13 Best Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Bags for 2022

A comprehensive guide to the best ultralight backpacking sleeping bags. Tested and written by Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest thru-hikers.

Updated on May 16th, 2022
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As one of the biggest items in your pack, your sleeping bag needs to be compressible and lightweight while providing sufficient warmth and comfort for a good night's sleep outdoors. 

Sleep is critical for a great day on the trail. Waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle some miles sure beats dragging yourself out of your tent after tossing and turning all night.

We're here to help with some tips, tricks, and recommendations to help you pick the best sleeping bag for your next adventure. 

Disclaimer: This is a post about sleeping bags, specifically. For the best quilts, check out this article. For two-person sleeping bags, check out this article.

packing away a sleeping bag

Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags

Brand Model Weight Warmth Fill Price
Western Mountaineering Ultralite 1 lb 13 oz 20F 453 g Down $540
REI Co-Op Magma 15 1 lb 12 oz 16F 850 g Goose Down $399
Montbell Seamless Down Hugger WR 900 1 lb 11.6 oz 15F 900 EX Down $619
NEMO Disco 1 lb 7 oz 30F 850 Power Down $370
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 2 lbs 8 oz 27F 700FP PFC-Free Dridown $300
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 2 lbs 1.2 oz 15F 850 Goose Down $580
Zpacks 20F Classic Sleeping Bag 1 lb 3 oz 20F 900 Goose Down $409
Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 1 lbs 4 oz 20F 900+ Goose Down $470
Klymit KSB 20 Down 2 lb 11 oz 20F 650 White Duck Down $230
Marmot Phase 20 1 lb 7 oz 20F 850 Goose Down $479
Sea to Summit Spark Ultralight 1 lb 7.5 oz 18F 850+ Loft Ultrad-Dry Down $489
Kelty Cosmic 20 2 lbs 7 oz 20F 600 Goose Down $170
REI Co-Op Igneo 17 1 lb 15 oz 17F 700 g Duck Down $299

WESTERN MOUNTAINEERING UltraLite

 WESTERN MOUNTAINEERING UltraLite

Weight: 1 lb 13 oz

Warmth Rating: 20°F / -7°C

Fill: 16 oz / 453 g Down

Price: $540

Why we like it: The high lofting down and full draft collar make this one of the coziest bags on our list.

An efficient mummy sleeping bag that will keep you cozy in different climates, the UltraLite features a full-down collar to help seal in the heat around your neck without adding excess bulk. High lofting down (16oz.) pumps the bag to 5" and it has a full-length YKK zipper. It comes in 3 different sizes ranging from 5'6", 6' and 6'6" with a shoulder girth of 59" or 60" in regard to the 6'6" sleeping bag.

See on Amazon

REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag - Men's

REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag - Men's

Weight: 1 lb 12 oz

Warmth Rating: 16°F / -8.9°C

Fill: 850 g Goose Down

Price: $399

Why we like it: The best warmth-to-weight ratio at a reasonable price makes this a top choice for a balance of quality and price.

Giving you the best warmth-to-weight ratio, the Co-op Magma 15 sleeping bag has a lightweight construction, water-resistant goose down and generous knee and foot space with a fitted silhouette. Cozy and super soft with its Downproof Pertex shell, its variable baffle spacing delivers high thermal efficiency.

The zipper cover and internal anti-snag strip make for easy zipping and the contoured hood keeps you warm, with enough space for a low-profile pillow. There are 2 hood drawcords to allow for internal adjustment and an insulated yoke that fills the neck and shoulder gap, all of which help prevent heat loss.

Coming in 3 sizes you can choose from "fitted" with a narrow profile for those on the skinny side who need more warmth, a "regular" that has a wider cut providing wriggle room, and a "relaxed" version which is super roomy for those that prioritize comfort above all else.

See on REI

MONTBELL Seamless Down Hugger WR 900

MONTBELL Seamless Down Hugger WR 900

Weight: 1 lb 11.6 oz

Warmth Rating: 15℉ / -9°C

Fill: 900 EX Down

Price: $619

Why we like it: A high-quality, lightweight bag that performs to 15F and doesn’t compromise on features.

Really love the Seamless Down Hugger 900 #1. While this bag is one of the more expensive bags on the list, it is also one of the most quality.

Instead of baffles, Montbell uses their proprietary Spider Baffle System to hold the down in place and preserve the loft of the bag. Stitching is known to create cold spots and let warm air out of the bag; the seamless design solves that and guarantees maximum insulation. The few stitches that remain are slightly elasticized which makes adjusting sleeping positions very easy to do in the middle of the night.

Besides its innovative design, the Down Hugger WR 900 does a great job at repelling water and moisture thanks to its seamless GORE-TEX INFINIUM WINDSTOPPER fabric. It also comes complete with a neck baffle, insulated draft tubes and extremely smooth zippers. It's these little extras that give the Down Hugger an edge over other bags. The mummy head and tapered bottom will ensure you maximize heat efficiency. 

For a cheaper option, check out the Down Hugger 800 (available in half-length).

See on Montbell

NEMO Disco

 NEMO Disco

Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz

Warmth Rating: 15 F / -9°C

Fill: 650 FP Down

Price: $299

Why we like it: Designed with side sleepers in mind. The unique “gills” allow venting in warm weather.

The NEMO Disco is a comfortable 2-season mummy bag with interesting design features. This sleeping was built with extra room at the elbows and knees to provide side-sleepers with more mobility and comfort. The integrated pillow sleeve and the zippered stash pocket are nice additions. The bag also includes a blanket fold that protects your neck and face against cold drafts.

For ventilation, NEMO designed two zippered "gills" in the body of the Disco. In warmer weather, these can be unzipped instead of the main zipper to regulate the temperature inside of the sleeping bag.

The NEMO Disco is available in 15 and 30F temperature ratings and comes with a lifetime warranty.

See on Amazon

SIERRA DESIGNS Backcountry Bed

SIERRA DESIGNS Backcountry Bed

Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz

Warmth Rating: 27°F / -3°C

Fill: 700FP PFC-Free Dridown

Price: $299.95

Why we like it: Designed to perform like a bed at home with an integrated comforter and sleeve to hold a sleeping pad in place.

Coming in a regular and long size, the Backcountry Bed is an award-winning sleeping bag with a contoured shape and a zipperless design for more comfort.

Thermally efficient and lightweight sleeping bag, it has an oversized integrated comforter to give you all the comforts of a snug bed, just like home.

There are insulated hand and arm pockets and a stretch cord closure system to seal out the drafts. The self-sealing foot vents enable fast and easy ventilation. The sleeping pad sleeve will keep your pad where it is meant to be under you, to improve your overall comfort during the night.

See on Amazon

MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Phantom 15

MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Phantom 15

Weight: 2 lbs 1.2 oz

Warmth Rating: 15°F / -9°C

Fill: 850-fill goose down

Price: $580

Why we like it: Excellent compression allows this cozy down-filled bag to pack down small.

The unisex Mountain Hardwear Phantom eliminates cold spots caused by traditional stitching and puts the warmth where you need it most, around your core and your feet.

A mummy-cut sleeping bag with face gasket and anti-snag side zipper, this bag compresses well and maintains an excellent loft. An ergonomic draft collar prevents the escape of warm air from inside the sleeping bag and the comfortable footbox gives you a natural foot position to ensure that you are comfy and toasty. The performance mummy cut does give you a snug fit by reducing girth, weight, and bulk, whilst maximizing thermal efficiency.

It comes in 3 sizes: regular, long, and short and is one of the best lightweight sleeping bags available. If you can afford it, this sleeping bag is an excellent ultralight, compressible and very comfortable option to consider.

For a cheaper (but heavier) alternative, check out Mountain Hardwear's Bishop Pass 15 mummy bag. 

See on REI

ZPACKS 20F Classic Sleeping Bag

ZPACKS 20F Classic Sleeping Bag

Weight: 1 lb 3.3 oz

Warmth Rating: 20ºF / -7ºC

Fill: 900 Goose Down

Price: $409

Why we like it: The lightest bag on our list. Can be used as a quilt or sleeping bag.

An ultralight backpacker's dream, the Zpacks 20F Classic Sleeping Bag weighs just over a pound.

The bag trims weight by discarding the hood providing coverage up to your shoulders. You can pull the bag up over your shoulders in cold weather, but you'll need to supply your hat.

A versatile bag, the Zpacks 20F Classic Sleeping Bag has a 3/4 length zipper that allows you to use the bag as a quilt. In warm weather, you won't need to pack a different sleeping bag as you can unzip the Zpacks 20F Classic Sleeping Bag and drape it over yourself instead of wrapping it around you.

See on Zpacks

THERM-A-REST Hyperion

THERM-A-REST Hyperion

Weight: 1 lbs 4 oz

Warmth Rating: 20ºF / -7ºC

Fill: 900+ Goose Down

Price: $469.95

Why we like it: Ultralight with 900+ hydrophobic down makes this excellent in damp weather.

The Therm-a-rest Hyperion is one of the lightest sleeping bags on our list. It's so light you may not believe it will keep you warm, but it does.

It is filled with 900 fill Nikwax hydrophobic down which is both extermely light and extermely warm. It opens with a half zipper which prevents you from using it as a blanket and has a snug fit. Those with big shoulders may want to buy a size up.

See on REI

Klymit KSB 20 Down

Klymit KSB 20 Down

Weight: 2 lb. 11.2 oz.

Warmth Rating: 20ºF / -7ºC

Fill: 650 White Duck Down

Price: $229.99

Why we like it: Warm, inexpensive, and a comfortable width for those with broad shoulders.

If you want a down sleeping bag, but don't want to spend a ton of money, you may want to look at the Klymit KSB 20. It's not the lightest bag on the market, but it is warm.

It has a comfortable fit with plenty of room for your shoulders. The stretchy baffles allow the bag and its insulation to move with you during the night and evenly distribute the down, preventing hot spots.   

Although only avaiable in one size, the DWR-coated KSB comes with Adjustable Length Locks™ that allow to reduce the sleeping bag length by up to 15 inches and can therefore accommodate people of different heights.

See on Amazon

MARMOT Phase 20

MARMOT Phase 20

Weight: 1 lb. 7.3 oz.

Warmth Rating: 20ºF / -6.67ºC

Fill: 850 Goose Down

Price: $479

Why we like it: An ultralight bag with a roomy mummy cut is perfect for those who toss and turn in their sleep.

The Marmot Phase 20 sleeping bag weighs slightly more than the Therm-a-rest Hyperion, making it an excellent choice for ultralight backpackers. The Phase 20 has a contoured foot box and roomy hood to keep you warm from head to toe. The bag has a mummy cut, but it is not constricting like most mummy bags. It tapers to your feet but is roomy across the shoulders and torso. Our only complaints are the outer fabric that feels delicate and a zipper that occasionally snags.

See on Moosejaw

SEA TO SUMMIT Spark Ultralight

SEA TO SUMMIT Spark Ultralight

Weight: 1 lb 7.5 oz

Warmth Rating: 18°F / -8°C

Fill: 850+ loft Ultra-Dry Down (90/10 European goose down)

Price: $489

Why we like it: DWR-treated nylon and stripped-back features make this a great choice for those prioritizing weight.

With a shell of 10D UL nylon treated with DWR and a soft liner with a high-density weave, this sleeping bag has a transverse baffle construction and a contoured hood with a draw-cord that you can tighten to actually cover most of your head if you want to really keep the heat in. Coming in 3 different weights, it is a no frills, top of the range option if you are looking for weight versus warmth.

It has a one-directional 1/3 length zip with a toggle at the head to allow you to totally cocoon yourself and that is it. This sleeping bag will only give you the essential elements.

Great for ultralight hiking and alpine climbing, it is a compact sleeping bag that will take up little space in your bag once it is put into its compression sack, that you can compress further with the use of 4 toggles.

See on Sea to Summit

KELTY Cosmic 20

KELTY Cosmic 20

Weight: 2 lbs. 6.6 oz

Warmth Rating: 20ºF / -7ºC

Fill: 600 Goose Down

Price: $159 (short) | $169.95 (regular) | $189.95 (long)

Why we like it: Least expensive bag on our list. Good for newcomers or backpackers on a tight budget.

Kelty is known for its affordable gear, and the Cosmic 20 does not disappoint. It's a solid performer with a hood and a collar to help keep you warm.

It zippers almost to the bottom, allowing you to vent some heat in the warmer weather. Our favorite feature is the stash pocket on the outside, which is perfect for a headlamp, a small phone, or your glasses.

See on REI

REI Co-op Igneo 17

 REI Co-op Igneo 17

Weight: 1lb 15 oz

Warmth Rating: 17°F / -8°C

Fill: 700 g Duck Down

Price: $299

Why we like it: The budget-friendly Igneo features water-repelling down and breathable fabric.

Another sleeping bag under the label of REI Co-op is the Igneo 17 mummy sleeping bag with water-repellent down plus breathable fabric panels to create a sleeping bag perfect for wet conditions.

Suitable for 3-season use, it offers superior loft and warmth with a Ripstop nylon shell of DWR finish. With a contoured and slightly angular hood, the headspace is nice and warm - like a less constricting mummy design. Complete with a full-length draft tube to keep you warm.

See on REI


Your Sleeping Bag Requirements

LIGHTWEIGHT: NOTHING OVER 3 LBS

Unless you are doing some alpine backpacking in sub zero temperatures, your bag should be able to provide adequate insulation without tipping the scale.

Sleeping bags are one of the “Big 3” backpacking gear items (tent and backpack being the other two) and are, therefore, one of your biggest opportunities to save weight. Most gear items weigh under a pound meaning different models and brands of that item might only differ by an ounce or two (a headlamp, for example).

Sleeping bag models, on the other hand, can vary by several pounds. AKA - be mindful of this before getting a 5 lb. bag. As you can imagine, high-quality and lightweight sleeping bags are a premium gear item... and the price can reflect this.

klymit ksb 20 sleeping bag
Klymit KSB 20

COMPRESSIBLE: GET RID OF THE BULK

This will vary a lot depending on your warmth and insulation needs. ie - a summer bag will compress smaller than a winter bag. By far, the number one thing that will account for the size of your bag (while packed) is the insulation fill. The fabric and design elements being the second and third. Down and synthetic fillings both have pros and cons (we'll get there in a sec), but down filled sleeping bags pack down to the smallest sizes.

Compression straps and stuff sacks can significantly cut down on the volume your bag occupies in your pack. Ideally, you want it compressed as compact as possible while on the trail.

blue sleeping bag

ADEQUATE WARMTH: BUILD IN THE "20-DEGREE RULE OF COMFORT"

Try to think of the degree ratings as only accurate for survival situations. Example: if you see “Awesome Model 20”, that means you will be able to survive in the sleeping bag if the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Note this survival rating is a much lower threshold than what is actually comfortable to sleep in.

seatosummit spark ultralight sleeping bag
SeatoSummit Spark Ultralight and its stuff sack.

For me, I add about 20 degrees to the manufacturer's claim for a comfortable night's sleep. So, to continue with this same 20-degree bag example, I’d probably only feel comfortable sleeping in it in 40-degree weather (20 + 20 = 40), without an additional liner or warm clothes.

Therefore, keep in mind how cold your nights will be, whether you are a hot or cold sleeper, what clothes you like to sleep in and whether you will be in a tent or not.


TEMPERATURE RATINGS: KNOW HOW THEY'RE RATED 

Temperature ratings on sleeping bags should be considered as a guideline only, as seasonal marked sleeping bags will differ depending on what region or country you are in. Examples: Summer (32° and higher), Winter (10° and lower), and 3-Season (10° to 32°).

hiker unpacking sleeping bag

Look for sleeping bags tested according to EN Standards and marked EN13537, which means the sleeping bag has undergone a "thermal manikin" test (which is a human model designed for scientific testing), not just independently tested by the manufacturer. Think of it as measuring the insulation, like the walls of a house.

hiker using a sleeping bag

The tests are conducted on the basis that a person is using a sleeping pad, is cocooned into a tent and is wearing one layer of thermal underwear.

A "standard" man is aged 25, 1.73 m in height and weighs 73 kg, whilst a "standard" female is aged 25, 1.6 m tall and weighs 60 kg. Keep in mind that a man normally sleeps "hotter" than a female and that everyone is a different shape and size, with different levels of "self" insulation.

klymit ksb 20

There are 4 standard temperature ratings to keep you warm:

  1. Upper Limit—when a male can sleep without sweating, with hood and zippers open and his arms outside of the bag.

  2. Comfort—this is when a female can comfortably sleep in a relaxed position.

  3. Lower Limit—the temperature a male can sleep uninterrupted for 8 hours in a curled position.

  4. Extreme—this is the minimum temperature for a female for 6 hours without the risk of death from hypothermia - albeit a touch of frostbite is still a possibility.

buttons hg burrow econ

Sleeping bags with an EN Standards tag will affect the price of the sleeping bag because the process is expensive. Always bear in mind that no amount of testing will be 100% accurate for you as an individual, as we all feel the cold differently.

You can always take a layer of clothing off or unzip your bag if you get too hot, or simply add another layer of thermals and completely duck inside your sleeping bag if you happen to be on the cold side.


SPACIOUS INTERIOR: NO BOA CONSTRICTORS

After a long day of hiking, I really don’t want to be confined to a tight cocoon in my tent. Many ultralight sleeping bags cut weight by making them narrow. This is a tough balancing act - space versus overall weight and bulk. A snug sleeping bag will be warmer, as it minimizes the air space around your body, but you don't want to feel like you are in a straight jacket.

Spacious sleeping bags give you freedom of movement, which is a dire necessity for restless souls, but they also require more precious body heat to fill.

kelty ultralight sleeping bag

There are 3 key measurements to take into consideration:

  1. Length - opt for the shortest length that will fit your frame (to save weight), but ensure that your feet are comfy without being squished when you have the hood done up, as this will compress the insulation, which is what you don't want. Having a bit of extra room at the bottom of your backpacking sleeping bag gives you the option of having somewhere to stash some clothes and/or your hiking shoes. The regular male sleeping bags come in 2 standard lengths - up to 6ft and up to 6ft 6in. Female sleeping bags are usually up to 5ft 4ins and 5ft 10ins. When in doubt, get the extra length.

  2. Shoulder girth - most of the male sleeping bags have a shoulder width of between 60 and 64 inches with narrow ones coming in at 58 inches. Female ones are slightly narrower ranging from 56 to 60 inches. An inch can make a huge difference on the snug level. The best way to determine the size you need is to test-drive a few different sized sleeping bags.

  3. Hip measurement - most men's sleeping bag will measure in around 58 inches, whilst the women's tend to be a bit higher around 60 inches. Again, take a couple of sleeping bags for a test-drive.

klymit ksb 20 and rei tent

ZIPPERS: EASY ENTRY AND EXIT

You will get in and out of your sleeping bag a lot, potentially several times at night. Think for a second about where you typically sleep at night on the trail… in a small tent, possibly next to your partner, in the dark. Fumbling around with a snaggy zipper is the last thing you want.

Long-length zippers, preferably opening on both sides so you can utilize both hands to read your Kindle book or a map of the next day's hike, are the best to go for. They also offer more flexibility for ventilation. But, some sleeping bags have short zipper lengths to cut down on weight. If having your body fixed and constricted all the time doesn't bother you, then a short zipper could be an ultralight option. 

storing a sleeping bag

Steer clear of metal zippers, as you need a zipper to be durable and reliable without the weight. Nylon and plastic zippers are the best for their quality, length, and ability to adapt to various weather conditions, while slider zippers have special characteristics.

  • Nylon (coil) zippers have teeth made of coiled monofilament giving them super horizontal strength, which allows them to be longer than an average zipper. They are lightweight, fire-resistant, with great durability, and are easy to repair.
  • Plastic zippers (aka vislon) are commonly used in military equipment. The teeth of a vislon zipper are made out of a specific type of plastic that is molded onto a zipper tape giving it durability as well as making it waterproof.
  • Slider zippers have the popular features of "double pulls" and a "non-locking" function enabling sleeping bags to be opened from both inside and outside, also giving quick and easy access to get in or out of the sleeping bags.

More and more of the best ultralight sleeping bags are going zipperless - after all, they are a breeze to open and close. Zippers can add weight and have the potential to wear out over time. If you do get one with a zipper, make sure it has a draft tube. This is a mini insulated flap to cover the, otherwise, exposed zipper seam.

zipper of hg burrow econ

Things to Consider

FILL: DOWN VS SYNTHETIC INSULATION

down vs synthetic table

Down feathers are lighter, warmer, and pack smaller than synthetic insulation options. Down has an Achilles heel though - it loses loft and insulation ability when it gets wet. Losing insulation is a scary thought for winter backpacking. Down is more durable than synthetic fillings, but super expensive.

sleeping bag zippers
Double (two-way) zippers for flexible opening

Most down-filled sleeping bags have been treated with durable water repellent (DWR) in the factory process, which is fluoropolymer based and named "hydrophobic" down. This prevents the down filling from becoming a soggy mass with no ability to retain heat.

It is also known as "dry down". This treatment makes it water-resistant not waterproof, so don't expose your sleeping bag to a torrential thunderstorm or drop it into a stream. DWR will wear off over time and will require reapplying.

ff flicker ul

A synthetic insulated backpacking sleeping bag dries faster than down, it is non-allergenic and is less expensive to buy. On the minus side, the synthetic filling will give you less warmth for its weight, it is bulkier to carry and each time you compress it, the insulating power is reduced.

Technology has taken over from the old polyester fill for sleeping bags of the synthetic ilk and today there are 4 common primary fillers other than down.

sleeping bags overlooking mountains

Popular synthetic options on the market include:

  1. PolarGuard and 3D PolarGuard Delta—PolarGuard was the original version with 3D PolarGuard Delta the perfected product that will give the same insulation ability, but with reduced bulkiness and weight. Commonly used in high-quality three-season sleeping bags, it is easy to take care of; when wet, it will not lose its insulation properties and you can wash it in cold water in a washing machine.

  2. Quallofil—on the heavy and bulky side, you won't see it in the lightweight or high-end-priced sleeping bags.

  3. Hollofil & Hollofil II—only used in bargain basement sleeping bags as it lacks insulating ability, is heavy, and quite bulky.

  4. Thermolite—another cheapie sleeping bag filling with no insulation to keep you warm.

I keep my sleeping bag well protected in a waterproof stuff sack, inside a waterproof pack-lined backpack, and I have never had a truly wet sleeping bag. If you can afford it and will keep it protected, I vote to go for down insulation along with protective storage.

hg burrow econ

FILL POWER: THE HIGHER THE NUMBER, THE GREATER THE INSULATION

‘Fill-power’ is a measurement of the density of down fill and accounts for the overall warmth-to-weight ratio. This typically ranges from 600 to 950. The higher the number, the more ‘quality’ the feather insulation is. It is calculated on how many cubic inches 1 ounce of down can fill a testing device. And, of course, the higher the fill of power down, the more expensive it is.

hikers cowboy camping in down sleeping bags
Pair your sleeping bag with a sleeping bag for warmth from both top and bottom.

Generally, an 850 fill power or higher is in the top quality bracket with warmth-to-weight ratio. Keep in mind that a 700-fill-power down sleeping bag rated +20°F will be lighter than a 600-fill-power down bag rated +20°F. A 3-season sleeping bag normally has a rating of at least 600, but if you are planning on being in sub-zero weather you should be considering 900 to 1000-fill-power.

down fill for sleeping bags

VERSATILITY: 3-SEASON VS. 4-SEASON SLEEPING BAGS 

Should you buy 2 sleeping bags? One for the warmer months and one for the winter? If money is no issue, by all means, feel free to splurge. For the rest of us though, I think two is totally unnecessary. When in doubt, err on the warm side and get a full-on winter bag.

A winter bag can be compatible in summer but a summer bag just won’t cut it in winter. If the thick winter sleeping bag is too hot on summer nights, unzip it or just sleep on top of it in your bag liner.

ff-flicker-ul

MUMMY VS QUILT: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES? 

Mummy bags are the traditional cocoon-like sleeping bags with an added head wrap that will only leave your smiling face exposed. Because of the additional head coverage, mummy bags can be warmer, but they can be constricting and don’t allow for a wide range of sleeping positions. They are often secured with drawcords or zippers.

backpacker sleeping in tent with sleeping bag
Most sleeping bags and quilts will be wider at the shoulders.

Quilts are like big insulated blankets. Some are completely rectangular and have no zippers at all. Others are sort of a half-breed, with a foot box to tuck your feet into and some straps or clips to close the open wall of the blanket. Quilts generally allow more movement. They also provide a lot of flexibility if you want to just have half of the bag on your body on a warmer night.

Also see: 11 Best Backpacking Quilts for Hiking

phantom sleeping bag
Mummy bag front (left) vs. backpacking quilt back (right)


HOOD:
A NICE TO HAVE

A hood covers your head and cinches tightly, leaving only your face exposed. It traps your body heat inside the bag, helping to keep you warm. Hoods are cozy when you sleep on your back, but can get in your way when you turn to the side or sleep on your stomach. I'm a side sleeper and on more than occasion, I've woken up in a panic with my head buried deep inside the hood. . 


PAD LOOPS AND SLEEVES:
 MORE COMMON WITH QUILTS

Connecting your sleeping bag to your sleeping pad, the pad loops are sewn-in straps whereby you can secure your sleeping bag and prevent it from slipping off the pad. A pad sleeve is used as an insulated sleeping pad when the design of a lightweight sleeping bag has eliminated the bottom insulation to reduce overall pack weight, making it compress smaller than a conventional sleeping bag.

klymit ksb 20

DRAFT COLLAR: EXTRA INSULATION AROUND THE FACE AND NECK 

A draft collar is also known as face mufflers, a head gasket or neck baffles and it is the insulated collar around the hood of a sleeping bag to guard against cold weather. It is referring to the insulated baffles in the sleeping bag that sit around your head and neck to prevent heat from escaping or the cold leeching in.

The drawcords are differentiated, so that you can feel in the dark which one does what - loosens or tightens your hood.


Tips to Sleeping Warm and Cozy

  • Choose the right sleeping pad: A good sleeping pad not only provides an extra layer of cushioning, but also insulates from the cold ground. The ability to insulate you is measured in the R-value of the sleeping pad. The higher the R-value, the warmer it is.
  • Remember to bring thicker ‘camp socks’ that you don’t use for hiking. It feels great to take your dirty socks off each night and swap them for a clean and comfy pair. Not only does it feel good, but it also will keep your feet warm and dry all night long.
  • Consider purchasing a sleeping bag liner. It adds some warmth and helps keep the inside of the bag clean as well.
  • Pack hand warmers to generate additional heat inside your bag. Alternatively, you can use a water bottle filled with warm water (or other things!). Just make sure the water bottle does not leak ;)
  • Make sure your tent’s rain fly is secured closely to the ground. This will prevent a cold draft from making its way into your tent and helps retain as much body heat as possible.
no baffle design sleeping bag

Sleeping Bag Storage and Care

How to Store Sleeping Bags: Do NOT keep your sleeping bag stored at home compressed in the stuff sack. Over time, this can significantly decrease the loft of the fill and turn your sleeping bag into a flat blanket. Less loft = less insulation. Most bags come with a storage sack. They are often mesh and large, about the size of a garbage bag. The whole idea is to keep your sleeping bag in a fluffy state as much as possible, only compressing it down when on the trail.

Hang it in a closet or use the large mesh sack that came with the bag. When you return home from your trip, don't store the sleeping bag if it is wet. A wet bag may develop mold which is impossible to remove. You should air-dry your bag until it is completely dry.

how to store your sleeping bag

If it gets dirty, spot clean it with warm water if possible and let it air dry. If you have to throw it into the washing machine, carefully wash it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid using household detergents as they damage the down or the hydrophobic coating. Choose cleansers, like those from Nikwax that will clean without causing any damage to the insulation.

how to store a sleeping bag
How to store your sleeping bag

How to Wash Sleeping Bags: Washing a sleeping bag at home may seem daunting but actually, it's an easy process. Synthetic bags can be washed with mild non-detergent soap in a delicate setting. Run an extra rinse cycle to get all the soap out to prevent the bag from matting up.

Down bags are slightly trickier. Use a specifically formulated soap, like Nikwax Down Wash that won’t strip out oils. Along with an extra rinse cycle, we recommend pre-rinsing your washing machine to remove old detergent residues. Dry with a few tennis balls to help the down loft properly. 

Before washing, repair any tears or holes, loosen drawstrings, close zippers, and velcro, and turn the bag inside out. Also, be sure to read the manufacturer's washing instructions. Below is a quick step-by-step guide. If you want to learn more, read our full-length article on washing sleeping bags.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Clean the washing machine to remove any detergent residue.
  2. Put your sleeping bag in the washer.
  3. Add the appropriate laundry detergent according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Wash on a delicate cycle. Set the temperature to the setting recommended on the product tag.
  5. Run an extra rinse cycle to get all the detergent out.
  6. Dry on low/no heat dryer setting or hang-dry for 48 hours. If you have a down bag, dry it with a few tennis balls to stop the down from clumping
how to wash sleeping bag

FAQs

How long do sleeping bags last?

Sleeping bags last for a long time if you treat your bag with care (10 or 15 years isn't uncommon). Below are a few tips to increase the lifespan of your sleeping bag.

At home:

  • Store your bag in a dry place. Humid environments, like basements, are prone to mold and mildew growth. Both are a bag for your bag’s lifespan.
  • Store uncompressed. Most bags come with a storage bag. Use it. This allows your bag to breathe and keeps it lofted.
  • Wash when dirty or losing loft. Keeping your bag clean increases both performance and longevity.


On the trail:

  • Sleep in clean clothes to avoid sweat, dirt, and oil from your body getting on the bag.
  • Use a sleeping bag liner. A liner is more easily washed and prevents from contacting the sleeping bag's fabric. Bonus: it also adds warmth.
  • Air out daily. Keeping the fill dry increases the lifespan and allows it to loft better at night.
  • Treat it gently. Be delicate with zippers and avoid abrasion with the ground. It may look cool on Instagram, but don’t use your bag around a campfire where it can get burnt.
hg burrow econ

What are sleeping bags made of?

Sleeping bags are made of synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester and down. There are two main components to a sleeping bag: the outer shell and the fill. The outer shell is made from a synthetic fabric, like nylon or polyester. This fabric is almost always treated with a DWR coating to provide an extra level of water resistance. 

The fill is made of synthetic or down. Synthetic is cheaper, non-allergenic, and better at repelling water. But it's heavier and compresses less. Down fill is more durable, warmer per ounce, and packs down smaller than synthetic. The biggest drawback is the loss of loft when it gets wet. To counter this down fill also often is treated with a DWR.

sleeping bag

How to zip two sleeping bags together?

  • Step 1: Unzip the sleeping bags.
  • Step 2: Line up the zippers on the foot box end.
  • Step 3: Zip the bottom side first, then the top.

Chances are if you have sleeping bags with matching zippers, they can zip together. Better yet, some models are designed to be zipped together. If your sleeping bags have hoods they need to have a right and a left zip so the hoods both face the ground when connected.

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Is it possible to over-compress a down sleeping bag?

It's not possible to over-compress a down sleeping bag as long as you take steps probably store your bag properly at home. Using your bag every night on the trail gives it a chance to loft often enough. But leaving it compressed in a closet all winter long will damage it. The most important thing to remember is to always store your bag uncompressed in a breathable sack when not on the trail.


Do sleeping bag degree ratings account for the clothes you may be wearing?

Sleeping bags rated with EN standards account for the sleeping bag plus one layer of thermal underwear. It’s important to know what type of rating the tag is describing. If it’s rated for “lower limit” this is the temperature a male can sleep uninterrupted for 8 hours in a curled position.

“Comfort” is the temperature a female can comfortably sleep in a relaxed position. Less commonly used are “upper limit”, the temperature a male can sleep without sweating, and “extreme” the minimum temperature a female can survive for 6 hours in.

compact sleeping bag montbell
Packed 20 degree down sleeping bag

How does dead space affect warmth in a sleeping bag?

Having some dead space is important for keeping warm at night. Your body heats a layer of air between you and your bag. The loft of your bag traps this air and provides insulation to keep it warm. Too little dead space and you risk compressing the loft of the bag when wrapping it around yourself. Too much dead space and your body has to do extra work to heat up the space.

If you're on the fence, err on the side of being too big. You can always stuff an extra piece of clothing in your bag if there is too much dead space.

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Should I get two sleeping bags (one for summer and one for winter)?

Having two specifically tailored sleeping bags is a good idea if you plan on camping in extreme conditions on either end of the spectrum, like warm desert camping and frigid polar expeditions.

If your needs are less extreme, sleeping bag liners can be a good solution. Liners fit inside your sleeping bag and add 5 to 25 degrees to the temperature rating. A popular solution is to buy a three-season bag, those rated between 10F to 32F, and add a liner for winter camping. Three-season bags are a good compromise for use in summer conditions and are warm enough that adding a liner allows them to be used in moderate winter conditions.

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How are sleeping bags rated?

Sleeping bags are rated starting from season 1 for summer, up to 5 for extreme cold temperatures.

  • Season 1 - For summer when temperatures are 5°C/41°F or above.
  • Season 2 - For spring/summer when temperatures are between 0°C/32°F to 5°C/41°F
  • Season 3 - When temperatures between 0°C/32° to -5°C/23°F
  • Season 4 - For winter when temperatures are as low as -10°C/14°F
  • Season 5 - When temperatures are extremely low as -40°C/F


Some photos in this post were taken by Ross Enlow (@rossaenlow) and Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)

Justin Sprecher photo

About Justin Sprecher

By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller.

He's thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, LASHed the Great Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, and sectioned hiked large parts of the Continental Divide Trail, amongst others.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Stoveless Backpacking Meals
  • 650-Calorie Fuel
  • No Cooking
  • No Cleaning