Cozying into your sleeping bag at the end of a long day on the trail is one of the great pleasures of backpacking. And today’s bags offer exceptional warmth for the weight along with a range of technologies that help them stay dry and perform in a variety of conditions. The majority of the bags on this list are filled with down, which is warmer, lighter, and more compressible than synthetic insulation (although we did include a handful of top synthetic models as well). For more background, see our sleeping bag comparison table and buying advice below the picks. To shave even more weight, see our dedicated article on the best ultralight sleeping bags and quilts.
Temperature rating: 28°F ISO Comfort, 16°F Lower Limit
Weight: 1 lb. 12.2 oz.
Fill: 15.9 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: A premium sleeping bag at a good price.
What we don’t: Variable baffle spacing left us feeling a bit chillier than expected.
We used to pass on most REI Co-op hard goods because they weren't competitive, but that simply is no longer the case. The in-house offerings have been very impressive of late, with a strong lineup of quality backpacking gear at good price points. The latest Magma 15 is case in point: for $369, you get a warm backpacking bag that is loaded with 15.9 ounces of 850-fill down (REI now also makes a 30-degree version at 1 pound 3.8 ounces and $319). In terms of specs, the Magma is right in line with premium brands like Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering but with considerably less damage to your wallet.
In practice, the REI Magma isn’t perfect. Despite the impressive temperature rating, we’ve found that past versions of this bag didn’t run quite as warm as suggested. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but the variable baffle spacing could have something to do with it (the baffles on the lower half of the body are noticeably wider than the upper half, which may have left our legs and feet feeling a tad chilly). That issue aside, the Magma is a high-end backpacking bag at a reasonable weight and good price, which is why it’s our top pick. And REI has expanded the Magma line by offering 15-degree and 30-degree versions for men and women, plus a 30-degree Magma Quilt.
See the REI Co-op Magma 15 See the Women's REI Co-op Magma 15
Best Budget Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 37°F EN Comfort, 27°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lbs.
Fill: 13 oz. of 600-fill down
What we like: Light, well-built, and attractively priced.
What we don’t: 600-fill down isn’t as warm or compressible as pricier bags.
In terms of value, you won't find a better backpacking bag than The North Face Furnace 20. For less than $170, you get a 37°F Comfort rating, which should be enough for most summer adventures in warmer climates, along with a reasonable weight of 2 pounds for the regular size. Furthermore, the Furnace is quite comfortable and decently wide through the shoulders and hips for those who like a roomier fit. Throw in features like a comfortable mummy hood, draft collar, and hydrophobic down that is RDS-certified, and the Furnace is our favorite sleeping bag in the sub-$200 price range.
What are the downsides of The North Face Furnace 20? The down is 600-fill-power, which is respectable but doesn’t offer the same warmth for the weight or packability as the more premium sleeping bag options on this list. In addition, the temperature rating means that it isn’t really built for the mountains or shoulder seasons, but The North Face does make a warmer Furnace 20—that version is just $10 more but comes with a significant weight penalty at 2 pounds 10 ounces. And for other interesting budget options, see the Kelty Cosmic and REI Radiant below.
See The North Face Furnace 35
Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 30°F
Weight: 1 lb. 5.3 oz.
Fill: 11.5 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Premium down and build quality for serious backpackers.
What we don’t: Pricey and availability can be limited during peak season.
If you haven’t heard of Seattle-based Feathered Friends, do yourself a favor and get introduced. This small company specializes in premium down products and makes just about everything in the U.S.A. Climbers stop in religiously before heading to Mt. Rainier, Alaska, and far-off places like the Himalaya, and it’s well worth a visit if you’re in Seattle (their new store is right across from the REI flagship). Most importantly, their sleeping bags and other down products are exceptionally well-built and competitively priced for what you get.
For 3-season use, the Hummingbird UL is our favorite ultralight sleeping bag on the market. It’s stuffed with a generous 11.5 ounces of 950-fill goose down, has a thin but water-resistant 10-denier Pertex Endurance shell, and comes in at just 1 pound 5.3 ounces for the 30-degree version (in our experience, Feathered Friends bags run warmer than their listed ratings). And compared with the popular Western Mountaineering UltraLite below, the 20-degree Hummingbird UL is a full 5 ounces lighter and still $16 cheaper.
See the Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL See the Women's FF Egret UL
Best Sleeping Bag for Side Sleepers
Temperature rating: 41°F ISO Comfort, 31°F Lower Limit
Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Fill: 11 oz. of 650-fill down
What we like: A roomy and comfortable bag for side sleepers and those who toss and turn.
What we don’t: Heavier than slimmer-cut bags with similar temperature ratings (more fabric and down equals more weight).
Updated for fall of last year, the Nemo Disco builds on their successful "spoon” shaped sleeping bag concept. The focus here is on comfort: Nemo bags are wider than a typical mummy, particularly in the elbows and knees, so side sleepers and others can roll around without restrictions. The Disco is their mid-range offering with 650-fill water-resistant (and now PFC-free) down, a waterproof panel around the toe box for added protection, and a built-in sleeve for a pillow. For ventilation, you get two zippered “gills” running lengthwise at the top of the bag, and unzipping them creates intentional cold spots to release hot air in warm conditions. We found the system to be very helpful on a mild night in Utah.
As we mentioned above with the Furnace, lower-fill-power down doesn't offer the same warmth for the weight as more premium models, and the Nemo's 650-fill is decidedly mid-range. And at 1 pound 15 ounces (2 pounds 1 ounce for the long model), Nemo did manage to shave a notable 6 ounces off the previous version by tweaking the contours, but it's still on the heavier end for a 30-degree bag. But if the roomy fit and unique feature set appeal to you, the Disco is a great option.
See the Nemo Disco 30 See the Women's Nemo Disco 30
Best of the Rest
Temperature rating: 19°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lbs. 6.6 oz.
Fill: 18.2 oz. of 600-fill down
What we like: Inexpensive for a down bag yet should last for years.
What we don’t: Decently heavy and lacking the premium feel.
For new backpackers and those on a budget, Kelty makes inexpensive gear that may pleasantly surprise you with its quality. The Cosmic 20 is one of the cheaper down sleeping bags on the market—definitely from one of the major manufacturers—but the EN Lower Limit rating of 19 degrees should keep you reasonably warm in most 3-season conditions (the Comfort rating is not provided). It’s true that the 600-fill power down doesn’t offer the same warmth or packability as many other bags on this list, but we love the value and you get the bonus of a hydrophobic treatment for wet conditions.
Kelty updated the Cosmic line for 2019, with the major change being a thinner 20-denier shell fabric (the old version had a much burlier 50-denier shell). The net result is a substantial drop in weight (the old version weighed over 6 ounces more at 2 pounds 13 ounces), which all backpackers should appreciate. The truth is that unless you have a dog that will be trampling your bag or expect other rough treatment, it should be on the inside of your tent and not subject to much abuse. And now at less than 2.5 pounds all-in, the Kelty Cosmic is a another viable backpacking bag for those on a budget.
See the Kelty Cosmic 20 See the Women's Kelty Cosmic 20
Temperature rating: 35°F
Weight: 1 lb.
Fill: 8 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Incredibly light at just 1 pound and a great option for summer thru-hikers.
What we don’t: Limited feature set and not warm enough for the alpine.
At 1 pound even for a mummy bag, the HighLite enters into some serious ultralight territory. For those who don’t know, Western Mountaineering is a legendary gear manufacturer based in California that has been making high-end sleeping bags for decades. They are extremely well-built and come in a ton of options covering every temperature and shape range. For true minimalists and summer thru-hikers, the HighLite is tough to beat with 8 ounces of 850-fill down and a 35-degree rating.
Where does the Western Mountaineering HighLite fall short? To achieve this low weight, the bag has a completely trimmed-down feature set: you get no draft collar, a simple hood that stretches the definition of the term “mummy,” box stitching instead of continuous baffles, and a half-length zipper (we find that this has a large impact on your ability to ventilate). This all means that the HighLite should not be thought of an alpine sleeping bag—summer temperatures at elevation often dip down to around freezing or lower, which will push its limits. But for thru-hikers looking for the lightest possible option, it’s an ultralight staple and for good reason.
See the Western Mountaineering HighLite
Temperature rating: 32°F ISO Comfort, 22°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
Fill: 29 oz. of synthetic (FeatherCore)
What we like: A roomy and warm synthetic bag.
What we don’t: Bulky, although we do like the included compression sack.
For backpacking, we almost always favor down sleeping bags over synthetics—they pack down smaller and provide more warmth for the weight. Nemo attempted to bridge this gap by outfitting the Forte with new, more compressible FeatherCore insulation (the previous version used Stratofiber), and we think they did a good job overall with cutting bulk. In addition, the bag takes the generous shape and roominess of the popular Disco above, adds a respectable 32-degree ISO Comfort rating, and slashes a significant $60 off the price. For a cozy synthetic bag for side sleepers and those who like a little extra room, the Forte is a nice choice.
Despite all of the positives, it’s still an uphill battle in comparing the Nemo Forte to a leading budget down bag like The North Face Furnace above. The latter is 2 ounces lighter, $21 cheaper, and warmer with a 26-degree EN Comfort rating. But again, the big selling point here is comfort: the Furnace is tapered like a traditional mummy bag, whereas the Forte offers noticeably more space around the elbows and knees. We also like the gills, which allow you to dump heat without unzipping the entire bag, and the included compression sack. All in all, the Forte isn’t perfect, but it’s another creative option from Nemo at a good price.
See the Nemo Forte 20 See the Women's Nemo Forte 20
Temperature rating: 32°F EN Comfort, 20°F Lower Limit
Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Fill: 13 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: An ultralight mummy bag with an incredibly small packed size.
What we don’t: Narrow cut with little insulation on the bottom.
Well, look what we have here: Therm-a-Rest—part of the larger family of brands that includes MSR—made big waves last year with the ultralight Hyperion. The specs on this sleeping bag are staggering: a 20-degree lower limit rating, 900-fill goose down, and a total weight of just 1 pound 4 ounces (that’s not a misprint). That's on par with the hoodless Feathered Friends Tanager (1 pound 2.6 ounces) below, which is quite impressive. And did we mention the incredibly small packed size? See the photo in our buying advice below for proof.
How is Therm-a-Rest able to achieve this all with the Hyperion? The answer is a very aggressive design that is heavily tapered (read: not super roomy) along with putting 70 percent of the down fill on top of your body and much less on the bottom. This means that you should bring along a sleeping pad with a decent R-value to insulate you from the ground, and if you happen to turn over on your side and bring the bag with you, you’ll likely get cold. However, we can’t help but love the ingenuity, and for back sleepers looking for a premium ultralight bag, the Hyperion is a great option.
See the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20
Temperature rating: 27.1°F EN Comfort, 15.6°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Fill: 20.8 oz. of 650-fill down
What we like: Lots of warmth for the price.
What we don’t: Relatively heavy.
Most sleeping bags in this price range are built for temperatures around freezing or higher. But those that run cold or want a little extra warmth for the shoulder seasons without breaking the bank, try the Marmot Sawtooth. This bag is warm, comfortable, and the 20.8 ounces of 650-fill down offer a nice compromise of performance and value. And with the added Down Defender treatment for water resistance, the Sawtooth is a well-thought-out and cozy backpacking sleeping bag for under $250.
Keep in mind that the 27-degree EN Comfort rating is ample for most backpacking jaunts into the mountains and won’t have you checking the forecast incessantly before the trip, but the Sawtooth may be overkill for warm summer conditions. And given that it’s not warm enough for true winter camping, it’s best for those who run cold or get out in spring and fall. For higher-fill-power options from Marmot, see the Helium series below.
See the Marmot Sawtooth See the Women's Marmot Angel Fire
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 1 lb. 2.6 oz.
Fill: 12.6 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Hoodless design is ultralight but surprisingly warm.
What we don’t: No zipper and very thin fabrics.
On this list we've covered a number of mummy bags, and some ultralighters opt for a sleeping quilt to shave ounces, but there's a third option that may offer the best of both worlds: a hoodless sleeping bag. Here's the concept: most experienced backpackers bring a lightweight down jacket into the backcountry—you need it for use around camp, and many people wear it to sleep. New for last year, our favorite hoodless sleeping bag is the Feathered Friends Tanager. It's warm with a 20-degree temperature rating, super light at just 18.6 ounces, and less expensive than the Hyperion above. Of course, Feathered Friends recommends that you pair the Tanager with their lightweight Eos, but any quality down jacket with a hood will do.
In terms of features, the Tanager has a drawcord closure around the collar for sealing in warmth, but no zipper. This cuts down on weight but does make the bag more difficult to vent on warm nights. In addition, the 7 x 5-denier Pertex Quantum shell fabric is ultrathin by any standards (you literally can see the down through the bag), but if there is any piece of gear that doesn't require durability, it's your sleeping bag. It's worth noting that the Tanager actually has slightly wider dimensions around the chest than ultralight mummy bags like the Western Mountaineering UltraLite below, making it a surprisingly comfy option... Read in-depth review
See the Feathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL
Temperature rating: 15°F
Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Fill: 17 oz. of 650-fill down
What we like: Roomy and reasonably priced.
What we don’t: Not everyone likes the pad sleeve.
Big Agnes is perhaps best known for their backpacking tents, but they also offer a compelling line of sleeping bags. For 2020, we like the Anvil Horn 15 best: it’s roomy inside but still an efficient insulator, and competitively priced at $270. The 15-degree temperature rating does feel somewhat optimistic (Big Agnes does not use the EN/ISO rating system and isn’t as conservative as Feathered Friends or Western Mountaineering), but combining the Anvil Horn with a well-insulated sleeping pad should keep you comfortable on most 3-season backpacking trips.
The Anvil Horn’s most polarizing feature (like many bags from Big Agnes) is its lack of insulation on the bottom and attached sleeping pad sleeve. Some people love the integrated system that keeps you from sliding around and cuts out unnecessary down, but we have mixed feelings. Further, the Anvil Horn has their latest flexible sleeve that can accommodate both 20- and 25-inch wide pads, which active sleepers who like to rotate within their bag may find restrictive (there’s probably good reason why few other manufacturers have adopted this design). Pad sleeve notwithstanding, the Big Agnes is a relatively roomy and versatile sleeping bag that can be used for backpacking or camping, which is why it's included here.
See the Big Agnes Anvil Horn 15 See the Women's Big Agnes Daisy Mae 15
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz.
Fill: 16 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Lightweight, super comfortable, and well-built.
What we don’t: Pricier and heavier than the Feathered Friends Hummingbird 20 above.
The Western Mountaineering HighLite above is a trimmed-down ultralight bag for warmer temperatures, but the UltraLite is the more versatile and fully featured option. This is a true mummy bag for alpine conditions with a very healthy 16 ounces of 850-fill down. Unlike the HighLite, the baffles are continuous, the mummy hood is generously sized, you get a cozy draft collar, and premium materials from head to toe. All in all, the longstanding UltraLite is Western Mountaineering’s most popular 3-season backpacking bag and for good reason.
Compared to the 20-degree version of the Feathered Friends Hummingbird above, the shell is slightly thicker at 12D but comes with a lower-quality down, and the bag also weighs 5 ounces more. That said, we think Western Mountaineering’s shell fabrics are a little softer than Feathered Friends, which makes the UltraLite arguably the most comfortable 20-degree bag on the market. For more room, the Alpinlite is a wider version of this bag, giving you an extra 5 inches of girth in the shoulders and 4 inches in hips while only adding 2 ounces of total weight.
See the Western Mountaineering UltraLite
Temperature rating: 36.1°F EN Comfort, 26.2°F Lower Limit
Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz.
Fill: 30 oz. of synthetic (SpiraFil LT polyester)
What we like: Cheap, cozy, and resists moisture well.
What we don’t: Synthetic insulation is heavier and less compressible than down.
For new backpackers and those on a tight budget, there's no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a sleeping bag. The Marmot Trestles 30 checks many of the boxes that casual backpackers look for: it’s decently warm with a 36-degree EN Comfort rating, is reasonably well-built, and features a cozy feel that works well both for causal backpacking outings. Most importantly, it has a bargain-basement price of $99 for the regular size, which is a whole lot of bang for your buck.
The biggest downside of the Marmot Trestles—and the reason it’s so inexpensive—is the synthetic fill. Down wins out in warmth-to-weight ratio and packability, and Marmot’s SpiraFil LT polyester is bulky in comparison (an upside is that synthetics insulate much better than down when wet). This means that the Trestles isn’t ideal for trips when space or weight are at a premium, but it’s a fine option for shorter outings and as a crossover car camping bag. And Marmot does make a variety of models in this popular line, including lighter-weight Elite Eco versions with 100-percent-recycled materials and varying warmth ratings all the way down to zero.
See the Marmot Trestles 30 See the Women's Marmot Trestles 30
Temperature rating: 30°F EN Comfort, 19°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lb. 0.2 oz.
Fill: 19.7 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Warm, comfortable, and nice colorways.
What we don’t: Center zipper wasn’t a game-changer for us.
Released a couple of years ago, we’ve seldom seen a sleeping bag get so much press. At $500, the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag is priced right up there with high-end options from brands like Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends. The specs are impressive: 850-fill goose down—and a whopping 19.7 ounces of it—along with a 15-denier shell. We have the 19-degree version listed here, but Patagonia also has released a 30-degree version that weighs 25.9 ounces total.
Why is the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag ranked towards the bottom of our list? We like the Feathered Friends Hummingbird 20 above more and it's $10 cheaper, and the Western Mountaineering UltraLite comes from a long lineage that has stood the test of time (there were a couple of quirks with the first run of this bag). And in terms of features, the center zipper on the Patagonia 850 wasn’t a game changer in our opinion. It’s still a nice high-end bag, but the competition is strong... Read in-depth review
See the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 33.6°F EN Comfort, 24.4°F Lower Limit
Weight: 1 lb. 7.3 oz.
Fill: 10.9 oz. of 800-fill down
What we like: Light and comfortable.
What we don’t: Lower fill power and fill weight than our top picks.
Many of the bags on this list have temperature ratings in the 20-degree range—that’s the sweet spot for a 3-season all-rounder. But for summer backpacking where the temperature won’t really drop, the Marmot Hydrogen is a great way to save weight and money. This lightweight bag should keep you comfortable down to around freezing and a little colder in a pinch, which can work great for warm-weather backpacking trips into the mountains, and should be plenty for those staying at lower elevations. And less down fill means the total weight of the bag dips below 1.5 pounds.
Along with the Hydrogen, Marmot also offers the warmer Helium (13.5°F EN Lower Limit) and winter-weight Lithium (-4.5°F EN Lower Limit). All use 800-fill goose down instead of the 850- or 950-fill of Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends respectively, but Marmot has a good formula going with these backpacking bags. If you like other Marmot products, we bet you’ll enjoy the Hydrogen too.
See the Marmot Hydrogen
Temperature rating: 32°F EN Comfort, 19°F Lower Limit
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Fill: 16.6 oz. of 600-fill down
What we like: A comfortable down bag at a good price.
What we don’t: Roomy fit makes this bag drafty.
At a respectable 2 pounds 8 ounces, the REI Co-Op Radiant is much more wallet-friendly than the high-end Magma above yet still gets the job done. For just under $200, you get a comfortable sleeping bag with 600-fill water-repellent down, and a DWR treatment on the shell for added protection against moisture. For weekend backpackers or those first taking the plunge on gear, the Radiant is a reasonably priced way to get the job done.
Our biggest concern with the REI Radiant is its roomy fit and resulting impact on warmth. The bag advertises being relaxed in the shoulders and hips, which may end up being big for some people and can end up feeling drafty. Despite the 19-degree temperature rating, many people find that it simply runs colder than that. Further, the 600-fill duck down isn’t as lofty or packable as the 850-fill goose down in the Magma and others. But if you’re not stretching the seasons or going high into the mountains, the Radiant is a good value and can be a solid bag down to about freezing.
See the REI Co-op Radiant 19 See the Women's REI Co-op Serrana 20
Temperature rating: 0°F
Weight: 2 lbs. 13 oz.
Fill: 25.3 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: An incredibly warm and weather-resistant bag.
What we don’t: Overkill for most non-winter applications.
Cold-weather camping can be intimidating prospect, but one night in the Snowbunting might have you feeling a lot more comfortable. Packed with a whopping 25.3 ounces of ultra-premium 900-fill down, the 0-degree Snowbunting (likely a conservative estimate, knowing Feathered Friends) is perfect for expeditions, ski touring, and any other form of winter camping. Moreover, the Pertex Shield is a fabric used in many rain jackets, making for an impressively weather-resistant shell. And with a relatively narrow fit and no-frills design, the Snowbunting weighs only 2 pounds 13 ounces, which is as light as many 3-season bags.
At $619, the Feathered Friends Snowbunting is a big investment, so you’ll want to be sure you truly need such a high degree of warmth. Even if you’re a cold sleeper, a quality bag like the Hummingbird above should be sufficient for most 3-season backpacking. But as far as winter bags go, this is our top pick. Feathered Friends is one of the only companies using 900-fill (or higher) down, and their track record for high-quality construction is second to none. If you need a roomier fit and aren’t as concerned about weatherproofing, Western Mountaineering’s Antelope MF is another contender.
See the Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Fill: Synthetic (PolarLite)
What we like: Bargain-basement price and decent warmth.
What we don’t: Heavy and bulky for backpacking.
The sub-$100 price range typically is where you’ll find car-camping bags, but Teton Sports’ LEEF is a solid value option for casual backpackers. Despite being available for $75 on sites like Amazon, the LEEF has a host of features you usually find on premium sleeping bags: a full-length baffle along the zipper to prevent cold spots, insulation mapping that places more synthetic fill around areas prone to being cold, and an adjustable hood that cinches evenly around the face. The LEEF is only available in a single size—most bags above are offered in regular and long—but its 87-inch length makes it a fine choice for tall backpackers.
The 20°F temperature rating puts the Teton Sports LEEF in-line with our top picks, but at 3 pound 8 ounces, it’s by far the heaviest bag on our list. The culprit is the cheap synthetic “PolarLite” fill, which weighs more and is less compressible than down or a more advanced synthetic like you get with the Marmot Trestles above. As a result, backpackers who get out a lot or are looking to trim weight will want to steer clear of the LEEF, but for quick weekend trips with friends and family, it’s a nice way to get out without breaking the bank.
See the Teton Sports LEEF +20°F
|Sleeping Bag||Price||Temp*||Weight||Fill||Fill Weight||Shell|
|REI Co-op Magma 15||$369||28°F (ISO)||1 lb. 12.2 oz.||850-fill down||15.9 oz.||15D|
|The North Face Furnace 35||$169||37°F (EN)||2 lbs.||600-fill down||13 oz.||Unavail.|
|Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL||$429||30°F||1 lb. 5.3 oz.||950-fill down||11.5 oz.||10D|
|Nemo Disco 30||$260||41°F (ISO)||1 lb. 15 oz.||650-fill down||11 oz.||30D|
|Kelty Cosmic 20||$170||~30°F||2 lbs. 6.6 oz.||600-fill down||18.2 oz.||20D|
|Western Mountaineering HighLite||$370||35°F||1 lb.||850-fill down||8 oz.||12D|
|Nemo Forte 20||$200||32°F (ISO)||2 lbs. 14 oz.||Synthetic||29 oz.||30D|
|Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20||$410||32°F (EN)||1 lb. 4 oz.||900-fill down||13 oz.||10D|
|Marmot Sawtooth||$239||27°F (EN)||2 lbs. 8 oz.||650-fill down||20.8 oz.||30D|
|Feathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL||$369||20°F||1 lb. 2.6 oz.||900-fill down||12.6 oz.||7D x 5D|
|Big Agnes Anvil Horn 15||$270||15°F||2 lbs. 5 oz.||650-fill down||17 oz.||15D|
|Western Mountaineering UltraLite||$525||20°F||1 lb. 13 oz.||850-fill down||16 oz.||12D|
|Marmot Trestles 30||$99||36°F (EN)||3 lbs. 1 oz.||Synthetic||30 oz.||70D|
|Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag||$499||30°F (EN)||2 lbs. 0.2 oz.||850-fill down||19.7 oz.||15D|
|Marmot Hydrogen||$329||34°F (EN)||1 lb. 7.3 oz.||800-fill down||10.9 oz.||20D|
|REI Co-op Radiant 19||$199||32°F (EN)||2 lbs. 8 oz.||600-fill down||16.6 oz.||30D|
|Feathered Friends Snowbunting||$619||0°F||2 lbs. 13 oz.||900-fill down||25.3 oz.||15D|
|Teton Sports LEEF +20°F||$75||20°F||3 lbs. 8 oz.||Synthetic||Unavailable||40D|
*Editor's Note: For the purposes of this table, we have included the EN or ISO Comfort rating, which we feel is the most accurate point of comparison. When available, we've listed both the Comfort and Lower Limit in the product specs above. For more on the differences, see our buying advice below.
- Seasons and Temperature Ratings
- The EN/ISO Rating System Explained
- How the EN/ISO System Translates for You
- Sleeping Bags Without EN/ISO Ratings
- Down vs. Synthetic Insulation
- Down and Synthetic Fill Weight
- Down Quality: Fill Power
- Hydrophobic Down
- Dimensions: Length and Cut
- Women's-Specific Sleeping Bags
- Sleeping Bags vs. Quilts
- Your Sleeping Pad R-Value Matters
Summer and 2-Season Bags (32°F and Above)
We are careful when recommending warm-weather bags because they leave the least room for error. If it’s summer and you’re camping in a hot place like Utah or at low elevation in a place like Colorado, a 32-plus-degree bag should do the trick. The advantage is that you can keep your pack lighter as these bags weigh as little as 1 pound and compress down incredibly small. However, one cold night can make for an uncomfortable trip. When carrying a true summer bag, bring a beanie and other layers that can help you keep warm if there happens to be an unexpected drop in temperature. To avoid any mishaps, we usually prefer to use 3-season bags unless we are going ultralight, and a borderline option like the superlight Marmot Hydrogen (34°F EN Comfort) is a good compromise. You can open them up at night when necessary or sleep on top on balmy nights.
3-Season Bags (32°F to 20°F)
The majority of backpacking sleeping bags are of the 3-season variety. We love their versatility: in the summer you can unzip and stay reasonably cool, but they also allow for spring, fall, and alpine backpacking where the temperature drops to freezing or below (this often happens in the night in the mountains even during the summer). In this category we love the REI Co-op Magma 15 (28°F ISO Comfort rating), which hits that temperature sweet spot for a wide range of trips and comes in at a very reasonable price point. If price isn’t an issue, Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering make some of the finest backpacking bags on the market.
Cold-Weather Bags (20°F and Below)
You really have to know your gear and the conditions when climbing mountains or heading into the backcountry during the winter. For the purposes of this article, most of the bags on this list are of the 3-season variety and have temperature ratings from around 20 degrees to 34 degrees Fahrenheit. For winter camping, we’ve included the 0-degree Feathered Friends Snowbunting, and there are a number of options from climbing-centric companies like Western Mountaineering and Montbell that are rated down to 0°F or even lower.
Instead of depending on the manufacturer and their marketing whims for a temperature rating, the sleeping bag industry has attempted to standardize the system with the help of the EN (European Norm) and, more recently, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO testing is so similar to the previous EN method that we can talk about them as one in the same. This criterion (formerly known as EN 13537 and now known as ISO 23537) lays out guidelines for how to test the warmth of a bag and enables consumers to make accurate comparisons between products. Both standards give us two very important numbers:
Comfort Rating: The temperature at which an average woman can sleep comfortably. Generally, women sleep colder than men, hence the importance of the comfort rating.
Lower Limit: The temperature at which an average man can sleep for eight hours without waking. We rarely sleep for eight hours without waking on a backpacking trip, but you get the idea.
In addition, you may see references to the Upper Limit (the temperature at which an average man can sleep without excessive perspiration) and Extreme (the minimum temperature at which a standard woman can remain for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia). Of course, all of the EN/ISO ratings are based on averages and in general we've found them to be optimistic by around 10 degrees (we cover this in greater detail in the section below), but they are helpful in comparing two EN/ISO-rated bags. The majority of outdoor gear manufacturers use the ISO system (older models will still have EN ratings) but certainly not all of them—compliance is optional.
First and foremost, we think that you should always leave a reasonable buffer in temperature so as to not to be disappointed (and save yourself sleepless nights). We've found the EN/ISO ratings to be too low, even when wearing a warm baselayer. For choosing the right rating, try to get an idea of the coldest temperature you'll be experiencing overnight. Check the weather forecasts and averages of areas you’re planning to visit to gauge the conditions. Once you have an approximate number, it’s a good idea to build in a buffer (we like 10 degrees) or more to avoid getting cold. Other factors to consider are your age (people typically don’t sleep as warm the older they get) and whether you are a cold or warm sleeper.
It’s also a good idea to have some extra clothing in case you need it. A warm hat can help keep a lot of heat in, and some wool baselayers will help add some warmth as well. And make sure to consider the R-value of your sleeping pad (more on this below), which will help to insulate you from the cold ground. Many people overlook their sleeping pad then become confused when their bag isn’t as warm as they had thought.
Some manufacturers do not EN/ISO-rate their sleeping bags, and typically it's smaller companies like Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, and Katabatic Gear. From our experiences, these brands actually are on the conservative side and take pride in offering very realistic temperature ratings. For example, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 20 is a very warm bag and will keep the average man comfortable into the 20s, whereas the REI Radiant—with a 19°F Lower Limit EN rating—will be cold if the temperatures dip below freezing. As such, we've found that the higher EN/ISO Comfort rating is a better basis for comparison than the EN/ISO Lower Limit, and therefore have listed it in the table above (both ratings are included in the product specs). If anything, being cold can be uncomfortable or even dangerous, and we recommend using the EN/ISO Comfort as the more realistic of the two. If your bag ends up being a little warmer, take that as a bonus.
The down vs. synthetic debate is not unique to backpacking sleeping bags. Midlayers, camping bags, and even sleeping pads are all insulated with these fill types. For a certain piece of gear or apparel, one has the leg up on the other, and for backpacking sleeping bags, we still give the clear edge to down fill. There are a few major reasons for that, including the best warmth-to-weight ratio, far better packability (i.e., a smaller compressed size), and a more premium warmth. The last one is a bit subjective, but it’s a clear consensus from us that down’s lofty warmth feels more luxurious. Down does vary in quality, which is measured in fill power (covered below), but even a mid-grade down fill is the superior insulator.
So why consider synthetic? The most common reason for most is price. Even a premium synthetic bag like the Nemo Forte 20 easily slides in at $200, while a nice down bag doubles that (and more). In addition, synthetic performs far better than down in wet weather. While there have been improvements in down’s performance in the wet thanks to the application of hydrophobic coatings on the feathers, synthetic will insulate far better if moisture enters the bag. So, for starting out, if you’re looking for a budget option, or you backpack in really wet conditions, synthetic bags remain a great choice. For an even more in-depth explanation of this topic, see our article on down vs. synthetic insulation.
Fill weight is the actual amount of insulation stuffed into a sleeping bag. If it’s a close call between two bags with the same types of insulation (down or synthetic) and one or both don’t have EN or ISO ratings, you can compare fill weight to get a better idea of which one will be warmer. Cut does matter here: a bag with a slender cut may have less insulation than a bag with a roomy cut despite providing similar or even more warmth. Fill weight is more helpful for a category like down jackets, which don’t have EN/ISO ratings, but it’s good to know here too. And it's a good visual for how much more insulation is required for a synthetic bag to compete with down. For comparison, the Nemo Forte requires 11 additional ounces to achieve approximately the same temperature rating as the down-filled Disco.
If you decide down is going to be your insulation of choice, one of the first specs to look at is the quality of a specific down, known as its fill power. Specifically, it’s a measure of how much loft or fluffiness the down clusters have, and this correlates with warmth (note: both duck and goose down are measured in the same way). The highest down fill power is 1,000, and you’ll see cheaper sleeping bags closer to 500. Generally, the higher the fill power, the more expensive the sleeping bag. The lower the fill power, the more it must weigh to provide similar levels of warmth. High fill powers in the 800s are great, but don’t necessarily be turned off by 550- or 600-fill—it’s a great way to save money on an otherwise excellent bag.
Unfortunately, down feathers lose much of their ability to insulate when wet, and synthetic insulation does a much better job in this department. Synthetic insulation, conversely, is much heavier, doesn’t pack down as small, and isn’t as warm, which are reasons that down is so prized. Gear manufacturers recently started treating down to make it more water-resistant. Essentially, a polymer is added to the down before filling the bag, and the result is the feathers are better protected from the moisture and don’t clump up as quickly. In use, this means you don’t have to worry as much about brushes with moisture inside or outside of your backpacking tent. A number of companies have named their proprietary treated down such as Sierra Design’s DriDown, Mountain Hardwear’s Q.Shield Down, Marmot’s Down Defender, etc.
We love the hydrophobic down movement. Yes, it adds a tiny bit of weight to the down, but it also adds a noticeable level of protection. Synthetic insulation still has its place for budget backpackers but nothing beats down, and particularly treated down. If you’re headed out in a wet area like the Pacific Northwest or New Zealand, buying a sleeping bag with hydrophobic down is a wise move. Fortunately, many manufacturers are moving in this direction, and it’s now the majority instead of the minority.
In addition to considerations like warmth and down fill, the cut of a sleeping bag is critical to how much you enjoy it. The three most common points of measurement for sleeping bags are at the shoulders, hips, and feet (59"/51"/38", for example), which give you an idea as to how roomy or tapered the bag is.
Many ultralight sleeping bags save weight by tapering the cut of the legs for less fabric and down. If you toss and turn at night or just prefer more space, make sure to consider a roomier bag (the spoon-shaped Nemo Disco 30 is a great example). The downsides are that these bags can feel draftier and may not retain heat quite as well, and often weigh more because more fabric and insulation are required to fill the larger surface area. The good news is that many manufactures make the same bag in varying widths. The Western Mountaineering Alpinlite is the wider version of the UltraLite, for example.
In terms of length, most sleeping bags come in two or three lengths that are meant to fit men and women of varying heights. For men’s bags, the regular size often is 72 inches long and the tall is 78 inches long. If the bag doesn’t have a women’s-specific version, you’ll often see a short 66-inch option. If you are on the border and want the hood to extend over your head, it’s a good idea to size up. Keep in mind that larger sizes do cost and weigh more and have a larger packed size.
Some backpacking bags have a women’s-specific version with a different name, and others simply have a “short” version of the same bag. What can you expect with a women’s-specific bag? They usually have a slightly different cut than men’s or unisex models that is narrower at the shoulders and roomier around the hips. Further, the bags will have a little more insulation, and often in targeted areas. And as is typical in outdoor gear, women’s sleeping bags often come in what are considered to be more feminine colorways. All in all, we know women that buy women’s bags and others that buy men’s or unisex bags when they fit. The differences are small and it’s mostly a matter a taste.
Along with your tent, your sleeping bag is one the heaviest and bulkiest items in your pack. Sleeping bags run the gamut from around 1 pound for a true ultralight up to 2-3 pounds or more for less expensive options (for a comprehensive list, see our sleeping bag weight comparison chart). Like other gear categories, down is king in the lightweight sleeping bag world, and premium fill power (800+) is ideal if you're willing to pay for it. Make sure to keep an eye on the whole package as weight often is saved by using thinner shell fabrics and a trimmer cut. Ultralight sleeping bags are great for some people but certainly not necessary for everyone.
Outside of the premium warmth and low weight you get from down, another selling point is compression. Natural goose and duck feathers stuff down in a way unmatched by anything manmade, although some synthetics are closing the gap in this area. In general, higher-end down bags like the Western Mountaineering HighLite will be the most compressible due to their quality of the down and use of thinner fabrics. A cheap synthetic bag will be the least compressible option. Other indicators include the cut of the bag—a tapered cut will trim fabric and stuffed size—as well as the temperature rating. Summer bags can get away with using less insulation and will be more compressible as a result.
To take full advantage of the small stuffed size potential of your sleeping bag, you’ll want to pick up a compression stuff sack. Most sleeping bags these days only include a non-compressible stuff sack. One of our favorites, thanks to its creative waterproof construction, is the Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack. Take care when using a compression stuff sack—cinching it down too much can damage the insulation over time. It’s a better idea to lightly compress the bag so that it fits easily into your pack and not overdo it. And don’t store your sleeping bag in a compression sack for extended periods.
This article is about backpacking sleeping bags specifically, and quilts really are a different category altogether (we include them separately in our ultralight sleeping bags and quilts round-up). However, they're worth mentioning for those who run particularly warm or want a lighter-weight option. Essentially, a sleeping quilt is a minimalist backcountry sleep system popular among ultralighters and thru-hikers. You technically can sleep in a quilt like a normal sleeping bag, but the narrow design favors opening up the back and connecting it to your sleeping pad (make sure to get a pad with the proper R-value for insulation). The end result cuts weight significantly and comfort too.
The sleeping bag vs. quilt debate comes down to personal preference. Certain people swear by quilts and love that they can shave even more ounces off the total weight of their pack. We’ve found that quilts aren’t as comfortable as mummy bags and have their downsides. You have to bring proper head coverage, which can add weight, the quilt/sleeping pad system isn’t perfect, and it takes a bit of time to set up each night. All in all, we prefer the coziness and simplicity of a lightweight mummy bag for most of our backpacking trips, but quilts are a viable option too.
We’ve written a lot about the temperature rating of your sleeping bag, but remember that your sleeping pad matters too. Keep an eye on the R-value, which is a measurement of how well the pad insulates you from the ground. R-values range from 1.0 (almost no insulation) to 9.5 (winter-ready warmth). A summer backpacker can get away with a low R-value, while the average 3-season backpacker should look for something in the 3 range or more. A true winter camper will want an R-value that exceeds 5 depending on the conditions. For more information, see our article on the best sleeping pads for backpacking.
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