoes, socks, clothes ) when you are going in for the night.

Size is another thing. Getting them rolled up to a small size can be quite a challenge.

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Reply By: gbc - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:43

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:43
If you go traditional, or a framed, keep your heap out of the swag - most important in rain and snow. The newer style ones with ventilation everywhere are trying to get a design which will not condensate too bad with a human breathing inside them. In good weather, all swags are good. In the freezing cold or pouring rain you'll find their shortcomings quickly. A dome/hutchie shaped swag which has protected ventilation which can be left open in inclement weather is what you are looking for.
Being new to the game I'd question if a swag is what you want these days. Have a look at the expedition style hammocks available these days from mosquito, war bonnet, Hennessy etc if you haven't already tried them. You won't get a better, more supported sleep than in a decent hammock (rule one is to forget that time you tried out the mitre 10 special and hated it.....). I have back problems and these days the swag doesn't get a look in. I'd even say I sleep better in the hammock than at home. Condensation is a non event in a three layer hammock, you're off the ground so it can rain all it likes. Cold weather will see you carrying an extra sleeping bag for under bum insulation, but still a mile more compact than a swag. And just between you and me during a torrential downpour and you're busting for a you know what, it can be achieved without getting out of bed ;)
Anyway, just something else to add to the research list.
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Follow Up By: Perpetual Traveler- Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:00

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:00
I did check out the hammocks and tentsile tents a while back but I didn't like that the amount of trees present dictated where you camp, at least with a swag you have a bit more options, don't get me wrong they are a good idea just don't know if they will suit my needs.
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Follow Up By: gbc - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:22

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:22
Not trying to sway your opinion either way - they both have their place, and my 20 y.o. Ultima swag will be willed to one of the kids eventually and I do love it still. But....
If you check out some hanging websites and manufacturers, you'll see that most expedition hammocks are quite happy being used as bivvys on the ground, and your thermarest is your mattress. Again this may or may not appeal, but it is just another function they can do. I would have never thought of going this way (hammocking) until I started needing an ultralight setup for the kayak/bike/backpack, and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome and just how far they have come. has some pics of theirs being used as a bivvy. This is the brand I went for in the end.
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Reply By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:47

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 06:47
G'Day PT.
My advice to you is buy good and buy once.
A swag is not something that goes out of fashion, nor does it wear out (unless the mice get to it while it's in the shed) so spend a bit of extra coin and get one that will last.

The one I have is the dome style one which I prefer (probably a personal preference) but it's just big enough to get dressed in.

Other than the style, look for one that has heavier weight canvas (eg: rip stop canvas)and the mattress is paramount. The difference between a 50mm and a 75mm in terms of comfort and shielding from the cold is huge. If you can get one with the egg crate type foam mattress...even better.

Zips should be strudy and insect screens are a must. Again, look for one that has windows/vents at both ends of the swag for flow through ventilation for the warmer nights.

I bought an identical one to mine recently for my 9 year old daughter. I paid $400 for an Aussie made one with a lifetime replacement warranty on the cavas and zips. To be honest, that's the sort of coin you'd expect to pay for a good single XL swag. Like I said buy once. I figure this one will see her out well into her adult years and beyond.

Brand is Bluey.

Good luck and I hope my reply has been of use.
AnswerID: 527323

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 07:52

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 07:52
A dome style swag is your best choice.
It can be used erected as a stand-alone sleeping "tent", or left flat and used as a mattress, but with a canvas cover if you need it. We use ours erected on their own, or as bedding when using our tent.

Our swags are "Down Under" brand but any of the better quality domed swags will be suitable. From reviews on this site, the Southern Cross are a good brand.

Two things to watch for.
In a single swag, buy the XL (Extra Large) size which will provide better width.
A high density egg crate style foam mattress is essential for comfortable sleep.

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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:20

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:20

Sleeping in a swag out in the bush is one experience that you will never forget, it is just fantastic.

For over 20 years we had a South Australian made traditional swag and it was and still is fantastic. It was a very basic swag and the only problem was that it was not enclosed, which can be a problem at night when the mosquitoes and continually buzzing around your head. For this very reason, we would never unroll the swag before we were ready to use it, to keep the creepy crawlies out.

Just over 12 months ago we had an encounter with Fiona most dreaded sight........a nice and friendly tiger snake down on the bottom end on the Yorke Peninsula. Feering this was going to be the end of our swagging days, we purchased a new Double Southern Cross Dome is just fantastic.

Now we do not get any more damp sleeping bags from the condensation of having the canvas directly on top of the sleeping bag, fantastic cross ventilation to keep the moisture away and best of all, we can now set it up ready for bed when we get to a location knowing that everything is 100% safe inside.

Go for the Melbourne made Southern Cross Swag and you will never ever regret your lifetime investment.

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Follow Up By: Perpetual Traveler- Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:04

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:04
I do really like the idea of the southern cross single dome, but not sure if it will be big enough, the size specs on their website I assume would include the external awnings and not be just the actual inside room of the swag itself. I do like the fact that its made from Australian canvas and in Australia though.
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:08

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:08
Not much different in that swag and a small tent - so what is the difference between a modern dome swag and a good quality small tent?

Not much and the tent is a lot cheaper.

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Follow Up By: ExplorOz - David & Michelle - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:47

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:47

The answer is simple in the swag you make the bed and roll it up with the pillows and everything in one package. Unroll at the next site and get in. It is much much easier than a tent.

We carry a tent for those times when we need some privacy around us or when it is longer term stop over and us OZtent for this purpose but I would leave the tent behind any day before I considered leaving the swag out.

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Follow Up By: garrycol - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:56

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:56
Well with these you do not just unroll and hop in - you need to put up the poles, put the ropes up just like a tent - likewise with a small tent you can roll it up with the bedding inside and pack it away if you chose too - I used to do that with a small pup tent I had 30 years ago when swags were swags and not small tents.

When you arrive at your next destination roll it out, put up the poles and ropes just like a modern swag.

To me swags have morphed to be small tents.


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Reply By: Penchy - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:37

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 08:37
I am new to swags as well and recently picked up a Mitchell Dome. I've done a couple of overnighters already and am very impressed with ease of setup and quality of sleep lol. One thing that hasn't been mentioned by the others yet is the base. Mine is a canvas base and most of my mates have PVC base which they tell me is much better in the wet weather. I can't tell yet as it hasn't rained on me yet, maybe this weekend it will though. BTW - why not spent a couple of hundred bucks on a swag to see if it suits you before you spend $500 on a Burke and Will jobbie?
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Reply By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 09:09

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 09:09
Hullo PT

I have a Mr Swagman Classic.

I like it because of the flexibility of options - as a traditional flat swag or if required, with a ridge lifting the top up for through ventilation with a bug screen each end. This also gives an area for clothes storage out of the weather.

You may like to check out the website. No affiliation

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Reply By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:32

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:32
I think we finally have the swag thing right, for us at any rate. We have a good quality basic double swag with a quilt rather than a sleeping bag inside. But what makes it really work is the Speedie instant pop up tent we also carry. Literally goes up in about 10 seconds and we throw the swag in. If really windy we might tie one end of the swag to the bullbar, but generally the swag inside is all that is needed to peg it down.The Speedie only is used if we have rain threatening or mozzies. Having both a swag and a separate instant tent is much more flexible for different conditions. It also give a bit more room inside for changing clothes etc than a swag with built in dome.
Putting a Speedie away is also very fast, once you have the knack, but it is good to have tried it out or get someone to show the secret to you before taking it on a trip.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 16:36

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 16:36
I should have included: A swag plus a Speedie (not a regular tent) is faster to put up than a dome swag. Probably about the same overall price but much more versatile and more spacious inside.
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Reply By: Bazooka - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 14:11

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 14:11
Don't get hung up on "quality" PT. Buy Aussie if that's what your prefer but most of the newer budget brands made OS also offer very good quality canvas, seams, mosquito netting and thick poly floors. Look after them and they'll all give you years of good service.

I have a Jolly Swagman single dome bought some years ago on special (see HERE for their range) and it's a terrific swag. Some domes might be a little tight inside if you're a larger person so ask to see them set up before buying if you can. Also take close note of the mattress thickness and quality. The one in the Jolly Swagman is 7cm dual density foam - very comfortable. Anaconda currently has a few brands on sale iirc, nothing wrong with their Dune, Oztrail or other swags.

I've used traditional and dome and it's dome every time for me. Far better ventilation, no heavy/wet canvas on your body, no worries about ants, flies, mossies or other creepy crawlies as long as you stayed zipped up - unzip and they'll still crawl up, over and in. Head vents, preferably with a rain flap, are a must imo and double entry is handy.
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Reply By: Member - Duncs - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 19:41

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 19:41

Like you I was afraid of getting it wrong when I slid into my first swag. I spent heaps of time in camping stores and on websites trying to work out what I wanted. But I had formed some ideas even without realising it. I liked the idea of some space around my head and shoulders and insect netting was a must.

Then I planned a trip with just a mate and my son and he suggested swags so I had to get one quick. Still not sure I didn't want to spend too much on the wrong thing, so I had a look at Ebay.

I bought 3 swags for $100.00 they are all different. Between the three swags I got 2 really good mattresses. I use the biggest swag, my son the other pop up style and the third is under the house, never been used.

Both the swags that we use are clearly second hand and have had a lot of use. My son's has some 'pin' holes caused by embers from a fire. I patched them with a thin smear of silastic held in place by pieces of Mintie wrapper.

Never been cold, never been wet and yes I have comped in some reasonable rain.

Good Luck

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Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 20:43

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 20:43
Each to their own mate.
Personally I use just a standard swag with a zip up pocket in the end to keep my keys and clothes etc in, I get them made a bit longer and a bit wider, but that depends in your size. I keep a good tarp I got made with it and a mozzie net in the pocket. Any more you might as well get a tent I reckon.

All depends on what you want.

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Reply By: rowdy31 - Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 22:23

Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 at 22:23
After years of using a basic flat swag ( and because our mastiff claimed it), I bought one of these of eBay for about $150.
The handful of times I get to use it a year I can't fault it for what I paid. Got the xl single
AnswerID: 527368

Reply By: Perpetual Traveler- Friday, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:00

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:00
I think if I go In the direction of a flat swag I might get an B&W ironbark which has a full fly for those hot nights, in saying that if southern cross makes a flat swag I might look at that as well
AnswerID: 527395

Reply By: The Bantam - Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 at 11:21

Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 at 11:21
I know a lot of people are realy taken with these things thay call swags these days.

I don't consider them swags...they are micro tents and you still need bedding.

Sorry I just don't get it.

I use a swag because I just cant stand sleeping bags.

The advantage with an old style bed roll is that you can regulate the amount of insulation required.

With a sleeping bag, if you baught the wrong sleeping bag for the weather you are either too hot or too cold.

with a traditional swag.
a sheet of canvas, two double blankets and a double sheet...for a single sleeper you have the ability to regulate using 6 layers of bedding plus the a warm area only one blanket is required.

If the temperature changes during the night or from one night to the it does particularly on the coast or when traveling.......take a layer off or put a layer on.

I'm no longer one that thinks sleeping on the ground or out in the open is attractive.

I sleep in the back of the use ( in the canopy) Or I'll put up a tent.

At least then I don't have to leave my boots out side where they can get filled with rain or inhabited by homeless crittiers...or bleep in by smartasses.....if my boots are too dirty to bring inside I'll hang them off the ground undercover..under the awning of the tent or off the bar work under the truck..

Self inflating matereses are the go...good comfory, reasonable insulation.

AnswerID: 527462

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 at 11:29

Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 at 11:29
I find it humourous that some one would put one of these micro tents up then errect a tarp over it.

Oh why not be done with it and put up a tent?

One thing I find humourous.

so this bloke sets up his micro tent....

he leaves the top flap open.....great plenty of ventilation and he can lay in his bed and look up at the stars and the moon thru is fly mesh.....ahhh the serenity.

some time in the starts to rain...very lightly at first and then it progressivly what point does he wake up....crawl outside walk arround on the now muddy ground to zip up th top flap and crawl back into his now wet bed in his now muddy Pjamas.

It may well be that it does not rain....just a heavy this bloke wakes up cold and wet arround 5 am.

Na sorry just don't get it.

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