By Kelly Hodgkins


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The right (or wrong) sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a backpacking trip. If you choose the wrong one, you’ll have a long and restless night but if you do your research and pick the best bag for your target destination, you’ll sleep as soundly in a shelter as you do at home. Whether you want a lightweight bag for warm summer nights or a three-season bag to cover you for a variety of seasons, these are our recommendations for the best sleeping bags you can buy.

Our pick

Sierra Designs Nitro 800/20 degree

best sleeping bags sierra designs nitro 20

Why should you buy this: The Nitro 800 keeps you warm and won’t weigh you down.

Who’s it for: Anyone who plans to sleep outside, whether they’re camping or backpacking.

How much will it cost: $329

Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces

Fill: 14.7 ounces of 800 fill PFC-free Dridown

Why we picked the Sierra Designs Nitro 800:

The Nitro 800 is the epitome of quality and value making it our top choice. Every aspect of the bag is designed to be just what you need without anything extra. The bag offers 14-ounces of high quality, PFC-free 800 fill goose down which keeps the weight down without inflating the cost. The Nitro 800 isn’t the lightest bag on the market, but its 1 pound and 12 ounces weight is still very packable for short and long trips. This weight is even more impressive when you climb inside the bag and realize how roomy it is — 62 inches for the shoulders, 56 inches for the waist, and 40 inches for the feet. Not too big, not too snug, the fit is just right.

Sierra Designs didn’t skimp on the construction and materials used in the bag. The company opted for a 15D nylon shell that doesn’t add a lot of extra weight but is durable enough that you don’t have to be overly gentle with the bag . There’s a rugged YKK zipper but it only extends about half way down the bag. It’s easy to get in and out of the bag, but you cant use it as a quilt. The bag has an efficient anti-snag zipper guard and a basic draft collar for warmth. It also has 5-inch baffles which help keep the down evenly distributed.

The Nitro has a roomy footbox that keeps your feet warm. To shed extra heat, the Nitro has a self-closing, zipperless foot vent that you can open when you need some extra ventilation. Just stick your feet through the vent when you are overheating and pull them back in when you have cooled down.. When not in use, the vent closes snugly without any cold drafts.

The Nitro 800 20 is an all-around versatile bag. It’s warm enough for three-season usage — possibly even four seasons if you consider yourself a warm sleeper. It also is available in a 0-degree and a 35-degree version for those who want a bag that is geared towards consistently colder or warmer conditions. Sierra Designs also developed women-specific versions of the Nitro 800/20 degree and the Nitro 800/0 degree.

The best 3-season down sleeping bag

REI Co-Op Magma 10 and Magma 17

magma sleeping bag magma2
Why should you buy this: The men’s Magma 10 and the women’s Magma 17 from REI offer a winning combination of quality design, outstanding warmth, and reasonable cost.

Who’s it for: The Magma 10 and 17 are for backpackers who place a priority on warmth when it comes to sleeping.

How much will it cost: $349

Temperature rating: 10/17 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds (Magma 10)/2 pounds 6 ounces (Magma 17)

Fill: 850 fill DWR-treated goose down

Why we picked the REI Co-Op Magma 10/17:

The REI Magma may not have snazzy features like self-closing toe boxes but the bag hits the mark where it matters most — comfort and warmth. The lightweight Magma has an inner 15D nylon lining that is soft to the skin and an outer 15D Pertex shell that resists tearing and repels moisture. It has enough space in the toe box to move your feet and is roomy enough in the hood to fit a small backpacking pillow for a good nights sleep. The bag has a fitted mummy cut that trims weight and a variable baffle design that deliver warmth. Most people won’t mind the trim fit, but broad-shouldered people may find it a bit snug.

The Magma 10 and 17 have a temperature range that makes them a solid three-season bag suitable for spring, summer, and fall in the mountains. When temperatures plummet, there are two drawstrings on the hood that provide a snug fit while an insulated draft collar and a draft tube on the zipper help to trap body heat inside the bag. To let off some heat, the bag can be unzipped in an arc across the shoulders. When conditions warm up, the bag can be fully unzipped and used as a quilt. An internal anti-snag strip makes it easy to open the bag from both inside and outside the bag without catching on the fabric.

The best 3-season synthetic sleeping bag

Big Agnes Bolten SL 20

best sleeping bags big agnes bolten vt
Why should you buy this: Backpackers who want all-weather protection should look at the Big Agnes Bolten SL 20, which is crafted with a durable and lightweight synthetic insulation that stays warm even when it’s wet outside.

Who’s it for: Backpackers and car campers who explore in areas where wetness is a major concern.

How much will it cost: $289

Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds 11 ounces

Fill: PrimaLoft Silver & PrimaLoft Gold Active stretch insulation

There is little argument that a down sleeping bag is warm — it’s perhaps the warmest material you can wrap yourself in. However, down insulation does have a significant flaw – it loses its warmth when wet. Manufacturers have turned to a special water-resistant down that is treated superficially with a DWR like Nikwax but this technology is relatively new and its effect on the longevity of a down bag is unknown.

While many sleeping bag makers use down in their high-end bags, manufacturers like Big Agnes realize there is a huge market for synthetic fabrics, as well. These synthetic bags offer a significant advantage because they stay warm even while wet, though wet warmth does come at a cost as synthetic bags are often heavier and bulkier. This is where the Big Agnes Bolten SL 20 shines by offering the wet warmth advantage of synthetic insulation while maintaining a lightweight profile that rivals many down bags in the same temperature class.

So, how does the Big Agnes manage to make a synthetic bag almost as light as down? The answer lies in the materials. The company uses PrimaLoft Silver and combines it with PrimaLoft Gold Active stretch insulation. Primaloft has spent decades perfecting its insulation so it mimics down with millions of air pockets that trap your body heat. The result is a lightweight insulation that’s warm, durable, and compressible. The active stretch insulation is a unique addition to the bag. It’s built into side stretch panels that provide some give in the sleeping bag allowing you to sleep on your side and move around inside your bag.

The Big Agnes Bolten screams comfort with a top zipper that is easy to undo and extends almost the full length of the bag. When unzipped, the bag can be used as a quilt for sleeping in warmer weather. Other features include interior fabric loops for sleeping bag liners, exterior loops for easy drying, an integrated draft tube to prevent snags and minimize cold air from seeping in through the zipper.

The best hybrid sleeping bag

Salewa Fusion Hybrid Sleeping Bag: 28 Degree Synthetic

Why should you buy this: The Salewa Fusion Hybrid takes the lightweight qualities of down and blends it with the water resistance of Primaloft to create a bag that’s warm under all conditions.

The best hybrid sleeping bag

Salewa Fusion Hybrid

With down and PrimaLoft insulation, Salewa's Fusion Hybrid is extremely lightweight and stays warm regardless of conditions.

Who’s it for: Hikers who want a bag that stays warm when it’s wet, yet lightweight like down.

How much will it cost: $275

Temperature rating: 28 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces

Fill: 50 percent PrimaLoft, 50 percent down

Why we picked the Salewa Fusion Hybrid 28-degree sleeping bag:

When purchasing a sleeping bag, many face the age-old decision of down versus synthetic. It’s a difficult choice of whether to opt for the lightweight and compressibility of down or the “warm while wet” feature of synthetic insulation. Thankfully, Salewa’s Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag features 50 percent down and 50 percent Primaloft, providing the best of both worlds in a single package.

Salewa designed its mummy bag for the mountaineer or backpacker who needs to be warm regardless of outside conditions. The Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag offers a 90/10 duck down (90 percent down, 10 percent feather) that’s lightweight, highly compressible, and warm when conditions are dry. Salewa also stuffed the bag with Primaloft which provides warmth even while wet. The result is a 650-fill power that stays warm down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps 94 percent of its insulating warmth when wet. Furthermore, the down/synthetic blend dries four times faster than down alone.

Salewa didn’t stop with the insulation when it designed its Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag as it also built-in all the convenience features anyone might need in a sleeping bag. Extras such as a drawstring hood, a draft collar, and tube for warmth, and a foot section with its zipper make this bag a solid choice. When it’s warm outside, it’s also capable of being unzipped and used as a blanket and features a full-length, two-way YKK zipper compatible with other sleeping bags — a welcome bonus for those camping with a significant other.

The best warm weather sleeping bag

Kelty Sine 35

Why should you buy this: The Kelty Sine 35 is the perfect 3-season bag. It’ll keep you warm in the spring and fall but is designed with exceptional ventilation to cool you off when temperatures start to climb.

The best warm weather sleeping bag

Kelty Sine 35

With its unique Arc zipper system, the Kelty Sine 35 is great for both warm and colder nights, allowing you to pick one bag that's suitable

Who’s it for: Backpackers who want a single bag for the summer that’s warm enough to carry over into shoulder seasons.

How much will it cost: $239

Temperature rating: 35 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 1 pound 14 ounces

Fill: 800 fill power DriDown

Why we picked the Kelty Sine 35:

The Kelty Sine 35 is fantastic down bag for those warm summer hikes that take you to distant mountains. The bag’s number one feature is its flexibility as it’s ideal for both warm and colder nights, allowing you to pick one bag for 90 percent of your backpacking needs. It also accommodates a man-sized frame but has extra down for women who sleep cold.

As its name implies, the Sine 35 has a 35-degree rating when fully zipped — perfect for those occasional cold nights. When it gets warmer, the bag uses two well-placed zippers for ventilation; one which extends across the chest allowing for airflow and another that exposes the feet and lower legs, providing a way for cool air to seep into the bag without comprising warmth in the middle.

The Sine 35 is chock full of features. The Arc zipper system not only allows for cooling as mentioned above but it’s also set at an angle, allowing for natural arm movement across the body when unzipping the bag. There’s a natural fit toe box for comfort along with a zipper draft tube for warmth. Kelty designed the tube to be anti-snag, so you won’t need to worry about catching any fabric. Another bonus in the Sine 35 is the built-in pillow pocket at the head which allows you to stuff an extra jacket to create a pillow.

The best zipperless sleeping bag

Big Agnes Thunderhead SL 30 Sleeping Bag

Why should you buy this: Big Agnes did away with zippers in the Thunderhead SL 30, and the result is a bag that’s lightweight and low maintenance.

The best zipperless sleeping bag

Big Agnes Thunderhead SL 30

The Thunderhead SL 30 from Big Agnes has everything you want in a sleeping bag except the inconvenience of zippers.

Who’s it for: Minimalists who don’t want the fuss of zippers.

How much will it cost: $249

Temperature rating: 30 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces

Fill: 650-fill DownTek

Why we picked the Big Agnes Thunderhead SL 30:

The Thunderhead SL 30 from Big Agnes is a minimalist’s dream. The lightweight bag is simple in construction with a traditional cocoon shape and zipperless design. Only the top portion of the bag opens and is secured using a clip and loop system instead of a zipper.

Other standard features of the Thunderhead include a cinch hood, a wrap-around draft tube to hold in heat, and a vaulted foot box with some extra room to wiggle your feet. On the outside, the bag is covered in water repellant, lightweight rip-stop nylon, while the inside of the bag is lined with soft nylon taffeta. There’s even an integrated half pad sleeve designed to hold a small pad that’ll cover all the pressure points on your hips, shoulders, and head.

The best sleeping bag for alpine pursuits

Patagonia Hybrid Sleeping Bag

Why should you buy this: The Patagonia Hybrid sleeping bag is the bag you want when weight matters on an alpine trek.

The best sleeping bag for alpine pursuits

Patagonia Hybrid

Alpine climbers can pair Patagonia's hybrid sleeping bag with an insulated down jacket to assemble the ultimate ultralight backpacking sleep

Who’s it for: Alpine Backpackers or mountaineers who already travel with a down parka and want a warm sleeping bag that weighs next to nothing.

How much will it cost: $299

Temperature rating: Varies based on layering

Weight: 1 pound 1 ounce

Fill: 850-fill Traceable European down

Why we picked the Patagonia Hybrid sleeping bag:

The Patagonia hybrid sleeping bag does away with unnecessary weight by using an “Elephant’s Foot” design. This style of bag concentrates the insulation in the lower half of the torso, requiring the user to wear a warm down coat as insulation for the upper half of their body. This style of sleeping bag tends to be light and compact, making them suitable for alpine pursuits where ounces are critical.

Everything about the Patagonia hybrid bag is ultralight from the Pertex Quantum outer shell to the featherweight nylon ripstop liner. Both the outer and inner surface of the bag has a DWR finish which helps keep the down insulation (and its owner) dry. Unlike other “Elephant’s Foot” bags that are shorter in length, the Patagonia hybrid bag is a full-length bag with insulation at the bottom and a nylon upper with a cinch hood at the top to keep in the heat.

Besides being light and simple in design, the hybrid bag from Patagonia also is versatile. Because you’ll pair the sleeping bag with an insulated jacket, Patagonia allows for the customization of the sleep system to fit your needs. On a cold night, the bag might pair with a heavily-insulated down parka, while on a warmer night, the bag goes perfectly with a lightweight parka and no additional layers.

The best sleeping bag for kids

Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Adjustable Sleeping Bag

Why should you buy this: The Bozeman is the perfect sleeping bag for kids — its unique design allows the bag to grow along with a child.

The best sleeping bag for kids

Mountain Hardware Bozeman Adjustable

Innovative drawcord system allows the Mountain Hardwear Bozeman sleeping bag to grow with a child.

Who’s it for: Young children who love the outdoors

How much will it cost: $99

Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces

Fill: Synthetic Thermal.Q Thermic MX

Why we picked the Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Adjustable sleeping bag:

Sleeping bags for kids are a difficult niche to fill. Quality bags tend to be quite expensive as they are designed with longevity in mind. Unfortunately, kids grow so fast that this longevity is lost on them and their bags quickly become obsolete. As a result, few parents are willing to shell out $300 for a bag that’ll only last a year. Mountain Hardware realized this doesn’t have to be the norm and released the Bozeman — an adjustable sleeping bag that expands as your child grows.

The key to the Bozeman is an internal drawstring that shrinks the bag to the height of the child. This internal closure ensures the child stays nice and warm in a space sized specifically for their height. As the child grows, the drawstring can be adjusted to a new length. Each year the bag gets a little bit longer until the child is ready for an adult-sized model.

When deciding what to put in the Bozeman, Mountain Hardwear didn’t scrimp. The company started off with enough synthetic fill to produce a bag that’s comfortable down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring a full three seasons of usage. Mountain Hardwear also included a draft tube along the zipper and a face gasket to keep cold air out and the warm air in.

The best double sleeping bag

Big Agnes Sentinel 30

Why should you buy this: The Big Agnes Sentinel 30 takes all the features of a high-end sleeping bag and packages them into a form factor built for two.

The best double sleeping bag

Big Agnes Sentinel 30

Built for two, the Sentinel 30 brings the comfort of your bed to the great outdoors.

Who’s it for: Couples who enjoy spending time together outside.

How much will it cost: $369

Temperature rating: 30 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 3 pounds 9 ounces

Fill: 650 Fill DownTek water repellent down

Why we picked the Big Agnes Sentinel 30:

The Sentinel 30 from Big Agnes is all about sharing your love of the great outdoors with your favorite person. The down sleeping bag is designed to hold two people comfortably with room for sleeping pads in the integrated sleeve. Rated down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the full package brings a bed-like comfort to your camping experience.

The most striking feature of the Sentinel 30 is its size — the double bag measures almost 9-feet across the shoulders and hips, accommodating two people up to 6-feet tall. It weighs 3 pounds and 9 ounces, which is reasonable for such a large bag. Instead of unpacking two sleeping bags and struggling to zip them together, campers simply roll out the Sentinel 30 and hop right into bed. Its weight, however, makes the Sentinel 30 more suited for car camping instead of backpacking.

Although it’s meant for two people, the bag does have some individualized features. Each person has the option to use their pillow in the integrated pillow barn and cinch the hood based on their need for heat. The bag also allows owners to choose between two individual sleeping pads — or one double pad — if both sleepers can agree on the firmness and thickness of the mattress pad. Each side also has its own zipper, meaning a person can get in and out of the bag without waking up their partner.

The Sentinel 30 is big in size and big in features. Thanks to DWR on the outside and water-repellant down on the inside, the Sentinel 30 is designed to keep you dry and warm even when the conditions turn wet. There’s also interior fabric loops to hold sleeping bag liners in place and a free range hood which allows you to lift your head without adjusting the hood.

The best sleeping bag for the budget-conscious

Kelty Cosmic 20

best sleeping bags kelty cosmic down 20

Why should you buy this: The Kelty Cosmic 20 keeps you warm in three season conditions at an extremely affordable price.

Who’s it for: Budget-conscious campers and backpackers

How much will it cost: $159

Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds 13 ounces

Fill: 18 ounces of 600 fill DriDown

Why we picked the Kelty Cosmic 20:

To find any down sleeping bag costing less than $200 is quite a feat. To find something as warm and lightweight as the Kelty Cosmic is truly remarkable. The Cosmic is a high-quality mummy bag designed for durability and comfort. It has a durable 50D taffeta lining that feels soft to the skin and a snug hood with a draft collar to keep your body heat in and the cold weather out.

Kelty designed the Cosmic 20 with 600 fill DriDown, a water-resistant down which prevents moisture from compromising its excellent lofting capacity. In addition to the down filling, the Cosmic 20 features a rugged 50D down-proof outer fabric that prevents the loss of down and baffles which reduce the occurrence of cold spots. A 3/4 zipper makes it easy to use the sleeping bag as a quilt in warm conditions.

The Kelty Cosmic is rated to an EN lower limit of 19 degrees Fahrenheit and a comfort limit of 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking for something warm enough for three season conditions, lightweight enough to take backpacking, and at a price point that won’t break the bank or sacrifice quality — the Kelty Cosmic should be on your radar. If 20-degrees doesn’t hit the sweet spot, then talk a look at the Cosmic 0 for four-season use or the Cosmic 40 for warmer climates. There’s also a women’s specific version.

The best sleeping bag for winter weather

Marmot Lithium

Why should you buy this: An outstanding warmth to weight ratio for challenging the coldest winter weather.

Who’s it for: Winter campers and backpackers

How much will it cost: $499

Temperature rating: 0 degrees Fahrenheit

Weight: 2 pounds 9.5 ounces

Fill: 800-fill goose down

Why we picked the Marmot Lithium:

When winter rears its head, the snow begins to fall, and the winds begin to howl, you don’t have to retreat indoors and out of the elements. You can camp or backpack all winter long with the Marmot Lithium and keep warm at night, even when the temperatures dip below freezing.

Marmot stuffed a healthy helping of 800-fill down into this performance mummy bag and added a Pertex DWR shell to repel moisture, making it ideal for use in snowy conditions. In addition to quality down, smoothly curved baffles prevent down drift and ensure maximum loft. The Lithium is rated to an EN comfort level of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and a lower limit of -4.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aside from an impressive warmth to weight ratio, the Lithium is extremely lightweight, making it ideal for use on a backpacking or alpine expedition. Tipping the scales at just 2 pounds, 9.5 ounces, it rivals many of the bags on this list — including those that are significantly less warm.

How We Test

When possible, our sleeping bag recommendations have been field tested across a variety of terrains and weather conditions. We try to test each bag under the conditions which it will be most frequently used. When testing a sleeping bag is not possible, we look at the features of the bag and compare it to existing models in our arsenal of gear. We examine how the bag has changed and what improvements, if any, were made for the current year. We also comb through product specifications and both manufacturer and retailer videos for insight into any new technology advances that were developed for these latest and greatest sleeping bags.

Things to consider

Buying a sleeping bag is a very personal thing. Everyone sleeps differently — there are warm sleepers, cold sleepers, side sleepers, back sleepers and more. Because of this variability, there is no perfect sleeping bag suitable for everyone. As a result, you have to spend time researching a sleeping bag before purchasing. Buying a sleeping bag comes down to three things: the type of insulation (down or synthetic) in the bag, the size, and weight that you can carry, and the level of comfort you want in the field.

Down vs. Synthetic Insulation

One of the biggest decisions you need to make about when purchasing a sleeping bag is the insulation. The insulation influences how warm you will be when you backpack. There are two basic types of insulation — down and synthetic — and they have very different properties.

Down is known for being lightweight and warm. It can be compressed to a fraction of its original size and takes up relatively little space in your pack. Down has an Achilles heel, though. When wet, it loses its ability to keep you warm. Down has a loft that creates air spaces between the feathers. When this air heats up, it’s able to keep you warm inside your sleeping bag. When down gets wet, it sticks together and loft disappears. As a result, the bag stays cold because it no longer has these air spaces to trap heat.

Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, does not rely on loft to keep you warm. The insulation itself is developed with specialty materials and woven fabric matrices that are designed to trap heat. When this insulation gets wet, it retains its ability to keep you warm. This capability is a huge benefit for backpacking in a wet area.

Like down, synthetic insulation does have a downside. The material is heavier than down and not nearly as compressible. As a result, synthetic bags are heavier and take up more room than their down counterparts.

Seasons and Temperature Ratings

Another major factor in choosing a sleeping bag is the temperature rating. You don’t want to pack a 50-degree bag in the dead of winter, nor do you want to pack a 0-degree bag in the middle of summer.

Each bag has a temperature rating which helps you chose the best model for your outings. Many sleeping bags list an EN rating, which is a testing standard used by most major sleeping bag manufacturers. This specification ensures the bags are evaluated using the same set of criteria, allowing you to compare an 800-fill down bag from Mountain Hardware with a 650-fill down bag from the North Face. There are usually two EN values listed for each bag — the EN comfort rating and the EN lower limit rating.

The comfort rating is the lowest temperature that the average woman will find comfortable, while the lower limit reflects the lowest temperature that is comfortable to the average man. These temperatures are calculated based on a person wearing a single layer of long underwear and a hat. Some bags don’t have an EN rating, so you’ll need to look at the insulation type and its relative reviews to see whether the bag lives up to its advertised temperature rating.

Do keep in mind ratings are only a guideline and should be applied to your unique physiology. Everyone is different — for instance, some people sleep warmer and are comfortable in a 30-degree bag when it is well below freezing while others sleep much colder and need a 30-degree model even during warm summer nights. Typically, three-season bags, with a range from five degrees Fahrenheit to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, are the most popular bags as they can be used from spring through the fall.

If you do almost all of your backpacking and camping in the summer, you’ll want a warm weather bag with a temperature range that extends from 30 degrees Fahrenheit on the low end to 55 degrees Fahrenheit on the upper end. For winter, you want to select a bag with a range that extends from four degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t worry if your bag is a little too warm or cold for the conditions. If cold, you can add a liner or an extra layer of clothing to boost 10 degrees Fahrenheit in warmth. Likewise, you can simply open a zipper to create a vent, or even unzip a bag fully and use it as a blanket to cool off.


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