While camping outdoors and backpacking through the wilderness is a fantastic and worthwhile experience, when it comes to sleeping things can be a little rough, depending on where you are and how much gear you bring. One of the most important pieces that you can have with you is a high-quality sleeping bag to help keep the elements at bay and ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed.
Unfortunately, if you’re backpacking, then you have to be careful about choosing the best backpacking sleeping bag. While you want to get one that is soft and comfortable, you are limited in the amount of space you can use and the weight you can carry. As such, it’s imperative that you find a model that is specifically designed for backpacking rather than standard camping.
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As far as features go, the size of your sleeping bag is probably the most important. You have to make sure that it’s big enough to cover your whole body, but not so big that you have a lot of extra space (and weight) holding you down. The best way to measure a bag is to see the width at the shoulders, as that is the widest part of your body. If it’s a bit too snug, then you should go one size bigger.
As far as length goes, you will want to get a model that is a little taller than you so that you can move around without popping out. Overall, the best way to check to see if the size is right is to test it, if possible.
When talking about the material of a sleeping bag, there are three distinct sections to which you should pay attention: the shell (outer layer), the liner (inner layer), and the fill. Each material will help determine how well the bag will hold up both to the elements and to repeated use. As far as liners go (both outer and inner), nylon or polyester are the most popular choices, so the fill is what really separates a good bag from a bad one.
If you’re worried about cost, then synthetic is the way to go as it doesn’t command the same price as goose down or high-end materials. The benefits of synthetic are that it will stay dry longer and will retain its shape better over time. Purists argue that it won’t insulate as well, but usually, synthetics can hold up against goose down.
While traditional down is not as common as it once was, there is a reason that people prefer it. This material is ideal for trapping heat and repelling both water and the cold, making it a viable option for anyone who likes to camp in more frigid temperatures. The tradeoff, however, is the price. Usually, goose down bags are some of the most expensive.
This material is regular goose down that has been treated to be more water resistant than normal. If you like to camp in humid weather or plan on any rain (or snow), then it’s imperative that you get a bag that won’t get soaking wet. In this case, even if you do get water on your bag, it will dry out much faster and retain its shape better. Because it uses goose down, this is usually the most expensive.
As we’ve seen, mummy style bags are the preferred choice of backpackers, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options. There are four primary forms of sleeping bag from which you can choose, each with a different level of comfort and versatility.
This is the most common bag shape and by far the most cost-effective because it isn’t specially designed to trap heat or remove space. If you are camping casually, then this will be a good way to go.
This shape is something that is kind of a cross between rectangular and mummy-style. It is tapered at the bottom so that you can reduce the amount of material that you use and cut the weight down. However, the benefit of using this style is that you have more room to move around and spread out, allowing you to sleep on your side or stomach.
The name of this sleeping bag style is derived from the fact that it makes you look (and feel) a bit like a mummy. These models taper sharply at the waist so as to hug your body and reduce the amount of weight and empty space around you. If you’re trying to cut down on the size of your sleeping bag, this is a great way to go.
If you ever want to share a sleeping bag with someone, then you will want to get a double-wide model. These are usually rectangular in shape and are big enough to hold you and a friend comfortably. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you don’t want to bring something so large, some bags are capable of being zipped up together to create a double-wide from two singles. This way, you can still share body heat without weighing your pack down too much.
Although sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm at night, there is a difference between sleeping in temperate climates or frigid ones. As a result, there are ratings for each bag as to how well they can hold up in varying degrees of warm and cold.
If you’re only planning on camping when the weather is nice, then you don’t need something that can brace against bitter winds or snow-covered ground. Summer bags are rated for about forty or fifty degrees and usually are wider and have better airflow, so you don’t overheat during the night.
These are the best bags to get if you plan on camping all year round. While they won’t be able to hold up against sub-freezing temps, three-season bags are capable of withstanding weather that is much brisker. Typically speaking, this rating will be between twenty and thirty degrees.
If you love to camp in the snow, then you need something that won’t let the bitter cold in while you sleep. Winter bags are thicker and come with the best insulation and water resistance. Most winter bags are rated at fifteen degrees or below, making them ideal for frosty conditions.
Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a list of such sleeping bags. We’ve also developed a list of features you should familiarize yourself with so that you can make sure that you’re picking the right one for your next outing.
When picking out a decent sleeping bag, you have to decide if comfort or weight is more important to you. For the most part, if you’re camping in the summer or warmer months, then the weight will be more crucial because you don’t have to protect yourself as much from the cold.
However, if you like to head out during fall or winter, then you need something that is as thick and warm as possible.
With that in mind, this MegaLite Sleeping Bag is more designed for fair-weather campers as its size and temperature rating are not ideal for braving the winter cold. This bag earns its name by being only 1.5 pounds when compressed, which is almost half of some other models we’re about to see.
The other thing to know about this bag is that it’s one size fits most. It’s a bit broader at the shoulders and designed for campers up to six feet, so if you’re much shorter than that, you might have to find something else. Overall, this is a great bag for summer or spring excursions and will not weigh you down in the slightest.
As far as insulation goes, this bag comes with an impressive 850 fill power. Most bags cap off at 600, so you’re getting a lot more warmth than normal. What’s even more astounding about that is that it’s still so lightweight. Finally, a synthetic Pertex lining keeps you toasty warm throughout the night, along with a draft collar to keep your head cozy.
Overall, this bag is ideal for any backpackers who don’t spend time out in the snow.
Usually, backpacking bags will be mummy shaped to help reduce the amount of weight and excess space around you while you sleep.
The problem with that, however, is that it can be difficult to find a comfortable position. If you like sleeping on your side or stomach, for example, it can be almost impossible with a mummy bag.
Thus, the NEMO Salsa Sleeping Bag is designed to give you more room to shift around while also keeping the size to a minimum. According to the company, this is a “spoon shaped” bag, which means that it tapers at the center and then opens up at the shoulders and feet. If you’re not a fan of mummy bags, this could be an excellent option for you.
As far as performance goes, this particular model comes with 650 fill power DownTek synthetic fill which will keep you warm in temperatures as low as fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Overall, this is a three-season bag that should be fine in winter, provided that you stay in a shelter or a tent.
For the most part, sleeping bags are designed with zippers to help keep you sealed in and warm throughout the night. The Backcountry Bed from Sierra Designs, however, doesn’t need anything as cliche as zippers to keep the air out.
This bag is by far the most unique and customizable one as it comes with an integrated comforter that allows you to bundle up when it’s cold and spread out when it’s warm.
Getting into the bag is a bit tricky because it just has a hole for you to climb into, but once you’re inside, you can move around to your heart’s content. Other features that come with this model are pockets for your pillows and supplies, a sleeve to hold your sleeping pad (so it doesn’t shift during the night), and hand and arm pockets to keep your extremities warm all night long.
At the base, you can even pop your feet out if the evening is getting a little hot and you want better airflow. Overall, this bag is ideal for most seasons and is rated for twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.
Although mummy shaped bags are all the rage for backpackers, that doesn’t mean a standard barrel-shape sleeping bag will be too bulky or cumbersome for your next trip.
If you don’t want to feel trapped in something restrictive, this is a wonderful option that will keep you warm while allowing you some maneuverability.
As far as materials go, this bag is extremely well made. The shell is 50D polyester, it has a soft taffeta lining, and it has 600 FP DriDown insulation. As far as filling goes, DriDown is one of the best options because it has the same thermal power as regular goose down but also has the water resistance of synthetic filling. As a result, the temperature rating for this bag is twenty degrees, making it ideal for year-round use.
If you’re looking for a bag that is lightweight and cost effective, this next model from Mountain Hardware is just the ticket. While it’s not ideal for winter camping, it will be perfect for summer or spring.
What sets this bag apart from the others is that it comes with a center zipper as opposed to a side one.
For some users, this is much more preferable, but it can be tricky to get in and out, especially because it doesn’t go down all the way. This is a synthetic fill bag, meaning that it will keep you warm in most fair-weather conditions. The rating for this model is thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit, and the bag itself weighs about a pound.
Next, we have another all-weather sleeping bag from Thermodown. If you’re the kind of backpacker who likes to brave cold temperatures and challenge yourself, then this could be a great option for you.
With a mummy style design and 600 fill goose down, this bag is designed to handle most temperatures. In fact, it’s rated for fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, so feel free to camp out any time of year.
While this particular model is one size fits most, the shape and contour works for most campers. The shoulders measure thirty-three inches and the feet are fourteen inches. If you’re a big guy, then it will be a bit tight, but otherwise, you should be good to go. As far as weight, this bag is two pounds, which is about the middle of the road for backpacking.
As far as outdoor gear companies go, none is quite as well respected as the North Face. This brand is well-known for making high-quality products that can withstand almost any elements.
This sleeping bag is not quite as high tech as some of the others we’ve seen, but the construction is spot on, and it will hold up year after year.
This is a synthetic fill bag, meaning that it’s a bit more cost effective than goose down or DriDown, but the tradeoff is that you won’t want to use it in extreme temperatures. This is a three-season bag, but winter might be a bit too cold for you. Finally, this bag weighs two pounds when compressed.
Overall, this is a three-season bag, but it can work in winter as long as you’re not out in the snow or icy conditions. Other than the temperature rating, this is a pretty standard bag with a polyester lining, thermal draft tube to keep your head warm, and an anti-snag zipper design, so you never have to worry about fighting to open or close it.
What we like about this bag are the water-resistant shell and the thick down filling. Some purists think that goose down is the only way to go, so if you’re one of them then you’ll like this model. The temperature rating for this particular bag is between fifteen or twenty degrees (depending on the size you get), making it ideal for year-round use. Best of all, it weighs less than two pounds.
When comparing these different bags, the best option will depend on the type of camping you do. As far as cold rated bags go, we prefer the Kelty Cosmic or the Thermodown models as they are better at holding up in the snow and ice. If you’re looking for an all-weather bag, however, then we highly recommend the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed due to its customizable options and extra comfortable features. Either way, you can choose one from the list of our best backpacking sleeping bag that meets your needs.
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!