The Best Sleeping Bags for Backpacking in 2020

There are few things more rewarding than putting everything you need to survive into a pack and hitting the trails for some time away from the hustle and bustle of life. A long day on the trail sometimes makes you feel so exhausted that you feel like you could fall asleep standing up. While that might be true, you deserve to be comfortable even in the backcountry.

If you have ever spent a miserable night shivering in a sleeping bag that was not warm enough, you will know that it affects everything about your ability to function. Comfortable sleep means that you wake well-rested enough to tackle the challenges of the trail.

You might think that where you sleep doesn’t matter when you are tired after a long day outside. Nothing could be further from the truth! When you are in the backcountry, the importance of a sleeping bag is not just comfort – it is a safety device. Hypothermia is a very dangerous condition that can develop quickly in cold temperatures.

To prevent hypothermia when backpacking, you will need a sleeping bag that will keep you safely warm, and to sleep well, you will need one that keeps you comfortably warm.

There have never been more choices for quality sleeping bags, but there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Choosing the best bag for you is easy once you know what to look for. Ready to hit the trail?

Quick Summary

What to Look For: How to Choosing a Sleeping Bag for Backpacking

Warmth: What Temperatures Will You Experience?

The most important consideration for choosing a sleeping bag is how warm it is able to keep you. There are actually two different ratings for most sleeping bags: The survivability rating and the comfort rating.

A bag that is rated 15/30 means that it will help you survive in 15 degrees Fahrenheit weather, but it will help you sleep comfortably in 30-degree weather.

When selecting a bag for backpacking, select a bag rate for at least ten degrees warmer than the coldest weather you are likely to encounter to allow for temperature drops and wind chill.

Design: What Shape Works Best For You?

When choosing the best backpacking sleeping bag for you, an important consideration is the design of the bag. Narrowing down the type of bag you are comfortable with will make the rest of the selection process much easier. There are four basic types of sleeping bags:

  • A mummy bag is tapered and comes to a point where your feet fit, and usually includes a hood for your head to help trap warmth. Mummy bags typically conform to your body shape, and are sometimes made of stretchy materials to fit your body quite snugly. If your shoulder or hips are wide, you will want to make sure that the mummy bag has enough room to sleep comfortably.
  • A rectangle or envelope sleeping bag is roomier when it is completely zipped up and does not taper at the foot box. These bags also typically do not have hoods, so they are usually used in warmer weather. People who sleep on their sides or like to move around inside a sleeping bag sometimes find these to be more comfortable than a mummy bag.
  • A semi-rectangular bag, sometimes referred to as a tapered, barrel, or modified mummy sleeping bag, is another shape that is becoming more common. This bag is slightly less tapered and it may or may not have a hood attached. A semi-rectangular bag can be a good choice if you need more room inside the bag than a mummy bag offers, but want less bulk than a rectangle sleeping bag.
  • A sleeping quilt is a very popular choice for backpacking. These are hoodless, backless bags that attach directly to a sleeping pad. Since they open directly to the sleeping pad, they can take up less space in your pack than a sleeping bag. However, a sleeping quilt is only as good as the warmth of the sleeping pad it is used with to insulate the bottom. It is vital that you have a sleeping pad with an appropriate R-value for a sleeping quilt, which in warmer temperatures is around a 4, but in winter might be as high as an R-value of 7.

Size and Style: How Tall Are You?

Sleeping bags usually come in different sizes or lengths to ensure they cover your body. If you are very tall, you will want to look for a longer bag to ensure that your shoulders and head do not hang out of the bag.

Likewise, if you are short, there is not a need to have the extra length of sleeping bag taking up space in your pack. Make sure you check the suggested height for your sleeping bag, and if you are right at the edge of the suggested height, buy the longer bag to play it safe.

Additionally, sleeping bags are sometimes sized for men (wider at the shoulders) or women (wider at the hips), so make sure that the style of bag you’re buying will fit your body type.

Materials: What is the Bag Made Of?

Another consideration is the material content of the bag. Is it filled with natural down fiber, or are the materials synthetic? Natural down is a popular choice for sleeping bags since it has a very high warmth-to-weight ratio, but if you are vegan and wish to avoid using animal products, you will want to avoid down.

Synthetic fill has improved significantly in warmth and quality in recent years, but beware that not all synthetic fills are the same. Some sleeping bag materials are better at retaining warmth when wet, so make sure that you note this when making your final selection.

Weight: How Heavy Is the Bag?

Although it is always a consideration when backpacking, weight should not be your primary concern with choosing a sleeping bag. It is much more important to select a bag that meets your needs for warmth and has a design that you are comfortable with, and then choosing the lightest-weight bag of that type that you can afford.

Although it is nice to not add a lot of weight to your pack, the necessity of a warm bag – especially in cold temperatures – should always be your primary concern. It is better to shave weight off in other areas rather than skimp on the warmth (or weight) of a sleeping bag.

Packability: How Small Can It Get?

While weight is a backpacking consideration, how small the bag can be packed is also worth considering.

As a general rule, the warmer the bag, the more space it will consume in your pack. Compression sacks will help to reduce the space that a sleeping bag eats up in your pack, but remember that you should never use a compression sack for the long-term storage of a sleeping bag.

As soon as your trip is over, you should air out your bag and store it in a breathable drawstring bag, allowing the loft to return to its full loft.

Our Picks: Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag

1. ECOOPRO Warm Weather Sleeping Bag

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The ECOOPRO Warm Weather Sleeping Bag is a good choice if you plan on backpacking in warmer weather, and you know that it is not possible to encounter temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This hooded envelope bag is very lightweight and super-packable, so it is perfect for those summer nights that do not require much in the way of warmth.

Why We Like It:

  • Compressing down to a size of just 7X11 inches – about the size of a football – it will take up very little space in your pack.
  • The included stuff sack will make packing this bag down an easy task.
  • The wide footbox and roomy interior of this bag make it a good choice for side sleepers, or anyone who likes extra room inside a sleeping bag.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • The summerweight quality of this bag means that it is not suitable for use in temperatures below 50 degrees.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

2. Sierra Designs Cloud Ultralight Zipperless

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The Sierra Designs Cloud Ultralight Zipperless has an innovative design. Imagine not having to wrestle with a zipper to get in and out of your sleeping bag! With this design, there is no more fumbling with zippers in the dark or brushing against the cold metal zipper as you climb in and out of your bag. There are two temperature ratings for this sleeping bag, so you can choose between a 20-degree or 35-degree rating.

Why We Like It:

  • The natural filling of down is super warm and yet very packable.
  • The shoulder pocket keeps the inside of the envelope from slipping.
  • A foot vent allows you to adjust the temperature to your preference

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Since it contains natural down, the price tag reflects the expense of this material.
  • If you are opposed to buying animal products, this will not be the bag for you.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

3. Hyke & Byke Katahdin

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The Hyke & Byke Katahdin is a classic mummy-style bag that is a good choice for cold-weather sleeping. Packing down to just 8 x 11 inches, this bag offers a lot of warmth and security without taking up much space or weight in your pack. The included stuff sack makes getting the bag down to those dimensions a snap.

Why We Like It:

  • The ClusterLoft fill is rated just as warm as down, but with even better water resistance.
  • All synthetic fiber makes this a good choice for vegans.
  • An internal gear pocket keeps your cell phone, headlamp, glasses, or contact lens case close during the night.

Why it Might Not Be For You:

  • Mummy-style bags can feel confining, so if you prefer to have more room to move around inside your bag, you should look elsewhere.
  • The long size Katahdin only fits people up to 6’6, so if you are very tall, this is not a bag for you.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

4. Kelty Cosmic 20

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The Kelty Cosmic 20 is a stylish 3-season mummy-style bag that will keep you comfortable when temperatures plunge into the 40s. With several choices in lengths and styles, this bag offers a variety of fits for different body types, including long, regular, short, and women’s body styles.

Why We Like It:

  • All-synthetic materials make it suitable for vegans.
  • Sleeping pad loops help your sleeping pad stay in place at night and prevent you from sliding off onto the cold tent floor.
  • A draft tube behind the zipper near the hood keeps cold air from seeping in through the zipper.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • If you need a bag to keep you comfortable at temperatures lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this is not the bag for you.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

5. TETON Sports LEEF

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The TETON Sports LEEF is a sleek mummy-style bag, rated for survival at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, will keep you comfortable as temperatures plunge below 20. In many places, that would count as being a four-season sleeping bag! It is lightweight and will add just four pounds to your pack, which is incredibly light for a winter-weight sleeping bag.

Why We Like It:

  • The drawstring pull around the hood helps to eliminate cold drafts.
  • The footbox of the LEEF is built out and filled with extra filling to keep your feet nice and warm.
  • A full-length draft tube keeps cold air from leaking in through the zipper.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • The mummy-style bag can feel confining, especially if you have broad shoulders.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

6. FARLAND 20 Degree Bag

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For three-season backpacking, the FARLAND 20 Degree Bag the lightweight is a great choice. For most camping other than winter, you will only need a bag that is comfortable at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A variety of lengths in this style means that there will be one that fits your body type. The included compression sack will help fit this bag into your pack with ease.

Why We Like It:

  • The envelope shape of the FARLAND offers more room in the footbox and through the hips, which is important if you like to be able to move around inside the bag.
  • A zipper at the footbox allows for easy venting for temperature control.
  • If you are camping with a companion, two bags can be zipped together to form a double sleeping bag.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • If you are looking for a four-season bag, keep looking – this bag is not warm enough for outdoor winter use.
  • If you are taller than six feet, you will want to look for a different bag.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

7. Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket

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The Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket is a unique option for hitting the trail. Some backpackers prefer the freedom of using sleeping quilts or blankets rather than a sleeping bag, since the options for use are greatly expanded. Water resistant, lightweight, and extremely flexible, this camping blanket is a great option for three-season camping. It is comfortable to around 40 degrees, depending on how it is used.

Why We Like It:

  • At just over one pound, this packs down smaller than a loaf of bread, and it will add almost no weight.
  • If you do not like the confining feeling of being zipped inside a sleeping bag, this sleeping blanket offers you the feeling of freedom.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • With no zippers to close it, you might find it too drafty at night.
  • Unlike other sleeping quilts on the market, there are no loops to attach this blanket to a sleeping pad. You could choose to add loops yourself.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

8. Marmot Ironwood 30 Mummy Bag

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Three-season bags typically keep you comfortable to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Marmot Ironwood 30 Mummy Bag does this while staying exceptionally lightweight. At just two pounds two ounces, you can have the warmth and flexibility of a three-season bag with the weight of a summer bag.

Why We Like It:

  • The stretchy tricot makes this bag fit snugly on a variety of body types.
  • The Down Defender coating on the fill helps to preserve warmth in the event that the bag gets wet.
  • A gear pocket sewn into the bag keeps nighttime essentials handy.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • If you are taller than 6’, this bag will not be a good fit for you.
  • Since it is filled with down, it is not a choice for people who want to avoid animal products.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

9. Outdoor Vitals Summit

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The Outdoor Vitals Summit is waterproof, warm, and very lightweight. This 4-season sleeping bag is rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Weighing less than two pounds and compressing to a size of 14×8 inches, this bag will keep you warm on all but the very coldest nights while taking up little space in your bag.

Why We Like It:

  • The extra down fill at the feet is helpful in keeping feet warm on very cold nights.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • The body-hugging mummy style might feel confining, so if you like to have more room to move inside your bag, this will not be a good fit for you.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

10. Sierra Designs Nitro Quilt 20 Degree

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Super lightweight and minimalistic, the Sierra Designs Nitro Quilt 20 Degree sleep quilt saves lots of space and weight in your pack without sacrificing warmth. Many backpackers have turned to sleeping quilts not just for weight reduction, but also for the comfort and flexibility they offer. If you do not like the form-fitting feel of a mummy sleeping bag, a sleeping quilt might be a good fit for you!

Why We Like It:

  • Weighing just one pound, 11 ounces, this quilt is a great choice if you are looking to save on weight in your pack.
  • A tucked-away hood allows you to use this like a mummy bag on colder nights.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Like all sleeping quilts, this quilt is open on the bottom and attaches directly to the sleeping pad. You must have a high-quality, warm sleeping pad of at least an R-4 value to make this quilt comfortable.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Useful Tips & Resources: How to Take Care of Your Bag

To help your sleeping bag last, it is important to care for it gently. Washing the sleeping bag frequently can reduce its lifespan, so try to keep it clean by sleeping in clean clothes as often as you can.

A package of biodegradable body wipes is a useful way to clean your hands and feet before climbing in for the night. An after-market sleeping bag liner will help protect the inside of your sleeping bag from dirt, sweat, and body oils as you sleep. It is also important to protect your sleeping bag from rips and punctures, so use caution when unrolling or packing your bag if there are thorns, sharp rocks, or tree branches nearby.

If you must wash your sleeping bag, make sure you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers recommend using cool water and a delicate cycle, and drying the sleeping bag on very low or no heat. (A commercial front-loading washing machine is gentler on fabric and filling than a machine with an agitator.) Adding some tennis balls or wool dryer balls can help to fluff the filling again when it is in the dryer.

Whether you’ve washed it or not, always make sure your sleeping bag is completely dry before storing it. Never store your sleeping bag in a compression sack, since that will affect the loft of the sleeping bag, which affects its warmth. Make sure that you store your sleeping bag in the bag it arrived in, or in another breathable cotton bag, away from damp areas.

With some gentle care and a few precautions, your sleeping bag will be your backpacking dream companion for many, many years!

A Good Night’s Sleep is Priceless!

Because there are so many great choices on the market, it can feel overwhelming to search for a backpacking sleeping bag. Your decision becomes much easier once you know what style of bag you want, and how warm you need it to be.

The right backpacking sleeping bag for you is the one that meets your temperature and comfort needs. More than any other piece of backpacking equipment, your sleeping bag will determine your warmth and comfort at night, and therefore your health and safety on the trail. Making sure you have the best bag for your needs is absolutely vital. Wishing you sweet dreams on the trail!

Do you like to go to bed early and wake up with the birds, or do you prefer to stay up late to watch the stars and sleep in? Let us know!

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