With the right equipment, sleeping outdoors can be fantastic. While you may get away with just a tent on the warmest summer nights, a good sleeping bag is essential when the temperature starts to drop. The best backpacking sleeping bag keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable – everything you need for a good night’s rest.
Besides providing reliable protection, a backpacking sleeping bag needs to be lightweight and compact since you’ll be carrying it around all day. However, finding the ideal warmth-to-weight ratio can be tricky for many backpackers.
To help you with this, our backpacking sleeping bag reviews will present the top-rated models that check all of these boxes. In addition, the buying guide will discuss the aspects you need to consider when buying so you can easily pick the best ultralight sleeping bag for your outdoor adventures.
Sleeping bags are designed to trap your body heat. If you are already cold and you get into your sleeping bag, it will take a long time for your body heat to warm up the bag. Help your body to produce more heat by eating a hot meal or doing some physical exercise. Sharing a sleeping bag with another person is a great idea if you are unable to warm up on your own.
Good quality sleeping bags often have baffles sewn along the zipper to prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering. Be careful not to catch this baffle material in the zipper when opening and closing your sleeping bag as it can damage the material and the zipper.
If you are right-handed, a sleeping bag with a zipper along the left side will be easier for you to open, and vice versa. This is because it will be easier for you to reach across your body with your dominant hand when you are lying in your sleeping bag.
How To Choose A Backpacking Sleeping Bag – Buying Guide
When it comes to insulation, there are two main options – down and synthetic. While both are very efficient, there are still some big differences between them. Down insulation is generally considered better for backpacking, but synthetic insulation has its upsides too.
Down – Down represents the tiny feathers on a bird closest to its skin, under the regular feathers on the outside. Its main function is to trap air and keep the bird warm. It does an excellent job when used in clothing too, and comes at an incredibly low weight. However, it loses its insulation properties when wet.
Synthetic – Synthetic insulation is usually made from lofty polyester and also does a very good job at keeping you warm. The main upside is that it continues working even when the bag is wet. Unfortunately, it has a much worse warmth-to-weight ratio than down which means that you need a much heavier bag to get the same level of warmth.
Hybrid – As you can probably guess, hybrid bags contain both down and synthetic insulation. While they attempt to bring you the best out of both worlds, most of these are not yet sophisticated enough and perform worse than each of these individually.
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The temperature rating is a crucial consideration when buying because it shows you the limits of a sleeping bag in terms of keeping you warm. Almost every model comes with two ratings – comfort and lowest, which shows you the temperature at which most people feel comfortable and the lowest recommended temperature for using the bag.
Winter and summer sleeping bags come with widely different temperature ratings, and we advise that you choose a model that’s rated for the conditions that you’ll be backpacking in.
Fit And Shape
For practical reasons, the best sleeping bags for backpacking are shaped like a mummy. This shape gives you the most room inside without creating too many air pockets that might make you cold. It results in a snug fit that doesn’t feel too tight or restricting. On the other hand, rectangular bags might be more comfortable but they are often less warm and bulkier.
Weight And Packability
Like with all other backpacking equipment, weight and packability are essential when choosing the sleeping bag best model. These two go hand in hand, and you need to have both in order to be comfortable on the trail. For reference, backpacking bags filled with high-quality goose down insulation weigh less and pack better than synthetic bags, but also come at a much higher price point.
While the design of most models is pretty straightforward, some backpack sleeping bags come with additional features can really improve the experience. For example, a two-way zipper can make using and venting the bag easier, while a zipper cover can prevent cold air from getting inside. In addition, a sleeping bag with a hood and yoke will feel a lot warmer and cozier.
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The comfort level that a sleeping bag provides is essential if you’re to have a good night’s rest. The insulation in the walls provides the loftiness, but a soft lining material is perhaps even more important because it comes in direct contact with the skin. Additionally, the fit and shape of the bag also impact the comfort (the best sleeping bag shouldn’t be too tight).
If you’re more of a casual backpacker, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a different backpack sleeping bag for every season. Because of this, the versatility of the sleep system is the key for most backpackers. Broadly speaking, a backpackers sleeping bag with a temp rating of around 20°F is the most versatile for the largest period of the year.
The construction quality of your sleeping bag directly impacts the warmth, comfort, and durability. Besides the insulation quality that we’ve discussed, you also need to pay attention to the shell materials, water protection, zipper quality, and whether the bag comes with additional features like hoods and expanded foot boxes.
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Regular Camping Sleeping Bag And Backpacking Sleeping Bag?
The main difference between the two is weight. While a camping sleeping bag can get away with being slightly heavier, a backpacking sleeping bag needs to be carried around all day so the weight is a big issue. For this reason, backpacker sleeping bags often use a loftier fill which unfortunately also raises the price a bit.
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Q: How To Store My Sleeping Bag When I am Not Using It?
It’s probably the best idea to store your sleeping bag outside of the compression bag during the off-season. Otherwise, the insulation might become too compressed which can affect its performance. In addition, always make sure that the bag is completely dry and that you are storing it in a dry place.
Q: What Is The Recommended Weight Of A Sleeping Bag?
This isn’t an easy question to answer because it depends on several factors. Ideally, the sleeping bag that you put on the backpacking checklist should weigh as little as possible. However, a warmer bag requires more insulation which adds to the weight, and bags for larger backpackers are also heavier. On average, a backpacking sleeping bag weighs between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds.
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In order to have a good time on a multi-day backpacking trip, you’ll need to have quality sleep. With a high-quality sleeping bag, you’ll completely cover that aspect. We hope that our reviews and guide helped you find the best sleeping bag for backpacking with the right warmth-to-weight ratio that will keep you cozy and comfortable every time you sleep outside.
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