A good-quality sleeping bag can be one of the most expensive items you might buy, but as you can expect it to last up to 30 years, it is definitely worth making the investment.
Prices range from $50 all the way up to $400 or more for the best sleeping bags.
Depending on your individual needs there are some decent, reasonably priced bags at the lower end of the scale, but if you’re a serious hiker or you’re looking to be sleeping outdoors in more extreme temperatures a more expensive sleeping bag with better technology and features is well worth spending money on.
What kind of trip are you making?
If you’re planning on doing lots of hiking or backpacking with your sleeping bag in your backpack you’ll want something that is lightweight, that doesn’t take up too much space but that will keep you warm enough where you’re going.
On the other hand if you’ve got your own transport and a reasonable amount of space you may wish to use a bulkier, thicker sleeping bag.
Temperature Rating and Comfort Level
Fundamental to a good sleeping bag is the temperature rating, and it’s essential to choose a temperature rating appropriate for the climate where you will be sleeping, as well as a rating which is suitable for your own personal level of comfort — it’s no fun trying to get to sleep outdoors when you’re too cold or too hot.
Because temperature ratings are based on a number of assumed factors, they should only be used as a guide.
The first of these factors is that everyone has roughly the same body temperature when they sleep, whereas in reality some people are hot sleepers and some are cold.
If you’re a hot sleeper, the temperature ratings may be more accurate, but if you are a cold sleeper you may find yourself feeling the chill if you follow the temperature ratings — we think you would be better off with a sleeping bag with a slightly higher rating than recommended for the climate.
Temperature ratings are worked out using the assumption that the user is naked or nearly naked, so if you prefer to sleep clothed this also alters the accuracy.
They also assume that you will be sleeping with a sleeping pad, which adds extra warmth through insulation, thereby pushing the temperature rating a little lower if you choose to sleep without a pad.
For sleeping bags with hoods it is assumed that the hood is drawn tightly around the head and face, and also that bags are exactly the right size for the person and are zipped up tightly.
There are three main categories of temperature rating:
Comfort Temp – this is the temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult woman can expect to have a comfortable night’s sleep
Limit Temp – this is the temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult male can expect to have a comfortable night’s sleep in a curled position
Extreme Temp – this is a survival only rating for a ‘standard’ adult woman. At this temperature there is a serious risk of hypothermia and other temperature related ailments such as frostbite
The bag’s comfort rating indicates the lowest temperature in which the average woman will sleep comfortably in that bag.
The lower limit rating indicates the lowest temperature in which the average man will sleep comfortably in that bag.
The most versatile sleeping bags fall within the limits of +5° F to +25° F, and will usually serve you well from Spring through to Fall.
If in doubt, it is a good idea to buy a sleeping bag with an additional 15 to 20° degrees of temperature rating — particularly if you are female as girls generally do feel the cold more than men.
Remember that a sleeping bag can always be unzipped if you’re too hot, but if you’re too cold there is little you can do to stop shivering and get warm.
Sleeping bags are composed of various different layers of different materials.
The best sleeping bag material for you will depend on what weather conditions you expect to experience, and how lightweight you need your sleeping bag to be.
Outer fabrics are often made from a tough, durable Ripstop nylon or polyester material.
More expensive models may feature fabrics like Dryloft, which is a breathable material designed to be water resistant and therefore offer excellent protection from moisture on the outside.
Water resistant fabrics cost more but can be used in all weathers all year round. Many bags also come with a durable water repellent surface, which helps to minimize the amount of moisture absorbed by the outer fabric.
This is particularly useful for sleeping bags filled with down which are hard to dry out properly if they get wet.
Inner linings tend to be made from soft, breathable fabrics such as nylon, polyester and taffeta that are comfortable for the skin.
Cotton is also often used but is not the most appropriate material for cold conditions as it traps moisture.
Fillings can make or break a sleeping bag. Two types of filling are commonly used; manmade synthetics such as poly-fibers, or natural goose or duck down.
The advantage to synthetic fillings is that they are easier to look after than a feather filling, and are cheaper and easier to clean. They are also much easier to dry out in the unwelcome scenario that the sleeping bag should get wet through.
The downside is that they don’t provide as good a level of heat insulation as down fillings, and tend to be more bulky and more heavy, making them a poor choice if you need your sleeping bag to take up minimal space.
Natural down fillings work so well because they create multiple small air pockets between the fluffy feathers which trap warm air.
They are also very lightweight and they squish down into a relatively small size when they need to be packed away. This gives a much more effective warmth-to-weight ratio compared to a synthetic filling. You’ll often find natural down fillings in the best backpacking sleeping bag.
The drawback of down is that if it gets wet it sucks up moisture, becoming flat and ineffective against the cold. Once this happens it can take a long time to dry the down out, so sleeping bags with a down filling are best suited to cold but dry conditions.
However, when looked after correctly, a down filled sleeping bag can potentially last for many years.
Particularly if you’re backpacking or covering long distances, the size and weight of the bag when packed should also be taken into consideration.
The temperature of your destination should be taken into account, and the warmth to weight ratio of the sleeping bag you choose.
A heavier sleeping bag weight does not necessarily mean that it will be warmer, rather the type of insulation it provides and the bag design are the more crucial factors.
The best backpacking sleeping bag will be lightweight and compact.
The better your sleeping bag fits around you, the less likelihood there is of pockets of cold air forming around your body to lower the temperature inside the bag and the warmer you will be.
That said, it is also important that you have enough space to be comfortable and not feel too restricted. If you don’t like feeling confined, you may wish to choose a sleeping bag with slightly more room for maneuver.
Choose a bag to fit your measurements. The most important measurement is the length.
Men’s and women’s sleeping bags usually come in a choice of lengths to fit people from 5 foot 4 inches up to 6 foot 6 inches.
If you’re not sure which length is best for you, it’s best to go for the shorter option as this will leave less cold air around your feet. It’s also important that your sleeping bag fits you comfortably around the shoulders and the hips.
To determine which is the best fit for you it’s best to try several different designs with different widths to see how they feel.
If you decide you want a sleeping bag with a hood — which is definitely a good idea for colder conditions — make sure it fits comfortably without being too tight around the head and face so that it moves easily with you as you turn your head.
Sleeping bag size is also a vital consideration when backpacking or going on long hikes.
The smaller your sleeping bag is when it is packed down into a ball, the easier it will be to stow away in your backpack.
Different sleeping bag models come with different zip designs, and while a zipper may seem like a trivial thing, the zipper design can actually make a huge difference to your level of comfort.
A longer zipper length is the most ideal, as it enables you to open the sleeping bag along its entire length allowing you to ventilate the bag completely and to have more freedom of movement.
Likewise, two way zippers can be adjusted to provide the level of ventilation you require. The downside of a longer zip is that it adds additional weight to the sleeping bag.
If you are sleeping with a partner, you may want to consider a sleeping bag zipper design that can be zipped together with another bag to create one large sleeping bag that can be shared.
There is often a choice of a left or right hand side zip.
This is actually quite important, as once inside the bag you need to be able to easily zip and unzip it. Right handed people should chose a zipper on the left hand side, and left handed people a zipper placed on the right hand side.
When sleeping in chillier climes, an insulated zip baffle is a useful feature as it helps reduce heat seeping out when you’re trying to keep warm. Similarly, a fabric zipper cover that fastens with velcro can reduce heat loss and will also prevent the sleeping bag coming unzipped as you move around.
Different Types of Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags come in two basic shapes, the basic rectangular bag and what is known as a ‘mummy’ bag which fits closely to the shape of the body, tapering towards the feet, and usually comes with a hood.
Rectangular sleeping bags are practical for light summer use as they can be fully unzipped and used as a blanket, but they are far less effective than a mummy bag at retaining heat, and much heavier and bulkier.
Most mummy bags fit single sleepers, but it is possible to buy models that zip together to create a double bag.
Take a look at this video on more about the differences between mummy and rectangular/square sleeping bags:
As mentioned earlier, when choosing a sleeping bag it is always important to take into account what you will be using the bag for, and in what weather conditions.
If you’re travelling with just a backpack it’s best to choose the most lightweight sleeping bag possible that packs small and takes up the minimum amount of space.
Today’s backpacking sleeping bags offer not only exceptional warmth for their weight, but a range of technologies make them comfortable in a variety of conditions and can be compressed into quite a small bundle.
When backpacking you’ll need not only a sleeping bag, but also a sleeping pad and a shelter — all of which take up room and add weight.
It’s for this reason that the best backpacking sleeping bags come in at under two pounds (32 ounces) in weight.
The best lightweight sleeping bag and the best ultralight sleeping bag is one made using only the best, top quality goose down that is comfortable and warm, has a ton of great features, and packs down into a tiny size and a really low weight.
Ultralight sleeping bags can weigh half of what backpacking sleeping bags weigh, but usually deliver similar warmth.
The Best Sleeping Bag Reviews of 2020
TETON Sports Celsius XXL
Constructed with a high quality taffeta outer shell, the TETON Sports Celcius XXL has a strong and durable design that is wider and longer than most traditional rectangular sleeping bags, making it ideal for a larger person.
This all season sleeping bag can be used in temperature as low as 0°F, is water resistant, has a soft and cozy synthetic polyester lining and features an adjustable hood. It is filled with hollow fiber insulation and has a reasonable pack weight of 7lbs.
Cushioning on the zips and shoulders help keep cold out
Can be zipped together with another bag to create a double sleeping bag
Zip baffles eliminate drafts
Features two way zippers for left or right handed sleepers
Coleman Big Basin Extreme Weather 15 Degree Fahrenheit Sleeping Bag
Another unusual design, the Coleman Big Basin Extreme Weather 15 Degree Fahrenheit Sleeping Bag has a hybrid shape somewhere between a mummy bag and a regular rectangular sleeping bag to allow for more space and comfort.
This winter sleeping bag has a 15° F temperature rating allowing comfortable sleep between the ranges of 0 – 20° F.
For additional comfort there is a fleece lined footbox, and hollow polyester insulation to retain heat yet keep the bag lightweight.
Rip-stop polyester makes up the outer shell to ensure the bag resists tears and snags, and a two way, snag free zipper with draft tube allows for extra ventilation.
Great for larger, taller sleepers and those who like more room
Very warm and cozy
Special quilting construction helps reduce cold spots
Western Mountaineering MegaLite Mummy Sleeping Bag
Extremely lightweight yet spacious for a mummy bag design, the ultralight Western Mountaineering Megalite weighs an incredibly tiny 1 lb 8 oz, making it extremely portable and perfect for backpacking — hence why we’ve made it our best backpacking sleeping bag.
Ideal for three season use — spring, summer and fall — this bag is filled with airy goose down to give it a temperature rating of 30° F and enables it to be packed down into a small sized bundle.
It features a strong full length zipper, hood, insulated draft tube, a durable, ultra breathable and high-thread-count Extremelite shell, and a water-resistant coating to protect the down filling from frost, condensation, and spin drift.
Extremely light weight
Available in two different sizes
Top quality construction
Super-high warmth-to-weight ratio
Suitable for all types of camping including long distance backpacking
Available in two sizes — long or regular — the Kelty Tuck 22 Degree Sleeping Bag offers some excellent features including an extended two way zipper which opens all the way down around the feet to ease foot restriction and provide ventilation on warmer nights.
With an ultralight weight of just 3.1 lbs, this sleeping bag is perfect for extended backpacking journeys.
Thermapro fiber gives good insulation and warmth, as does the bag’s thermal-comfort hood and zipper draft tube.
Both the outer shell and the inner lining are made from quality taffeta polyester fabric.
A media-integrated storage pocket means you can listen to your favorite tunes in comfort.
Can be completely opened up like a blanket
Has features usually associated with more expensive sleeping bags
Roomy for a mummy style bag
Convenient zipper design
Good value for money
Great for the warmer seasons
Lightweight — one of the best backpacking sleeping bags
Doesn’t pack down very small considering the light weight
With a robust rip-stop outer shell and a total weight of only 3.4 lbs, this ultra light design, ultra compact sleeping bag is a great option for backpackers, and is warm enough to be used for spring, summer and fall.
The shell is wind proof, weather proof, and tear proof, and the inner lining is snug and soft.
The continuous filament synthetic microfiber fill is designed to distribute body heat evenly through the bag without creating cold pockets.
Top quality YKK zippers and a hood are featured in this mummy sleeping bag design, and it comes with a handy compression sack to ensure it takes up the minimum space possible when packed away in a backpack.
A unique spoon shaped design which allows for more freedom of movement at the knees and elbows is one of the key features of the NEMO Salsa Sleeping Bag, making side sleeping much easier and more comfortable.
Available in both 15 and 30 degree temperature ratings, this backpacking sleeping bag is filled with warm, water repellent duck down to withstand wet weather conditions, and a breathable, waterproof foot box that repels condensation.
The lining is made from smooth taffeta to be comfortable on the skin, whilst the outer shell is made from resilient nylon rip-stop fabric.
It also features a two way zipper, adjustable hood and a Tuckable Blanket Fold™ that can be used to block drafts or vent excess heat, depending on the position.
Can be zipped together with another bag to create a double size
Spoon design is super comfortable for a variety of sleeping positions
Perfect for backpacking in frosty temperatures, the Marmot Phase 20 Down Sleeping Bag is filled with snug water resistant down with a baffled body and hood construction to keep in the most heat possible and eliminate cold spots.
This high tech, ultralight sleeping bag weighs a mere 1lb 13oz, and is highly compressible so as to not take up much room in a backpack.
The silky lining fabric is smooth against the skin, and the nylon Ripstop outer shell ensures that it will protect you from the elements without sustaining damage.
It features a full length, two way anti-snag zipper, plus a wrap around footbox to give your feet more room for maneuver yet keeping them warm and toasty with a temperature rating of 20.
Hyke & Byke Shavano 32 F Ultralight Mummy Down Sleeping Bag
For a backpacking sleeping bag priced reasonably low, the Hyke & Byke Shavano 32 F Ultralight Mummy Down Sleeping Bag is packed full of features.
Designed with hiking in mind, this lightweight sleeping bag has a weight of around 2.4 lbs for the larger size, and has a temperature rating of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The mummy design is filled with luxurious baffled duck down filling for maximum warmth, and with robust zippers and an outer shell of rugged, waterproof Ripstop nylon, this sleeping bag is built to last.
For added comfort the design provides additional width at the shoulders and a wide footbox.
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