The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2022

We’ve found the best backpacking sleeping bags for every use and budget to help you find what you are looking for this season.

A good sleeping bag is one of the most crucial investments an outdoors person will make. It will keep you warm, cozy, and rested. To evaluate the best backpacking sleeping bags, we took key performance factors into account, including warmth, packed size and weight, materials, extra features, and value.

Our Buyer’s Guide at the end of this article details how we consider performance what is important to look for in a product. Also, be sure to check out the backpacking tent review to make sure you get the best gear for your needs.

Here, we break down the best sleeping bags for backpacking, which means a focus on weight and compressibility. If you’re looking for more all-around comfort-oriented sleeping bags, check out our roundup of the best sleeping bags for camping.

Every bag on this list is among the best backpacking sleeping bags on the market right now, so be sure to read through the features and click through to find the best bag for you.

Scroll through to see all of our recommendations, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2022

Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Montbell Seamless Down Hugger WR 900 #3

Montbell Down Hugger 900 #3 sleeping bag

When it comes to durability, packability, and overall comfort, Montbell takes the cake. The Down Hugger ($449) line as a whole presents a finely tuned array of bags, tailored to various temperature ratings, fill powers, and feature sets.

As an update to last year’s winner, Montbell managed to shave a few more ounces and fractions of a liter off the weight and pack size. Thankfully, the Japanese backcountry brand kept all the goodies that made the Down Hugger line a true standout. Montbell’s seamless design helps promote more loft space for the down within the bag.

Rather than utilizing the traditional baffle, the company has what it calls “spider yarn,” throughout the bag that holds the down in place in a web-style construction. You get a highly packable bag with an exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio.

In our testing, that’s exactly what Montbell achieved. Not only is the Down Hugger plush and warm, but it also provides a surprising amount of shoulder room. The GORE-TEX INFINIUM shell blocks drafts and wind. It also helps repel moisture like the condensation that often accumulates inside tents. It uses incredibly high-quality 900-fill down, which certainly adds to the high price.

The high price is a big drawback. The unique design and high-quality construction warrant the price tag but mostly for serious enthusiasts. Another complaint is that the Down Hugger does not have many venting options, but it is offered in temperature ratings ranging from 15 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

This bag is perfect for the serious hiker who wants a bag that packs as small as can be, yet still offers outstanding warmth.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You need a top-of-the-line sleeping bag that will block wind, resist moisture, and weigh nearly nothing in your pack
  • Packed volume/weight: 3.8 L/1 lb. 3.6 oz. (long)
  • Insulation: 900-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 15, 25, 30, 40

Pros:

  • Roomy interior
  • Weather-resistant
  • Packable

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Less venting and breathability than other options

Check Price at Montbell

Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag: Rab Mythic Ultra (20-Degree & 32-Degree)

Rab Mythic Ultra 180 sleeping bag

Perhaps one of the lightest sleeping bags money can buy, Rab’s Mythic Ultra ($550-650) lineup is all about shaving grams.

When we first saw this bag at Outdoor Retailer, we knew it would advance tech in the sleeping bag market. Leveraging what the brand calls its Thermo Ionic Lining Technology (TILT), the Mythic Ultra boasts an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio.

It achieves this in three ways: First, Rab utilizes a unique trapezoidal baffle construction it claims prevents down migration and promotes more loft. Second, and more importantly, Rab coats thin fibers within the bag with titanium. This helps reflect radiant body heat back toward the sleeper, keeping the inside of the bag warmer without adding more down. Third and finally, it uses 950-fill down, one of the best warmth-to-weight insulators you can get in a sleeping bag.

While this bag is on the upper end of the price range, the construction and materials justify the cost. Our only complaint in testing was that it is very tight to get in and out of. This is par for the course for a lightweight mummy bag but worth considering if you are larger or prefer side sleeping.

While it stays light on features — there’s just a single one-eighth-length zipper — it proved the lightest and most packable option we tested. For the ultralight enthusiast, there’s no better bag available right now.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: Every single gram counts
  • Packed volume/weight: 5 L/14.1 oz. (180/32-degree)
  • Insulation: 950-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20

Pros:

  • Insanely packable
  • Very warm
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Tight to get in and out of
  • Expensive

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry

Runner-Up Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag: Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag

Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag

Take it easy. Before you get excited that a Patagonia sleeping bag costs under $200, let’s be clear about what the Lightweight Sleeping Bag is ($199). This three-quarter-pound sleeper, which packs down to the size of a softball, is minimalist to a T. This bag has no zippers, no cinch cords, and no pockets — just an elastic top to crawl in and pull up to your chin.

While this does wonders to save weight and space in a pack, it doesn’t offer significant protection from the elements. In fact, Patagonia markets it as a summer-worthy bag that works well as a liner inside a more purpose-built sleeping bag when temps start to get a little testy.

The Lightweight Sleeping Bag is filled with 40 g of Primaloft Gold insulation, and like many Patagonia products, it carries Fair Trade certifications and recycled content.

If weight considerations reign supreme, you can hop inside this bag with a packable jacket to boost your overnight warmth. Ultra-light enthusiasts and alpinists should consider this minimalist piece of gear for fast and light summer excursions or anyone looking to boost the warmth of your primary bag.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You can supplement warmth elsewhere and need the extra pack space
  • Packed volume/weight: 3 L/11.8 oz.
  • Insulation: Synthetic

Pros:

  • Most packable sleeping bag out there
  • Very light
  • Sustainable features

Cons:

  • Low insulation
  • Not for very cold nights

Check Price at Patagonia

Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Kelty Cosmic 20 (20-Degree)

Kelty Cosmic 20 (20-Degree)

Kelty still knows how to make a good sleeping bag at a fair price and Cosmic 20 ($160) is no exception. The dual zipper sliders are convenient for adding ventilation to the lower part of the bag. We love this bag for its affordability while still providing adequate warmth.

Honestly, we were not thrilled to hear that Kelty updated its massively popular Cosmic 20 sleeping bag for 2021. Nowhere is the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” more true than with outdoor gear. It may not look as cool as it did in years past (our opinion), but it’s even more competitively priced than before.

Kelty reduced the loft of the down used in this bag to a rating of 550. That has helped keep the price down, but it also reduces packability.

The key features and feel of the updated Kelty Cosmic 20 keep it on our best-of list again — and we expect that will be the case for a while to come. This is a great purchase for those looking for an affordable down sleeping bag.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You’re on a budget but want a bag that can hang with the best
  • Packed volume/weight: 10 L/2 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Insulation: 550-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 0, 20, 40

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Dual sliders on the zipper for ventilation

Cons:

  • 550-fill down limits compressibility
  • Less stylish

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best Overall Women’s Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Big Agnes Torchlight UL (20-Degree & 30-Degree)

Big Agnes Torchlight UL

The Big Agnes Torchlight UL ($420) made it to the top of our women’s options for the second year in a row. This bag is as close as it gets to a custom setup made just for you thanks to the non-catching zippers on each side.

The user can custom fit the bag depending on the style of sleeping with a 10-inch zippered side panel along the length of the bag. Slide the zipper and the bag expands for slide sleepers or those that just want a little more room. It’s plenty light enough to carry for a long hike or ride (2 pounds 4 ounces for regular size), and our testers found it luxurious enough for car camping trips.

The interior loops allow for a bag liner and the interior mesh pockets hold gadgets and other small things to keep close (and warm) at night. On top of all that, it’s filled with water-repellent DownTek down, and it keeps you warm and cozy across a wide range of temps.

The drawback to these extra elements is that this bag is heavier than many others tested. Worse still, it doesn’t pack down nearly as small as we would prefer. For the right person, though, that won’t matter and is an easy trade for all the extra room gained from the side panels.

This bag is perfect for those who place comfort above all. It can both expand and cinch around your body. Yet with all these features, it still packs down easy and small enough to take out in the wilderness.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You like being tucked in tight some nights and having extra room during others
  • Packed volume/weight: 14 L/2 lbs. 5 oz. (20-degree)
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20, 30

Pros:

  • Highly adjustable with expandable side panels
  • Accessory pockets
  • DownTek waterproof down

Cons:

Check 20° Price at BackcountryCheck 30° Price at Amazon

This Expandable Sleeping Bag Gives Adventurers a Custom Fit
This Expandable Sleeping Bag Gives Adventurers a Custom Fit

New from Big Agnes, the expandable Torchlight line of sleeping bags has a unique fit system in a lightweight, efficient mummy. Read more…

Runner-Up Best Women’s Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Sea to Summit Flame (15, 25, 35, 48-Degree)

Sea to Summit Flame

The Sea to Summit Flame ($269-589) women’s sleeping bag is available in a wide range of weights and temperature ratings, from a 7.6-ounce liner rated to 55 degrees Fahrenheit to a 2-pound 3.1-ounce bag rated to 15 degrees F. That is pretty light for the temp rating and the Dry Down resists moisture as well.

Our complaint is that side sleeping is not easy in this bag. But to have the room to side sleep means more dead air space to heat up, which equals less warmth. So being that it is snug, this bag is warm. It’s a give and take.

This bag hits the mark for backpacking with a good weight-to-warmth ratio. Unfortunately, the fabric isn’t the most durable we’ve seen. The zipper caught on the fabric and ripped it slightly during use, and a couple of small feathers came out. This could be stitched easily enough; just something to think about.

If you sleep cold and need a light bag that packs down small, this is a good purchase.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You sleep cold
  • Insulation: Ultra-Dry Down 850+ loft
  • Packed volume/weight: 0.7 to 7.9 L/7.6 oz. to 2 lbs. 3.1 oz.
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): Liner, 15, 25, 35, 48

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Good warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Wide range of temperature ratings
Cons:
  • Price
  • Not the most durable fabric
  • A bit difficult to get into the stuff sack

Check Price at Sea to Summit

Most Sustainable Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF (15-Degree & 30-Degree)

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF sleeping bag

With recycled materials in every single component and no dyes, Mountain Hardwear’s Lamina Eco AF ($260-280) aims to find sustainability throughout every inch of its fibers.

The Lamina Eco AF’s shell and lining comprise 100% recycled poly. The zippers, insulation, and even the cinch cord toggle contain at least some recycled content. As you’ll no doubt notice, there’s no dye used on this bag, so this bag gets dirty quickly. If sustainability is your primary concern, that shouldn’t bother you.

As a sleep unit, the Lamina Eco AF has a very slim cut. So don’t expect much room to move your arms — or anything else. To make up for that, its recycled synthetic insulation feels lofty and warm, and it won’t be a hassle if it gets wet.

This is the perfect gift or purchase for the climate-minded and carbon footprint concerned. You can enjoy the outdoors and know you are doing less harm to the planet.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You monitor your own carbon footprint closely
  • Packed volume/weight: 8.5 L/2 lbs. 5 oz. (30-degree, long)
  • Insulation: Synthetic
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 15, 30

Pros:

  • Glow-in-the-dark zipper
  • Lightweight
  • Lower ecological impact than other options

Cons:

  • Very slim and tight
  • No venting options
  • White exterior will get dirty

Check 15° Price at BackcountryCheck 30° Price at Backcountry

Best for Side Sleepers (Tie): Big Agnes Sidewinder SL (20-Degree)

Big Agnes Sidewinder SL (20-Degree)

Big Agnes built the Sidewinder SL ($300) to move with you as you toss from one side to the other and accommodate the snags that befall side-sleepers in traditional bags.

For its 20th birthday, this standout brand earns a “Best Of” from us. The Sidewinder series has ambidextrous zippers and wiggle room built in for those whose camp nights usually end up in twisted sleeping bag mess. This includes a zipper that won’t fold under when you move, as well as a foot box shaped to fit the way feet lie when sideways.

It also features a custom mesh pillow pocket to help keep your pillow in place and give you room to fold your hands underneath while on your side. Features like the foot box and zipper worked well when we slept in the Sidewinder SL.

Unfortunately, when packed, this is one of the bulkier bags that we tested. The cost of comfort is extra material, a fair tradeoff for a good night’s sleep.

This bag is definitely a gem for side sleepers. If that’s you, the Big Agnes Sidewinder SL is worth checking out.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You lose your pillow tossing and turning
  • Packed volume/weight: 14 L/2 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Insulation: Hybrid (650-fill + synthetic in hips and feet)
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20, 35

Pros:

  • Pillow garage
  • Zipper great for side sleeping
  • Ergonomic foot compartment

Cons:

  • Less packable than other options

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

Best for Side Sleepers (Tie): NEMO Riff (15-Degree & 30-Degree)

NEMO Riff

Side sleepers who prioritize the weight of a bag just a bit more than their comfort should look at the NEMO Riff ($350-420) series. A hybrid between the brand’s noted spoon-shape bags (see the Forte below) and a classic mummy, the Riff offers small elbow and knee bump-outs to add extra room for side sleepers.

The Riff is a backpacker’s sleeping bag first and foremost, weighing under 2 pounds. It takes up just over 5 L in the pack (for the 30-degree bag). Like some of its spoon-shaped cousins, the Riff has NEMO’s trademark venting gills to help regulate the temp inside the bag if you start getting a little toasty.

The price is high on the Riff, but the juice is worth the squeeze. We really couldn’t find much else to complain about.

This bag is a must-see for side sleepers and comfort seekers. Plus, if you’re backpacking with someone special — or just need to double down on body heat — the men’s and women’s Riff sleeping bags sport zippers on opposite sides, so they can be zipped into a backpacker’s double bag.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You take regular ultralight backpack excursions and like a featured sleeping bag
  • Packed volume/weight: 7.2 L/2 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Insulation: 800-fill down
  • Temperature rating offered (Fahrenheit): 15, 30

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Dual-zippered vents
  • Bags zip together

Cons:

Check 15° Price at REICheck 30° Price at REI

Best of the Rest

The market for lightweight, pack-friendly sleeping bags is huge. There are tons of well-made, comfortable, high-quality bags.

Don’t see what you like above? All of the bags below made the grade during our testing and might be perfect for your needs as well.

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion (32-Degree)

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion (32-Degree)

Consistently one of the best options for reliably warm and super-packable sleeping bags, Therm-a-Rest’s Hyperion ($460-490) offers up both attributes in spades.

Nobody in the game does plush and cozy quite like Therm-a-Rest. Coming in just over a single pound, the Hyperion saves weight with 900-fill hydrophobic down.

We also liked the svelte SynergyLink sleeping pad connectors to keep you from slipping off your mattress in the night. As light as it is, it still has big, easy-to-grip zippers and a pillowy, cinchable hood.

The drawback to this product is that this snug-fitting bag is difficult to move around in. The taper from the shoulder to the feet is sharp and does not allow for wiggling or much movement. That does make it warmer with less dead space, but if you tend to toss and turn, look elsewhere.

If you find yourself in the bottom of the tent in the morning nowhere near your pad, consider this bag for your next ultralight purchase.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You want as much cozy as you can cram into a pound
  • Packed volume/weight: 3 L/1 lb.
  • Insulation: 900-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered: (Fahrenheit): 32

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Packable
  • Plush
  • Integrates with sleeping pad

Cons:

  • Steep taper inhibits side sleeping and shifting

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at evo

Western Mountaineering Alpinlite (20-Degree)

Western Mountaineering AlpinLite

Western Mountaineering built the Alpinlite ($620) to mimic everything fans loved about its UltraLite bag, only with the addition of extra shoulder room. Indeed, the size long offers up 65 inches of shoulder girth, affording a few extra inches over most of the competition at a similar weight.

The brand also designed the shell fabric to be extra breathable, promoting as much loft as possible. And a jumbo, 3D-insulated collar helps seal in as much heat as possible for alpinists and serious backpackers.

This is one of the most expensive bags on our list but deserves consideration for those committed to quality. The high loft and down rating justifies this expense. The overstuffed draft tube and collar make for a cozy night’s sleep.

Consider this top-of-the-line bag if you are ready to spend the money on a quality product from a leader in the industry. Also be sure that you are someone who is very careful to take care of lightweight, sensitive gear.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You want a 20-degree bag you can use with extra layers for even colder expeditions
  • Packed volume/weight: 5 L/2 lbs. (long)
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20

Pros:

  • Wide girth allows extra layering in very cold conditions
  • Large draft tubes
  • High loft

Cons:

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Feathered Friends Swallow UL (20-Degree & 30-Degree)

Feathered Friends Swallow UL sleeping bag

The Swallow UL ($559) stands as Feathered Friends’ most popular sleeping bag, providing a happy compromise between the spacious cut and lightweight of the brand’s Swift and Hummingbird models. The Swallow UL packs down very small thanks to 950-plus-fill down, higher loft than most of the other bags on this list.

All that loft can make stuffing this bag into a stuff sack laborious and time-consuming. Also, this is one of the highest-priced bags from a reputable boutique manufacturer.

Any hardcore gear junkie knows the quality of this brand earns it a place in this list and warrants the high price. If packable size and supreme loft are what you value most, this is your bag.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You need a high-loft, technical bag that blends weight savings and extra room
  • Packed volume/weight: 8 L/1 lb. 10 oz. (30-degree, long)
  • Insulation: 950-plus-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20, 30

Pros:

  • Very lofty
  • Breathable outer shell
  • High down-fill rating

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • High loft can make stuffing difficult

Check Price at Feathered Friends

Marmot Hydrogen (30-Degree)

Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag

The Marmot Hydrogen ($369-399) makes the list for solid materials, a brand that knows how to make quality gear, and it strikes a sweet balance between weight and packability. Also, Marmot’s Down Defender technology helps keep water out to ensure a dry night’s sleep.

That said, there are more comfortable options out there. This bag is very snug and restricts movement more than we would have liked. Still, the Hydrogen scores well on specs like weight and fill power, just less on the overall room. It’s still a quality bag and will be the right fit for some.

Consider buying this bag if you can’t stomach a higher price tag for other comparable bags but want high fill power from a lightweight bag.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You want an ultralight, packable bag at about 80% of the top price
  • Packed volume/weight: 6 L/1 lb. 7 oz.
  • Insulation: 800-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 30

Pros:

  • Sub-1.5 pounds
  • High down rating
  • Down defender

Cons:

  • Restricts movement
  • Overly snug

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

NEMO Forte (20-Degree & 35-Degree)

NEMO Forte

Looking for a technical synthetic bag? NEMO’s Forte line ($200-210) may be the most full-featured non-down bag out there.

As with many of its sleeping bags, NEMO gave the Forte “gills.” On warmer nights, you can unzip the gills to help dump heat or zip them up if the night turns cold.

Plus, NEMO designed the Forte with a spoon shape to accommodate side sleepers. The bump-outs at the knees and shoulders allow sleepers a little room to twist and turn.

The Forte is on the heavy end for a bag at this temp rating. The semi-rectangular shape and bump-outs add ounces as does the synthetic insulation.

Anyone who sleeps hot or wants more room than a typical mummy bag will love the space this product offers at a steal of a price.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: You’re less worried about weight savings than a versatile synthetic bag
  • Packed volume/weight: 12 L/3 lbs. 2 oz. (20-degree, long)
  • Insulation: PrimaLoft RISE synthetic fibers
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 20, 35

Pros:

  • Affordable rice
  • Thermo Gills help vent on hot nights
  • Spoon shape adds a little wiggle room

Cons:

  • Heavy for backpacking
  • Bulky

Check 20° Price at REICheck 35° Price at REI

REI Co-op Magma (15-Degree & 30-Degree)

REI Co-op Magma

REI’s Magma ($349-399) aims to take on the sub-2-pound, ultra-packable market without breaking $400. At just over 3 L packed, the Magma 30 is remarkably packable.

Unfortunately, our tests found the loft to be less than desired. Also, the snug design limited shoulder room and movement.

Still, this bag packs small and is perfect for those who want the great specs from a high-quality bag without the astronomical cost.

Specs:

  • Buy this bag if: Pack space is just as important as price
  • Packed volume/weight: 5 L/1 lb. 6 oz.
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
  • Temperature ratings offered (Fahrenheit): 15

Pros:

  • Extremely packable for the price
  • High down rating

Cons:

  • Not as lofty as other options
  • Limited shoulder room

Check 15° Price at REICheck 30° Price at REI

best sleeping bags for backpacking
(Photo/Eric Phillips)

Why You Should Trust Us

Every year, GearJunkie editors shut their laptops and take a long weekend to evaluate the best camping gear out there. We set up camp, unpack gear, crack beers, and spend days and nights testing, using, and abusing gear.

It’s not just about putting the gear through a battery of tests to stress it to its limits — although that does occur — it’s about using the gear the way you would use it.

Is it intuitive to set up without instructions? (C’mon, you toss those pages in the recycling like everyone else.) Does it perform double-duty like everything else at the campsite? Is it fun and exciting to show others?

Not only do we have decades of experience among the lot of us, but we are also critical and perceptive to the nuance of needs for each user. You may not agree with our opinions, but we strive to make our judgments fair and justified. We stick to the same standards and metrics for each product we test.

There are a lot of great sleeping bags to choose from and we are here to narrow the field and help you find the perfect one for you. One that fits your budget and your needs.

Contributor Ryan Baker camps, backpacks, climbs, and ski tours as much as he can. He currently owns four sleeping bags rated from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees. He prefers light down bags with wind stopper or water repellant membranes but knows that a good synthetic bag has its place in the arsenal as well.

He has over 3 decades camping in the front and backcountry, from fishing trips to big wall climbs and high-altitude mountaineering to summer ridgeline shiver bivvies. In desperate times, he has used pine needles and a rope in lieu of a sleeping bag. From those grim experiences, he states earnestly that a good sleeping bag is a piece of gear that is worth every penny.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag is a foundational piece of gear for the outdoor enthusiast. Consider where and when you want to use your bag. Are you planning a summer outing at low elevation or a winter getaway in the mountains?

Not every bag will cover the gamut of conditions you will encounter in the outdoors but most can cover a broad spectrum. A cold weather bag will work in the summer but nasty, stuffy, sweaty nights will ensue. Just as with any piece of gear, choose the right tool for the job.

We utilize five factors to consider when purchasing a sleeping bag: warmth, packed size and weight, materials, extra features, and value. No one bag can excel in all categories without costing you a fortune. Our goal is to direct you toward the perfect sleeping bag for your needs and your budget.

Keep in mind that brands often offer multiple sizes in one bag. There will be short, regular, long, left zip, right zip, or a women’s version. Dead air space in a bag creates more air to warm up, creating a colder bag or at least one that requires more heating time. In some situations, extra space is beneficial.

For example, in cold environments, it is nice to have a few extra inches in the bottom of the bag to stash clothes to keep warm or a water bottle filled with hot water. Deciding what side you want the zipper on can come down to handedness, connecting to a partner’s bag, or preferring a certain side to sleep on.

Women’s bags often have more space in the hips and extra insulation. Usually, that adds extra weight for the same rated bag in a men’s version.

Warmth

Temperature ratings are a great place to start when selecting a sleeping bag. Most of us have a favorite campground, mountain range, or beach that we plan on visiting regularly. Determine the coldest night in that locale and you have your minimum comfort range.

The Montbell Down Hugger stood out in testing, providing excellent warmth with an innovative baffle-less design. Options like the Rab Mythic Ultra and Therm-a-Rest Hyperion were also among our cold sleeper’s favorite bags. If you know that you run cold, give yourself a margin of comfort above that.

The International Standards Organization does laboratory testing to attempt to rate sleeping bags in a scientific manner by reducing variables. A mannequin with sensors is placed in the bag to test temperature changes in a controlled environment. Of course, we are not mannequins! Metabolic rates, preference, and tenacity can alter which bag is better for you.

Still, the ratings are a great way to compare warmth across brands. We recommend that cold sleepers choose a bag on the warmer end of the spectrum, even for summer camping.

Down bags will always be warmer than synthetic bags by weight due to the loft of the down. Down is rated in fill power, which is a measurement of cubic inches over per ounce.

A higher number translates to a higher density of insulation and therefore more surface area and air trapping capability. The trapped air within the loft holds more heat in tiny air pockets between the fibers of the feathers.

Packed Size & Weight

Packed size is of particular importance when backpacking. The weight and packed size of a bag are directly tied to the materials it is built from. Down always packs smaller than synthetic insulation at the same temperature rating but is on average more expensive.

Anyone looking to minimize pack weight should consider something like the Rab Mythic Ultra. This 32-degree bag weighs in at just 14 ounces and packs down impressively small. Compare that to the NEMO Forte with synthetic insulation and is much bulkier at over 3 pounds with a similar temperature rating.

Being able to pack your bag into the smallest stuff sack possible means more room for gear (or snacks!). The synthetically insulated Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag is insanely small and packs down to the size of a softball. This option is great for warm summer bivvies when you want to be ultralight or to add to another bag to multiply the warmth.

Best Sleeping Bags stuff sack sizes

Materials and Construction

A bag’s insulating material will greatly alter its weight-to-warmth ratio. The downside of down (ahem) is that if it gets wet, it loses its warming power.

Virtually all modern, high-quality sleeping bags (like those in this guide) use a hydrophobic down, such as Therm-a-Rest’s Hyperion. Hydrophobic down requires treating the down material with a durable water-repellent (DWR) product.

This chemical treatment coats the down and inhibits moisture from absorbing into it as readily as untreated down. This treatment also allows damp down to dry more quickly. This is not a waterproofing treatment. Hydrophobic down products will do better at resisting water, but they are not impervious to it.

Unlike down, synthetic insulation stays warm when wet but is bulkier and heavier than down. If you plan to be in heavy rain or on a raft trip, consider the NEMO Forte. The other benefit to synthetic insulation, such as the Primaloft in Patagonia’s Lightweight Sleeping Bag, is that it is less expensive than down.

As we said before, down is warmer than synthetic insulation gram for gram. As the fill power (also called CUIN) rating for down climbs higher, so does the price. A 950-fill down does a much better job of trapping heat than a 600-fill down.

That is not to say that a higher value will be warmer; the amount of insulating material is also a factor. For example, a bag with twice as much 600-fill down can maintain heat as well as a bag with half that much in 950-fill.

For shell fabrics and liners, most sleeping bags from reputable brands will use synthetic materials that repel water and hold warmth when wet. The diameter of the thread itself used in fabrics is measured in deniers. A high denier count correlates pretty strongly to being a stronger material. So, a higher denier rating correlates with more durability.

The caveat to all this is that 20-denier Cuben fiber is stronger than 20-denier polyester because the Dyneema is stronger than the polyester fibers at the same thickness.

Some bags have a breathable membrane such as the GORE-TEX shell on the Montbell Down Hugger. Ripstop is a way of reinforcing fabric with heavier threads woven in to resist abrasion and tearing.

Taffeta is among the most common choices to line inside of a bag. Unlike the coarse feel of ripstop, taffeta has a pleasant silky feel and is more breathable. This makes it an ideal choice as a next-to-skin fabric.

Pay attention to the fabric behind the zipper as well. A late-night trip to the bush can cause fumbling and tearing of fabric if it gets caught in the zipper, as we experienced on the Sea to Summit Flame. Top brands will sew sturdier material in the zipper zone to prevent this, but it adds weight.

Baffles in a sleeping bag are sewn separations that keep the down in place to prevent it from bunching up. It is important to consider baffle size and placement in a down bag because after years of use, the feathers tend to migrate into clumps. A little care and proper maintenance can prevent this.

The Montbell Down Hugger has done away with baffles altogether with a unique web design, while the Rab Mythic Ultra employs trapezoidal baffles to further prevent down migration.

Finally, draft tubes and collars are insulation-stuffed barriers between you and places that lose a lot of heat. This is in places such as along the zipper or around your neck. These barriers are crucial to keeping cold air out. Draft collars rest on the chest and neck area to keep the heat down in the bag from escaping.

Extra Features

From extra zippers to “gills that breathe,” there are all types of extra features being added to bags these days. Some are just marketing hype, but many really do make for a better sleeping experience.

The budget-friendly Kelty Cosmic has a great cellphone pocket, and the Big Agnes Torchlight UL integrates perfectly with a sleeping pad.

Other features to consider are the ability to zip two bags together easily, such as with the NEMO Riff, extra zippers for venting, or a cinchable hood. A novelty in this category is the Mountain Hardwear Lamina ECO AF, which stands out because of its eco-friendly materials.

Extra features are what we consider to tip the scales between two similar products when making a difficult decision. With so many options on the market, the deciding factor when purchasing a new bag can be the difference between a static cinch cord instead of a bungee.

In our view, extra features are just that, nothing that affects the performance of a bag but only adds flair or novelty.

Kelty Cosmic
Kelty Cosmic

Value

You should expect to make a substantial investment for a long-lasting, high-quality sleeping bag. Don’t be surprised to see price tags that approach (or exceed) $500.

From high-priced bags like the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite to the economical Kelty Cosmic, manufacturers assure that their sleeping bags have undergone rigorous testing and development to ensure that they keep adventurers safe in some of the harshest environments.

Buying a quality sleeping bag is as important as buying a good backpacking tent. It is not only a matter of comfort but also safety and well-being. Your sleeping bag is a crucial piece of gear to give you the night’s rest you need to tackle your goals and enjoy the backcountry.

This list has something for every hiker and outdoor enthusiast from the starry-eyed novice to the wizened wilderness sage.

FAQ

What Type of Sleeping Bag Is Best?

The decision primarily is a question of insulation types. Two categories prevail: synthetic and down. Synthetic bags, like the NEMO Forte, are bulkier and overall heavier when compared to a down-filled bag at the same temperature rating. They also tend to be less expensive and stay warm when wet (unlike down).

Down-filled bags, like the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite, tend to cost more and be more delicate to abrasion and tearing as feathers can leak out, diminishing insulation. The advantage of down-filled bags is they pack extremely small and can provide more warmth with less material and therefore, less weight.

How Much Can I Compress a Down Sleeping Bag?

The short answer is more than you probably should. Compressing down feathers damages them over time but they can squeeze down magnificently.

Our testers have compressed a -40-degree bag into a 10L compression sack. That is not recommended but if you need space in your pack, you will do whatever you have to.

Packing down takes patience. Applying gentle pressure to remove air from between the down can squeeze it into tight spaces. Check with your manufacturer’s listed pack size. This is a good indication of how far to take it.

For example, one of our favorite sleeping bags, the Montbell Down Hugger, has a 3L listed pack size in the regular length. Compare that to the NEMO Forte at 12 L at a comparable temperature rating.

When you store your down sleeping bag, always put it in the large provided sack or bag about the size of a 55-gallon trash bag to prolong the life of the down and allow for full expansion while in storage.

What Is a Good Weight for a Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

This is largely dependent on what your needs are. For backpacking, long hikes into a campsite with just a backpack to haul your gear, the general consensus is that you will want a pack under 3 pounds.

Ultralight sleeping bags, like the Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag, are measured in ounces, not pounds. Yet, with every ounce you sacrifice, most often you’re losing material.

This can mean less durable materials, less size or comfort, and potentially higher prices with more advanced tech. For car camping, weight will really be a secondary concern to comfort — it’s more what will fit in the trunk of your car. In that scenario, the roomy NEMO Forte starts to look pretty appealing.

Should I Get a Down or Synthetic Sleeping Bag?

When it comes to warmth and packability, nothing beats down. That’s not to say that synthetic options aren’t warm or packable — or that someday synthetic insulation might catch up to or surpass down — but down is the hands-down winner for now. Consider the 32-degree Therm-a-Rest Hyperion that packs down to 3 L.

Synthetic bags do have their place, however. By its nature, synthetic is engineered to maintain its performance characteristics when it’s wet. The same cannot be said for down. While synthetic isn’t quite as packable, it has come a long way in becoming a pack-friendly option.

For example, the Big Agnes Sidewinder weighs in at 2 pounds 4 ounces and boasts more room than most other bags we tested. If price is a primary consideration, synthetic is considerably more affordable than high-quality, high-loft down.

Big Agnes Sidewinder
Big Agnes Sidewinder

What Is the Lightest Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

Is a 20-Degree Bag Too Hot for Summer?

Warmth ratings are a guide, not a rule. The degree listed on a sleeping bag is a measure of a bag’s comfort zone.

So typically, a 20-degree bag will keep the average user comfortable at 20 degrees. The NEMO Riff stands out as a great option, boasting zippered gills that can be opened as the user becomes too warm.

Many bags, like the Kelty Cosmic 20, feature dual zippers. The allows the bottom of the zipper to be opened as a vent while most of the bag stays zipped shut.

If you run cold, a 20-degree bag may feel too cold in 30 degrees. If you run hot, you can get away with a 30-degree bag in 15-degree weather or below. Consider this and maybe you should get a winter bag for a summer trip or vice versa.


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