No matter where your travels take you, from national parks to backwoods to back porches, a camping sleeping bag remains a trusty companion. Since space and weight are not at a premium when you can drive to your destination, the comfort dial can get turned way up. There’s no need to suffer through the night in a constricting mummy bag, so options in this category tend to lean more towards a traditional rectangular shape or a roomier mummy. A number of lightweight options also do a nice job pulling double duty for easy backpacking trips. Below we rank our top picks for 2020, and if you need some background information, our comparison table and buying advice dive into topics like fill type and temperature rating. To complete your camping kit, we've also tested and written about camping mattresses and camping tents.
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Solid comfort, warmth, and build quality at a good price.
What we don’t: You can go cheaper for a rectangular bag.
Mummy bags are popular for both camping and backpacking, but rectangular bags are roomier and can offer an even better sleeping experience. Our top pick in this category is the Eco Trail Bed 20 from The North Face. For around $120 (regular length), you get a high-quality bag with a useful 20-degree temperature rating, perfect for 3-season car camping in a variety of conditions. If you give the listed rating a 10-degree buffer or so, you’re looking at comfortable sleeping down to about freezing. The Eco Trail Bed also has a premium feel and build along with nifty details like a full-length zipper that opens it up for use as a blanket.
Keep in mind that a rectangular bag is heavier than a mummy for the warmth and doesn’t pack away nearly as small, so the Eco Trail Bed isn’t intended for traveling far from your car or stuffing down into a pack. But we appreciate the option for a comforter-like system, which gives you plenty of room and flexibility depending on the temperature. It’s worth noting that the Eco Trail Bed line is new for 2020 replacing the old Dolomite, and improvements include 100-percent-recycled materials and a lower weight. For those who want to spend less, the Coleman Green Valley below is a similar concept but a significant step down in warmth and build quality.
See the The North Face Eco Trail Bed 20
Best Double Sleeping Bag for Camping
Shape: Rectangular (double)
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 12 lbs. 1 oz.
What we like: A super comfortable option for two campers.
What we don’t: Heavy and bulky to stuff down.
Car camping can be all about luxury, and for two people who don’t mind getting cozy, a double sleeping bag makes a whole lot of sense. In practice, the Alps Mountaineering Spectrum 20 is one of the most adaptable bags on this list. Like the Exped MegaSleep Duo 25 below, the Spectrum quickly and easily converts into two individual bags if you plan to sleep solo, or you can open it up for use as a quilt. On warm summer nights, you can even sleep on top of both layers much like you would your own bed. And with soft-touch fabrics and a 20-degree temperature rating, there’s a whole lot to like about this camping bag.
What are the shortcomings of the Alps Mountaineering Spectrum? It’s bulky and heavy at over 12 pounds for the regular version, which is more double many single rectangular bags (for reference, the heaviest single-person bag on this list is Coleman’s North Rim at 5 lbs. 4 oz.). In addition, you better feel fairly comfortable with your sleeping partner as the dimensions are a little snug for two widthwise. But for couples and close friends, we like the comfort and practicality of a double bag, and the Spectrum is a nice value to boot. Other options in this category include the aforementioned MegaSleep Duo and The North Face’s Dolomite One Duo (we describe the single-person, standard One bag below), but both cost more than the Alps.
See the Alps Mountaineering Spectrum 20
Best Budget Camping Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 30°F
Weight: 4 lbs. 12 oz.
What we like: A great price and reasonably comfortable in warm weather.
What we don’t: Bulky, cheap materials, and doesn’t include a stuff sack.
At the budget end of the spectrum, Coleman makes a nice lineup of basic 3-season sleeping bags for camping. We’ll start by saying that there is nothing remarkable about the Green Valley—it’s relatively heavy with a slick nylon outer and flannel-like liner that could be softer. Why is it on this list? Because it’s 40 bucks (and often less on Amazon) and gets the job done for car camping, sleeping on a bunk in an Airstream, accommodating a buddy on the couch, or keeping dog hair off the backseats. What if the dog chews a hole in it? It’s 40 bucks. Get out some duct tape and roll it up so it’s ready for the next adventure.
In terms of insulation, the Coleman Green Valley is rated to keep you warm from 30- to 50-degree temperatures, but you will probably need some long underwear (and maybe an extra liner) at the lower end of that range. This means that the bag is significantly less warm than The North Face Eco Trail Bed above along with many of the pricier options on this list. In addition, the construction quality and materials are quite basic and you shouldn’t expect a premium feel, but that’s a given with a camping bag in this low price range, and we still love the value.
See the Coleman Green Valley
Best Hybrid Camping and Backpacking Bag
Temperature rating: 22°F
Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
What we like: A nice mix of comfort, weight, and packability.
What we don’t: Pricey for a synthetic-insulated bag.
For campers looking for a sleeping bag that can pull double duty on the occasional backpacking trip, we like Nemo’s Forte. With a 22-degree temperature rating, sub-3-pound weight, and decently packable build (for a synthetic design), the Forte is fully serviceable for short forays into the backcountry. Just as important, it’s supremely comfortable for camping thanks to its unique “spoon” shape, which resembles a mummy bag but with a noticeable boost in space around the knees and elbows. This makes it less restrictive inside, particularly for side sleepers and those prone to tossing and turning. You do pay a premium compared with our top picks at $200, but we think the Forte hits a great middle ground for mixed car camping and backpacking use.
In addition to its spoon shape, Nemo included a number of creative features on the Forte. One of our favorites is the two zippered “gills” along the top of the bag that can be opened on warm nights to keep you from overheating. Further, there’s a small blanket built into the collar that can be folded out or tucked in and around your neck depending on nighttime temperatures. It’s true that the Forte isn’t a perfect all-in-one answer—it’s overkill for car camping in hot weather, and dedicated backpackers may want something even lighter and more compressible—but we love the balanced and adaptable design.
See the Nemo Forte 20 See the Women's Nemo Forte 20
Best of the Rest
Temperature rating: 19°F
Fill: 600-fill DriDown
Weight: 2 lbs. 6.6 oz.
What we like: Great crossover bag; down insulation at a value price.
What we don’t: Too snug for comfort seekers.
Kelty’s popular Cosmic 20 has cemented a spot on both our backpacking and camping bag lists for 2020. The Cosmic got a revamp last year with a new 20-denier shell fabric that helps cut its weight to a very impressive 2 pounds 6.6 ounces in a regular size. Along with its mid-range 600-fill down, the bag offers cozy warmth and good compressibility. And considering the typical price of a down bag, the Cosmic Down's $180 MSRP really stands out.
For improved performance in wet conditions, the Kelty's down has a hydrophobic treatment, which is a big helper should some water makes its way into the tent or if you sleep too close to the wet tent walls. It still won’t insulate as well as a synthetic insulation when moisture enters, and as always, it’s important to keep the bag as dry as possible, but the extra protection and 20-degree rating makes it a great choice for almost any 3-season trip. Compared with the Forte above, the tighter-fitting Cosmic is the better buy if you’ll be backpacking more than 1-2 times a year or want to travel light.
See the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 See the Women's Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Temperature rating: 0°F
Weight: 5 lbs.
What we like: Mummy hood increases warmth in cold temperatures.
What we don’t: Cheap build quality.
Teton Sports is a value-oriented brand, and their camping-ready Celsius offers a lot of bang for your buck. For $60, you get a 0-degree temperature rating and a unique construction that attaches a mummy bag’s hood to a rectangular bag. And while the temperature rating is very generous—depending on how warm or cold you run, it may not even be comfortable around freezing—the Celsius does an admirable job sealing out the cold with insulation around your head and a drawcord at the top.
As expected at this price point, the Teton Sports Celsius falls short of more expensive bags in build quality and overall comfort. To start, the shell fabric feels cheap and the zipper can be finicky to use. Further, the polyester fill does not compress well and it can be a real pain trying to stuff it back into the included storage bag. But it delivers on warmth, which is why it’s a top seller year after year. Just be aware that the Celsius runs consistently short, and we needed to go up a length to get a proper fit.
See the Teton Sports Celsius
Shape: Rectangular (double)
Temperature rating: 25° and 40°F
Weight: 4 lbs.
What we like: A double bag that can transform into two singles.
What we don’t: Not that warm.
There aren’t a ton of innovative ideas cropping up in the camping sleeping bag market, but we like Exped's creative MegaSleep Duo 25. As with the Alps Spectrum above, this design addresses our main complaint about double bags: versatility when you need to sleep solo. Exped accomplishes this by including what amounts to two separate sleeping bags (one with a 40°F rating and the other with a 25°F rating). And for trips when you want the double bag functionality, it’s easy to connect the Duo’s two pieces for a cozy and comfortable set-up.
Where does the MegaSleep Duo fall short? As with most rectangular models, the Exped doesn’t pack down small (even if you’re using just one of the single bags), so if you’re looking for a dual camping and backpacking option, a bag like the Kelty Cosmic 20 above is a much better choice. The MegaSleep Duo also lacks other features of a mummy bag like tapered cut and a cinched hood that seal out cold much more effectively. In other words, the 25-degree rating should suffice for most summer camping trips, but not much beyond that. But with the ability to sleep with a partner or on your own, the MegaSleep Duo gets a spot on our list for 2020.
See the Exped MegaSleep Duo 25
Temperature rating: 15°F
Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Everything you need in an affordable mummy bag from a respected brand.
What we don’t: Not as versatile as the Nemo Forte above.
If you’re in the market for a mummy bag for camping, it’s hard to knock the Marmot Trestles. This synthetic sleeping bag pretty much has it all: a 15-degree temperature rating for true 3-season warmth, a DWR finish to help keep you dry, and a quality feel and build that Marmot is known for. And at just over $100, that’s a whole lot of mummy bag for your car camping adventures.
We have the Marmot Trestles below the Nemo Forte for a couple reasons. The first is shape: the Nemo’s spoon-like cut is far less restrictive and more comfortable in general than the Marmot’s standard mummy fit. In addition, the Forte does a better job for backpacking thanks to its more compressible build and weight savings. It’s true the Trestles is far cheaper and is a fine choice for campers that prefer a mummy design, but those wanting to dip into backpacking or prioritizing a roomy fit should opt for the Nemo.
See the Marmot Trestles 15
Temperature rating: 30°F
Fill: 550-fill DriDown
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Cozy down insulation and a roomy rectangular shape.
What we don’t: Less versatile than the Cosmic Down above.
Boulder-based Kelty has been in the camping business for a long time, and we like what they’ve come up with in the Galactic 30. What makes this bag unique is its combination of quality 550-fill power down with a rectangular shape. Most traditional camping bags stick to synthetic fill for cost savings, but lofty down clusters offer a premium feel and warmth that polyester just can’t match. And as we’ve come to expect from Kelty, the Galactic is solidly built and priced right at $130.
What are the downsides in choosing the Galactic 30? First off, even though the down clusters have a hydrophobic treatment, the Galactic will not perform as well as the synthetic bags above in the wet. Further, the rectangular shape and 30-degree temperature rating mean that it isn’t viable for most backpacking trips, which is one of the main reasons to go with a packable and lightweight down bag. As a result, the mummy-shaped Kelty Cosmic Down above is a more versatile crossover camping/backpacking option, but we still love the recipe of cozy down warmth in a roomy design. For a budget-oriented option from Kelty with a rectangular shape and synthetic insulation, check out their $50 Discovery 30.
See the Kelty Galactic 30 See the Women's Kelty Galactic 30
Temperature rating: 5°, 20°, and 40°F
Fill: Synthetic; 800-fill down
Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz.
What we like: Three sleeping bags in one.
What we don’t: Expensive.
Released last year, The North Face One features a unique layering system that allows you to swap between three different temperature ratings. During summer months or warm nights, you can use the basic synthetic-insulated bag with its 40-degree limit. Then, as the temperature drops, zip on the 800-fill goose down midlayer (to 20°F) or add the third section on top for winter camping (5°F rating). At less than 4 pounds with all layers connected, The North Face design is streamlined, lightweight, and reasonably packable.
What are the drawbacks of this all-in-one system? For starters, at almost $300, The North Face One is very expensive for camping use. Further, the zippers can be finicky and difficult to use—in other words, switching between layers isn’t an entirely seamless process. And although relatively lightweight, the One Bag is on the heavy end for backpacking (it will do the trick for short trips, however). All things considered, The North Face One is a well-executed and highly versatile option for year-round adventuring.
See the The North Face One Bag
Temperature rating: 5°F
Weight: 4 lbs. 1.6 oz.
What we like: Awesome price for the specs.
What we don’t: Zipper can be finicky.
Like the Celsius above, the Teton Sports Tracker is a solid value option. On paper, the bag pretty much has it all: 5-degree temperature rating, 4-pound total weight, and a soft-touch, brushed lining. Tack on a compression stuff sack and interior zippered pocket at a price that consistently hovers around $60, and you have an excellent budget camping and backpacking sleeping bag.
To keep you comfortable, the Tracker has a generous amount of polyester insulation that performs admirably in cold weather. Further, Teton added an extra layer of insulation around the footbox, which is an area prone to getting cold. It's true that the mummy shape is a little snug for comfort-focused campers (but roomier than a standard mummy bag), and the main zipper can be a little stubborn, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bag that puts together this impressive of a stat line, and the comfort to back it up, for well under $100.
See the Teton Sports Tracker +5F
Temperature rating: 0°F
Weight: 5 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: Incredibly cheap for the warmth it provides.
What we don’t: The heaviest and bulkiest mummy bag on this list.
In the camping world, Coleman dominates the budget end of the spectrum. And for those who plan on sleeping in cold weather, the North Rim is case in point. For less than $100, you get a burly synthetic mummy bag designed for temperatures down to a claimed 0°F (this bag is not EN- or ISO-tested, so keep that in mind). The North Rim comes in one size designed to fit people up to 6’2’’, and even has features like a draft tube and two-way zipper. For winter camping, this sleeping bag is surprisingly well-built and a good deal.
However, we think the Coleman North Rim is too much sleeping bag for most people, which is why it falls down our rankings. You’ll be hot and sweaty in most conditions, and with all of the insulation, the bag is bulkier and heavier than the mummy options above. But for winter or crisp fall days when you need the extra warmth, Coleman comes through with the North Rim at a reasonably low price point.
See the Coleman North Rim
Temperature rating: 15°F
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: Very warm yet still roomy.
What we don’t: Heavy for a crossover bag.
Built for cold-weather camping, the Big Agnes Lost Dog 15 is a cozy and roomy synthetic sleeping bag. In contrast to the mummy shapes above, the Lost Dog is semi-rectangular, which amounts to lightly shaving the corners off a traditional camping bag. Spacious to roll around in and equipped with a real hood and cinch cord, the Big Agnes is one of the few on this list to remain warm when temperatures dip below freezing.
Despite the toasty warmth rating, it's important to combine the Big Agnes Lost Dog 15 with a well-insulated sleeping pad. The bag has little in the way of insulation underneath you, so you’ll need a 20-inch-wide mat at the least (check out our best camping mats for recommendations), to fit into the built-in sleeve at the bottom. It's also 6 ounces heavier and not as compressible as the similarly roomy Nemo Forte above. But for those who want to get out camping in the shoulder seasons, the Lost Dog is well-made and warm.
See the Big Agnes Lost Dog 15
Temperature rating: 30°F
Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Well-made and nicely appointed for only $60.
What we don’t: We liked the secondary zipper on the REI Siesta.
When it comes to camping gear, REI has the budget end of the spectrum dialed in nicely, and their new-for-2020 Groundbreaker 30 is a great example. For only $60, you get a comfortable, well-built, good-looking bag. In addition, the Groundbreaker includes functional touches like a fabric strip along the interior to minimize snagging and a two-way main zip that allows you to use the bag as a quilt or unzip just the bottom to cool off on balmy summer nights. It’s true that Teton Sports’ Celsius and Tracker above are warmer and cost around the same, but the REI has a leg up in fit and finish.
We previously had REI’s popular Siesta here, but that collection is no longer available. We really liked its soft taffeta lining and dual zippers (one full and one partial on the opposite side) for airing out in warm weather. But the Groundbreaker is cheaper by $30 and doesn’t sacrifice all that much in the way of performance. At the budget end of the spectrum, this is well-rounded bag at a great price.
See the REI Co-op Groundbreaker 30
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 5 lbs. 1.5 oz.
What we like: Roomier than mummy-style bags and the integrated blanket is great for varying temperatures.
What we don’t: Zipper-less enclosure isn’t for everyone.
We tested the Backcountry Bed from Sierra Designs and found it to be a bit too drafty for our tastes, but the casual concept applies much better to car camping. Enter the Frontcountry Bed, which is a solid choice for stomach or side sleepers. This unique design is akin to a roomy pea pod with a big opening in the top and a built-in comforter—there are no zippers here. Above your head, a large insulated zone comfortably accommodates a pillow and your elbows. In addition, the comforter has special pockets for your hands should you sleep with it untucked. On the whole, the Frontcountry Bed feels like a hybrid between a mummy and rectangular bag.
We found the design to be comfortable yet a little too open-feeling in cold conditions, even if you tuck in the comforter, although it does retain heat better than some of the airy rectangular bags on this list. The poly-fill insulation isn’t anything special either, but the bag has been ISO-rated so we can trust the 20-degree rating (the 31°F Comfort rating is even more accurate) better than the approximate numbers given to other bags.
See the Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed
|The North Face Eco Trail Bed 20||$119||Rectangular||20°F||Synthetic||4 lbs. 8 oz.||11 x 20 in.|
|Alps Mountaineering Spectrum 20||$190||Rectangular||20°F||Synthetic||12 lbs. 1 oz.||15.5 x 27 in.|
|Coleman Green Valley||$42||Rectangular||30°F||Synthetic||4 lbs. 12 oz.||12 x 18 in.|
|Nemo Forte 20||$200||Mummy||22°F||Synthetic||2 lbs. 14 oz.||9 x 11.5 in.|
|Kelty Cosmic Down 20||$180||Mummy||19°F||600-fill down||2 lbs. 6.6 oz.||8 x 15.5 in.|
|Teton Sports Celsius||$60||Rectangular||0°F||Synthetic||5 lbs.||10 x 15 in.|
|Exped MegaSleep Duo 25||$219||Rectangular||25°, 40°F||Synthetic||4 lbs.||12 x 28 in.|
|Marmot Trestles 15||$115||Mummy||15°F||Synthetic||3 lbs. 6 oz.||9.5 x 19 in.|
|Kelty Galactic 30||$130||Rectangular||30°F||550-fill down||2 lbs. 10 oz.||7.5 x 15 in.|
|The North Face One Bag||$289||Mummy||5°, 20°, 40°F||Synthetic/
|3 lbs. 12 oz.||Unavail.|
|Teton Sports Tracker||$57||Mummy||5°F||Synthetic||4 lbs. 1.6 oz.||9 x 15 in.|
|Coleman North Rim||$50||Mummy||0°F||Synthetic||5 lbs. 4 oz.||12 x 17 in.|
|Big Agnes Lost Dog 15||$190||Mummy||15°F||Synthetic||3 lbs. 4 oz.||9 x 20 in.|
|REI Co-op Groundbreaker 30||$60||Rectangular||30°F||Synthetic||3 lbs. 10 oz.||Unavail.|
|Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed||$170||Rectangular||20°F||Synthetic||5 lbs. 1.5 oz.||11 x 20 in.|
- Sleeping Bag Shapes: Rectangular vs. Mummy
- Temperature Rating
- Down vs. Synthetic Insulation
- Weight and Packability
- Sleeping Bag Lining
- Zippers: ¾ Zip, Full Zip, No Zip
- Double Sleeping Bags
- Kid’s Sleeping Bags
- Don’t Forget A Mattress or Pad
Camping sleeping bags fall into two general categories: rectangular bags that offer plenty of room to roll around and pared-down mummy designs. Most campers stick to the more spacious rectangular shape: these versatile bags can often be completely unzipped down one side and the bottom to be used as a large blanket for two. There isn’t any insulation covering your head, so plan your sleepwear accordingly when taking them outside their summer comfort zone. Also, most rectangular bags are heavy and don't pack down small, so if you are looking for an all-in-one option for camping and backpacking, we recommend choosing a mummy-style bag instead.
Mummy sleeping bags trim away material in the shoulders, hips, and feet for a shape that mimics your body. The advantage of having a tapered cut is there is little extra space for cold spots to creep in. And with a quality hood cinched around the top of your head, you can really maximize the temperature rating potential. If you find yourself at higher elevations or in colder temperatures, a mummy bag is a great option. Additionally, if you plan to occasionally mix in some backpacking, there are great mummy bags made with a roomier fit, including the Nemo Forte 20.
Let’s make this clear right off the bat: it’s important not to treat sleeping bag temperature ratings as hard truth. Unlike backpacking bags, which are mostly assigned a rating through a standardized process (EN rating system), individual manufacturers assign the ratings for the majority of camping bags. As such, there are some major discrepancies once you have them out in the real world. One reason for this is due to the shape of many camping bags. A rectangular bag that has a wide opening on one end will not retain heat in the same way a sealed off mummy bag can.
In the end, the temperature rating does have value and you should use it as a basic guideline. In choosing the proper approximate rating, try to get an idea of the very coldest temperature you'll be experiencing overnight. Once you have that number, it’s a good idea to build in a little buffer (we like an extra 10-15 degrees) to avoid getting cold. And keep in mind the temperature rating is closer to a survivability rating rather than being comfortable and warm. 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. Most campers stick to the warmer months for their outdoor adventuring, and as a result, most of the sleeping bags on this list are rated in the 25-40 degree range.
There are two types of insulation used for camping sleeping bags: manmade synthetic fibers and down insulation made up of clusters of duck or goose feathers. Down offers the ultimate warmth-to-weight ratio along with excellent packability, which is why it’s highly valued for backpacking sleeping bags. For camping bags, however, weight and a compact stuffed size usually aren’t major considerations. In addition, down is much more expensive that synthetic insulation. A down sleeping bag like the Kelty Cosmic 20, with average quality down (600 fill), costs $50 or more than an equivalent synthetic option like the Marmot Trestles. And the gap is much larger for premium down bags, which can cost $500 or more.
Synthetic insulation dominates the camping sleeping bag category because of its affordability and practicality—15 of the 17 bags on this list have synthetic insulation. The compromises in choosing the cheaper fill type are relatively minimal for camping. With a car or camper to transport all of your gear, the larger stuffed size and extra weight are much less of a concern than when your sleeping bag has to be crammed into a pack and carried on your back. And should the insulation get wet, synthetics continue to keep you warm, unlike down feathers. For a full explanation of the two insulation types, see our article on down vs. synthetics.
Camping has a sweet simplicity to it, and one of the great things about driving (or walking a short distance) to your campsite, is that you don’t need anything too special from your camping sleeping bag. Realistically, you can get a great sleeping bag for under $100. Spending extra brings features like a softer touch shell fabric and a lighter overall weight, which is worth it for some, but most campers will be happy with a tough nylon shell, a healthy dose of synthetic fill, and a cozy flannel lining. The Teton Sports Celsius, which can be found on Amazon for around $60, is a great example. It's plenty warm, comfortable, and tough enough to keep using year-after-year.
For most, the primary weight and packability consideration for a camping bag is whether or not it can be carried from the garage to the car, squeezed in with the rest of your stuff, and then moved from the trunk to the tent. That said, we still recommend checking the weight and stuffed size that will be listed in the product specifications to get an idea of just how large and heavy the bags are. Synthetic bags are typically made with thicker fabrics and require more insulation to provide sufficient warmth, which can add up to a surprising amount of bulk. And if you’re considering a double bag (covered in more detail below), you’re talking about packed dimensions listed in feet rather than inches. If weight and packed size become important, a crossover backpacking/sleeping bag like the still-roomy Nemo Forte reduces both.
The interior of a sleeping bag varies quite a bit between designs, but one general rule of thumb is that comfort correlates closely with price. Comparing two of our top picks, we found the flannel lining on Coleman’s cheap Green Valley is far less soft and cozy when used back-to-back with The North Face’s Trail Bed (especially the smooth fleece-like panel along the top of the Trail Bed’s interior). Some campers won’t mind missing out on the plush feel for the substantial cost savings (about $80 separates the North Face and Coleman options), but a well-made bag is undoubtedly a nice place to slip into at the end of the day. For those that plan to get out a lot, opting for an upgraded design may be worth it.
Mummy bags typically have a ¾-length side zip that requires some wriggling to get in and out of and can’t be opened up completely should you want to zip the sleeping bag together with another compatible bag. That’s why for camping, we prefer a bag that fully unzips. Not only is it easy to create a large and comfortable space for two if you zip it to another bag, but unzipping the bag on its own opens it up for use as a blanket. And if the bag has a tough exterior shell, you can use it as an outdoor picnic blanket in a pinch.
A third type is the no-zip, which is limited to a couple designs, including the Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed that made our list. The large oval opening requires some modest flexibility and patience to get out of, but going zipper-less can be nice. There's no fumbling in the night for the zipper pull and you don’t have to worry about snags or heat loss (if the bag lacks a good draft tube). In the end, we don’t see the zipper-less design completely taking over the market. The in and out convenience and ability to use the bag as a blanket with a full zip sleeping bag is the better answer for most campers.
A double sleeping bag is simply a standard sleeping that has doubled in width to accommodate two campers sleeping side-by-side. These bags are often an effective selling point to get a reluctant partner to finally try out camping. But is it worth getting the double bag as opposed to just zipping together two compatible sleeping bags? Our simple take is: typically not. While they’re undoubtedly spacious and a touch cheaper than getting two single bags, we’ve never been in a scenario where zipping two bags hasn't worked just as well—and it gives you the flexibility to camp solo as well (Exped's MegaSleep Duo and Alps Mountaineering's Spectrum 20 are two of the few to address this issue). But who are we to tell you not to get a traditional double bag? And if you find it’s what you want, we recommend the aforementioned Exped MegaSleep. Not only is it a double, but it has enough room inside for an adult on each side and a storm-frightened toddler (or dog) in the middle.
If you have a little kiddo or are shopping for one, we highly recommend picking up a sleeping bag that is sized proportionally. Unless you only camp in areas with very warm overnight temperatures, a 4.5-foot person in a sleeping bag designed for a 6-footer is a recipe for cold and uncomfortable nights. They just can’t heat all of that extra space. To keep from having to replace sleeping bags every couple years as your little camper grows up, consider getting a sleeping bag that has an adjustable length, like the REI Kindercone. Kids bags, like the Kindercone, are often made in a bunch of fun colors, which sure doesn’t hurt in getting them excited for some time spent outdoors.
If you’ve ever had a pad deflate or slept directly on the ground in cold weather, you know firsthand the importance of an insulated pad beneath you. Further, when you lay on a sleeping bag, you compress the insulation, which impacts its ability to warm you (this is particularly true for down fill, but does impact synthetic as well). As a result, it’s important to choose a sleeping mattress or pad that will protect you from the ground if you’ll be camping in cooler temperatures (typically under 50-60 degrees).
For summer camping where it stays warm at night, you can use a large, uninsulated airbed, but if it’s cold, get a sleeping pad with some form of insulation (most often synthetic or foam). Sleeping pads are given an R-value rating, and the higher the number, the better it insulates you from the cold. As a general guideline for 3-season use, we recommend a rating between 2.5 and 4. Summer campers can get away with less, while winter adventurers will want something that exceeds 5 (and may want to consider adding a second pad for additional protection). Checkout our favorite camping sleeping mattresses for a breakdown of our top picks as well as buying advice.
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