Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags: Beginner’s Guide & TOP 13 Reviews 2019

If you’re going to be spending any time sleeping in the great outdoors, one of the most essential pieces of kit you can buy is a good sleeping bag.

They might even be more important than a tent!

But if you’ve chosen the wrong one for the conditions, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.

Too warm and you’ll be swimming in sweat and too cold you’ll be shivering like a kangaroo at the north pole.

Either way – you won’t be getting a good night’s sleep.

It’s vital that you’ve taken the time to understand the sleeping bag world so you can make an informed decision when choosing the right product for you.

Here then, is your (moderately) bite-sized review and guide for the best backpacking sleeping bags 2019.

TOP 13 Backpacking Sleeping Bag Reviews 2019

Coleman North Rim Mummy Sleeping Bag

This effort from Coleman might well be the best backpacking sleeping bag under $100. It’s a mummy style design that can be used in temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

It has a built-in foot box to keep your tootsies toasty and a draft tube to retain heat down the zipper.

There’s a cool bit of tech in place to help stop the zipper snagging in the material too.

Pros

  • A great all-round sleeping bag from a name you can trust.
  • One of the best bags for the price.

Cons

  • Could be a little on the heavy and bulky side for some.

Takeaway

Coleman makes quality camping gear and this bag is no exception. Great for moderate hiking and camping.

Winner Outfitters Mummy Sleeping Bag

If you’re looking for a solid 3-4 season offering, this is one of the best lightweight sleeping bags for backpacking out there.

It comes with a compression sack so you can stuff it up into a manageable size for when you’re on the move.

Draft collars and tube keep the warmth in and the cold out.

Pros

  • Double zipper with anti-snag.
  • Great price for what you get.

Cons

  • Might not stand up to colder temperatures.
  • Very narrow – not ideal for larger people.

Takeaway

It’s a winner (literally) if you’re looking for a no-nonsense mummy bag at an affordable price.

I wouldn’t go colder than 35 degrees Fahrenheit though – and don’t bother if you’re the type that needs to move around at night.

Coleman Palmetto Cool Weather Sleeping Bag

Yet another entry for Coleman sees the bestselling Palmetto bag offering a great budget option.

A rectangular bag, it’s super comfortable, spacious and has a no-snag zipper.

Designed for temperatures between 20- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit, this bag should see you through most moderate camping scenarios.

Pros

  • Great price.
  • Roll-control clips to aid packing.

Cons

  • Still a little on the large side to pack for hiking.

Takeaway

Quite possibly the best budget backpacking sleeping bag, I love how roomy this option is.

I think it would make a great “first” sleeping bag for a teen. Probably not ideal for longer hikes or much colder weather though.

Hyke & Byke Down Sleeping Bag

This is a great option if you’re looking for a lightweight down bag – one of the best backpacking sleeping bags for cold weather.

Can be used in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit – in extreme cases though. Still, you know you’re covered for most camping scenarios.

It’s super lightweight considering it’s a down bag.

Pros

  • A great mid-range down-filled option for the price.
  • Compression sack included.
  • As lightweight as they come being a down bag.

Cons

  • Down bags are not for everyone.

Takeaway

I love the look of this bag from Hyke & Byke – it ticks all the boxes for being a great down bag at an affordable price.

Abco Tech Sleeping Bag

This is a compression sack style budget sleeping bag that boasts some great features for such an inexpensive piece of equipment.

The waterproof exterior will keep you dry all night, while the hooded top protects your head as you sleep.

This is a perfect all-weather sleeping bag, and you’d be surprised how well it performs in wet environments.

Pros

  • Double filling, water-repelling exterior, and s-shaped quilting help keep this sleeping bag damp proof.
  • Packs down super small for easy carry while you’re hiking or backpacking.
  • Machine safe polyester makes this sleeping bag easy to wash.

Cons

  • The zipper doesn’t lock – it might slide down during the night.

Takeaway

This is a very basic sleeping bag, but it performs well. It’s exactly what the casual camper, hiker, or backpacker needs for a trip a few days away.

It’s the right size and the right price for a weekender who might not want to spend a ton of money on gear.

Sierra Designs Backcountry 800 Sleeping Bag

Unlike many other backpacking sleeping bags, the Sierra Designs Backcountry 800-Fill 3-Season sleeping bag offers a lot of versatility in terms of how you sleep in it.

For example, you have the option of sleeping with your feet tucked in if you’re cold or untucked if you need to cool down a little.

Another cool feature of this sleeping bag is that you have the option of sleeping with the comforter tucked in and zipped up like a normal mummy sleeping bag, or you can sleep with your arms in the pockets when the comforter of the bag is untucked.

Pros

  • It is warm and comfortable.
  • The unique design offers a lot of versatility to meet the needs of a variety of backpackers.
  • Lastly, it is moderately priced.

Cons

  • Because of its unique design, the sleeping bag is rather heavy and bulky.
  • It weighs 2 pounds and 10 ounces, so that gives it a poor warmth-to-weight ratio in comparison to other down insulated sleeping bags.

Takeaway

For people who like to move around a lot in their sleep or like versatility, this is easily the best sleeping bag for backpacking; however, it’s far from perfect.

It is likely that this new design will be perfected over time to improve some of its cons.

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag

If you’re not convinced that you want a synthetic insulated sleeping bag, then the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is your most affordable down option.

If you are a budget backpacker or you’re just trying it out before you spend a lot of money on the equipment, this is definitely the best backpacking sleeping bag that comes with down insulation.

The sleeping bag weighs in at 2 pounds and 13 ounces, which makes it one of the heavier options in this review.

Pros

  • The major pro for the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is again the affordability and value.
  • It is hard to find another down insulated sleeping bag for the same price.

Cons

  • With the cheaper price, you lose a little bit of quality in comparison to more expensive down sleeping bags.
  • The down used in this particular sleeping bag definitely makes it heavier, and it is not very compressible.
  • In comparison to other 20-degree bags, it is not quite as warm because Kelty chose to go with a roomier cut as well as lower quality materials to make it more affordable.

Takeaway

The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 provides a great bargain for novice and budget backpackers.

For longer and more intense trips, it would be worth it to spend the extra money for better quality, but it would do quite well for backpackers, who were only planning occasional overnight or weekend trips.

Sea to Summit Spark II Sleeping Bag

While this sleeping bag is more standard and not as innovative as the Sierra Designs Backcountry, the Sea to Summit Spark II is the best lightweight backpacking sleeping bag weighing in at 1 pound.

Though it is filled with 90% Down Cluster Premium European Goose Down, it still falls in the more moderate price range.

This sleeping bag is ideal for people who are not backpacking in extreme temperature differences and want a light and easy carry bag.

In comparison to other bags, the Sea to Summit Spark II is less comfortable, so it is perfect for people who are not planning on spending a lot of time in it.

Pros

  • The obvious pro is that this is an ultralight backpacking sleeping bag.
  • It provides great value for what it has to offer in terms of warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility.
  • For being a fairly standard design, the Sea to Summit Spark II stands out as a great sleeping bag.

Cons

  • While this sleeping bag has a great warmth-to-weight ratio, it doesn’t hold up as well as others in more extreme temperatures.
  • The lack of comfort is another downfall, especially for long trips where a good night’s sleep is so important.

Takeaway

This simple sleeping bag excels in many areas that make it stand out from the rest. It is a great standard bag that would serve many backpackers well, in most cases.

The price combined with the value of offers clearly makes this the best lightweight backpacking sleeping bag on the market.

Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark Sleeping Bag

This sleeping bag easily takes the title of best backpacking sleeping bag for synthetic sleeping bags.

It’s hard to find another sleeping bag like it on the market, and it ties with the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 for being the cheapest sleeping bag on this review.

The Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark weighs 1 pound and 12 ounces making it an ultralight backpacking sleeping bag in the synthetic department.

It is also easily compressed, warm, and comfortable.

Though it is a mummy style sleeping bag, its design is a bit different from a typical mummy sleeping bag. It comes with a zipper that comes right down the middle of the front, but it only goes halfway.

Pros

  • The biggest pro for this sleeping bag is the affordability and value.
  • It is very hard to find a sleeping bag that provides as much value as the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark without spending significantly more money.
  • Another huge benefit of this sleeping bag is that it is very warm in wet conditions.

Cons

  • Most of the cons for this sleeping bag come from the fact that it is not insulated with down.
  • Though it is light for a synthetic sleeping bag, it is still heavier than it’s down counterparts.
  • That being said, it also packs bulkier than a down sleeping bag.

Takeaway

All in all, if you are looking for an extremely affordable option, this is going to be your best backpacking sleeping bag.

It is excellent for someone who wants to start backpacking but isn’t ready to spend a lot of money on a down bag.

Coleman White Water Sleeping Bag

This is a budget-friendly sleeping bag. In fact, it just might be the best sleeping bag under 100$ for people who enjoy all-weather camping.

It’s better than most budget sleeping bags, and it’s designed to last. The zip plow feature keeps the fabric from getting stuck, reducing the risk of snags and tears that could damage the sleeping bag.

This one will stick around for a long time.

Pros

  • Comfort cuff around the top of the sleeping bag keeps your head and face warm.
  • Interior fiber lock keeps the stuffing from moving around, so it won’t get lumpy over time.
  • Works for people up to 6 foot 4 inches tall, so everyone can use it.

Cons

  • Width may be a tight fit for wider people.

Takeaway

This is an inexpensive sleeping bag, but it isn’t “cheap.” It’s high quality and great for people who aren’t looking to spend a ton of cash.

Coleman makes great gear, and you won’t be disappointed.

Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 Sleeping Bag

Serious backpackers looking for a solid 3-season sleeping bag need to look no further than the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20.

Though this also happens to be the most expensive sleeping bag in the review, its design and high-quality materials make it worth every penny.

It weighs in at 1 pound and 15 ounces, which makes it an ultralight backpacking sleeping bag.

Pros

  • The weight of this sleeping bag and its warmth give it a good warmth-to-weight ratio.
  • For being a 3-season sleeping bag packed with insulation, it is easily compressed and narrow across the shoulders.
  • You should have no trouble at all carrying this sleeping bag on your back or keeping warm at night when backpacking into the mountains.

Cons

  • Though it is an exceptional sleeping bag, it is not without a few flaws.
  • Depending on your budget, you may find the price tag on the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 to be the biggest con.
  • However, it has also been criticised for being too warm for summer months.

Takeaway

High quality sleeping bag for serious backpackers.

Sleepingo Double Sleeping Bag

This is, without doubt, the best double sleeping bag for backpacking. It can comfortably accommodate two sleepers or even three children. Snug as a bug in a rug!

It can even be converted into two individual sleeping bags if you aren’t looking to get too close to your fellow camper.

It’s insulated to work in reasonably cold climates as well.

Pros

  • This has a soft lining instead of a parachute style lining. You won’t need to wrap yourself in a sheet to be comfortable.
  • The top quilt is both soft and water-resistant.
  • Comes with two travel pillows, making it an even better value for the money.
  • This is a good choice for people who find single sleeping bags to be too tight.

Cons

  • Because this is a double sleeping bag, it’s a little heavier than most.

Takeaway

It’s hard to find a double sleeping bag for a hundred dollars or less, but this one fits the bill.

If comfort is a top priority to you or you want to minimize the amount of gear you need for a two-person or family trip, make this one your top choice.

NORSENS Camping Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

This sleeping bag is 100% polyester outside, and 100% cotton inside. The shell repels water, like small amounts of melting snow or chilly rain, which is exactly what cold weather campers need.

This bag is rated from 0 to 10 degrees Celsius, allowing you to camp in tougher weather safely.

Pros

  • Double layer overlapping zippers prevent cracks and gaps, preventing you from losing internal heat.
  • Zippers can be linked together to create a double cold weather sleeping bag, allowing you to share body heat with a fellow camper.
  • Weighs about four pounds, much less than other 0-degree sleeping bags.

Cons

  • The heavy internal lining makes this bag difficult to compress.

Takeaway

This is the best sleeping bag for cold weather, especially if you need something for winter camping.

It’s warm and comfortable, and it will help you retain as much body heat as possible. As long as it’s not below freezing outside, you can probably use it without a tent heater.

What to Look for in a Sleeping Bag

Unfortunately, choosing the right sleeping bag isn’t made any easier by the sheer number of factors that come into play.

It’s not as simple as – “this one looks comfy – that’ll do!”

Before you give yourself a migraine trying to balance all the numerous variables, allow me to do it for you.

backpacking sleeping bag

Material, Fill and Lining

If we were to go into serious detail about the ins and outs of sleeping bag fabrics, we’d be here all week.

Sleeping bags are constructed using a variety of materials that all have their pros and cons, but generally speaking, when it comes to filler there are two types – synthetic and down.

Synthetic

These bags are the most common, man-made insulation specially designed for when it becomes cold.

They’re much more adept at handling water or damp should that occur and are often the go-to choice for spring or summer camping.

They don’t pack as well but are easier to clean.

Down

Down bags are made from the soft feathers of eiders, geese or ducks and as a result, are much better at handling colder weather.

Down bags are more likely to be used in extreme temperatures as they can be very warm indeed.

They’re lighter and pack easier than synthetics – but don’t get them wet; they won’t like that at all.

Some people are also allergic to feathers – just something else to bear in mind!

For a more in-depth look at down and synthetic bags, head over to my full guide to the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Linings

Silk, fleece, nylon, cotton… the list goes on.

Just make sure to select the material that you would like next to your skin. If you’re sleeping in the buff that is.

Once again, they all have their advantages and disadvantages, so do your homework before making a choice.

The girl lying in a sleeping bag on the nature

Size and Shape

As you might expect, sleeping bags come in all shapes and sizes – much like people.

Choosing the right bag boils down to personal preference, how big or small you are and how much room you have to carry it.

There are variations of these bags specifically catering to women and children too.

Mummy

Mummy shaped sleeping bags are those cut to look like an Egyptian sarcophagus – hence the name.

They’re tapered at the feet for a snug fit and to trap warmth. While they can be used in any season, they’re specifically designed for lower temps.

Rectangular

Rectangular sleeping bags are for those who prefer to starfish out when sleeping.

They give more room all the way down to the legs, but the trade-off is they’re not as warm.

Many can be opened up completely to double as a duvet. These types are usually the best backpacking bag for warm weather.

Semi-rectangular

It would be nice if there was a happy medium between the two options above – and indeed there is.

Semi-rectangular bags are more rounded to provide a balance between room and warmth.

Designed for folk on the larger side, or those who don’t want to feel like they’re in a cocoon.

Double-Wide

Designed for lovebirds (or very close friends) double-wide sleepers can easily fit two people.

They’re not practical for carrying long distances though and are best used for when you’re packing your gear in a vehicle or sleeping out in the garden under the stars.

You’ll find some sleeping bags can zip together, making them the best backpacking sleeping bag for couples. How romantic.

Weight

If you’re camping close by or using a car to do the heavy lifting, weight isn’t really going to bother you too much. However, once you step out on the trails or climbing a mountain it’s obviously going to come into play.

Size and weight go hand in hand, so you’ll want to balance the two depending on what sort of load you can carry and how warm you need the bag to be.

How you attach the bag to your hiking backpack is also food for thought – and you can get compression sacks to squish it down as far as possible saving you valuable space.

Temperature Rating

Ahhhh, we arrive at the most complex of all sleeping bag factors – the dreaded temperature rating.

If you’re not already lost, you very well soon will be! I’ll try and be as clear as possible.

Sleeping bag temperature ratings come as two different guides to actually make it easier for you to make the correct choice.

In 2005 sleeping bags began to conform to the EN (European Norm) temperature rating. Before this, campers were flying blind and for many a cold or sweaty night would occur.

Now we’re all singing from the same song sheet (or trying to) and most companies are adhering to this standard when manufacturing their bags.

Ratings

You have up to four different ratings on the EN scale; upper limit, comfort, lower limit and extreme.

  • Upper Limit – The upper limit is the highest a temperature can be without a “standard man” beginning to sweat.
  • Comfort – The temperature a “standard woman” can sleep comfortably.
  • Lower Limit – The temperature that a “standard” man can sleep curled up in a sleeping bag without shivering or waking up.
  • Extreme – The absolute minimum temperature a sleeping bag can be used for up to six hours without serious detriment to one’s health. Frostbite and hypothermia are still very possible after some time.

Seasons

Aside from this scale, you can also attempt to determine a sleeping bag’s effectiveness by using the season guide.

Seasons run from one to four, with one being the warmest and four being only for use in extremely cold temperatures.

Think of it as season one is a summer night in your backyard and season four is an Arctic expedition.

Remember though – these are all just manufacturer guidelines and ratings. How they perform in the field might vary, as it’s different strokes for different folks. In short – don’t rely on them too heavily.

Zips

Sleeping bags come with a variety of fastenings and zips, which usually comes down to personal preference.

Does the bag open on the right or the left?

Make sure you choose the correct one for you so you don’t literally get out of bed on the wrong side.

Bags can sometimes be fully unzipped and double as a duvet cover, mattress or other use.

Look for a quality constructed zipper – there’s nothing worse than when a zip breaks and the teeth don’t connect anymore – as often happens with cheaper models or some children’s bags.

A zipper catching in the bag material is a nightmare too – a snag when I’m trying to get out is guaranteed to bring Armageddon.

Many bags now feature an anti-snag zip device – so look out for those.

Other Features

Sleeping bags will also come with other features such as built-in hoods, pockets for valuables and pad loops so you don’t fall off your sleeping pad or mat in the night.

There might be a draft collar to keep your neck insulated, or a draft tube to prevent heat from escaping along the zipper.

Just some more things to keep in mind and make it extra difficult when you’re choosing your model…

Cost

You’re obviously looking for the best affordable sleeping bag, but the amount of cash you could potentially part with can vary wildly, so know your budget before jumping in.

Professional, mountaineer/explorer products can set you back a pretty penny – because they’re built to save lives if need be.

The best budget sleeping bag will be more than adequate for most people’s needs, but as ever, I always encourage you to buy the best you can afford.

You should get a lifetime of use out of a good sleeping bag – which will save you money in the long run.

Group of people by bonfire

FAQ

Below I’ve included a few frequently asked questions that I might not already have addressed.

How do You Pack a Sleeping Bag?

Good question! Packing a sleeping bag back up into its pouch can often be a challenge that’ll soon have you blowing a gasket. You might well have been doing it wrong all these years.

Basically – stuff it, don’t roll it!

Check out the video below for a short and simple explanation that will have you packed up in no time.

How do You Attach a Sleeping Bag to a Backpack?

While it is possible to attach your bag to the outside of your pack using various straps, webbing or mesh (depending on the options offered by your backpack) I personally wouldn’t recommend it unless absolutely necessary.

I’ll always try to squeeze it somewhere inside (easier if you use a compression bag) as this will keep it away from the elements.

Check out these sleeping bag stuff sacks for some cool packing solutions.

How do You Wash a Sleeping Bag?

For synthetic bags, make sure all the zippers and any fasteners are closed up. Bung it into your machine on a gentle wash cycle – say around 30 degrees – with a mild detergent.

Many bags will come with drying hooks you can hang them up by, but failing that – throw it over your washing line and on a lovely summer’s day it’ll be toasty in no time.

Always let a bag dry naturally – I wouldn’t recommend risking a tumble dryer.

For down sleeping bags it gets a little more complex, so check out this informative video from a guy who for some reason has two washing machines out in the snow.

How do You Keep Warm in a Sleeping Bag?

It’s possible to write a whole book on the tricks and techniques you could use to stay warm in your tent and sleeping bag, but here’s a couple of pointers to get you started.

Don’t wait until you feel cold in the night to do more layers. The obvious choice is to put on dry, thermal underwear before turning in.

If your bag comes with a hood – use it! Alternatively, cover your head with a warm hat of some kind to stop heat escaping from your bonce.

Make sure you eat well to keep the fire burning on the inside – and don’t have a full bladder. Your body uses energy to heat urine, so go to the little boy’s or girl’s room before bed – and whenever nature calls.

Pack a hot water bottle – they can save lives!

Panic Over!

Well, we got there in the end!

Seriously though, negotiating your way through the sleeping bag market can be a huge headache, especially if you don’t know much about them.

When you’re faced with so many options, it can sometimes feel like a blind panic.

Hopefully, now you’ll be in a better position to choose the right bag for your next adventure.

But before you go, make sure you download my ebook on solo travel safety. You’ll find it full of really useful information that could potentially keep you and your loved ones away from harm.

And let me know which sleeping bag you’re considering – it might influence my decision too!

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