Whether you’re camping in your backyard or trekking across the Himalayas, your sleeping bag might be the most important piece of gear in your kit. A proper sleeping bag keeps you comfortable throughout the night, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep. Conversely, the wrong sleeping bag leaves you feeling tired and miserable, which makes for a long next day on the trail.
Because of their importance to not only your well-being but to the success of any camping trip, picking out the right sleeping bag is vital. Since many of the best options aren’t exactly cheap, it’s important to not go through much trial-and-error. To help, we did much of the legwork for you. But before we get into our recommendations, there are a few things to keep in mind before buying.
- How to shop for a sleeping bag
- Temperature ratings and insulation
- Insulation types
- The best sleeping bag overal
- The best ultralight sleeping bag
- The best sleeping bag for women
- The best sleeping bag for kids
- The best budget sleeping bag
- The best sleeping bag for casual comfort
- The best sleeping bag for winter camping
How to shop for a sleeping bag
When it comes to selecting a sleeping bag, there are a number of factors to consider, including weight, size, and temperature rating. Most sleeping bags come in different sizes to accommodate different people. Generally speaking, those sizes are small, medium, and large, and most manufacturers charge different prices based on size.
For instance, if you’re taller, there’s a good chance you’d pay more for a tall-specific bag. Larger sleeping bags also tend to weigh a bit more, although in most cases the differences are negligible.
Temperature ratings and insulation
A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is arguably more important than either size or weight when it comes to comfort. The rating is an indicator of the absolute lowest temperature the bag should be used in. In other words, if a sleeping bag has a rating of 35ºF/1.6ºC, it’s generally safe and comfortable to use in weather conditions that drop to those temperatures. Anything below that and you run the risk of being too cold and uncomfortable.
Temperature ratings also have an impact on a sleeping bag’s weight and size. The lower the temperature rating, the more insulation it needs to maintain comfort levels. As insulation is added, the bag gets heavier and thicker, adding bulk to a hiker’s backpack at the same time. That’s the trade-off that comes with having a warmer bag for use in more extreme conditions.
Another consideration when searching for a sleeping bag is whether or not you want down feathers or synthetic insulation. Down is widely considered to be the warmest and lightest form of insulation, providing plenty of warmth while staying fairly light. It also compresses down to a relatively small size, meaning it won’t take up much space in your pack.
The downside, however, is that when down gets wet, it tends to lose its loft and much of its performance. The introduction of hydrophobic (aka water-resistant) down has changed this a bit but there are still plenty of traditional down options on the market.
The other popular sleeping bag insulator is synthetic insulation. Bags with synthetic insulation don’t perform as well in cold conditions but also don’t lose any performance when they get wet. These types of insulations are also less expensive, though they do tend to be heavier and less compressible.
In our search for the best sleeping bags available today, we’ve spent countless nights in tents across remote corners of the globe. This helped us find the highest quality bags to help keep you comfortable wherever your next adventure takes you.
The best sleeping bag overal
The REI Co-op Magma 30
Very few sleeping bags offer as versatile a combination of features as the REI Co-op Magma 30º. Warmth, comfort, packability, value; it manages to do it all and at a reasonable price, to boot.
Made with 850-fill hydrophobic goose down insulation surrounded by a water-resistant Pertex shell, the Magma 30º is a sleeping bag built for use on the trail. It manages to perfectly balance performance and weight, while also providing plenty of interior space. There’s even a customizable hood for added comfort and heat retention.
The bag does feature unique bio-mapped baffles which often provide more insulation in the torso area and less in the legs and feet. This could very well lead to some cold toes on frostier nights.
One of the Magma 30’s best features is an easy-pull zipper that runs the length of one side. This provides campers the option to unzip the bag for improved venting in warmer weather, allowing them to stay more comfortable in a variety of environments.
When the mercury takes a plunge, the bag fully zips in order to keep things warmer. This holds true despite the fact REI gave the Magma 30 a generous amount of interior space which is nice for all-around comfort but sometimes leads to cold air sneaking in.
There were a few times when this bag didn’t quite live up to its 30ºF temperature rating but to be fair to REI, it does say it’s best used at 39ºF and above. It can be used in colder temps in a pinch, though and we’d recommend layering up if you need to.
The REI Co-op Magma 30 is a great all-around sleeping bag with plenty of features and good performance. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and doesn’t take up much room in a backpack, all of which are features that should make it a popular option for backpackers and car campers alike.
Pros: Warm, comfortable, and provides high value for the price
Cons: Small stuff sack, 30ºF temperature rating might be generous
The best ultralight sleeping bag
The Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32
Backpackers who count every ounce need the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32. This bag weighs a mere 15 ounces, making it one of the lightest sleeping bags on the market. That alone should make it a favorite for ultralight hikers, although the Hyperion 32 dazzles with its compressed size and all-around comfort, too. It even comes with a built-in sleeping pad harness that helps keep your pad and bag from separating while you sleep.
In order to get the weight of the Hyperion 32 down so remarkably small, Therm-a-Rest went extra light on insulation. The company used 900-fill hydrophobic down but only in limited quantities. As a result, the bag isn’t quite as warm as some of the others on this list. It also has a narrow, somewhat confining cut, which won’t endear it to side-sleepers or those who aren’t fans of mummy bags.
Thanks to its focus on being extremely lightweight rather than warm, the Hyperion 32 is best used in warmer weather conditions. From my own experience, using it from late spring through early fall is a fantastic option for backpackers looking to shave ounces off their pack. At other times of the year, it won’t be warm enough to meet the conditions though most ultralight sleeping bags have this exact common criticism.
Of course, ultralight gear does come at a price and the Hyperion 32 is no different. The bag sells for $340, which is on the spendy side for something with this temperature rating. When you factor in its weight-to-warmth ratio, the value of the Hyperion comes into focus. It’s a sleeping bag that appeals to a specific crowd but those who buy it will undoubtedly appreciate what it brings to the table.
Pros: Extremely lightweight, packs down incredibly small, includes sleeping pad attachments
Cons: Not particularly warm, narrow design, expensive
The best sleeping bag for women
The Sea to Summit Flame Ultralight 15º sleeping bag
It used to be extremely difficult for women to find a sleeping bag that met their specific needs. Thankfully, those days are long gone and it’s now possible to find a number of options built from the ground up with female campers and backpackers in mind. The Sea to Summit Flame Ultralight 15 is a good example of this, as it takes into account a woman’s shape, as well as their need for more warmth, to deliver a comfortable night’s sleep.
The bag uses high-quality 850+ fill-power hydrophobic goose down as its insulator, which not only makes it warm but soft and lofty, as well. But it takes more than just good insulation to make a sleeping bag comfortable in cold conditions. In order to achieve that, Sea to Summit did extensive research to learn exactly where the down should go, using body-mapping techniques to improve performance.
The Flame Ultralight’s design was influenced by body mapping in other ways, too. For instance, the bag is narrower in the shoulders compared to most men’s sleeping bags. It’s also shorter overall and offers more room between the hips and knees in order to facilitate side-sleepers. These simple yet well thought out changes help keep cold air from reaching the interior while also providing a generous amount of space.
If there’s a knock against the Sea to Summit Flame 15, it’s definitely the price. At $529, it’s quite a hefty investment, even though it’s a sleeping bag that should continue to perform at a high level. If you can get past the price tag, you’ll be buying one of the best women’s sleeping bags ever made.
Pros: Female-specific design, cozy, good weight-to-warmth ratio
Cons: Expensive, short zippers
The best sleeping bag for kids
The Big Agnes Duster 15º sleeping bag
One of the biggest drawbacks of buying outdoor gear for kids is that they outgrow it after only a few uses. The same holds true for most sleeping bags, although the Duster 15 from Big Agnes looks to change that.
The designers at Big Agnes set out to create a sleeping bag that could somehow grow along with the kids using them. It came up with a system of hooks and loops that give parents the ability to shorten the length of the bag when their kids are smaller, while gradually increasing the length as they grow. As a result, the Duster 15 is made to accommodate campers who fall between 4’5″ and 5’6″ in height, providing a level of versatility not found anywhere else.
Just because this bag is aimed at kids doesn’t mean it doesn’t the same features you’d find on an adult bag. For instance, Big Agnes included a no-draft collar, zipper, and wedge, which helps to keep cold air out.
It also comes with built-in liner loops and the ability to attach it to a sleeping pad. A contoured hood offers a comfortable fit to go along with added warmth, while the bag is built to keep insulation close to the body, even when adjusting to a growing child.
Unfortunately, the synthetic insulation may not be efficient enough to actually live up to the Duster’s 15ºF rating. Considering how easy it is for kids to get cold, it’s likely they’ll start to feel uncomfortable even at warmer temperatures.
Compared to other sleeping bags for kids, the Duster is a bit heavier and doesn’t pack down quite as small. This is due largely to its ability to resize, however. Considering that feature keeps you from buying a new bag every year, it seems like a decent trade-off. The $109.95 price tag is also quite affordable, particularly since the Duster should be useful for many years.
Pros: Made specifically for kids, unique design allows the bag to grow with the child, affordable
Cons: Not as warm as it should be, relatively heavy, doesn’t pack as small as some bags
The best budget sleeping bag
The Kelty Cosmic 20
Make no mistake, you can buy sleeping bags that cost less than the Kelty Cosmic 20. However, they won’t offer anywhere near the same level of performance. Finding a down sleeping bag for under $200 has always been somewhat of a challenge but Kelty managed to accomplish this feat, bringing a great entry-level option for those who don’t have a large sleeping bag budget.
To hit the Cosmic 20’s $170 price point, there were a few compromises that had to be made. Kelty used 600-fill down in the bag to keep costs down, although that insulation is still highly water-resistant. The bag’s outer shell is made from a soft 20D nylon material and while this is adequate, it doesn’t exactly scream high-quality.
The Cosmic 20 is also fairly heavy at 2 pounds, 13 ounces, and doesn’t offer the same level of compressibility you’d find in more expensive bags.
With that said, this sleeping bag still manages to provide plenty of comfort and functionality for campers on a budget. It performs reasonably well in cooler conditions and even delivers on its 20ºF temperature rating. It also features PFC-down and fabrics, which are better for the environment and your health, proving that even budget outdoor gear can be eco-conscious.
Having spent a few nights in the Cosmic 20, I can tell you it’s a perfectly good sleeping bag that comes at an outstanding price. There are other bags that offer better performance and build quality, but those run nearly twice the price. If you don’t have a lot of cash to spend on your outdoor gear, you’ll be extremely pleased with what Kelty delivered.
Pros: Very affordable for a 20ºF down bag
Cons: Not as durable or well constructed as more expensive options
The best sleeping bag for casual comfort
The Zenbivy Bed
The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Zenbivy Bed brings comfort and versatility to the backcountry by mimicking the bed you have at home. It does this by using a unique design that incorporates both a top quilt and a sheet designed to fit over a sleeping pad.
This creates a sleep system that allows campers to freely move about in their sleep and to settle into more natural positions it’s unlike anything else on the market.
When using the Zenbivy Bed, campers attach the included sheet to their sleeping pad and then independently connect the blanket to the sheet. This allows each piece to act separately from one another, while still working together to provide comfort and warmth. The end result is a sleeping bag that offers more freedom of movement, while still retaining solid overall performance.
Having used the Zenbivy Bed on multiple occasions, its biggest drawback is that it takes a bit of practice to get everything to work together. Once you’ve done it a time or two, it gets easier but the first time you set it up just might leave you scratching your head about how everything works.
Once you bring it altogether, you end up with a sleeping bag that’s quiet, comfortable, and cozy. And since you’ll feel less constricted and confined, you might just wake up more rested the next day.
Zenbivy’s innovative design lends itself well to increased versatility, too. Just like the blanket on your bed back home, the Zenbivy bed’s blanket can be turned down or bundled up as needed, allowing it to stay warmer in colder temperatures or vent excess heat when temperatures rise. It even opens at various points to improve airflow in general, allowing it to be used in a surprisingly wide range of climates.
Pros: Very comfortable, great for side-sleepers, sleeping pad integration, versatile
Cons: A little complicated at first, doesn’t pack down as small as other options
The best sleeping bag for winter camping
The Nemo Sonic 800-Fill Down Sleeping Bag
If you’re camping in a cold environment or during winter, you’ll need a sleeping bag designed to keep you extra warm. That’s exactly what you get with Nemo’s Sonic, a sleeping bag that offers a blend of traditional sleeping bag features with unique design elements that provide a high level of versatility.
The Sonic is insulated with 800 fill-power, hydrophobic down that provides plenty of warmth in temperatures dropping as low as 0ºF. The bag also comes with integrated draft tubes and a newly-redesigned draft collar, both of which help to keep cold air out and warm air in.
The designers at Nemo took things even further by using both waterproof and breathable fabrics, along with a thin layer of synthetic insulation. This provides extra comfort and protection from the elements, and the result is a sleeping bag that doesn’t have any weaknesses in its armor when it comes to protecting campers and backpackers from the cold.
Other unique design elements include the brand’s Thermo Gills and the Toaster foot box. Both were created in order to maintain a high level of comfort.
The Thermo Gills are the most impressive as they help vent excess heat so efficiently that it actually raises the Sonic’s temperature rating up by as much as 20ºF. The Toaster foot box was incorporated in order to improve warmth and breathability around the feet a common cold spot in most other bags.
Priced at $500, most campers may find the Nemo Sonic 0 to be on the high end of their budget or out of their price range altogether. But that price is fairly competitive for a cold-weather sleeping bag that offers this level of performance and innovation. If you like to backpack during the winter, this is the bag you’ll want.
Pros: Warm and spacious, has innovative features such as “Thermo Gills” to help improve temperature control and venting, good for side-sleepers
Cons: A little bulkier than most other bags and it’s expensive at $500