There is nothing more humbling than returning to nature and appreciating old and seemingly forgotten values. Many people seek to get away from their normal life of technology and stress and get back in touch with their inner child, ready to explore. However, that doesn’t mean going in unprepared is a good idea. Being able to get proper rest in many outdoor environments is crucial to staying healthy and avoiding risk.
Sleeping bags are made to help you achieve just that. If you can pick out a good model, it makes the difference between being sore, tired and careless and being energetic and ready to keep trucking. This guide is meant to assist you in making a good purchasing decision and selecting high quality, suitable sleeping bag. We’ll list off the best products we’ve encountered and then go into detail as to which qualities you should be looking for.
Our Top Picks
Mountain Hardwear Unisex Ghost Whisperer
The 900-fill power goose down makes this sleeping bag incredibly light at only 1lb total. Couple that with how easy it is to compress it, and this model can be carried with no inconvenience to the user whatsoever. The way the bag is stitched together keeps the down from moving around unnecessarily, which would normally create very uneven heat distribution in lower-quality sleeping bags. The Ghost Whisperer comes with a specially-designed footbox that lets you keep your feet in a natural position without strain. If you’re hiking, ankle problems can instantly end a trip, so this is appreciated.
It’s worth mentioning that this bag is more summer-oriented, as it’s perfect at or above 40 degrees. The drawcords work really well and don’t show signs of cheap production and early damage. The price can be a bit high for some, but the reward is a reliable and well-constructed sleeping bag that keeps you warm in summer without discomfort.
- Very light
- Good heat distribution
- Durable thanks to high-quality parts
- Helps prevent ankle problems
Marmot Ultra Elite 20
Synthetic bags sometimes get a bad reputation for being heavy and harder to compress, but this Marmot model seems to transcend those limitations effortlessly. More than a few users get fooled into thinking this is a down-insulated sleeping bag. The HL-ElixR Micro insulation provides warmth even when other models would leave you in the cold, including when there’s moisture on the surface of the bag. This sleeping bag features a handy stash pocket on the inside, which you can use to store a bottle of warm water and further increase the heat levels if you need to.
Despite being a formidable piece of work, the fact that this bag is synthetic does wonders in reducing the normally steep price point some other high-end bags sport.
- Super light
- Synthetic but with the durability of down-insulated models
- Good against moisture
Sleepingo Double Sleeping Bag
Talk about spacious! This Sleepingo bag seems tailor-made for hiking pairs and couples, as it offers way more space than most other bags, especially at this price range. If you prefer to sleep by yourself while camping with others, though, that’s also taken care of. You can unzip this model and separate it into two smaller bags. The optimal temperature for this Sleepingo model is 50 degrees and up, but if the weather is really cold, a simple extra blanket will keep you covered (pun intended).
If you’re sleeping next to someone, the zippers on the side let you leave the bag subtly without waking them up. The outer layer is completely waterproof, so even a surprise shower or two won’t cause discomfort.
- Enough room for two fully-grown adults
- Easy to afford
- Functionalities that keep your partner undisturbed
- Great for family trips
TETON Sports Celsius Regular
Although this is a more cold-oriented sleeping bag, it comes with functionalities that help you get comfy when you’re not 100% looking for heat. You can unzip the sides to get more freedom of movement and air circulation.
If it is cold outside, however, you’re basically in armor. The double-layer offset stitching and hollow fiber fill provide very strong insulation and enable this model to function in a colder environment. TETON Sports also bring a compression sack that helps you pack your bag when it’s time to head out. The bag itself isn’t incredibly light, but with this much insulation, that’s not surprising.
- Warm without being restricting
- Handy compression sack included
- Meant for cold weather, but is comfortable in most scenarios
Western Mountaineering UltraLite
If you’ve got the budget for it, the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is a remarkable piece of work. The 16 ounces of 850 fill down makes this sleeping bag super-compressible and light while providing tons of comfort and reliable warmth. If you wash and take care of a sleeping bag of this quality, it can last decades without getting worn out to the point where you have to replace it.
This bag is rated at 20 degrees which means that you’re completely immune to cold, especially if you pack an extra blanket just in case. Much like some other models on this list, you can squeeze extra breathing room for your limbs by using the side zippers that completely encircle the sleeping bag. There is no downside to getting this model if you can afford it and regularly camp during colder periods.
- Warm and comfortable
- Incredibly durable and long-lasting
- Excellent-quality parts that don’t need fixing or replacing over time
- Easy to wash
- Even easier to carry and compress
You’ve seen the products, but maybe you’re unsure. Especially for newcomers to the hobby, picking the ideal sleeping bag is often a slow process. With how much some of these models cost, it’s not easy to make a commitment. So let’s look at the questions an aspiring adventurer might ask themselves when they look at a catalog of sleeping bags.
What size bag do you need?
There’s no universal answer to this since it depends on your proportions. Don’t be misled by bags that just come with male and female versions, as it can mean very little. Measure yourself out properly, and bring those measurements to the salesperson. If you can try a bag by sitting in it, that’s even better, since then there’s no doubt if it fits or doesn’t.
Ask yourself if you ever plan on camping with your partner or kids. If you do, then it may be good to look for double-sized bags right off the bat. Buying several individual products almost always costs considerably more, so plan ahead.
Pro Tip: Remember to take weight into consideration as well. This can depend on size just as much as the insulation material, so if you already pack heavy during trips, a giant bag might tire you out even more.
Which temperature rating is best for you?
This largely depends on where and when you like to sleep. Going to very hot areas with a sleeping bag meant for cold mountain trails can create a severe health risk, and that’s not even mentioning the discomfort. There are three main values you want to look for when you browse catalogs or talk to store representatives:
- The Upper Limit marks the highest air temperature that a man is expected to sleep comfortably in;
- Comfort is the lowest temperature at which a woman is expected to sleep comfortably;
- The Lower Limit is the lowest estimated temperature at which a man is expected to sleep comfortably.
Pro Tip: Pick your sleeping bag so that the Comfort marker matches the lowest possible temperature you can predict for your trips. That way you’re in the clear even during unwelcome weather. Forethought is the most important tool for organizing a good trip.
What is Fill Power?
Fill Power (FP) is a measurement of how “fluffy” a down-insulated bag is. The higher this number (typically ranges from 500-900), the less the bag will weigh, even though the lower ranges still warm you up equally well. Keep in mind that having a high FP increases a sleeping bag’s cost. If you tend not to carry large amounts of equipment or you have an all-terrain vehicle that can transport supplies, lower FP bags work perfectly well, since you’re not overburdened. Synthetic bags don’t use this measurement.
How much can you trust water resistance claims?
Synthetic sleeping bags, in particular, boast high water resistance or complete waterproofing. This is often achieved through nylon shell implementation and the use of Durable Water Repellent (DWR). The purpose of this tool is to force the water to bead up, and not get soaked in. Be warned, however – DWR loses effectiveness over time. The best approach to staying dry yourself is to avoid getting the bag wet in any way. Even if a bag is meant to be waterproof, there’s no reason to risk it. Even when they are waterproof, it’s much less comfortable to sleep than with no moisture involved.
Which shape is best?
Much like with size, there’s no universal solution. There are two shapes – mummy bags and quilts. Both have ups and downs.
Mummy bags are designed to tuck you in much like a mummy. They’re heavier and harder to carry, but function better in colder weather where you really want to be insulated against chilling winds and similar problems. If sheer heat retention is your number one priority, these bags are perfect for the job.
Quilts offer more freedom of movement and are lighter and easier to carry. If you like to camp or hike in less extreme conditions, these bags will be more convenient to transport and will let you move around more. Good bags will also often come with “hood” sections, parts that are designed to cover your face in windy situations. IMPORTANT: Make sure you check the insulation of the “pad” or quilt bottom, which is the mattress-like material that you’re resting your back on. Low-quality products often skip costs here, and it shows in both discomfort and poor protection from the elements.
How difficult is maintenance for sleeping bags?
If you’re not asking yourself this, you should be. Sleeping bags (even great ones) are not a throwaway piece of equipment that you can just ignore or neglect. While they don’t require a ton of work, good hygienic practices can take you a long way towards a sleeping bag that lasts decades.
- First of all, if it’s at all possible, always sleep in your bag while wearing clean clothes. While every bag is easily washable, you don’t want it constantly absorbing body odor, dirt or anything else. Use deodorant to minimize the amount of sweat that soaks into the bag.
- Wash the bag once per year or so. You can also do work on individual spots using special cleaning products, but unless you somehow keep spilling things onto the bag, you shouldn’t have any issues.
- Try not to store your sleeping bag(s) the same way you see in a store. Stores often focus more on space efficiency than correct storage, and constantly keeping the bag compressed can damage the material. You should try to keep it as spread as possible while not in use.
- Don’t hesitate to contact customer support for your brand if you notice problems. It isn’t direct maintenance, but the support professionals can either fix your model on the spot or give you detailed guidance on how to do it yourself.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic