A night of quality sleep plays a vital role after an adventurous day of trekking, hiking, or, kayaking in order to get the much-needed rest you deserve. It goes without saying that if you’re an avid outdoor explorer, a top rated sleeping bag for camping is a must-have investment and one of the best equipment you can bring along.
The sleeping bags we’ve reviewed range from the most comfortable sleeping bags for car camping to snugly, packable, and ultralight sleeping bags that strike the perfect balance between warmth and weight.
Our buying guide, on the other hand, explains specifications and features you will come across while evaluating different options and offers guidance on making a decision on the best sleeping bag for your specific needs. Hopefully, one of the sleeping bags we’ve reviewed is the right choice for you.
How To Choose The Best Sleeping Bag – Buying Guide
Sleeping bags are designed to suit different applications and environments, therefore choosing the right sleeping-bag involves a detailed evaluation process. Before choosing the right sleeping bag for your needs, we recommend you consider the following aspects.
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It is of utmost importance to ensure that backpack sleeping bags of your choosing are adequately insulated to keep you warm and dry in the temperatures you will be sleeping in. The challenge you face here is that most comfortable backpacking sleeping bags are usually the heaviest. If you’re car camping, space and portability aren’t limiting factors as you can always bring along a large, fluffy, and heavily insulated sleeping-bag in a rectangular shape or a spacious mummy shape. But if you will be backpacking and hiking, you need a comfortable sleeping-bag that strikes a balance between weight and warmth and is also packable.
Another important feature that affects the level of comfort in a sleeping bag is the material. Ensure the inner lining is made of a material that feels soft and comfortable on the skin and helps wick away perspiration. Also keep in mind that down, wool, and cotton are known to cause allergies, therefore if you’re sensitive to any of these or any other fabrics, check the material information before purchasing.
The design of a sleeping-bag plays a very important role in the warmth and comfort it provides.
- Rectangular: Traditionally, sleeping bags for camping have a roomy and comfortable rectangular shape that offers plenty of room for turning and tossing. Most can be unzipped to form a large blanket or function as a quilt. They suit warm environments best as they have less efficient insulation and don’t have a hood. Their large size and weight suit car camping and indoor use for guests or fun snuggle with kids according to sleeping bag reviews.
- Mummy: Mummy bags are innovatively designed to maximize warmth and comfort while keeping size and weight down. They get their name from the integrated mummy hood they feature, which keeps the head warm. Their snug fit provides excellent insulation as there is little space for warmth to escape or cold air from the outside to get in. These backpacking sleeping bags are ideal for cold, freezing, and windy conditions. The tapered design with narrow shoulders, hips, and legs widths trims down material keeping them compact and lightweight for ease of packing and transport. This is the best type of sleeping-bag for backpacking, hiking, mountain climbing, and traveling. The downside is that the contoured design and tight fit can feel restrictive.
- Hybrid: Hybrid types combine the best features of both rectangular and mummy bags. These have a semi-rectangular or barrel shape. They are more efficient at trapping warmth than rectangular bags and roomier and more comfortable than mummy bags. They suit both camping and backpacking.
- Double: A double sleeping-bag enables two adults to comfortably fit and sleep side-by-side without feeling restricted. Most can separate into two individual sleeping bags upon need. This versatile type is great for couples and families who love camping.
While comfort and weight are among the most important consideration when selecting hiking sleeping bags, these two also have an inverse relationship, meaning that the more comfortable the bag the heavier it is. There is only one exception to this rule and that’s hot weather sleeping bags.
The type of insulation is another factor that affects weight. Down weighs a lot less than synthetic insulation and is compressible while synthetic sleeping bags utilize thicker fabrics and more insulation. Because of this reason, they tend to be larger, heavier, and less compressible.
If you’re car camping or having backyard adventures, you can choose a large and fluffy rectangular bag that will offer you the most comfort. But if you’re a backpacker, traveler, biker, hiker or climber, a lightweight and compressible sleeping-bag that packs down small, fits in your pack and doesn’t strain your back is ideal such as a down insulated mummy-shaped type of bag.
Insulation is created between the outer layer of the sleeping bag and the delicate inner liner. The bag keeps you warm by trapping the naturally generated body heat inside and by stopping any cold air from penetrating. Therefore, how efficient a sleeping-bag depends on the type and level of insulation it has. There are two types worth mentioning:
- Down Fill Insulation: This type of insulation has a fantastic warmth to weight ratio, is compressible, and more durable. The luxurious warmth of down is hard to beat especially for cold weather camping. Being lightweight and compressible, it is also ideal for backpacking and hiking. However, it is more expensive than synthetic insulation. Another negative is that down absorbs moisture and loses its insulating ability in wet conditions. To overcome this weakness, some manufacturers add a water-resistant polymer treatment.
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- Synthetic Fill Insulation: It dries quickly and performs well in wet conditions and is less expensive than down. On the negative side, it isn’t as warm as down, bulkier, heavier, and doesn’t compress well for packing and transport.
The design of a sleeping-bag also affects its insulating ability. A form-fitting mummy design with an adjustable neck and hood has excellent insulating properties as there is less air space to heat while a roomy rectangular bag has less efficient insulation as there is a lot of air to heat.
The temperature ratings on sleeping bags indicate the kind of conditions they are made for. They translate the level of insulation offered into a temperature range. Sleeping bags are rated based on the lowest temperature they keep a camper warm enough to survive the night or warm enough to be comfortable. To standardize these ratings and make it easier to compare different sleeping bags, most brands use the European Norm (EN) rating system. There are three EN temperature ratings:
The comfort rating is the lowest temperature at which a sleeping-bag keeps a cold sleeper such as the average woman comfortable. It is the ideal temperature to stay warm comfortably. The lower-limit rating is the lowest temperature a sleeping-bag keeps a warm sleeper such as the average man comfortable. The upper limit is the temperature at which the average man can sleep inside the bag without getting too hot and sweaty. The extreme rating is the lowest temperature a bag can keep a cold sleeper just warm enough to survive the night without freezing and getting hypothermia.
Summer and warm weather bags feature ratings of +32°F (0 C) and up. 3-season bags are the most versatile and usually have ratings between +10° to +32°F (-12 C to 0 C). Winter sleeping bags for camping in the snow, mountain climbing, and for freezing environments are rated +10°F (-12 C) and lower.
To decide what temperature sleeping-bag to choose for the environment you will be camping in, first determine the coldest temperature you’re likely to encounter in the night then choose a bag with that temperature as its comfort rating. However, most bags indicate a lower limit rating. In this case, go lower by 10-15 degrees. This is because EN lower limits tend to be on the low side and indicate the minimum temperature at which you can survive in the bag without freezing. Manufacturers also make assumptions that the sleeper is well hydrated, has layered up for warmth, and laid a sleeping pad.
Also, make sure you take into consideration factors like age, whether you are a cold or hot sleeper, wind, the kind of sleepwear you will be using, and the sleeping pad insulation. Beware that many hot or warm places by day turn extremely cold at night.
The materials a sleeping bag is made to determine its comfort, weight, quality, and durability. Best sleeping bags come with a fabric that is weather-resistant ripstop nylon or polyester for durability. With many synthetic fill bags, this shell has a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment that makes water bead up and slide off rather than soak through.
The best material for the lining is soft, feels good on the skin, and promotes wicking of perspiration. Cotton, polyester/microfiber, and flannel are all soft and have a nice feeling on the body. While polyester has excellent breathability and moisture-wicking properties, cotton doesn’t handle sweat well. Flannel, on the other hand, is very warm and comfortable but makes the bag heavier compared to other materials.
As for the insulation material, down sleeping bags are better than synthetic sleeping bags when it comes to warmth, weight, comfort, and packability but they are expensive and don’t perform well where conditions are wet. Synthetic sleeping bags, on the other hand, are more affordable, fast-drying has better insulation qualities in wet conditions, and feature a water-resistant exterior shell. On the cons side, synthetic fill is heavier, doesn’t compress well, and doesn’t feel as warm and luxurious as down. Synthetic materials like nylon also tend to feel slick and uncomfortable on the skin.
To sleep comfortably, most people need to lay their head on a pillow. Best sleeping bags have an elevated pillow design to keep your head off the ground by offering a space to insert a separate pillow or stuff in clothes to create an elevated and cushioned place for the head.
If you’re looking for the best sleeping bags for backpacking, hiking, or climbing, portability is a critical factor. This means you should choose an ultralight sleeping bag, which is compressible, and packs into a small package so that you can fit it in your pack or attach it to a loop for effortless storage.
If you have limited storage space and the need to keep your pack light, a mummy style down sleeping bag will be the best for backpacking. It is warm and comfortable yet lightweight and compressible. It is also important to make sure that you check the weight and packed size before placing your order. For car camping, cabin camping, sleepovers, or bags for guests, portability isn’t a limiting factor, therefore just go ahead and choose a big, fluffy, and roomy rectangular sleeping bag that will be as comfortable as a bed.
Related Review: Backpacking Sleeping Bag.
Q: What’s The Difference Between A Car-camping Sleeping Bag And A Backpacking Sleeping Bag?
A car camping sleeping-bag and a backpacking sleeping-bag differ in terms of size, weight, design, and packability. These differences are made on purpose because of the different space and portability requirements of the users.
During car camping storage, and portability isn’t an issue, therefore car camping sleeping-bags can be wider, roomier, and heavier than backpacking ones. Most of them have a rectangular design just like a bed with synthetic or down insulation.
When backpacking, storage space, and portability are major concerns and backpackers need compact, lightweight, and packable backpacker sleeping bags that don’t sacrifice from warmth and comfort. The best ultralight sleeping bags are mummy-style down-filled bags, as they are light in weight, compressible yet warm and comfortable even in extremely cold weather conditions.
Q: Should I Buy A down Or Synthetic Sleeping Bag For Car Camping?
The answer comes down to the type of camping conditions you will have.
If you will be driving to your camping point, you don’t have to think about transportation, therefore you can choose a large and comfortable sleeper bag with down or synthetic insulation. While a down backpacker sleeping bag is the best for cold weather conditions, a synthetic sleeping bag withstands wet and humid camping conditions better. Synthetic ones are also practical, easy to carry, and affordable. They are not as warm as down but offer sufficient insulation for warm and moderate temperature conditions during the spring, warm summer, and fall months.
Q: What’s The Difference Between Men’s And Women’s Sleeping Bags?
The difference between men’s and women s sleeping-bags is based on the physical and temperature rating tolerance between the genders.
First of all, the difference is in size and shape. Men’s sleeping-bags tend to be broader and longer than women’s bags, which conform to a woman’s contour and tend to be wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders.
In addition, men tend to be hot sleepers while women tend to be cold sleepers. The ideal temperature rating for the two genders differs by 10 to 15 degrees. Women’s sleeping-bags tend to be warmer than men’s. Some sleeping-bags for ladies also have extra insulation in the upper section and a foot warmer.
Some manufacturers offer gender-specific sleeping-bags while others offer unisex models with women’s styles having shorter lengths and feminine colors.
Related Review: Women's Sleeping Bag
Q: How Do Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating Systems Work?
This needs a detailed answer! First of all, it is impossible to tell what temperature conditions a sleeping-bag can withstand just by looking at its thickness or based on how snugly and cozy it looks. Sleeping-bag temperature rating systems translate insulation value into a temperature range to help campers and other shoppers determine the ideal sleeping-bags for the kind of temperature conditions they will be in. They offer a general guide and basis of comparison to make it easier to choose a sleeping bag with an adequate level of insulation.
The rating systems usually have a lower limit and comfort rating. The comfort rating indicates the ideal temperature a bag is designed to be used in. The lower limit indicates the lowest temperature in which a sleeping-bag can keep the sleeper warm enough not to get hypothermia. Most brands use the European Norm (EN) rating system but there are some that don’t use this system and just indicate the ideal and lowest temperatures their bags are suitable for.
However, the rating systems aren’t hard truths and are meant to offer general guidance. Most ratings tend to be on the low side and based on the assumption that there is a sleeping pad underneath and the sleeper is dressed up warmly.
After determining the coldest temperature you will be sleeping in, we recommend getting a sleeping-bag whose of which rating is 10 to 15 degrees lower than the minimum temperature you might encounter.
Q: What Temperature Rating Do You Need If You’re Car Camping?
To answer this question, you need to find out how low temperatures in your camping location dip in the night and choose a sleeping-bag whose minimum temperature rating is about 10 to 15 degrees lower than that temperature accordingly. In this way, you will still be warm even if the temperature takes an unexpected dip.
Generally, +32°F (0 C) and up is the temperature rating for locations where night times are warm. While versatile 3-season bags that suit most seasons and conditions are rated between +10° to +32°F (-12 C to 0 C), car camping in the winter and in freezing cold environments calls for +10°F (-12 C) and lower temperature ratings.
Q: What Is Down Fill Power?
Down fill power tells you the kind of down quality you’re getting by giving you a measure of the loft or fluffiness the down clusters have. The highest down fill power is 900 and the lower end is about 500.
The higher the fill power, the more the fluffiness, the better the insulation, and the more lightweight and compressible the bag; however the price tag is higher. If the fill power is lower, it weights more, therefore costs less. For bags with the same down fill power but composed of a combination of down and feathers, the better quality down insulation is the one with a lower feather composition.
Q: How Can I Make My Sleeping Bag Last Longer?
- While sleeping-bags generally last for a long time, how you use, care for, and store your sleeping-bag can certainly extend or shorten this lifespan. Here is how you can extend the life of your sleeping-bag and ensure it provides extra warmth for as long as possible:
- Use a sleeping-bag liner:We recommend using a sleeping-bag liner to protect your bag from body oils, sweat, dirt, and wear. It is also important to air it out in the sunlight during the day.
- Follow washing instructions carefully: Frequent washing isn’t necessary for a sleeping bag. Once a year or once every other year is more than enough. You can get rid of dirty spots on the outer shell by spot cleaning using mild soap, a soft-bristle toothbrush, and a wet sponge. When it is time for a full cleaning, follow the washing instructions, then dry it thoroughly before you store it. While some sleeping-bags are machine washable, for some others, machine washing would destroy the insulation and void the warranty.
- Store it properly: Before storing your sleeping-bag, ensure it is completely dry to keep mold and mildew at bay. Hang your sleeping bag in a closet or garage or drape it over a chair or railing. You can also fold it loosely like a blanket and store in a roomy sack or pillowcase or on the shelf with nothing heavy on top. Always store your bag in a cool, dry place. The worst you can do is store your bag in a compressed form, as it causes the insulation to deteriorate.
Q: When Should I Replace My Sleeping Bag?
Sleeping-bags last for many years, even decades. With good care and maintenance, you should be able to use the same bag for a really long time. Unless you want to get a better quality sleeping-bag, it should be years before your bag needs replacing because of wear and tear. Minor rips, tears, and zipper issues can be fixed easily using patches, glues, and repair kits. More severe damages can be fixed by the manufacturer or a sleeping-bag specialist.
Q: What About Sleeping Bags Without an EN Rating?
Lack of an EN rating does not mean that a bag is of inferior quality or insulation and the presence of one isn’t an indicator of superiority.
The European Norm (EN) or EN 13537 is a rating system meant to keep temperature ratings in sleeping-bags standardized. It is just a general guideline and the comparative system and its application are optional. Most brands use it but there are some companies that don’t. Such companies will still indicate the range of temperatures their bags are made for.
Companies assigning their own ratings actually tend to offer more realistic temperature ratings for comfort than EN ratings, which are usually on the low side.
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When you love outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, backpacking, kayaking on a starter kayak, and mountain climbing, a sleeping-bag is an essential piece of gear. Having a high quality bag adds to the overall experience and keeps you warm and comfortable enough to sleep well. Remember, a sleeping-bag is a long-term investment and it is always wise to get the best sleeping bag for your money.
We hope our sleeping-bag reviews and buying guide have helped you find the best sleeping-bag to fit your needs and budget. All the items in our list are high quality, lightweight, well insulated, comfortable, and highly rated for their performance. As long as you select one that suits the kind of temperatures you will be camping in, you can rest assured it will serve you well for years.
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Which of the sleeping-bags on our list is your top choice? We would love to read your thoughts or experience with the sleeping-bags for camping we’ve reviewed! Feel free to share in the comment box below!