If you've ever spent a night out in the woods, or camping in the shadow of the Himalayas, freezing your ass off and anxiously waiting for the night to be over, you probably already realise how important it is to pack one of the best sleeping bags for your adventures!
I spend a lot of time camping out on my adventures and I know from experience that it's well worth investing in the proper gear - you want a sleeping bag that is lightweight, warm, comfortable and packs down small.
I've put together this detailed guide after personally testing and reviewing some of the best sleeping bags out there.
When you're choosing a backpacking sleeping bag, you need to take into account warmth, weight, comfort functionality and price to find the best sleeping bag for your adventure style.
Quick Answer: The Best Sleeping Bags for Backpackers
Table of Contents
- How to Choose a Great Sleeping Bag...
- Warmth and Season Ratings
- Weight and Insulation
- Why Lightweight Sleeping Bags Kick Ass
- Best Sleeping Bags for Comfort
- #1 Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Bag
- Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag #2
- #3 Best Four Season Sleeping Bag for Travelling
- Bonus: Best Festival Sleeping bag
How to Choose a Great Sleeping Bag...
Below I have listed the key specs to look for when choosing the perfect backpacking sleeping bag. Your requirements depend entirely on what you need the sleeping bag for, if you're just looking for something to take to the occasional camp out or music festival, you can make do with a budget sleeping bag.
If however you are planning on traveling the world (and camping a lot), or embarking on regular hikes and camp outs in frigid conditions, then it is well worth investing in one of the top pick backpacking sleeping bags listed below.
Let's take a look at the crucial factors you need to consider when choosing a sleeping bag...
Warmth and Season Ratings
Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating
Backpacking sleeping bag temperature ratings are often rated on the European Norm (EN) 13537. EN is a European rating system many outdoor brands use to standardise the temperature ratings on sleeping bags. EN uses three temperature ratings:
- Comfort rating: The lowest temperature a sleeping bag will keep the average woman or "cold sleeper" comfortable.
- Lower-limit rating: The lowest temperature a sleeping bag will keep a man or "warm sleeper" comfortable.
- Extreme rating: Some bags come with an extreme rating, which is the temperature the average woman or "cold sleeper" can survive a night without getting hypothermia!
Many countries are warm by day but cold by night so even if you're heading to somewhere like Namibia, you need to be prepared if you're hiking and camping at higher elevation.
If you're a world traveler and will be jumping between many countries, I recommend picking up a three season backpacker sleeping bag as it is a lot more versatile than a heavier, bulkier four season bag.
Backpacking Sleeping Bag Types
Summer Bags: Summer sleeping bags are typically rated 32 F (0 C) or higher, which means they are made for sleeping in 40s F and 50s F (4 C – 10 C). Summer sleeping bafs may not have the features that keep you warmer in colder temperatures like built-in hoods. Most summer bags are rectangular.
3-Season Bags: 3-season bags are the most versatile bags for hikers and travelers. 3 season sleeping bags are usually rated from 10 F to 32 F (-12 C to 0 C) for sleeping in around 20 F to 40 F (-6 C to 4 C). You can easily use a 3 season sleeping bag in the summer by unzipping or just draping it over you like a blanket.
Winter Bags: These are tough-as-nails sleeping bags made for camping in the snow and extreme temperatures. Unless you are traveling and camping during winter season, you probably won't need a winter bag. They usually rate at 10 F and lower (-6 C to 4 C).
Weight and Insulation
Whether you're looking for one of the best backpacking sleeping bags for backcountry hiking or traveling the world, a lightweight sleeping bag is a top priority.
The different types of insulation will make a huge difference in weight (as well as cost). If you’re looking for a lightweight sleeping bag with the smallest pack size, then look for down because down weighs significantly less and packs lighter than synthetic. The drawback is down costs more.
Down: Down sleeping bags are lightweight, warm, and packable, but they are also more expensive than synthetic bags. Despite their cost, down sleeping bags last much longer, often for decades of use. The downside with down (see what I did there) is that they are not water resistant, so if the sleeping bag gets wet you're in for an uncomfortable night's sleep.
Water-Resistant Down: Some companies are coming out with water-resistant down that speeds drying with a very thin synthetic coating that reduces the amount of water trapped by the down.
Synthetic: In general, synthetic sleeping bags are largely viewed by the hiker community as inferior to down sleeping bags. Synthetic material doesn't make as lightweight sleeping bags as down, but it's less expensive and faster drying. If you are travelling to a humid place, synthetic does have it's advantages.
Hybrid Down & Synthetic: Though less common, these sleeping bags are lighter than an all-synthetic bag and faster drying than an all-down bag.
Down Quality Fill Power
Down fill power correlates with warmth. Sleeping bag insulation (or "fill") provides warmth by minimizing the amount of heat your body loses while sleeping. The highest down fill power is 900. The higher the fill power, the more expensive the sleeping bag. The lower-end fill power is about 500, which means these sleeping bags must weigh more to provide similar levels of warmth.
The most lightweight sleeping bags are going to have a high down fill power.
And remember, everyone's bodies lose warmth differently. If you're a "cold sleeper", aim for a warmer sleeping bag.
Why Lightweight Sleeping Bags Kick Ass
Traveling with a lightweight sleeping bag is the most ideal option for backpackers. The benefits are numerous. First of all, you never need your sleeping bag on EVERY single day of any given trip. That means the other days in which you are NOT using your sleeping bag, it is stuffed down somewhere in the depths of your backpack.
Investing in a quality lightweight sleeping bag to take traveling is an important decision. Ideally, you want a lightweight sleeping bag that is still functional for your intended purposes (IE warm enough for the mountains, yet lightweight enough to not be overly cumbersome in your backpack.
As with mot things in the outdoor gear world, the lighter (and better quality) the gear, the more expensive it tends to be. The best lightweight sleeping bags are indeed not cheap. That said, you should keep in mind that you probably don't need an ultralight, zero degree sleeping bag for most adventures.
The best lightweight sleeping bag is the one that is versatile in a variety of climates. You want a lightweight sleeping bag that you can take on just about every backpacking adventure you embark on.
You can easily find a lightweight sleeping bag that should cover most of your travel and hiking needs.
Below, I cover my top pick for the best lightweight sleeping bag and also a couple warmer alternatives that still fit into the lightweight sleeping bag category.
Best Sleeping Bags for Comfort
- Sleeping Bag Length: Most adult sleeping bags come in Regular or Long. A bag that is too long for you may leave you with cold feet; whereas, a bag too small will leave your torso more exposed.
- Women-specific Sleeping Bags: Women-specific bags are designed to fit a woman's body shape, and are usually shorter in length, to help women and "cold sleepers" trap more heat. Many of them come with extra insulation in the upper body. Smaller women may find that youth bags are the best fit.
- Mummy bags: Mummy bags are warmer because they are tight fitting, and usually have hoods to keep heat in from your head.
- Rectangle bags: Rectangular sleeping bags are often the most comfortable because you have more room to move around. Some sleeping bags have a hybrid design, where they combine the pros of both.
Best Sleeping Bags Reviewed
Alright, let's get stuck into reviewing the best sleeping bags for backpackers! Before we dive into the in-depth reviews, let's take a quick peek at how our top four sleeping bag picks rank against each other...
|Feathered Friends Swift 20 YF||Check on REI|
|Sea to Summit Spark 2||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|REI Magma 10||Check on REI|
|Kammok Thylacine||Check on Amazon|
|REI Joule 21||Check on REI|
|REI Siesta 30||Check on REI|
|SEMOO Envelope||Check on Amazon|
A good quality sleeping bag isn't going to be cheap; however, look at your backpacking sleeping bag as an investment.
Many of the sleeping bags on our list come with lifetime warranties, and you can expect them to last for decades. Moreover, I think it is worth investing in a lightweight sleeping bag if you want to keep your overall backpack light so as to avoid straining your back.
I've listed a couple of backpacker friendly sleeping bags from the store REI (USA). REI has a one-year warranty on all of the brands they carry, so you can use the gear for up to a year, and return whatever isn't perfect for a full refund.
Here is a list of the most kickass backpacking sleeping bags no matter what kind of adventure you are on...
#1 Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Bag
This sleeping bag is not cheap, but the Feathered Friends Swift 20 YF is one of the best (if not the best) sleeping bags for its quality, comfort, and durability. It is comfortably fluffy (900+ fill down), yet durable, and the bag still compresses to the size of a loaf of bread. Its large, durable zipper doesn't get caught in the material, and the outside fabric is treated for water and stain resistance far beyond typical sleeping bags. Whilst the bag isn't waterproof, it's one of the most water resistant down sleeping bags on the market.
Feathered Friends bags are the highest quality sleeping bags, made by hand in Seattle, USA, and are filled with down from geese raised with the highest humane standards. You can customize the bag on their site, and even have the sleeping bag customized after purchase (years down the line) if ever needed. The Swift 20 YF is my pick for the best overall quality sleeping bag because of its weight, durability and comfort. Treat this bag as an investment and you won't be disappointed.
#2 Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag
At 12 oz. of total weight, the Sea to Summit Spark is one of the most lightweight sleeping bags on the market. If you are traveling with very limited space and weight, you're a minimalist, a biker, or a kayaker, this is the sleeping bag for you. It packs as small as a softball! (That's smaller than most down jackets!)
Lack of insulation to save weight means this hiker friendly sleeping bag carries most of its fill in the space for heat where you need it most: over your core. The hood has a simple drawcord on the right, snugging around the face.
The drawback? It has a 54F comfort rating, so this is not for backpacking in cold conditions. On the other hand, if you like this Sea to Summit bag, you can get its big brother (Spark III), which handles temperatures at 25F; however, this makes the sleeping bag heavier and more expensive as well, which kind of defeats the ultra lightweight minimalist approach.
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag #2
Ok so the REI Magma 10 might be nearly double the weight of the Sea to Summit Spark Quilt, but it also WAY warmer for when you need a truly badass lightweight sleeping bag in the mountains.
At 1 lb. 14 oz, the REI Magma 10 isn't what I would call ultralight. That said, it packs a lot of warming power into a lightweight sleeping bag feel. For colder climates, a super lightweight sleeping bag simply will not keep you warm enough to be comfortable (or safe).
When you start dipping below 32 F (0 C), having a warm lightweight sleeping bag isn't just a luxury, it is a necessity for survival! If you plan on taking a backpacking trip to the Andes, Patagonia, the Himalayas, New Zealand, or other cold-climate/high-altitude destinations, I strongly recommend that you go with a lightweight sleeping bag that has a EN comfort rating of at least 20 degrees F.
The REI Magma is just that. It features an abundance of 850-fill water resistant down that will keep you toasty when the weather turns cold in the mountains.
For $350, the Magma 10 is actually a great value when compared to other burly lightweight sleeping bags offering the same temperature rating. It's a solid buy for those looking for a more serious lightweight sleeping bag to take backpacking.
#3 Best Four Season Sleeping Bag for Travelling
Kammok Thylacine (3 in 1 Sleeping Bag)
Many winter sleeping bags will run you $500-600+. The Kammok Thylacine, however, is one of the most versatile sleeping bags on our list because of its unique 3 in 1 feature. You essentially get three sleeping bags for a fraction of the cost.
The bag is normally at a 30°F temperature rating, but with its attachable liner, it can withstand 15°F. Add the liner insert and the Kammok becomes a winter bag for 0°F temperatures. While I wouldn't use the Kammok as a replacement for a winter only sleeping bag, it's a great choice for the four season traveller, who plans to camp in multiple temperatures and climates!
Other cool features include pillow pocket to keep the pillow in place and storage pocket for your head torch. Plus the Kammok compresses quite small for a 3 lb bag!
The drawback? They do not have a short size for the vertically challenged. Its regular size is 78” and fits a person up to 6’3”.
#4 Best Women's Sleeping Bag
REI's Joule 21 is consistently rated one of the best women's sleeping bags for its comfort, warmth, and durability.
REI makes great quality, affordable camping gear, and in the last few years their gear caught up to the same quality as many of the other brands in the outdoor space.
The Joule 21 can actually handle temperature's at 21F without extra clothing or a liner. One cool feature is its waterproof finish (despite its down material)!
The most important feature is the Joule is designed to fit a woman's body, and offers increased room at hips, decreased room at shoulders, and extra insulation in critical heat-loss areas. This is a great quality sleeping bag for a woman traveler and comes with a one year warranty.
#5 Best Cheap Sleeping Bag
If you are looking for a sleeping bag under $100, the REI Siesta is the best sleeping bag for you. It is a rectangle style sleeping bag, which is much roomier than mummy styled bags, as many campers prefer. A nice feature is its stash pocket for your keys, wallet, and torch.
The downside is it's much heavier than most backpacking sleeping bags. Nevertheless, the Siesta 30 is the lightest rectangle style bag on the market. And for the price, you can't get a better quality sleeping bag that finds a balance between weight, warmth, and comfort. In my opinion, this is the best value cheap sleeping bag for backpackers.
Bonus: Best Festival Sleeping bag
The Semoo Comfort Lightweight Sleeping Bag is a good choice if you're on a serious budget and won't be sleeping out in truly frosty conditions. For a festival or casual weekends camping, the Semoo can handle it! It packs down small, it's lightweight and it's double zip feature lets you open it up fully so you can use it as a blanket to lie on or under whilst watching the stars.
Conclusion for the Best Sleeping Bags for Backpackers
Everyone has different requirements and budgets when backpacking, so I decided to break down our top picks for sleeping bags based on different types of travel needs.
If you are aiming for an overall amazing quality backpacking sleeping bag, the Feathered Friends Swift 20 is without a doubt the best sleeping bag that I have ever slept in.
I understand though that many hikers and travelers are looking for something a little cheaper - The REI Siesta 30 Sleeping Bag is a steal at $85 and if you don't mind the extra weight it's a solid choice and is definitely one of the best backpacking sleeping bags.
For the best lightweight sleeping bag on the market, the Sea to Summit Spark Quilt is a great option.
Need More Inspiration?
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