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Our testers are always on the hunt for the best sleeping bags that can make their outdoor overnights more comfortable, more fun, and hopefully more affordable. Sleeping bag designs, however, can be as complicated and varied as the people who snuggle up inside them. To better make sense of it all, we highlight some of our favorite bags that span different materials, weights, warmth ratings, and best applications. We tested these bags on family camping trips, fast and light backpacking adventures, and remote winter expeditions. We present them here in the hope that you can find the best sleeping bag for you, no matter your needs or budget.
If you're looking for a great night's sleep and an even greater deal, check out the Redcamp Cotton Flannel. This bargain sleeping bag offers nearly everything you could want in a car camping sleeping bag. The classic rectangular shape ensures there is plenty of space to avoid claustrophobia, and the flannel lining feels quite cozy. We found the 32° F temperature rating supplied by its synthetic insulation to be ideal for camping on a warm summer night. And if it's too warm inside, the two-way zipper offers a nice opportunity for venting.
Our biggest gripe with this bag is the 70-inch length, which feels too short for many of our taller testers. The zipper gives us some durability concerns, and we worry that it may not hold up over the long term. We should also point out that the weight and bulk of this bag make it unsuitable for backpacking or any other human-powered activity. It's a true car camping or RV sleeping bag, and an excellent value for that purpose.
When it comes to classic sleeping bags, the Alps OutdoorZ Redwood is a step above the rest. This well-made bag features a sturdy cotton canvas shell with a cozy flannel liner. Comfort is enhanced by this bag's generous dimensions and rectangular shape which ensure a pleasant and spacious sleeping experience. Combine these dimensions with a wrap-around zipper and you also get a bag that doubles as an excellent picnic blanket. With a -10° F rating and loads of TechLoft insulation, the warmth is substantial. Although we wouldn't recommend it down to quite that frigid of temps, it proved capable down to the single digits.
This is our overall favorite sleeping bag for camping near civilization, but it's not suited for backpacking or any sort of human-powered excursions. With an enormous packed size and at 11.7 pounds on the scale, it's far too bulky and heavy to carry any significant distance. At full list price, the Alps OutdoorZ Redwood is also a poor value compared to many other car camping bags. Still, if you want the best classic sleeping bag, this is our suggestion. And if you're a patient shopper, you may be able to find it on sale.
For the folks seeking the absolute best backpacking sleeping bag, we recommend the Western Mountaineering MegaLite. This ultra-premium model utilizes 12 ounces of 850+ fill power down to create a cozy cocoon of outstanding comfort. Our testers appreciated the more generous dimensions of the MegaLite compared to other products at its price point. The materials and construction are quality throughout. We're also fans of its impressive warmth-to-weight ratio which should make this bag especially appealing for diehard backpackers or long backcountry trips.
The biggest issue most shoppers will have with the MegaLite is the expensive price tag. Beginners or occasional backpackers will likely be happier with a budget model for half the price. Serious backpackers, however, should really consider spending extra for the MegaLite, or another bag from Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends. Bags from these specialty manufacturers usually cost more than high-end models from other companies, but in our opinion, they greatly outperform premium models from their competitors.
We believe the astronomical prices of some high-end sleeping bags won't make sense to the average backpacker. For these folks, we suggest selecting a better value, such as the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30. This is our favorite budget bag because it combines 650-fill power down in a simple mummy design that offers a solid balance of performance characteristics. The warmth-to-weight ratio is impressive for an affordable option, and it packs smaller than other models that provide similar warmth. Its comfort and versatility may not be otherworldly, but they should be high enough to satisfy most shoppers.
The Bishop Pass 30 simply can't match the performance of an ultra-premium sleeping bag. Its goose down isn't as lofty and the nylon lining isn't as supple. There is also a roughly 30% weight disadvantage compared to the lightest high-end models. However, we think most backpackers will hardly notice these drawbacks. Instead, they will probably be happiest settling for the Bishop Pass and using the substantial money they save to upgrade other components of their overnight kit.
One of the best sleeping bag bargains we've come across is the REI Co-op Trailbreak 30. Although this bag doesn't win any performance awards outright, it's the most affordable bag we've found that's suitable for backpacking and other human-powered adventures. At 2.5 pounds for warmth down to 30° F, it's roughly 80% heavier than the lightest high-end bags, yet it's several pounds lighter than comparable car camping models. It also packs considerably smaller than most similarly priced options.
To enjoy this bargain, you have to be willing to accept some compromises. As we mentioned, the warmth-to-weight ratio is subpar compared to premium backpacking sleeping bags. Compared to many car camping models, however, the Trailbreak 30 offers considerable advantages in terms of warmth, weight, and packed size. Folks that exclusively car camp may be happier with the roominess of a rectangular bag, but for anyone that likes to venture a ways from the trailhead, the Trailbreak 30 is up to the task and a fantastic deal.
Our top choice for the ounce counters out there is the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL. This innovative model incorporates a truly full-length zipper that allows it to function as a hoodless mummy bag or an open quilt. This design greatly extends its usable temperature range. When opened as a quilt it offered plenty of ventilation for a warm summer night. Meanwhile, its 8.4 ounces of 950+ fill power goose down proved to be capable all the way down to its 40° F temperature rating. That makes this bag an ideal choice for thru-hikers or serious backpackers looking for one lightweight model that can handle of range of conditions.
One obvious drawback to the Flicker 40 UL is its expensive price tag. We think its quality matches its price, but that price may not be justifiable for all but the most serious ultralight aficionados. The hoodless design of this bag is also a compromise. Its warmth-to-weight ratio is certainly outstanding, but you can attain an even higher warmth-to-weight ratio with a hooded mummy design. Still, we believe the added versatility of the Flicker is worth this compromise.
Western Mountaineering is a company known for making some of the best sleeping bags, and the Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF certainly lives up to that reputation. We were blown away by how well this model was able to supply comfort and warmth in a package that's both lightweight and packable. Our testers believe it truly lived up to its 0° F temperature rating. They were also delighted with the wider dimensions of this bag compared to many other winter bags. Its high-quality 850 fill power goose down proved to be some of the best at maintaining excellent loft despite numerous compression cycles.
If this bag is so great, why isn't it wildly popular? One word: price. The high-end down insulation used throughout this bag is an expensive material and it results in an overall price that many will balk at. We should emphasize, however, that Western Mountaineering's down does seem to maintain its loft better than down from many other companies. That means this bag offers a value advantage over the very long term. It's also made in the USA, which is a selling point for some folks. If you know you'll be doing some winter camping for the next decade and you've got the money to throw down on a quality bag, give this quality option some serious consideration.
Among the premium sleeping bag companies, Feathered Friends stands out for offering some of the absolute loftiest goose down. They incorporate this impressive insulation into our favorite women's sleeping bag, the Egret UL 20. As you might expect, this bag offers an outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio. And at just 1.7 pounds, we believe it truly lives up to its 20° F temperature rating. We also appreciate the full-length zipper for added venting possibilities on warmer nights. To top it off, it packs small to leave more room for luxuries in your overnight bag.
The primary drawback to the Egret's outstanding performance is its staggering price tag. However, every bag is handmade in Seattle, and the high price is somewhat offset by the longevity of the insulation, which we've seen outlast the lesser goose down used by many companies. The slimmer dimensions also do not offer the same generous sleeping space as some other models. Nevertheless, this is our favorite women's sleeping bag, and an excellent choice for any serious backpacker.
The Sierra Designs Cloud 800 bridges the gap between the expensive ultra-premium women's sleeping bags and the truly budget-oriented models, striking a great balance of lightweight performance at a more palatable price than other high-end designs. The Cloud is among the lightest women's models we tested, weighing in at 27.4 ounces (1.7 pounds), and packs down nicely to not take up too much room in your backpack. It also ranks highly on our comfort scale with a roomy design and an innovative overlapping quilt-style opening rather than a traditional side zipper. While not the least expensive bag in the bunch, the Cloud is noticeably more affordable than its high-end peers, making it our pick for premium performance at a more reasonable price.
While the Cloud stands out for its comfortable, lightweight design and small packed size, it notably is not as warm as other high-end models we tested. With the weight, size, and cost savings you get compared to other premium models, you sacrifice a little bit of down filling which impacts the overall warmth. Still, this bag is ideal for fast and light overnights in the summer or the shoulder seasons, saving space in your pack and a bit of cash in your wallet. We love the cozy design and think this is a great option for longer backpacking trips where every ounce counts.
If you would like to make snuggling part of your next camping trip, check out the Kelty Tru.Comfort 20 Doublewide. This two-person sleeping bag offers nearly 37 square feet of cozy sleeping space. It also includes two built-in blankets to allow either sleeper to adjust their warmth during the night. We think this is an ideal choice for couples or families looking for a comfortable sleeping system for their next car or RV camping trip.
Although we like the smooth feel of the Taffeta lining fabric, we did not like the slipperiness of this material. This isn't an issue when you're zipped inside the main bag, but it did cause the built-in blankets to slip off our bodies occasionally. We should also point out that at 8.8 pounds, this bag is too heavy for backpacking or other human-powered adventures. Nevertheless, it's a great choice for any pair seeking a nice two-person sleeping bag for camping close to the trailhead.
Car campers seeking a cozier two-person option should consider the Teton Sports Mammoth Queen. This massive bag features a classic flannel lining that we think some folks will prefer over the slippery nylon lining found inside many other bags. The interior dimensions are also generous to ensure you and your sleeping partner have all the space you need to sleep comfortably. And to top it off, the Mammoth 20 checks it at a rather affordable price.
The most glaring downsides to this bag are its heft and weight. At 13.9 pounds, it is one of the heaviest bags we've ever tested. And even crammed inside its included compression sack, this model remains the size of a large cooler. These qualities eliminate any usefulness this bag could have for human-powered adventures. Instead, it's a model that's exclusively suited for car or RV camping. For this purpose, however, it's a nice and affordable choice.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is the culmination of a decade of hands-on testing by ten separate GearLab expert reviewers. These reviewers included backpacking guides, mountaineers, backcountry skiers, wilderness rangers, guidebook authors, and thru-hikers. The lead author, Jack Cramer, is a former member of Yosemite Search and Rescue and an accomplished climber who has now personally tested more than 70 different sleeping bags.
In this review, we highlight our favorite sleeping bags from a range of sleeping bag categories. In total, GearLab has now purchased and tested more than 300 different bags in conditions ranging from convenient backyard slumber parties to miserable frigid nights on remote Alaskan glaciers. We sent bags on trips to Nepal, Bolivia, Argentina, and Tajikistan as well as plenty of less exotic locales closer to home. All in all, our team of reviewers spent more than a thousand nights testing different sleeping bags so you can be sure the knowledge shared here is thorough, informed, and unbiased.
How to Buy a Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. Different bags can be made of different materials with different features, all depending on the particular application their designed for. To top it off, the prices of different bags range from dirt cheap to exorbitant. If you're struggling to make sense of it all, we suggest you begin by asking yourself a simple question: where are you planning to camp?
Where do you plan to camp?
The biggest differentiating factor for sleeping bag selection is the location you plan to camp, and more specifically, how far you will be from motorized transportation. If your camping plans will keep you close to your car, we recommend shopping for a 'car camping' sleeping bag. This type of bag usually prioritizes comfort and cost savings. For human-powered adventures further afield, weight and packed size become paramount. Models that exhibit these characteristics we label as 'backpacking' sleeping bags. Just be aware that lighter and more compressible bags and usually more expensive.
If your plans include both convenient car camping and overnight backcountry adventures, we suggest choosing a backpacking sleeping bag. That's because you won't have any issues using a backpacking model near your car but carrying a hefty car camping sleeping bag any significant distance can quickly become a real pain.
Car Camping Sleeping Bags
Car camping sleeping bags don't have to be used exclusively for car camping. Rather the name signifies a category of sleeping bags designed and built without weight or packed size constraints. This type of bag could serve equally for RVing, boating, fly-in trips, or even the simple pleasure of camping out in your own backyard. Weight and bulk are usually not big concerns for these activities, so car camping sleeping bags can optimize comfort, convenience, and price. This category of bag is often made in a rectangular shape which offers a roomier sleeping space and lower manufacturing costs. Performance among car camping sleeping bags should be far less of a concern than it is for backpacking sleeping bags. The primary consideration should be finding a bag that matches your warmth, size, and budget requirements.
We recommend most shoppers select a sleeping bag with a temperature rating of around 30° F because these models are suitable for a range of conditions. However, feel free to tailor your selection for your unique situation. Folks that live in colder climates, for example, will probably want a warmer model. On the other hand, people planning a summer camping trip in the south might be happier in a bag that has a higher temperature rating. Overall, try not to stress too much about the purchase of a car camping sleeping bag. Simply find a bag that matches your plans and budget, and it should be up to the job.
Backpacking Sleeping Bags
When adventure takes you further from the trailhead, you'll probably want to opt for a backpacking sleeping bag. These bags utilize more expensive materials and streamlined designs to provide a sleeping system that offers greater warmth in a smaller and lighter package. These characteristics are most improved for human-powered activities, such as backpacking, sea kayaking, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, or bikepacking.
Backpacking sleeping bags are generally designed with a hood and a tapered sarcophagus shape that minimizes materials while maximizing thermal efficiency. This design is commonly referred to as a mummy bag. Keep in mind, however, that the tapered shape of a mummy bag reduces the space for your legs so some folks may find them uncomfortable. More careful research is also a good idea when you're shopping for a backpacking sleeping bag because these models can be fairly expensive. Don't fret though, with a little effort it's possible to select a suitable and affordable option.
Backpacking sleeping bags are often more expensive because they are frequently made with lightweight down insulation that provides an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, which is important when you are carrying your gear on human-powered adventures. For those looking to get into lightweight backpacking without breaking the bank, we've reviewed some more affordable backpacking bags. Those looking to shed even more weight for fast and light adventure may opt for an ultralight model.
Once you know the broad type of sleeping bag that you're interested in there are several other factors to consider including the insulation type, temperature, weight, packed size, and comfort. We'll break down these factors below to make sure you can be confident in your selection.
Sleeping bags provide their warmth by insulating your body and its heat from outside temperatures. They achieve this warmth by utilizing two primary types of insulation: down feathers or synthetic fibers. Down feathers are the specialized puffy feathers that many birds, such as ducks and geese, use to stay warm. These feathers are excellent at trapping air in tiny spaces between the filaments of the feather to create an effective temperature barrier. Synthetic fibers are mankind's best attempt at mimicking this insulation strategy. They contain a matrix of fibers that are usually petroleum-based, such as polyester or nylon, to fill a sleeping bag and supply insulation.
Although synthetic fibers are cheaper to produce than down, they have not yet been able to achieve the same warmth for an equal weight of material. Synthetic sleeping bags, however, do have one performance advantage, a greater ability to insulate when wet. If down feathers get wet, they clump together and lose nearly all of their loft and insulative power. Synthetic fibers, in contrast, do not clump so they can continue to provide considerable insulation when wet.
Despite this advantage most serious backcountry travelers still prefer down over synthetic bags for most applications. The savings in terms of weight and packed size are just that significant. But synthetic sleeping bags continue to be popular due to their lower cost. Broadly speaking, we recommend beginners and occasional backpackers choose a synthetic sleeping bag, while more devoted outdoor people splurge for a down model. You can find a more thorough discussion of our favorite synthetic models in the Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bag review and down models in the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag review.
The warmth of a sleeping bag is often advertised as its temperature rating. It's a metric that's supposed to mean the temperature down to which a bag should be able to keep you warm enough for sleeping. In practice, however, it's not that simple. Many companies choose their own temperature ratings so there can be limited comparison between companies. Among backpacking bags, most models are rated according to an industry-standard EN test. This provides a more consistent measure of warmth but numerous other factors can play a role in your actual warmth beyond ambient air temperature. These factors include the type of shelter you're in, the sleeping surface beneath you, the type and quality of your sleeping pad, and even your own metabolism.
We think the most useful temperature rating for a sleeping bag is around 30° F. At this rating, a sleeping bag should be warm enough for most spring and fall conditions while also not being too stifling in the summer months. Your own preferences and uses may push you towards another rating. For winter camping, 0° F seems to be a better starting point. Summer campers, however, will probably be happier in a 40° F model. If you find that your sleeping bag doesn't seem to be living up to its temperature rating, the issue is most likely your sleeping pad. Check out our Best Sleeping Pad review for more info about why your overnight warmth can have a lot to do with how well you're insulated from the ground.
Weight and Packed Size
A sleeping bag's weight and packed size should be major considerations for any type of human-powered overnight trip. An extra pound or two might not seem like a lot, but that weight can become significant on an extended backcountry sojourn. Larger packed size can also be an issue because it increases the size of your backpack, which can end up placing the weight you're carrying farther from your center of gravity. Keep these realities in mind when searching for the right sleeping bag.
Weight and packed size generally correspond closely to one another, so you don't need to spend too much time trying to consider them separately. However, it's important to recognize that warmer bags are generally bulkier and heavier than colder bags. Therefore, try only to analyze weight and packed size between bags with similar warmth. Don't be afraid to spend a little more for a lighter or more compressible sleeping bag if you plan to venture deep into the backcountry. After all, your knees and back are more valuable than even the priciest sleeping bag.
A bag's comfort is largely dependent on its dimensions and the type of materials used. More expensive insulation like goose down is often perceived as more comfortable because it's lighter and weighs down on your body less. Among budget models, the lining material can also influence comfort. Our testers generally found flannel feel cozier than the other linings commonly used in budget car camping sleeping bags.
Transitioning from an ordinary blanket to an enclosed sleeping bag can be a claustrophobic experience for some folks. If this sounds like you, we recommend a sleeping bag with roomier dimensions. Be especially careful about the length of a hooded mummy bag because stuffing your head inside of the hood of a bag that's too short can be a literal pain in the neck. Most manufacturers categorize the length of men's sleeping bags as follows: short equates to 5'6" in length, regular is 6'0", and long is 6'6".
Women's Sleeping Bags
Although the length of a sleeping bag is certainly important, the horizontal dimensions should also be taken into consideration. Women's sleeping bags aim to make camping more comfortable for ladies by incorporating design features to meet women's unique anatomy. Many women's designs are often wider in the hip dimensions and narrower at the shoulders. Women generally sleep colder than men, so sleeping bags marketed toward women usually have more conservative temperature ratings. This can also translate into a bargain when women's bags incorporate extra insulation but are sold at the same price. You can learn more about our favorite bags in this category by checking out the Best Sleeping Bags for Women review.
Selecting the right sleeping bag doesn't have to be an ordeal. First, decide whether you need a backpacking or car camping model based on whether your overnights will take place far from motorized transportation. Then, determine your budget and warmth requirements. Finally, you can peruse the appropriate models that meet all of your criteria. Our detailed sleeping bag reviews are broken down according to these criteria and include lots of info to aid in your search based on our own hands-on testing.
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