When you're purchasing the best sleeping bag, just as with the best tents, best hiking backpacks and best hiking boots, personal preferences play an important role when chossing the best option for your outdoor escapades. Do you sleep ‘like a log’, or toss and turn? Are you comfortable on your back or are you a side sleeper?
And then you need to factor in where your adventures are most likely to take you, and when. Will you mostly be camping out in the summer, at comfortable campsites near beaches, or will you be going backpacking and exploring mountain trails and highland regions, in all kinds of conditions?
Whatever sort of experience you’re chasing, and no matter what you’re sleeping habits are like, the best sleeping bag should be high on your camping checklist. It's out there waiting for you to crawl into it.
Traditionally, sleeping bag insulation is offered in two forms: down feathers or synthetic fibers. Down has advantages such as better loft, warmth and compressibility. But down’s performance falters significantly when wet. Fortunately, sleeping bag manufacturers have worked with suppliers to create different approaches to waterproof down. There’s pros and cons to each approach but bottom line, they all deliver down’s performance without the fear of sleeping in a damp sleeping bag.
Spend a few cold nights in the woods and you will see that details matter, Customizable zipper systems, draft collars and hoods can make a clear difference in comfort and cold. Of course, it's also worth acquiring one of the best sleeping pads as well. Sleeping bag temperature ratings give you a way to compare models, but there’s a lot of room for interpretation – if you know you feel the cold easily, the best sleeping bag for you will be a warmer model.
The best sleeping bags you can buy today
Big Agnes Torchlight 20
A bag where the clever construction delivers customized comfort
RRP: $300 (US) / £375 (UK) | Sizes: Regular / Long | Weight: Regular 2lb 11oz / 1.22kg Long 3lb / 1.36kg | Max user height: Regular 6ft/183cm Long 6ft 6in/198cm | Pack size: Regular 8.5 x 7.5in / 22 x 19cm Long 8.5 x 8in / 22 x 20cm | Fill: 600 Fill DownTek | Shape: Classic mummy | Temperature rating: Comfort 27°F/-3°C Limit 15°F/-9°C extreme -19°F/-28°C | Compatibility: 3–4 season | RRP: $300 (US) / £375 (UK) | Sizes: Regular / Long | Weight: Regular 2lb 11oz / 1.22kg; Long 3lb / 1.36kg | Max user height: Regular 6ft/183cm; Long 6ft 6in/198cm | Pack size: Regular 8.5 x 7.5in / 22 x 19cm; Long: 8.5 x 8in / 22 x 20cm | Fill: 600 Fill DownTek | Shape: Classic mummy | Comfort: 27°F/-3°C; Limit: 15°F/-9°C; extreme -19°F/-28°C | Compatibility: 3–4 season
Do you sleep on your back or your side? Do you move around, or sleep soundly? No matter what sort of sleeping style you have, the Torchlight 20 offers a warm and highly customizable mummy bag that’s light enough for taking backpacking.
Offered in a regular and a long size, the Torchlight boasts two expanded panels running from shoulder to footbed, which can increase the sleeping space available for your body by 10 inches. When the panels are open, folks with wide hips, wide shoulders and preference for side sleeping will find a warm comfortable sleep system. The bag uses DownTek water repellent down with a baffle construction style to deliver more efficient heat distribution. When temperatures drop, the insulated hood contours to the shape of your face. A stuff sack and off-season storage bag are included.
A cocoon of colorful comfort and cosiness
RRP: $350 (US) / £300 (UK) / €420 (EU) | Sizes: 1 size | Weight: 2lb 13oz / 1276g | Length: 82in / 208cm | Pack size: 9 x 17in/ 23 x 43cm | Fill: 800-fill RDS-certified duck down | Shape: Mummy | Temperature rating: limit: 15°F/-9°C | Compatibility: 3 season
Using a traditional mummy shape with a tall footbox to keep toes warm on chilling nights, the Sueño is well-suited for both car camping or backpacking. A two-way zipper on the right side and a half-length zipper left side let the user dial in comfort to match the temperatures outside. A draft collar keeps your head warm, and a unique ‘Eyelok’ hood adjustment means you can control how much heat is locked in (or let out). There is an integrated pillow pocket in the hood, and an insulated media pocket keeps your smartphone battery from draining quickly in colder temperatures.
The 800 fill duck down provides comfort in a wide range of temperatures. The Sueño comes with an integrated stuff sack and a loose storage sack. For some buyers, Cotopaxi’s dedication to sustainability is an important feature, and 1% of revenue from purchases made goes to support the Cotopaxi Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to poverty alleviation in the poorest regions of the world.
Technically advanced two-season bag that delivers welcome warmth however high you camp
RRP: $450 (US)/£360 (UK) | Weight : 560g/1lb 4oz (regular), 600g/1lb 5oz (long) | Length: 190cm/75in (regular), 205cm/81in (long) | Max user height: 185cm/6ft 1in (regular), 200cm/6ft 6.5in (long) | Pack size: 25x19cm/9.8x7.5in | Fill: 800FP goose down (93/7) | Comfort limit: 2°C/36°F | Limit: -3°C/27°F | Compatibility: 2-season
This meticulously engineered sleeping bag is about as light as it gets without venturing into extreme ultralight territory – which typically comes with compromises in both durability and functionality. The Firefly needs to make no such concessions, offering plenty of features in a fairly robust package while still only tipping the scales at 560g. Compared to the highly tapered and restrictive design of many ultralight bags, the Firefly is very comfortable, thanks to a contoured shark’s-fin footbox and a multiple-panelled hood that cradle the feet and head snugly. It also has a long, two-way zip for easy entry and exit, which lets you vent heat on warmer nights. If the temperature drops, however, it’ll keep you toasty down to -3°c (27°F), thanks to 800 fill power goose down housed in a box-wall construction for maximum thermal efficiency. Warmth is further boosted by the EXL Alpine fit, which uses elasticated inner chambers to bring the down fill closer to your body and eliminate dead space inside the bag. Like all down bags, The Firefly’s Achilles heel is wet weather performance – though the DWR-treated face fabric does help to prevent damp seeping in.
Featherweight champ that offers exceptional warmth for weight and plush spring-thru-summer comfort in a minuscule package
RRP: $350 (US)/£310 (UK) | Weight : 440g/15oz (small), 460g/1lb (regular), 520g/1lb 2oz (large) | Length: 185cm/73in (small), 203cm/80in (regular), 216cm/85in (large) | Max user height: 168cm/5ft 6in (small), 183cm/6ft (regular), 198cm/6ft 6in (large) | Pack size: 15x14cm/6x5.5in | Fill: Responsible Down Standard Certified 900 Fill Goose Nikwax Hydrophobic Down | Comfort limit: 5°C/41°F | Limit: 0°C/32°F | Compatibility: 2-season
The Hyperion 32 is stuffed with 250g of premium 900 fill power hydrophobic goose down. Given that the bag itself weighs just 460g in total, that promises good performance – and it delivers in spades. But as well as punching above its weight when it comes to warmth, it’s also impressively packable. That makes it a great option for fast and light trips, whether you’re a committed adventure racer or a backpacker looking to drop trail weight. The key to such apparently physics-defying performance is clever design and top-of-the-range materials – namely, a silk-like 10 denier ripstop nylon shell in addition to that impressive down fill. The bag employs box-wall baffles with weight-saving internal mesh side walls. Zoned fill also puts 70% of the down on the top and sides of the bag, leaving your mat to insulate you from beneath. It’s a good solution if you own a decent sleeping pad. And it works, as long as you don’t twist the bag around. To prevent this, the bag has thin elastic straps that slide under your mat. If you can get on with this slightly unusual system, and don’t mind the minor awkwardness of a half zip, this is a real winner.
Hard-wearing and versatile synthetic bag that makes a practical camp companion whether you’re sleeping out in high summer or the chilly shoulder seasons
RRP: $200 (US)/£200 (UK) | Weight : 1kg 440g/oz (regular), 1kg 670g (large) | Length: 203cm/80in (regular), 216cm/85in (large) | Max user height: 183cm/6ft (regular), 198cm/6ft 6in (large) | Pack size: 36x23cm/14x9in | Fill: Synthetic WaveLoft | Comfort limit: -4°C/26°F | Limit: -10°C/14°F | Compatibility: 3- to 4-season
As far as we’re concerned, Aussie brand Sea to Summit don’t make a bad sleeping bag – but the Traverse Tv III is one of their best. It’s the ideal choice for campers who are equally happy to venture out in early spring, late autumn or high summer, as you can zip everything up tight for maximum warmth, but also open all the vents – or even spread the bag out as a full quilt – in milder weather. That versatility makes this an eminently practical bag for varied conditions as well as a good value pick, since you can genuinely use it comfortably throughout all three seasons. The Traverse Tv III’s supreme adaptability is down to a well-thought-out design that incorporates dual side zips and a foot vent, so you can easily stick out an arm or a foot if you start to overheat. It is cut fairly generously too, with a relaxed rectangular mummy shape that will be appreciated by restless sleepers or by those who don’t like the confined feel of a more tapered mummy-style bag. Inevitably, that accommodating fit adds a little weight and bulk when packed, but it is still a practical size for camping and backpacking.
Tough and robust military-derived bag that can be used and abused on weekend summer camps, backpacking jaunts or stealthy bivvies
RRP: £125 (UK) | Weight: 900g/2lb (regular), 1kg 140g/2lb 8oz (extra long) | Length: 200cm (regular), 250cm (extra long) | Max user height: 183cm/6ft (regular), 220cm+/7ft 2in+ (extra long) | Pack size: 16x16cm/6x6in | Fill: Paratex Light (100% Nylon) and Reflectatherm (100% Polyester) | Comfort limit: -4°C/26°F | Limit: 32°F/0°C | Compatibility: 2-season
The Softie 3 Solstice has a militarised brother – the Merlin – that is a firm favourite among soldiers. Aside from a couple of features, the specs of the two bags are identical, which makes this robust and well-made bit of kit a good choice for campers and backpackers who demand a lot of their outdoor gear. The face fabric is a burly ripstop nylon with a double inner, consisting of a lighter-weight nylon for added comfort, backed with Reflect-a-therm fabric. This is a layer of polyester covered in metallic dots, designed to reflect body heat and boost warmth. Combined with Snugpak’s own Softie Premier synthetic hollowfibre fill, it makes for a bag that feels warmer than its impressively small pack size might suggest. Having said that, we still felt the bag’s temperature ratings were a touch optimistic, though it will still keep most sleepers comfortably cosy in single-digit temperatures. It is a little difficult to lock in warmth because of the relatively simple hood, though there are drawcords to help. But the long, two-way zip has a chunky baffle to guard against cold spots, and the bag’s design, consisting of a continuous sheet of insulation with minimal stitching, also helps to minimise heat loss.
A reassuringly snug sleeping bag designed for climbers tackling fast-and-light mountain missions - also the perfect three-season camping cocoon
RRP: £355 (UK) | Weight: 819g/1lb 13oz | Length: 190cm/75in (regular), 205cm/81in (long) | Max user height: 185cm/6ft 1in (regular), 200cm/6ft 6.5in (long) | Pack size: 36x19cm/14-7.5in | Fill: Ethically sourced/certified European Goose Down | Comfort limit: -1°C/30°F | Limit: -7°C/14°F | Compatibility: 3-season
Rab’s most recent marketing tagline trumpets the brand as ‘masters of insulation’. That’s a pretty bold claim, but the Neutrino Pro 400 backs it up, seamlessly blending functionality and performance. The high-quality 800 fill power goose down offers impressive warmth for weight as well as packability, reflecting its intended use as a specialist mountaineering piece, where every gram and cubic inch counts. However, it’s too good a sleeping bag to be reserved solely for elite climbers, particularly since so many of the features that enable the Pro to excel in high alpine environments mean it is also brilliant for backpackers and wild campers too. Firstly, the hydrophobic fill and water-resistant shell makes it far more resistant to moisture than most down bags. Generous length and extra room for the upper torso tapering to a contoured footbox means this is a comfortable bag to lie in, whether you’re perched on a rock ledge or not. And even the little details are great, like the handy internal stash pocket or the ‘noctilucent’ zip puller – which means it glows in the dark to you and me. So, we’ll forgive the verbiage and marketing spiel, because this is a bag that delivers on all counts.
A cosy synthetic three-season bag with extra fill in the footbox to keep toes toasty, plus water-resistant zones at each end to fend off damp tent walls
RRP: £185 (UK)/€220 (Europe) | Weight: 1kg 885g/4lb 2.5oz (regular), 2kg 55g/4lb 8.5oz (large) | Length: 205cm/80.7 (regular), 220cm/86.6in (large) | Max user height: 185cm/6ft 1in (regular), 200cm/6ft 6.5in (large) | Pack size: 22x35cm/8.6x13.8in (regular), 23x36cm/19x14in (large) | Fill: Deuter Thermo ProLoft | Comfort limit: -4°C/25°F | Limit: -10°C/14°F | Compatibility: 3-season
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and nor should you judge Deuter’s Exosphere bags by their slimline appearance. They’re much roomier than they look, thanks to elastic seams that mean they stretch up to 25% in width for added comfort. This also makes them more thermally efficient by eliminating dead space. The generous synthetic fill, snug collar, ergonomic hood, zip baffle and extra-thick padded footbox all make for a toasty bag that is ideal for cold sleepers. The women’s SL version even has additional fleece zones to ward off chills. Other clever innovations include reinforced water-resistant panels to help protect the bag from damp, ideal if you use a bivvy bag or if you often wake up to find your head and feet touching the walls of your tent. There’s also an inside pocket for stashing camera batteries or a smartphone, a useful feature that is often neglected. Recently, Deuter have introduced a large version of this bag, a welcome addition for taller (6ft-plus) campers. The other drawback is that it is relatively heavy and bulky when packed. Not a problem, of course, if you’re car camping, so this is a great bag for any campsite. There is a women-specific version of this sleeping bag.
An innovative and versatile zipperless sleeping bag that offers luxurious comfort and delivers excellent warmth for weight
RRP: $300-320 (US)/£260 (UK) | Weight: 660g/1lb 7oz (regular), 710kg/1lb 9oz (long) | Length: 198cm/78in (regular), 213cm/84in (long) | Max user height: 183cm/6ft (regular), 198cm/6ft 6in (long) | Pack size: 33x18cm/13x7in (regular), 33x18cm/13x7in (long) | Fill: 800FP DriDown duck down | Comfort limit: 2°C/36°F | Limit: -3°C/26°F | Compatibility: 2-season
Zippers are the chink in every sleeping bag’s armour. They add weight and bulk to a bag’s design, have a nasty habit of letting in draughts, and often jam at the worst possible moment. Zips can also be uncomfortable, especially if you get your bag twisted around you. Those drawbacks partly account for the increasing popularity of backpacking quilts, especially in the states. US brand Sierra Designs’ unusual Cloud 800 offers the best of both worlds – the enveloping warmth of a proper footbox and a mummy-style hood in a zipperless design that utilises a quilted flap. It’s a bit like the corner of a duvet but with a shaped shoulder pocket. The result is a luxurious bag with high thermal efficiency, thanks to box-wall baffles filled with 800 fill power duck down. The half-pad sleeve is also a great innovation, allowing you to secure your sleeping mat in place. The Cloud offers warmth down to -3°C/26°F, but if you do start to overheat, you can kick your feet through a bottom vent to cool down. The bag’s fill is positioned on the top and sides, with a rear sleeve for a sleeping mat. This improves overall warmth for weight and creates a bed-like structure. If you sleep on your back, you’ll love it, though it’s maybe not such a good option for side sleepers.
A seriously warm four-season bag that can only be bested by specialist brands producing kit for polar expeditions and high-altitude mountaineers
RRP: $760 (US)/£570 (UK) | Weight: 1kg 208g/2lb 10.6 oz | Length: 218cm/86in (regular), 234cm/92in (long) | Max user height: 205cm/6ft 5in (regular), 220cm/7ft+ (large) | Pack size: 21x42cm/8.25x16.5in | Fill: 850-fill goose down | Comfort limit: -7°C/19.4°F | Limit: -18°C/0.4°F | Compatibility: 4-season
If you’re a serious winter camper, you might consider this tried-and-tested four-season down bag for your next adventure. The flagship sleeping bag in the Mountain Hardwear line, this performance-orientated bag can really only be bettered by niche manufacturers specialising in ultra-premium down kit, which typically come with long lead times and even more eye-watering price tags to match. Given the warmth it offers (down to a bone-chilling -18°c), this bag is lightweight and compact, with an impressively small pack size that ranks among the best in this class. It is filled with a hefty 850g of 850 fill power down, housed in either a Pertex Quantum or Gore-Tex Windstopper fabric shell. Given its performance-driven design, the fit is highly tapered, maximising thermal efficiency. As such some might find it a little restrictive, though they would never find it too cold. It has a great neck baffle to lock in warmth along with vertical chest baffles to counter down migration, which could otherwise cause cold spots. The footbox and panelled hood are similarly well-designed. The one rather surprising omission is that the down fill has no hydrophobic treatment, though arguably the highly water-resistant outer would render this unnecessary.
Choosing the best sleeping bag for you
When considering how to choose a sleeping bag, there are many factors that will dictate which is the best sleeping bag for you. Your budget, you intended use and the environment you'll be exploring all have to be taken into account.
If you're mainly going to be camping with kids in campsites during the summer months, you may not need to dive too deep into the wallet. However, if you're spending a week bagging Munros in Scotland, fastpacking across the the Alps or completing one of America's best thru-hikes, you'll need something both warm and lightweight.
Everyone's ambitions are different, so there's a different best sleeping bag for everyone. In general, however, it’s worth considering the following:
Most sleeping bags are given a season rating: a three-season bag is suitable for spring, summer and autumn use, for example. They also have a temperature range typically including an upper limit, a comfort limit, a lower limit and an extreme limit. The comfort and lower limits are the best indicators of a bag’s realistic temperature range, but they should only be used as a guide. If you have wild camping ambitions, it is best to go for a sleeping bag with a low comfort limit.
As with the best down jackets, the major factor affecting warmth is the fill, which will be either synthetic insulation or natural down. Generally, down sleeping bags offer superior warmth-to-weight, but down’s performance declines markedly if it gets wet. It's also worth informing yourself about ethical down, so that you can choose a filling that you are morally okay with. Synthetic bags continue to insulate even when damp, and they’re more hard-wearing, easier to care for, and cheaper.
2. Features and fabrics
Most premium bags use a box wall construction, which traps the fill inside brick-shaped baffles. Larger baffles give more space for insulation to loft but can be prone to down migration (when the fill shifts around, causing cold spots). Smaller baffles stop this. Simpler bags generally use a stitch-through construction, which isn’t as thermally efficient, but does save weight. Some synthetic bags use a baffle-free construction that instead employs a single sheet of insulation, which minimises stitching for improved durability and helps to reduce cold spots.
A well-insulated, close-fitting and adjustable hood really helps lock in heat. Hood drawcords enable you to cinch in and customise the fit around your face, but ensure they’re comfortably placed and easy to use. A chunky neck or shoulder baffle helps to prevent warm air from escaping too.
Shells and linings are usually made from ripstop nylon, though cheaper bags use polyester. Both are soft on the skin, but nylon is generally more durable as it is a stronger fibre for its weight.
3. Zips and vents
A long zipper makes for easier entry and exit, and also provides ventilation in warmer weather, especially if it has two-way zip pullers. However, a shorter zipper saves weight and reduces bulk, so is often a feature of ultralight bags. Many bags are available with either left- or right-hand zips. If you’re a side sleeper, think about which side you usually sleep on, as having a zip underneath you can be uncomfortable and impractical. Zippers are notorious for letting in chills, so ensure they’re backed with padded baffles.
In some situations you can overheat, which is almost as unpleasant as being cold. To mitigate this, many bags have vents or gills – usually at the foot end, but occasionally at the sides too.
4. Size and comfort
Many of the best sleeping bags are available in different lengths or even widths, as well as women-specific fits. Check the specs of a bag to find out which is right for your height and body shape. Technical or ‘performance mummy’ bags are slim fitting and highly tapered for maximum thermal efficiency. Some people find them restrictive and may prefer a more relaxed shape, which gives extra wriggle room. Some bags are also elasticated to give you more room to move around, without reducing their effective warmth.
5. Weight and pack size
Depending on your intended use, weight and pack size may be absolutely critical or less important. But a lightweight sleeping bag with a small pack size is obviously easier to carry, which you'll thank yourself for if thru-hiking for any considerable distance. Most bags are supplied with a stuff sack, but these vary in quality. A stuff sack that is fitted with compression straps will really help to cinch down the pack size. Remember – you can always buy a compression sack for your sleeping bag if necessary.
In addition to a stuff sack, many of the best sleeping bags now come with a larger cotton storage sack that allows the bag to loft and breathe when not in use. This prevents musty odours and damage to the fill caused by long-term compression.
As a rule of thumb, a good two-season sleeping bag should weigh under a kilo (2.2lbs). You can find lightweight down three-season bags that deliver additional warmth for similar weight, but others may tip the scales at up to 2kg (4.4lbs).
Considered in terms of lifetime use, a high-quality down bag can offer very good value, provided you look after it. Down tends to suffer less from long-term compression compared to synthetic fills. Synthetic bags are generally cheaper and can still offer good overall performance, and in some cases come with only a minor increase in weight and bulk.
Sleeping bag prices vary widely. The cheapest bags start at around £25, the most expensive might be £500+. You can expect to pay more for better insulation, but you’ll also pay more for sleeping bags that offer exceptional warmth to weight. Invariably, these will use down with an extremely high fill power (800FP or more). Lower grade down bags are cheaper, but usually still more expensive than a synthetic alternative. As always, shop around – you can almost always pick up sleeping bags for far less than the RRP.
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