10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2024

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
Looking out the doorway of a backpacking tent over the foot of a sleeping bag with a river and mountains in the background
Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

If you’ve ever spent a night in the backcountry shivering uncontrollably, teeth chattering, just waiting for the sun to come up, then you know exactly how important carrying a high-quality sleeping bag is. Well, fear not! We’re here to help make sure you’re snuggled up cozy in your toasty warm sleep sack and never have to experience a night like that. 

We’ve collectively spent over 1,000 nights in the backcountry testing the best sleeping bags on the market. From frigid evenings at high altitude to hot nights in the Sonoran Desert – we’ve encountered it all. Our expertise comes from hands-on experience, and we’ll guide you to the best sleeping bag option for you in our reviews below.

There’s more to a great backcountry sleep system than just a bag – a well-insulated sleeping pad is just as important. Hikers looking to keep pack weight down will also love our top backpacking quilts. Whichever direction you go, we recommend adding a lightweight backpacking pillow to your setup for maximum comfort.

Quick Picks for Sleeping Bags

Check out this quick list of our favorite sleeping bags, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best sleeping bag overall: Feathered Friends Swallow YF 20 Men’s ($529) & Egret YF 20 Women’s ($489)

Exceptionally high-quality & warm: Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 ($620)

Warm sleeping bag with inclusive sizing: REI Magma 15 ($429) & REI Magma 30 ($379)

Best backpacking quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt 20 ($345)

Best budget sleeping bag: Kelty Cosmic Ultra 20 Men’s ($220) & Women’s ($260)

Best ultralight sleeping bag: Sea to Summit Spark 18 Men’s ($509) & Flame 15 Women’s ($589)

Extra wide and comfy sleeping bag: NEMO Disco 15 Men’s ($320) & Women’s ($320)

Best synthetic sleeping bag: Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20 Men’s ($169) & Women’s ($169)

Best winter sleeping bag: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 ($680)

What’s new

A ton of new sleeping bags have come out to kick off the 2024 backpacking season so we’ve added some new picks and updated our old favorites:

Feathered Friends Swallow YF 20 / Egret YF 20

Best sleeping bag overall

Price: $529 / $509

Comfort Rating: N/A

Weight: 1 lb. 12.7 oz. / 1 lb. 13 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 900+ / 16.8oz., 900+ / 17.3oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight for a mummy bag
  • Highly packable
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Large hood can accommodate a pillow
  • Snag-free zipper
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Expensive

The Feathered Friends Swallow YF 20 and women’s Egret YF 20 are some of the highest quality down bags on the market. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, has used the Egret YF in some truly frigid conditions – including a string of 20-degree nights in Utah, a winter campout in Nevada’s Sheep Mountain Range, and a late-season hike on Broken Top Mountain in Oregon with snow on the ground. 

These models are very light, feel soft against the skin, and are filled with responsibly sourced 900+ fill-power goose down – which is about as nice as down comes. This is one of the few instances where we would actually trust a 20-degree bag to keep us warm when the temperature drops to 20 degrees (Feathered Friends doesn’t list EN temperature ratings, but we’ve found their ratings to be more conservative than most of the competition). 

One of the biggest features that makes them so toasty is the very generous draft tube – a down-filled tube that blocks cool air from entering through the zipper. Many premium sleeping bags include a draft tube, but the one on the Swallow and Egret is beefier than others and really locks in the warmth. Other warmth-preserving features include a draft collar around the neck and hood and a fitted but comfortable cut that eliminates dead space inside the bags.

Certainly the high price is one of the first things you’ll notice about the Swallow YF and Egret YF, but we can assure you they’re worth every penny if you’ll use them often. Ounce-counting hikers might even prefer the Swallow UL and Egret UL which cost a bit more but provide the same reliable warmth as their YF counterparts at an even lower weight. Quality like this definitely doesn’t come cheap, but a warm night’s sleep in the backcountry when temperatures drop is priceless.

Stock photo of the Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 sleeping bag with a white background

Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20

Exceptionally high-quality & warm sleeping bag

Price: $620

Comfort Rating: 25°F

Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850+ / 16 oz.

Pros

  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Ultralight for a mummy bag
  • Very warm
  • Generous down collar & draft tube block chill well
  • No-snag zipper

Cons

  • Expensive
  • A bit narrower than some

The Western Moutaineering UltraLite is the star of a lineup full of high-quality construction. This bag is consistently named as a top pick among thru-hikers who need solid gear that can be put through the wringer. 

Every detail on the UltraLite is dialed in – it has a no-snag zipper, a 360° draft collar, and a full-length draft tube that all come together to give it one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios available. As we mentioned is the case with the Feathered Friends Swallow and Egret above, Western Mountaineering temperature-rates its bags more realistically. Many bag makers name their bags with the EN lower limit – the temperature at which the average warm sleeper can sleep for eight hours without waking (not necessarily comfortably). Western Mountaineering uses a more conservative number between the EN Lower Limit and EN Comfort Rating of their bags to better reflect the temperature that most users will find more comfortable.

To put it simply, most users will find the UltraLite to be comfortable enough for a good night’s rest all the way down to 20°F. During her fall thru-hike of the Arizona Trail, Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley (female, warm sleeper), even experienced a couple of evenings that dipped into the teens and she stayed warm and comfortable in the UltraLite.

The UltraLite comes with a sizable price tag, but it will last for decades if treated well. We’ve trusted ours to keep us warm on tons of trips in the backcountry, and we expect it to remain a staple in our packs for years to come. 

Though the UltraLite is our favorite Western Mountaineering sleeping bag in terms of warmth-to-weight and comfort, some members of the CleverHiker team find it a bit narrow. If you don’t mind carrying a couple of extra ounces in favor of a roomier bag, you’ll probably love the AlpinLite 20 which is just a wider UltraLite. Cold sleepers who need some extra insulation should also give the VersaLite 10 a look. This bag sits right in between the UltraLite and AlpinLite as far as width since the design is optimized for the best balance of comfort and warmth.

Stock photo of the REI Magma 15 Sleeping Bag with a white background

REI Magma 15 & 30

Warm sleeping bag with inclusive sizing

Price: $429 / $379

Comfort Rating: 21°F / 34°F

Weight: 2 lb 3.6 oz / 1 lb 8.4 oz

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850 / 23.3 oz., 850 / 12.7 oz.

Pros

  • Large variety of size options
  • Generous draft collar blocks chill well
  • No upcharge for long/wide sizes
  • Good price for the warmth
  • Stash pocket
  • No snag zipper

Cons

  • Less spacious in the hood and leg than some

The REI Magma 15 and Magma 30 have the most extensive size-run we’ve seen offered for sleeping bags, and we’re really excited about the move to provide inclusive sizing. These unisex bags are warmer than their predecessors and have a refined fit that is comfortable for a wide variety of body shapes.

The Magma 15 is designed to keep both warm and cold sleepers toasty when temperatures dip. It’s comfort-rated to 21°F (as opposed to the 28°F comfort rating of the previous unisex version). A sleeping bag’s EN/ISO Comfort Rating is the temperature at which most cold sleepers will remain comfortable, so those who have a hard time staying warm should be cozy in this bag well below freezing. Warm sleepers can certainly take the Magma 15 into the teens (provided you’re using a well-insulated sleeping pad), so it’s a great winter bag for all.

The Magma 30 is now comfort-rated at 34°F – the previous unisex model was rated at 39°F – so it’s a bit more versatile than the past iteration. The average cold sleeper can expect to stay reasonably warm right down to freezing, and a warm sleeper should remain cozy even as temperatures approach 25°F. 

Part of what makes the Magma bags so warm is their trimmed-down design. The true mummy shape is highly efficient because it eliminates the dead space your body would otherwise have to warm up. Though there’s still some room to move in the Magma bags, the leg girth is a bit narrower than many similar models. Some hikers may find the space a bit tight, but there are wide models available for each length option (short, medium, long) for those who need a little more wiggle room.

The 850-fp down is highly compressible for efficient packing, though the down overstuff – meant to keep cold sleepers warm – makes these bags a bit bulkier than their predecessors. However, both the Magma 15 and the Magma 30 are fairly light for their temperature ratings.

Both versions of the Magma regularly find their way into our backpacks depending on the season, but which temperature rating should you choose? If you’re a cold sleeper or you’re looking for a sleeping bag that’ll excel on high alpine and winter adventures, the Magma 15 is an excellent choice. Warm sleepers and those who do most of their backpacking in summer and shoulder seasons will be better off with the lighter-weight Magma 30.

Full Review: REI Magma 15 & 30

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt 20

Best backpacking quilt overall

Price: $345

Comfort Rating: N/A

Weight: 1 lb. 6.3 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850 / 16.1 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Versatile
  • Affordable for the quality
  • Stock & customizable options available
  • Highly packable
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Not warm enough for sub-freezing trips
  • Long lead time for custom orders

The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is the sleep system we reach for most often when we want the benefits of an ultralight quilt over a more robust sleeping bag. Its versatile design has been a game changer on our backcountry trips – it can be cinched up tight for cold nights or opened up fully like a blanket when it’s warm out. 

CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins, has been using the Revelation as his go-to sleep sack for nearly a decade. He’s carried this quilt for over 100 nights and well over a thousand trail miles of epic adventures, such as his Wonderland Trail thru-hike and traverse through Bryce Canyon. He has a 20-degree Revelation which he loves for trips where temperatures stay above freezing and a 10-degree Revelation he packs when he expects the weather to dip into the 20s.

The excellent craftsmanship of the Revelation makes it a popular choice for thru-hikers wanting to keep weight low without sacrificing durability. As we mentioned earlier, we’ve been using ours for years and it’s still one of the best investments we’ve made in our backpacking setup.

Those wanting to save even more weight should also give the EE Enigma a look – it features a sewn footbox that makes it more heat-efficient. Several members of the CleverHiker team prefer the Revelation for its versatility, but Managing Editor – Ben Applebaum-Bauch – favors the Enigma. He used it for his CDT thru-hike, and it’s the quilt you’ll catch him rocking most of the time. Both options are great, but colder sleepers will likely benefit more from the boost in warmth provided by the Enigma.

It’s important to keep in mind that quilts don’t have a back or a hood and generally aren’t as warm as sleeping bags. Think about the conditions you typically backpack in before deciding to go with a quilt if you’ve never tried one before. If you mostly backpack in warmer summer months, the Revelation could be an excellent choice. You can always boost your warmth in the backcountry with a warm hat, puffy jacket, and an insulated sleeping pad, so quilts are still useful beyond the summer months if you pack some supplemental warmth for chilly nights.  

If you don’t need your quilt right away, you can choose to custom order your Revelation with your desired color, size, and temperature rating. We bumped up a size in length and width for full coverage on chilly nights – this brought the total weight of our Revelation up to about a pound and a half. The 20°F model keeps us warm to right around freezing or just a little below, which is some pretty impressive warmth for that weight.

If you’re curious about how the Revelation compares to our other favorite quilts, check out our list of the Best Backpacking Quilts where it ranks number one.

Full Review: Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Stock photo of the Kelty Cosmic Ultra 20 sleeping bag with a white background

Kelty Cosmic Ultra 20 & Women’s Cosmic Ultra 20

Best budget sleeping bag

Price: $220 / $260

Comfort Rating: 31°F / 25°F

Weight: 2 lb. 5.6 oz. / 2 lb. 14 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 800 / 15.2 oz.

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Above-average durability
  • Stash pocket
  • Draft collar & draft tube block chill well

Cons

  • Heavier/bulkier than others
  • Zipper can snag

The Kelty Cosmic Ultra 20 (men’s / women’s) is a fresh take on the crowd-favorite budget buy – the Kelty Cosmic Down 20. The Cosmic Ultra is still the best deal on the down sleeping bag market, and it comes with some significant upgrades.

Most notably, the new Cosmic Ultra features 800-fp Dridown while the more car camping oriented Cosmic Down 20 model is stuffed with 550-fp down. As a result, the Cosmic Ultra is noticeably lighter and more packable than its predecessor. Dridown is treated with a water-resistant coating to make it less likely to soak through in wet conditions, and it dries quickly if your bag does get wet.

Though the Cosmic Ultra is still among the heaviest and bulkiest sleeping bags on our list, you won’t find a better down sleeping bag at a better price. If you’re concerned about weight but really need to stay within a specific budget, we recommend investing in a lightweight sleeping pad to make up the difference as that will still cost less than many ultralight sleeping bags alone.

To make this sweet deal even more attractive, the Cosmic Ultra is more durable than many other bags thanks to its thicker shell fabric. The outer is made with 20-denier nylon as opposed to the more common 10 or 15-denier shells used to construct the majority of the bags on this list.

Usually, you get what you pay for, but we think the Cosmic Ultra is a steal at this price. Kelty includes premium features – like a stash pocket, draft collar, and draft tube – and this plush bag is plenty warm for temperatures down to freezing. 

The wallet-friendly Cosmic Ultra is perfect for anyone who wants a high-quality, but more budget-friendly down bag.

Stock photo of the REI Magma 30 Quilt with a white background

REI Magma Trail Quilt 30

Ridiculously light quilt at a great price

Price: $329

Comfort Rating: N/A

Weight: 1 lb. 4.3 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850 / 11.6 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Well-priced for the quality
  • Highly packable
  • Suitable in warm weather
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Not warm enough for sub-freezing trips

The REI Magma Trail Quilt 30 is one of our go-to sleep sacks for trips where nighttime temperatures stay above freezing. CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins, has really put this one through the wringer on backpacking adventures through the Wind River Range, Enchantment Lakes, and the Goat Rocks Wilderness to name a few. He loves it for its tiny packed size, ridiculously low weight, and good coverage. 

The newest version of the Magma Quilt is upgraded with over an ounce of extra down fill making it warmer than before. We still wouldn’t take it all the way down to 30°F, but warm-sleepers should be good to right around freezing. Cold sleepers will likely find the Magma Quilt more comfortable at 40°F and above.

The latest iteration of the Magma Trail Quilt has a zippered footbox with a drawcord at the end, which means it can be opened up fully like a blanket on warmer nights. Or, if the temps dip, zip the footbox and cinch the collar to seal in heat on chilly nights. 

Often the lighter the sleeping bag/quilt the more it’s going to cost. But the Magma is competitively priced for the specs so it’s tough to beat for hikers who do most of their backpacking in warm summer months. The pared-down design will keep your summer base weight as low as possible, and this quilt compresses down absurdly small to leave room in your pack for other luxuries.

Full Review: REI Magma Trail Quilt 30

Zpacks Classic 20

Quilt/sleeping bag hybrid that’s about as ultralight as you can get

Price: $449

Comfort Rating: N/A

Weight: 1 lb. 2.8 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 900 / 12.7 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Highly packable
  • Overstuffed baffles prevent cold spots
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not warm enough for sub-freezing trips
  • No hood

Zpacks is a leader in ultralight gear and the Classic Sleeping Bag is one of the most impressive pieces from its lineup. This sleep sack combines the best elements of a quilt and a sleeping bag to create an absurdly light but luxuriously warm hybrid. 

Borrowing from elements commonly seen on ultralight quilts, the Classic omits a hood and is designed with an opening at the back. Since the opening is under you while you sleep, there’s no need for a draft tube at the zipper. On warm nights, the zipper can be left open to use the Classic like a backless quilt.

Similar to ultralight sleeping bags, the Classic has a ¾ length zipper and a fully-sewn footbox to maximize heat retention. The vertical baffles on the torso prevent the down-fill from shifting to the sides away from where you really need it, and they’re overstuffed to help the Classic maintain loft even after extended use. 

The Classic is a common pick for thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers covering long distances. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst, Casey, has taken the Classic on her thru-hikes of the John Muir Trail and Colorado Trail – as well as several smaller trips – and it’s one of her all-time favorites. This featherlight bag is still going strong after over 1,000 miles of backcountry nights.

It’s on the pricey side, but there’s no better choice than the Zpacks Classic Sleeping Bag if saving weight is your top priority.

Full Review: Zpacks Classic

Sea to Summit Spark 18 / Flame 15

Best ultralight sleeping bag

Price: $509 / $589

Comfort Rating: 29°F / 15°F

Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz. / 1 lb. 15 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850+ / 15.2 oz., 850+ / 23.5 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Highly packable
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight
  • Compression sack included
  • Draft collar blocks chill well
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Thin material
  • Zipper can snag

The Sea to Summit Spark 18 for men and Flame 15 for women are the pinnacle of mummy-style ultralight bags. These impressively lightweight sleeping bags feature draft tubes on the zippers, 360° down collars, and box baffles that make them exceptionally warm for their weight.

Baffles are sewn parts of a sleeping bag that hold feathers in place – they can be arranged in a wide variety of patterns. The Spark and Flame have vertical box baffles on the torso which prevent down from shifting away from your core where you really need the warmth. This style is especially useful for sleepers who roll over from side to side since movement can cause down displacement inside bags with continuous baffles. Continuous baffle construction allows the user to move the down-fill around inside their bag to suit different insulation needs (which can be a drawback since down can end up bunched in the bottom). Examples of continuous baffles can be seen on the Feathered Friends Swallow/Egret YF and Western Mountaineering UltraLite above.

The Spark and Flame are on the pricey side due to their premium construction and 850+ fill goose down, but that’s also what makes them so light and packable for how warm they are. You may be wondering what’s up with that “+” in the fill-power rating. The fill of each Sea to Summit bag is tested individually to ensure quality, so more often than not the Spark and Flame end up with a down loft grade even higher than 850.

You can’t get much lighter than the Sea to Summit Spark and Flame unless you choose a quilt, but you’ll sacrifice some heat efficiency in doing so. The Spark and Flame are the best options for ultralight backpackers wanting to save every gram possible without giving up the warmth of a full mummy bag.

Stock photo of the NEMO Disco 15 sleeping bag with a white background

NEMO Disco 15

Luxurious bag for those who like a little wiggle room

Price: $320

Comfort Rating: 25°F

Weight: 2 lb. 11 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 650 / 23 oz.

Pros

  • Roomier fit than other bags
  • Above-average durability
  • Generous down collar & draft tube block chill well
  • Waterproof footbox
  • Fully recyclable design
  • Pillow pocket
  • Stash pocket
  • Compression sack included
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Not as heat efficient as some

The NEMO Disco 15 (men’s / women’s) has a unique shape that’s roomier than typical mummy bags, so it’s one of the comfiest options available for side sleepers. The fit also makes it a viable option for car camping where comfort tends to be a bigger priority than weight savings and technical performance. 

On the flip side, roomy bags like the Disco are less heat efficient because your body has to warm up the extra space. This shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re mostly using the Disco in temperatures that are above freezing, but it’s something to consider before purchasing if extra wiggle room isn’t your main priority.

The spacious spoon shape isn’t the only thing that sets the Disco apart. This bag has several unique features, like a pocket to hold your pillow in place and NEMO’s signature “Thermo Gills” that help vent heat on warm nights. The Thermo Gills are two zippered sections on the top of the sleeping bag that open up to dissipate heat held in the baffles near your core. Cooler air can get in through the seam between these baffles to help cool you down on hot nights without having to give up the comfort of being snuggled up in your bag.

And one of the most exciting things about the newest Disco is its inclusion in NEMO’s new Endless Promise program. Recognizing the large impact that their products can have on the environment, NEMO’s Endless Promise gear is designed to be durable, easily repairable, and fully recyclable. To follow through on that promise, NEMO provides a free return label to users when their bag is ready to be recycled into something new, they’ll send it to the appropriate recycling facilities and then they’ll send you a gift card as a thanks for helping keep waste out of the landfill.

We view the Disco as more of a crossover bag than strictly a backpacking sleep sack. But its reasonable price and roomy comfort make it a good investment for those looking for a single bag that’s practical for both car camping and backpacking.

Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20

Best synthetic sleeping bag

Price: $169

Comfort Rating: 32°F

Weight: 2 lb. 6 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: N/A

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Above-average durability
  • Stash pocket
  • Synthetic fill retains insulative properties when damp
  • Compression sack included

Cons

  • Heavier/bulkier than others
  • A little tight in the leg

Synthetic sleeping bags are an awesome option for hikers on a budget and for those who aren’t down with down fill. The Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20 (men’s / women’s) has some surprisingly cool features for how little it costs, and it’s also lighter than many other synthetic options.

Though it won’t quite match up to an 850+ fill-power down bag, the Trestles packs down decently small and is pretty light despite its recycled synthetic fill. Still, it’s one of the heavier and bulkier sleeping bags on our list, so you’ll have to choose between saving weight and bulk or saving money.

One of the biggest reasons to go with a synthetic-fill sleeping bag is that it will keep you warmer than a down bag when wet and it’ll also dry out quicker. Lead tester, Casey, used the Marmot Trestles on her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, and the synthetic fill was a real lifesaver through the soggier sections of the Great Smoky Mountains and Virginia.

One pretty unique feature that makes the Trestles special is its blanket-fold zipper. This ¼ length zipper allows you to flip the top of the sleeping bag down – much like you would your comforter at home – when you want warmth at your feet but ventilation up top. Other features, like the internal stash pocket for keeping important items safe in freezing temperatures and the included compression sack, make the Trestles a truly great buy.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0

Best winter sleeping bag

Price: $680

Comfort Rating: 13°F

Weight: 2 lb. 10.6 oz.

Fill Power / Fill Weight: 850 / 29.6 oz.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Generous down collar & draft tube block chill well
  • Well-priced for a 0° bag
  • No-snag zipper
  • Compression sack included
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Fit is a bit narrow

The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 is lighter and priced lower than a lot of the leading winter sleeping bag competition, so it’s a no-brainer for all-season adventurers and those who have a hard time staying warm at night.

Two important things to look at when deciding if a sleeping bag is going to be as warm as its temperature rating suggests are fill power and fill weight. The Phantom is stuffed with 30 ounces of 850-fp down – anything above 800-fp is generally considered very high-quality down – which is more than many other 0° bags. The Phantom also has a full-length draft tube and a wraparound draft collar that really seals in the heat on chilly nights.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Phantom’s comfort rating is 13°F, so most people probably won’t stay comfortable all the way down to 0°F. But you could reasonably throw on some extra warm layers to take this bag down to 0 if you really needed to.

Most people don’t need a 0° sleeping bag. But hikers heading into the backcountry in sub-freezing conditions, or those that aren’t staying warm with a higher temperature bag on a decently insulated sleeping pad, will love this exceptional winter sleeping bag.

A backpacker sitting on a boulder in the REI Magma 15 sleeping bag while overlooking a mountain view at sunset
Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

What’s Most Important to You in a Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

PRICE

Sleeping bags can get pretty pricey, but we think it’s worth it to invest in a high-quality bag that will keep you warm and provide good rest after a hard day on the trail. Budget options will work well if you don’t backpack much or you’re just getting into it. But for those who go out often, spending more will likely be worth it for higher quality materials, a superior warmth-to-weight ratio, and better packability.

Best mid-range sleeping bags

Best budget sleeping bags

Best high-end sleeping bag

WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT

Your sleeping bag will be one of the four heaviest items in your backpack (tent, backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), so it’s critical to strike a good balance between warmth and weight. Ideally, you’d own 2-3 sleeping bags for different seasons, but most backpackers start out by choosing one bag that will keep them warm at the lowest temperatures they plan to hike in.

Many hikers opt for a sleeping bag with a lower limit in the 20s because that’ll be versatile enough for use in most seasons – from high elevation summer trips to chilly shoulder seasons. If you know you’ll do most of your hiking in warmer summer months, a sleeping bag rated down to 30 will likely work just fine and will save some weight and bulk in your pack.

Best ultralight sleeping bags

Warmest lightweight sleeping bags

Warmest sleeping bag

SLEEPING BAGS VS. QUILTS

Mummy sleeping bags work better in cold and windy conditions because they trap body heat more efficiently and they’re less drafty. Quilts provide a better warmth-to-weight ratio by cutting out the material and insulation that’s normally compressed under your body in a mummy bag. If a quilt sounds more like your style, you’ll love our Best Backpacking Quilts guide.

We usually prefer the flexibility, weight, and comfort of quilts when nighttime temperatures are above freezing (32°F) and mummy bags when temperatures dip below freezing.

Best mummy sleeping bags

Best backpacking quilts

DOWN VS. SYNTHETIC

Down insulation is more expensive but has a better warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down smaller. Down sleeping bags also last longer than synthetic bags if taken care of properly. Synthetic sleeping bags are often heavier and bulkier than down bags, but they tend to cost less and retain heat a bit better when wet. Down bags are typically better performers, so they make up the majority of our recommendations.

Best down sleeping bags

Best synthetic sleeping bag

Critical Backpacking Sleeping Bag Considerations

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

CHOOSING A TEMPERATURE RATING

Choosing the right temperature rating isn’t an exact science. Many factors contribute to warmth, like sleeping pad insulation, clothinghydration, nutrition, and altitude. For this list, we chose sleeping bags with temperature ratings that we felt would be a good fit for most 3-season trips. Most of the backpacking sleeping bags on this list will keep the average user comfortable when temperatures dip to freezing or a few degrees below. If you know you’re a hot or cold sleeper, you’ll want to adjust your temperature rating choice accordingly.

TEMPERATURE RATING

European Norm (EN) and ISO are standardized temperature rating systems that keep ratings consistent across the industry. The number listed with most backpacking sleeping bags (example: Magma 15) is the EN Lower Limit which is usually 10-15 degrees lower than the EN Comfort Rating. We find that the EN Comfort Rating gives a much more realistic idea of how a bag will perform. If no comfort rating is listed, we usually estimate an extra 10-15° to the lower limit for sleeping bags and 20-25° for quilts.

WM Versalite & Feathered Friends Egret – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)
REI Magma 15 – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

INCREASING TEMPERATURE RATING

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a sleeping bag is that you can always increase your warmth by adding layers. For example, wearing a down jacket with a hood inside your sleeping bag will significantly boost your warmth. You can also sleep in base layers, a warm hat, gloves, and even your rain jacket/rain pants if things get truly frigid. Other tricks include eating a meal right before bed, staying well hydrated, putting a hot water bottle inside your sleeping bag by your feet, and finding natural insulators (like pine needles) to put under your sleeping pad.

STAYING WARM

Sleeping bags don’t create warmth, your body creates warmth. Your sleeping bag keeps you warm by trapping body heat in an enclosed space. Sleeping bags with more insulation trap heat better, so they’re warmer. Sleeping bags with lots of interior space are less efficient because they create a larger area for your body to warm up.

WARM WHEN WET

Synthetic insulation bags (and, to a lesser degree, bags treated with “dry down”) will hold in warmth better than down when wet and they dry quicker. But it’s important to remember that no backpacking sleeping bag will be comfortable when wet. If you end up having to spend the night in a wet sleeping bag, you’re probably going to be miserable any way you slice it. We recommend packing your sleeping bag in a waterproof stuff sack to keep it from getting wet while backpacking.

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag
Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WHERE DOES DOWN COME FROM?

Down is the fluffy, small plumage found underneath the outer feather layer on waterfowl birds – mostly ducks and geese. These tiny filament fibers insulate the birds and keep them warm even in frigid conditions. Most down is a byproduct of the meat industry: 70% of it comes from China.

Zpacks Classic – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

AVOIDING INFERIOR QUALITY & POOR ETHICS

Sometimes affordable sleeping bags are stuffed with materials other than down or contain only a small amount of down that’s blended with feathers or filler. For the best insulating value and warmth-to-weight ratio, look for backpacking sleeping bags that are made with 100% duck or goose down. If the fill power isn’t advertised, it’s likely the bag isn’t top quality and won’t compress very well. Inexpensive down bags are also sometimes made with materials that are unethically sourced. To be sure you aren’t supporting bad practices, like force feeding or live plucking, check whether a company uses traceable down or complies with the Responsible Down Standard. Companies that use good practices are generally proud of it and clearly state it for their customers to see. It’s worth paying a bit more for the peace of mind.

REI Magma Trail Quilt & Feathered Friends Flicker – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

ZIPPER LENGTH

Mummy sleeping bags often come with different zipper lengths. Full-length zippers are ideal because they give you the ability to open the sleeping bag completely for ventilation. Some bags reduce weight by cutting down on zipper length. If you usually like having your feet tucked in, a shorter zipper might not bother you, but most people prefer the flexibility of full-length zippers.

Therm-a-Rest Vesper 20 Quilt – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)
ZPacks Classic Sleeping Bag 20 – Photo credit: Casey Handley (CleverHiker.com)

DOWN FILL POWER

The fill power (fp) of a down sleeping bag measures the quality of the down insulation it’s filled with. Higher fill power down weighs less and compresses more than lower fill power down. As you might imagine, higher fill power down is also more expensive. In general, 800 fill power and up is considered high quality down. Anything lower than that will be more cost effective, but won’t have as good warmth-to-weight.

BAG LENGTH& WIDTH

Check with the manufacturer to find the correct length sleeping bag to fit your height. If you’re on the edge, the longer size will usually be a better fit. With a quilt, consider bumping up one size for the ability to pull it over your head on really chilly nights. Mummy sleeping bags usually don’t have width options, so you’ll probably need to choose a different model if the cut is too slim. Most quilts come with the option of choosing a width, and we find that wider quilts are much more comfy if you side sleep or shift around at night.

DWR

Durable water repellent is a treatment that causes water to bead up on the outer shell of a backpacking sleeping bag rather than soak in. DWR will wear off and need to be reapplied over time, but it’s a nice feature to have. It won’t make a bag anywhere near waterproof, but it does add a little extra protection.

WASHING

Down is a durable material, but it loses some of its efficiency when it gets oily or dirty over time. A good wash will refresh your backpacking sleeping bag and make it like new. Use a special soap like Nikwax Down Wash or a gentle non-detergent like Woolite to wash your down bag by hand or in a front-loading washing machine. After it’s washed, take your time tumble-drying it on low heat in the dryer. Adding a few clean tennis balls or dryer balls to the dryer will help break up clumps in the down and redistribute it evenly. You can also hang your down bag if you prefer to let it air dry, carefully shaking it to fluff it up several times throughout the process. Properly maintaining your down bag takes time, but you’ll likely only need to wash it once or twice per year. For more details on down care, visit How to Repair, Wash, Store, & Care For Your Sleeping Bag.

Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Honorable Mentions

The following sleeping bags didn’t make our final list, but they’ve still got a lot of good things going for them. You never know, one of these backpacking sleeping bags might be perfect for you:

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20

The Hyperion is a highly compressible ultralight sleeping bag from one of the biggest names in backcountry slumber. 

It’s stuffed with some of the highest quality down available – 900-fp goose down – which gives it an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. It also has a narrow cut that eliminates dead spots where cold air could linger, but the lack of space inside can make the Hyperion uncomfortable for hikers who side-sleep or toss and turn.

This bag has a lot to love if you don’t mind a tight fit, but its hefty price tag and narrow cut make it a tough sell compared to our other top-rated sleeping bags. The Sea to Summit Spark 18 / Women’s Flame 15 or hoodless ZPacks Classic 20 are good alternatives to the Hyperion since they have a roomier cut but are still incredibly lightweight and warm.

Patagonia Fitz Roy 20

The Patagonia Fitz Roy is unique because it has a center zip instead of a side zipper like most other mummy sleeping bags. 

The center zip is a big plus for side sleepers because the zipper won’t end up underneath you causing discomfort. The center zip also makes the Fitz Roy versatile through a range of temperatures since the zipper can be left open up top to dump heat near your core while holding in warmth by your feet.

The Fitz Roy is high-quality, but it’s pretty pricey. If you’re not looking at the Fitz Roy specifically for its center zip feature, we would recommend the REI Magma 15 over this bag since the Magma is lighter, costs less, and has more down with a higher fill-power.