Choosing a quality sleeping bag is an investment in your comfort. The correct choice can make the difference between an enjoyable camping trip, or lying awake either shivering or sweating, and wishing you were back at home in your real bed.
The best sleeping bag is the one most appropriate for the weather conditions, your preferred sleeping temperature, sleeping position, body weight and whether you prefer to sleep alone or with your partner. This means there are a lot of ‘best sleeping bags’ in different classes depending on where you might need them.
We give you this line-up of what are considered the four best sleeping bags in their various classes from cold weather to warmer weather, but before we jump into the best, let’s just discuss what to look for in a sleeping bag.
How to Choose a Sleeping Bag
Rating for Warmth
Rating is probably most important especially if you plan on camping or hiking in colder parts of the country. Testing methods for the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 23537 – 1:2016 replace previous ratings.
This test is used for labelling adult-sized sleeping bags for both sport and leisure activities. However having said that we know that some people sleep colder or warmer – women tend to feel the cold more than men, your body weight matters too – thinner people need a warmer bag.
It also depends on how you like to sleep – wearing plenty of clothes with a sleeping pad underneath and a sleeping bag liner – or travelling light with just the sleeping bag.
The loft rating for a sleeping bag is calculated according to how much is expands after being compressed. One ounce of compressed fill is tested for expansion under laboratory conditions – the higher the figure the better the insulation.
So a loft rating of 900 is better than one of 600 because it’s the spaces between the fibers or down that trap the heat, and keep you warm.
Shape of Bag
The mummy-type bags allow for body heat to be trapped and warm up faster than the square type sleeping bags that have plenty of foot room.
Some people dislike having their feet enclosed in the foot locker of the mummy type bags, so will opt for a bag with more space, however for extreme temperatures, you’ll find the mummy type bag is the best for keeping warm like the Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree.
For those couples who like to sleep together, the Teton Sports Mammoth double bag has all the space you need, while designed to keep its occupants warm.
Down or Synthetic Fiber
Real down, although more expensive, is a top choice for experienced hikers as it does keep you warmer, although many synthetic fibers are catching up. The only drawback to down is that should it get wet it takes longer to dry out, however there are coatings now applied to the down that assist in repelling water.
Down can be compressed into a smaller space than synthetic fills, making it ideal for hiking and will expand back to provide a soft comfortable place to sleep. Our overall best bag for a reasonable price is the Kelty Tuck which has a synthetic filling, but if you want real down, the Western Mountaineering Caribou is a very good bag.
Some of the pricier bags are constructed from top quality material that make them less susceptible to stains like the odd grease spills if you eat while in your sleeping bag.
Others have harder wearing fabrics – we all know the hardships that sleeping bags can face when you bundle up in one near the fire – snags from logs, flying embers from the fire, and the risk of being ripped when being packed into a vehicle.
Top quality bags will be treated with a fire retardant and fabric protector, and be made from strong rip proof material. You have to weigh up the weight factor though – the sturdier the material the more weight it will add to your backpack.
This is a major factor. For someone using a sleeping bag only a few times a year, it may not be practical to spend $600 to $700 on top-of-the-range sleeping bags from well known brands.
However, having said that, your sleeping bag is where you will spend one third of your time on your camping trip and you cannot afford to spend time being uncomfortable in a bag that does not do what it is supposed to.
The Top 4 Sleeping Bags You Should Get
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Best Overall Sleeping Bag: The Kelty Tuck
|✅ Thermapro insulation||❌ Needs a sleeping mat below it to keep it warm enough.|
|✅ Reasonable price||❌ A bit heavy for carrying in a backpack.|
|✅ Internal storage pocket for phones and small valuables||❌|
Rating: 22 degrees F
On camping trips you need a portable warm sleeping bag as the weather gets cooler the higher you go. Now, sleeping bag ratings will not suit everyone – some people sleep hot, and others cold.
The Kelty Tuck should be comfortably warm at down to 35 – 40 degrees F (1 – 5 C), as long as you have an air mattress, sleeping mat or some sort of under-quilt between the bag and the ground, despite its 22-degree F rating.
This bag has thermapro insulation, that allows retention of body heat without being too bulky. The synthetic filling is sewn to the polyester liner to create a quilt effect with an indulgent feel.
The bag is durable enough for sitting around the campfire on cooler evenings yet can squish down into its stuff sack quite conveniently. It weighs in at 2lbs 8oz, and takes up just 12 x 7”.
When the wind chill drops the temp, then the hood comes into play – draw it over your head and fasten for warmth. The zipper draft tubes keep you snug and are designed for ease of operation. Phones and their accessories can be stored in the internal media storage pocket.
A popular feature is the cross zipper that allows a person to stick their feet out of the footbox if they are getting a bit warm. And for people well over 6-foot-tall it comes in a long version too.
This bag is good quality and a reasonable price – comparable bags are much more expensive, but the con is that it’s a bit heavy for carrying on long hikes. Take it along in the vehicle for your camping set up. Get the Kelty Tuck Mummy Sleeping Bag here.
For Cooler Weather: The Teton Sports Mammoth Bag
|✅ Comfy||❌ Difficult to get into stuff bag|
|✅ Zips on both sides – easy in and out for both partners|
|✅ Baffles to keep the head warm|
|✅ Extra length means pillows stay put|
RATING: Fahrenheit Mammoth +20 degrees F, Mammoth 0 degrees F
This is a double one that allows a couple to sleep together comfortably. The Fahrenheit Mammoth variation has a cotton flannel lining which is thick and soft making for a comfortable sleep.
The difference between the Mammoth and the Fahrenheit Mammoth lies in the lining – the Mammoth has a polyester lining that has more of a smooth touch rather than the fuzzier feel of the Fahrenheit’s flannel lining.
The bag zips down on both sides, allowing easy access and also unzips along the bottom. Padding inside along the zips means you don’t feel a cold zipper on your skin.
The extra length on the bag means your pillows fit in and don’t slide off in the night, also the baffles around the head space can be tightened. For couples, sliding down one zip so the person who sleeps ‘hot’ can cool off, helps avoid arguments when one partner is too warm.
The only thing against this bag is the stuff bag it comes in – people battle to get it back in. The advice is to avoid the hassle, and buy a bigger mesh bag to stuff it into – those for soccer or volleyballs work well, or if you are handy, make yourself a cotton bag.
The manufacturer says you don’t roll the bag and try fit it in, but must stuff it in – whichever way, most people seem to battle.
The Mammoth comes with handy hang loops for long term storage – remember the stuff bag is just for the trip. To maintain the loft, you need to hang the bag when it’s not in use. Get the Mammoth Bag here.
For Cold Weather: Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
|✅ Waterproof due to DriDown treatment||❌ Cinching the hood may be a little testing|
|✅ Affordable at under $200||❌ Zipper can be a little tricky|
|✅ Comfy and warm||❌|
Rating: 0 F / -18 C, EN Rating 4 F / -16 C
We chose this bag because it does what it is supposed to do and the price is affordable compared to the sleeping bags in the cold weather category that cost over $600.
While it may not have all the added features of some of the pricier bags this one is designed to keep its occupant warm and dry through the hydrophobic finish applied to the 550 fill DriDown used– allowing for you to stay dry and for the bag to maintain a better loft.
It has a dual sliding locking zipper and the mummy shape allows for best heat retention with its full draft collar and the thermal comfort hood. The bag comes in two sizes 6” and 6’ 6”. Get it here.
For Warmer Weather: Western Mountaineering Caribou
|✅ Warm despite its light weight||❌ Half-length zipper|
|✅ Highly compressible||❌|
Rating: 35 degrees F / 2 degrees C
This mummy style sleeping bag is pretty light weight at just 1lb 5 oz for the regular size that sleeps a person up to 6 foot. The construction is high quality and features a sewn-through design giving it great compressibility for traveling in a back pack.
When in its stuff sack. it takes up just 5.5 liters. The WM Caribou sleeping bag regains its loft enabling the user to sleep really comfortably in weather into the mid 30 degrees F range. If you are wanting to travel ultra-light but still have the comfort of a full sleeping bag then this is the answer. Get it here.
Overall, it’s a sleeping bag’s performance that counts, not the price tag or the brand. While some expensive bags have added features, one has to weigh up if they are worth it in the long run. Work out how often you camp and how long you intend keeping the bag, before purchasing.
Also it makes sense to try out the bag before going on a camping trip to make sure you can operate the zips comfortably, that the foot box is not too constraining and, most importantly, discover what clothes you need to wear to sleep comfortably at a certain temperature and whether you need a sleeping pad and liner.
Having to crawl out in the night to find more clothing items defeats the whole object of camping snug.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.
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