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Best Sleeping Bag

The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2021

A sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of camping gear. We’ve found the best backpacking sleeping bags for every use and budget.

We’ll say it again: A good sleeping bag can be one of the most crucial investments an outdoors-person makes. It will keep you warm (but not too warm), cozy, and rested.

To evaluate the best backpacking sleeping bags, we took key performance factors into account, including warmth-to-weight ratio, temperature rating, construction, and other features.

We’ve collectively spent years camping, backpacking, and using sleeping bags, and all of that knowledge went into testing. Basically, as long as the bag is still available for sale, it’s a contender for this list.

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.

The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags: 2021 Review

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 recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

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.

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. But 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. So, at least in theory, 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.

And as the “WR” designation suggests, this bag has high water resistance. A GORE-TEX INFINIUM shell blocks drafts and wind, and it helps repel moisture like the condensation so often faced inside tents. It uses incredibly high-quality 900-fill down, which certainly adds to the sky-high price.

  • 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
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 the lightest sleeping bag 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 space.

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.

Finally, it uses insanely good 950-fill down, one of the best warmth-to-weight insulators you can get in a sleeping bag.

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.

  • Buy this bag if: Every single gram counts
  • Packed volume/weight: ~5 L/14.1 oz. (180/32-degree)
  • Insulation: 950-plus-fill down
Pros
  • Insanely lightweight and packable
  • Very warm
Cons
  • Tight to get in and out of

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Moosejaw

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

Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag
Photo credit: Patagonia

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 3/4-lb. 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.

And 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.

  • 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 (Tie): Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 (32-degree)

Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 sleeping bag

We’ve been saying it for years: If price is a primary consideration with your outdoor gear, Decathlon needs to be one of the brands you consider. Still new to the American market, this French brand has a well-established reputation across Europe and Asia. In fact, based on its footprint, it’s technically the world’s largest sporting goods retailer.

Forclaz ($150) marks the brand’s trekking arm, and the products that carry the Forclaz name are designed to be pack-friendly. The Trek 900 has the classic mummy shape with 800-fill RDS down, and it carries a weight of just over 2 pounds.

What’s more, its construction outperforms its price, owing to Decathlon’s vertically integrated business model.

To be sure, you’re not buying this bag for true, variable-condition expeditions where your well-being is on the line. But if you’re stepping foot into backpacking or keep your backcountry pursuits to milder adventures, Decathlon has gear worthy of the conversation.

  • Buy this bag if: Every single gram counts
  • Packed volume/weight: 7.8 L/2.1 lbs.
  • Insulation: 950-plus-fill down
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Solid build
Cons
  • Snug fit

Check Price at DecathlonCheck Price at Walmart

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

Kelty Cosmic 20 sleeping bag
Photo courtesy: Kelty

Honestly, we were not thrilled to hear 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.

But Kelty still knows how to make a good sleeping bad at a fair price. The Kelty Cosmic 20 ($149) may not looks as cool as it did in years past (our opinion), but it’s even more competitively priced than before. That’s thanks in part to the less lofty down (550).

But the key features and feel of the updated Kelty Cosmic 20 makes our list again — and we expect that will be the case for a while to come.

  • Buy this bag if: You’re on a budget but want a bag that can hang with the big boys
  • Packed volume/weight: 10 L/2 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Insulation: 550-fill down
Pros
  • Very affordable for what you get
Cons
  • 550-fill down limits compressibility

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

This bag ($369-420) is as close as it gets to a custom setup made just for you. And the Big Agnes Torchlight UL made it to the top of our women’s options for the second year in a row.

Thanks to the very nice and non-catching zippers on each side, the user can custom fit the bag to them depending on their style of sleeping. And, while it’s plenty light enough to carry for a long hike or ride (2 pounds 4 ounces for regular size), our testers found it luxurious enough for car camping trips.

All the bells and whistles really make this bag exceptional. 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.

Plus, it can both expand and cinch around your body. It packs down easy and small, it’s filled with water-repellent DownTek down, and it keeps you warm and cozy across a wide range of temps.

  • Buy this bag if: You like being tucked in tight some nights and having extra room during others
  • Packed volume/weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz./14 L (20-degree)
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
Pros
  • Highly adjustable to cinch tight or expand
  • Accessory pockets
Cons
  • Heavier and bigger than most options on this list

Check 20-Degree Price at EvoCheck 30-Degree Price at Backcountry

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 ($249-569) 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.

Side sleeping is not easy in this bag, but more room (dead space) tends to equal less warmth — and this bag is warm. So it’s a give and take.

This bag hits the mark for backpacking weight and warmth, but 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 option.

  • Insulation: Ultra-Dry Down 850+ loft
  • Buy this bag if: You’re a backpacker who sleeps cold
  • Packed volume/weight: 0.7 to 7.9 L/7.6 oz. to 2 lbs. 3.1 oz.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Good warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Wide range of temperature ratings
Cons
  • Price
  • Not the most durable fabric
  • Venting not very customizable
  • A bit difficult to get into the stuff sack

Check Price at Sea to SummitCheck Price at Backcountry

Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bag for Women: Sierra Designs Get Down

Sierra Designs Get Down

The Sierra Designs Get Down is a delightfully light and soft backpacking sleeping bag at an attractive price point ($180). It comes in a unisex design at your choice of 20- or 35-degree Fahrenheit temperature ratings, as well as a women’s-specific 20-degree bag.

Our tester was sent a 35-degree unisex sample, and it worked well for her. It kept her warm and conforming to her face and side sleeping position well.

The bag held up to its temperature rating. Our tester especially liked the hood on this bag for two reasons.

The drawcord on the hood is not stretchy, making it easier to adjust in the middle of the night with one hand. And the zipper zips slightly around the curved top, making it easier to cinch the hood comfortably to her face.

The downside to this bag is that the stuff sack may not be compact enough for some backpacking trips. But, from our testing, we suspect that purchasing a smaller stuff sack would work well — at least for the 35-degree bag.

  • Insulation: 550-fill-power DriDown
  • Buy this bag if: You’re a first-time backpacker who wants a cozy, warm option that won’t break the bank
  • Packed volume/weight: 13.5 L/2 lb. 8 oz. (women’s 20)
Pros:
  • Light
  • Soft
  • Priced well
Cons
  • Stuff sack may not be compact enough for some backpacking excursions

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Moosejaw

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. 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.

And as you’ll no doubt notice, there’s no dye used on this bag. That makes it look as much art deco as environmentally responsible. Of course, as you may guess, this bag gets dirty quickly. But 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. But its recycled synthetic insulation feels lofty and warm, and it won’t be a hassle if it gets wet.

  • 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
Pros
  • Glow-in-the-dark zipper
  • Lightweight
  • Lower ecological impact than other options
Cons
  • Very slim and tight
  • No venting options, white will get dirty

Check 15-Degree Price at REICheck 30-Degree Price at REI

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

Big Agnes Sidewinder SL sleeping bag

For its 20th birthday, Big Agnes earned a Best Of from us for its latest sleeping bag. The Sidewinder series has ambidextrous zippers and literal wiggle room built in for those whose camp nights usually end up in twisted sleeping bag mess.

Big Agnes built the Sidewinder SL ($280-300) to move with you as toss from one side to the other and accommodate the snags that befall side-sleepers in traditional bags.

This includes a zipper that won’t fold under when you move, as well as a footbox shaped to fit the way feet lay 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.

To be sure, features like the footbox and zipper worked well when we slept in the Sidewinder SL. However, it still isn’t what we would call a perfect fit, as tossing and turning inevitably creates some snafus. But it’s definitely an advance for side sleepers — and if that’s you, the Big Agnes Sidewinder SL is worth checking out.

  • 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)
Pros
  • Pillow garage
  • Zipper great for side sleeping
Cons
  • Less packable than other options

Check Price at REI

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

NEMO Riff

Side sleepers who prioritize their backpacking needs 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.

But the Riff is a backpacker’s sleeping bag first and foremost, weighing under 2 lbs. And it takes up just over 5 L in the pack (for 30-degree). 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.

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.

  • 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
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Ventable
Cons
  • Price

Check 15-Degree at REICheck 30-Degree 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? Any one of the bags below made the grade during our testing and might be perfect for your needs. So, check out our recommendations and comparison shop.

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion (32-Degree)

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion sleeping bag

Nobody in the game does plush and cozy quite like Therm-a-Rest. Consistently one of the best options for reliably warm and super-packable sleeping bags, Therm-a-Rest’s Hyperion ($350-390) offers up both in spades.

Coming in just over a single pound, the Hyperion saves weight with 900-fill hydrophobic down and svelte SynergyLink sleeping pad connectors. Yet, it still affords big, easy-to-grip zippers and a pillowy, cinchable hood.

  • Buy this bag if: You want as much cozy as you can cram into a pound
  • Packed volume/weight: 32.8 L/1 lb.
  • Insulation: 900-fill down
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Packable
  • Plush
Cons
  • Steep taper inhibits side sleeping and shifting

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Western Mountaineering AlpinLite (20-Degree)

Western Mountaineering AlpinLite sleeping bag

Western Mountaineering built the AlpinLite ($585) to mimic everything fans loved about its UltraLite bag, only with the addition of extra shoulder room. And 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.

  • Buy this bag if: You want a 20-degree bag you can use with extra layers for even colder expeditions
  • Packed volume/weight: 12 L/2 lbs. (long)
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
Pros
  • Wide girth allows extra layering in very cold conditions
Cons
  • Expensive

Check Price at Moosejaw Check Price at Amazon

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

Feathered Friends Swallow UL sleeping bag

The Swallow UL ($579) 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.

  • 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
Pros
  • Very lofty and packable
  • Breathable outer shell
Cons
  • Pricey
  • High loft can make stuffing difficult

Check Price at Feathered Friends

Marmot Hydrogen (30-Degree)

Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag

The Marmot Hydrogen ($340-370) makes the list because the materials are solid, the brand knows how to make quality gear, and it manages to hit the sweet spot in terms of weight and packability.

That said, there are more comfortable options out there. The Hydrogen scores well on specs, but less on the overall feel. It’s still a quality bag and will be the right fit for some. Look into this bag if you’re evaluating bags for their quantitative elements.

  • Buy this bag if: You want an ultralight, packable bag at about 80% of top price
  • Packed volume/weight: 6 L/1 lb. 7 oz.
  • Insulation: 800-fill down
Pros
  • Sub-1.5 lbs.
Cons
  • Restrictive
  • Overly snug

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Sierra Designs Cloud 800 (35-Degree)

Sierra Designs Cloud 800 sleeping bag

Sierra Designs owns a coveted space within the outdoors in which it has the respect of seasoned adventurers and meets the comfort expectations of eager newcomers. Coming under 1.5 pounds, the Cloud 800 ($349) will make the cut for many backpackers.

And with a unique zipperless design, it allows sleepers to wrap themselves in tight or stretch out — whichever makes them comfortable. Add in the brand’s self-sealing foot vent, and you have a bag most anyone can enjoy.

  • Buy this bag if: You want a low-frills bag with plenty of venting options and room to move
  • Packed volume/weight: 8.5 L/1 lbs. 7 oz.
  • Insulation: 800-fill down
Pros
  • Zipperless design provides a great fit for a variety of bodies
  • Venting footbox
Cons
  • No sleeping pad sleeve
  • Body can slide around on the pad

Check Price at Backcountry

NEMO Forte (20-Degree & 35-Degree)

NEMO Forte

Looking for a technical synthetic bag? NEMO’s Forte line ($160-210) 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, unzip the gills to help dump heat, even if the bag carries a lower temp rating.

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

  • 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
Pros
  • Price
  • Thermo Gills help vent on hot nights
  • Spoon shape adds a little wiggle room
Cons
  • Heavy for a backpacking pack

Check 20-Degree Price at REICheck 35-Degree Price at REI

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

REI Co-op Magma

REI’s “best warmth-to-weight ratio” sleeping bag, the Magma ($339-389) aims to take on the sub-2-pound, ultrapackable market without breaking $400. And many agree that the Magma deserves a nod when shopping for ultralight backpacking sleeping bags.

At just over 3 L, the Magma 30 is remarkably packable. And the fact that it hits in the $300 range is impressive.

  • Buy this bag if: Pack space is just as important as price
  • Packed volume/weight: 3-5 L/1 lb. 6 oz.
  • Insulation: 850-fill down
Pros
  • Extremely packable for the price
Cons
  • Not as lofty as other options
  • Limited shoulder room

Check 15-Degree Price at REICheck 30-Degree Price at REI

How We Tested Backpacking Sleeping Bags

best sleeping bags for backpacking
Photo credit: Eric Phillips

Every year, GearJunkie editors shut their laptops and take a long weekend to evaluate the best camping gear out there. We really set up camp, unpack gear, pinch fingers, crack beers, and spend days and nights touching, using, and trying to break gear. Yes, really.

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?

We take all of this into consideration. But it all boils down to utility — will it work when you need it, and will it last from one season to the next?

We’ve used a lot of gear. But we aren’t snobs; we all started making do with what we had, so we understand price, practicality, and durability all play a part. If you can hack it with a little duct tape or a big rock — and spend $50 less — we’ll let you know.

Obviously, we can’t test everything on the market, so we research what the experts say, and we read reviews. After all, if it hasn’t worked for you, that’s a critical testing note we need to consider.

Once we narrow down the best of the best, we get it in-house and try it for ourselves. When it’s all said and done, we compile a list of gear that meets many needs, budgets, comfort and skill levels, and individual preferences.

Bottom line: Gear should help you do what you’d do anyway. And if you ever see something we missed, let us know — you’re a GearJunkie, too.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

It’s worth spending a bit of time finding the right sleeping bag. After all, this is a piece of gear that won’t only keep you comfortable at night but can also easily last through years of use.

And while there isn’t a single sleeping bag that’s best for every camper out there, this buyer’s guide will help identify the best bag for you.

Take a moment to imagine your camping future. Do you plan to spend a lot of time in the backcountry? Or do you mostly car camp? Do you sleep outside all year round? Or just in the warm summer months?

With this in mind, let’s jump into three important factors for choosing a sleeping bag.

Warmth

Sleeping bags come with a temperature rating, but it’s not always clear what that number means. Depending on the person, a 20-degree bag might keep you cozy down to 20 degrees, or it might be more of a survival number.

Sure, you’ll make it through, but you’ll spend the night shivering instead of snoozing. Women tend to sleep colder than men. And for that reason, women’s-specific sleeping bags tend to be warmer.

The important thing to determine is if you’re a warm or cold sleeper. We recommend cold sleepers choose a bag on the warmer end of the spectrum, even for summer camping. Options like the Rab Mythic Ultra and Therm-a-Rest Hyperion were among our resident cold sleeper’s favorite bags.

Best Sleeping Bags stuff sack sizes
Comparing the packed size of backpacking sleeping bags

Packed Size

Packed size is of particular importance when backpacking. Being able to pack your bag into the smallest stuff sack possible means more room for gear (or snacks!). But, related to the point above, you’ll need to balance this with a bag that’s warm enough.

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.

Fill Power

“Fill power” (sometimes referred to as “CUIN”) measures how much loft — and thus compressibility and potential insulating power— the down inside a garment has. A higher value does not necessarily translate to a warmer product, however.

Warmth is a product of several factors, like baffle construction and how much down is actually inside the product. Rather, a higher fill-power rating will indicate how much that product can be compressed from its full size and the relative quality of the down it has.

Loft can be a better way to think about down quality and fill power. A higher number translates to higher loft — that is, the more that down will puff back up and the more tiny air spaces it will form. Those air spaces are what help insulate the user and what can be squeezed out to pack down.

Hydrophobic Down

Virtually all modern, high-quality sleeping bags (like those in this guide) use a hydrophobic down. This may carry a proprietary name like DriDown, Q.Shield, and others.

But all hydrophobic down entails 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.

Note: This is not a waterproofing treatment. Hydrophobic down products will do better at resisting water, but they are not impervious to it.

Shell Fabric

As with down treatment, most sleeping bags from reputable brands will use synthetic shell fabrics and liners. Because of the inherent elements in the outdoors, many technical sleeping bags resist soft, natural fabrics like cotton.

Most bags will use a ripstop material for the outer shell. Ripstop is a nylon or polyester fabric woven with heavier threads to resist abrasion and tearing. The unique construction of ripstop also allows it to remain fairly breathable.

As for the bag liners, taffeta is among the most common choices. This is also a nylon or polyester material, but unlike the coarse feel of ripstop, taffeta has a pleasant, silky feel. And it is more breathable. This makes it an ideal choice for next-to-skin pieces.

Size

Increasingly, brands offer one sleeping bag model in various lengths, often short, regular, and long. Some, though not many, even offer width options. Typically, a Regular size sleeping bag will accommodate someone from about 5’7″ to about 6’1″.

Women’s-Specific Sleeping Bags

What makes a women’s sleeping bag different? Generally they are slightly warmer and smaller. So regardless of gender, if you are shorter in stature or tend to be cold when sleeping, a women’s-specific bag could be a good choice.

Price

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

Those sleeping bags have undergone rigorous testing and development to ensure that they keep serious adventurers safe and capable in some of the harshest environments.

That said, you can find very good sleeping bags for half that price, or less. Brands like Decathlon, Kelty, and even REI can leverage either their business model (as with Decathlon’s vertical integration) or their product expertise (as with Kelty and REI’s materials choices and number SKUs) to keep prices as low as possible.

Look to reputable reviews and testing outlets for advice on brands that meet your needs for quality and price.

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, extra zippers for venting, and a cinchable hood.

FAQ

What Is a Good Weight for a Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

This is largely dependent on what your needs are. For backpacking — that is, 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 lbs.

But for every ounce you sacrifice, most often you’re losing material. This can mean less durable materials, less size or comfort, and potentially higher price with more advanced tech.

For car camping, weight will really be a secondary concern to comfort — and trunk space.

Should I Get a Down or Synthetic Sleeping Bag?

When it comes to warmth and packability, nothing beats down. That’s not to say synthetic options aren’t warm or packable — or that someday it might catch up to or surpass down — but down is the hands-down winner for now.

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. And while synthetic isn’t quite as packable, it has come a long way in becoming a pack-friendly option.

And if price is a primary consideration, synthetic is considerably more affordable than high-quality, high-loft down.

What Is the Lightest Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

From our testing, the Patagonia Lightweight Sleeping Bag is the lightest, although it’s a bare minimalist option. For a true, complete sleeping bag, Rab’s Mythic Ultra is the lightest backpacking sleeping bag we recommend.

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.

But everyone is different. If you run cold, a 20-degree bag may feel too cold in 30 degrees. And if you run hot (like our tester), you can get away with a 30-degree bag in 15-degree weather or below.

As a rule, if you bundle up extra blankets at home even in summer, you may want to consider a sleeping bag with a temp rating lower than the temps you will be camping in. And the opposite is true if you find yourself kicking all the covers off at night.


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