How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag?

To find a perfect sleeping bag that is easy to care for, not too heavy and fits your needs perfectly is not an easy task. Also, temperature ratings we feel quite differently and there are many other features you have to look when you choose a sleeping bag for a backpacking trip.

For backpacking trip, you have to understand that you will be sleeping outdoors in sometimes colder weather on a ground which isn’t so comfy. In this guide, I will try to go through everything you need to know about sleeping bags and scroll down for my selection of the best sleeping bag for a good sleep in any conditions.

Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags

Firstly you need to understand which sleeping bag features are important for you personally. Remember being too hot is an easier problem than being too cold.

Sleeping bag ratings of temperature

EN standard rating

The EN 13537  standard which is tested in the laboratory to measure temperature ratings of sleeping bags. Every bag with an EN Rating has been through the same  European norm test. You can use 4 terms to compare sleeping bags: upper limit, comfort, lower limit, and extreme.

Upper limit – the highest temperature a man can sleep without sweating,  zippers open, arms outside the sleeping bag.

Lower limit –  the lowest temperature a man would have a comfortable nights sleep in, curled position.

Comfort – the lowest temperature a woman would have a comfortable nights sleep in, relaxed position.

Extreme – lowest temperature a woman would not get hypothermia.

Nowadays sleeping bags usually list those ratings on the label.

How to choose a sleeping bag temperature rating suitable for you?

My favorite and I believe the most useful rule is to choose a sleeping bag that is about 10 degrees warmer than the coolest temperature predicted on your trip. Of course EN Standard is a good way to choose a sleeping bag but it would be perfect if you could experiment with your sleeping bag during a small trip.

Sleeping Bag Types

Sleeping bags also can be grouped into Summer, Winter, and 3-season. Although remember that it is better not to choose your sleeping bag based on the season but on the lowest temperature rating.

Summer sleeping bag

Summer sleeping bags are usually rated  0 °C (32 F) or higher. They also may not have those warm features like hoods and draft collars.

Sleeping bag
Lightweight Summer sleeping bag

Winter sleeping bag

Winter sleeping bags are obviously the warmest of the bunch. If you are planning on camping in the snow, this is the type of bag you will need to choose. Rated for -12 °C (10 F) or lower, they have special features that keep you additionally warm and dry on a trip like draft tubes, hoods, draft collars.

winter sleeping bag
Winter sleeping bag

3-season sleeping bag

3-season sleeping bags are the best money saver for outdoorsy people. They are rated from -12 °C– 0 °C (10 F to 32 F) to -6 °C – 4 °C (40 F). If you only want to get one bag for everything then choose this category sleeping bags. You can easily use them in the winter time or Summertime by unzipping it.  Only keep in mind that if you are using it in the Summer then you are carrying way more weight than you need.

winter sleeping bag
Winter sleeping bag

Sleeping Bag Design Type

Mummy

Mummy sleeping bags are close fitting, also they usually have warm hoods and can be much warmer than rectangle sleeping bags. Mummy sleeping bags might not be the only option for cooler weather.

best sleeping bag
Mummy type sleeping bag

Rectangle

Rectangles are not so expensive as other types, good for warmer temperatures and also have more room to move around for your legs.

best sleeping bag
Rectangle sleeping bag

Hybrid

Or in other words rectangle and mummy combined together. They can be wider mummy bags with more space for movement or rectangles with warm hoods.

Hybrid sleeping bag
Hybrid sleeping bag

Quilt

This type is similar to a quilt at home but it is made out of sleeping bag materials. They can quite lightweight but don’t work for sleepers who move around.

Quilt type sleeping bag
Quilt type sleeping bag

Sleeping bag weight

When you are backpacking with your sleeping bag, weight is really important. Usually, you have three items which are the heaviest: your sleep system, shelter and backpack, and sleeping bags take up a good chunk of weight. Remember, the different types of insulation make the difference in weight. Synthetic will be heavier than down. Additional features like zippers and hoods are extra weights as well.

Packed sleeping bag size

Packed size of a bag is the smallest size it can be pack down to. It depends on the thickness of the fabric and the insulation. However, thin shell fabrics will be less durable but it will be easier to pack.

Insulation types

Down

Advantages of down sleeping bags are they are lightweight and easily packable. Disadvantages, down sleeping bags, are more expensive than synthetic bags and the main problem with down is that it is not water resistant and loses “warmth” when wet. Some companies are coming out with water-resistant down but it is still not as good as synthetic for warmth when wet and drying speed.

Synthetic insulation

This type of insulation is getting better and better. It is still not as light or packable as down but it can be way less expensive and faster drying. If you are traveling to a humid place then synthetic insulation might be a better choice for you.

Hybrid down & synthetic

Hybrid bags made of both synthetic and down. These sleeping bags usually use synthetic insulation in places that are likely to get wet and then down for the bulk of the insulation on top of the bag so itis lighter and easily packet.

Sleeping bag comfort

The comfort of a sleeping bag depends on how you like to sleep if you need more room for movement, do you like to be warmer, have more place to sleep and so on. Check this list to know what kind of comfort you could have.

Ease of movement

Too large bag won’t be warm enough, sleeping bags that are too tight will not be comfortable.  Look for a sleeping bag that is in between. You may want extra space during winter time to add extra clothes.

Down breathes more

Down is way better at regulating temperature and breathing moisture out from the bag, this is a disadvantage of synthetic sleeping bags.

Consideration for stomach sleepers

In a sleeping bag hood probably won’t be comfortable sleeping face down. Hoodless bags and quilts will leave room to move more.

Feel of the fabric

Usually, sleeping bags are made out of polyester or nylon. Some are softer and smoother than others, before traveling you should check which in which fabric you feel the most comfortable.

Sleeping bag features

Baffles

Baffles are basically separators inside the two bags layers that keep down locked in specific areas around the sleeping bag.  It is useful because baffles make sure the down doesn’t all end up at your feet.

Hood

I actually love hoods usually mummy bags tend to have hoods that can help in colder temperatures. They will trap more heat than bags without hoods.

Shell fabric

Thinner shell fabrics will be lighter and easier to carry but less durable. Some are very water resistant preventing condensation from getting in. Those sleeping bags are useful especially in below-freezing temperatures when condensation can really become a problem.

Zippers

Some bags have double zippers letting you open the bottom if it’s too hot, some zippers can be full and all the way to the bottom of the sleeping bag or only half or a quarter of the bag. Zippers are a personal choice and can be on the left or right. Often people choose to have it on the side opposite to their dominant hand. When you are testing your sleeping bags, check if the zipper doesn’t catch the sleeping bag material.

Compatibility

Nowadays, you can get bags that are attached to your tent, just make sure that it has a zipper on the left and on the right.

Draft tube

A draft tube is a part of the sleeping bag that hangs down over the zipper which prevents drafts of cool air.

Stash pocket

Small pockets on the outside or inside of the sleeping bag actually are super useful for a headlamp or warm socks to grab in the middle of the night.

Trapezoidal foot box

Some sleeping bags include additional space in the foot box of the bag so you can comfortably angle your feet upwards.

The Best Sleeping bag

 

Eddie Bauer Snowline 20º Sleeping Bag

warm sleeping bagCheck on Amazon

Best for: Summer. Hikers looking for lots of room to wear thicker clothing to sleep

Temp rating: 20º (Lower Limit), Insulation: 850 fill down Weight: 0,6kg

Pros: Versatile fit, packs down small Cons: Lower warmth to weight than other options

Best review: Everything was perfect! It came with a carrying case. It was exactly what I needed for my camping trip. It got a little warm but it is summer and when it gets colder I know it will be reliable. Price was great I shopped around and this was the best deal if you are not particular on a certain color.

Mountain Hardwear Hyper Lamina Reg Sleeping Bag

sleeping bag

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Best for: Overall. Staying warm in wet conditions

Temp rating: -6 °C (21 F) (Lower Limit), Insulation: Synthetic, Weight: 1 kg

Pros: Dries fast, lightweight for synthetic, Cons: Half zip harder to get out of

Best review: I absolutely love this bag. I have both this 20-degree bag and the HyperLamina Torch 0 degree bag and they are the best. Same design. Different temperate ratings. Never had an issue with my feet getting cold either.

The North Face Cat’s Meow Sleeping Bag

north face sleeping bag

Best for: Women not going far in wet conditions

Temp rating: – 6 °C (22 F) (Comfort), Insulation: Synthetic, Weight : 1,3kg

Pros: Warm when wet, inexpensive Cons: Heavy

Best review: Bought this for my wife. The first trip out it was tested in mid-November at 9,000 feet in the Wasatch mountains. Temperatures dropped down around 0 at night and she stayed comfortable and warm. She did have a good sleeping pad and wool underwear on but was able to take off the rest of her clothing layers. Awesome bag for the price and packs down really well.

Kelty Kids Woobie Sleeping Bag

sleeping bag for kids

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Best for: Kids

Temp rating: -1 °C (30 F) (Lower Limit), Insulation: Synthetic, Weight: 2.25 lbs

Pros: Boys and girls colors, 2 zippers for easy entrance and exit, warm when wet Cons: Less room than rectangles

Best review: I’m not sure why this is listed as girls or a boys sleeping bag. The blue, while a little light is unisex, and the dinosaurs are cute colors so they could definitely go either way. As for the bag, I think it could be for kids a lot bigger than 5. The 2-year-old niece I got it for so she could go camping with us has lots of extra room. Also while it looks like a mummy bag, and definitely tapers at the end, it is not quite as mummy-y as an adult bag. The construction is great. Kelty has a fantastic warranty, and the cloud loft insulation is some of better synthetic stuff out there. It compacts well, isn’t too heavy, insulates better underweight (when compressed) than down, shakes off water better, and is cheaper.

TETON Sports Celsius Regular Sleeping Bag

family sleeping bag

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Best for: Kids. Warmer trips

Temp rating: -6 °C (20 F) (Lower Limit), Insulation: Synthetic, Weight: 2.65 lbs

Pros: Room to move, warm when wet, Cons: Cooler than mummy bags

Best review: Used for 2 days in Wayne National Forest in 30-degree weather. not for ultralight backpacking, this is heavy duty for the cold season at 5.5 lbs, but I stayed warm and bundled for the first time in early spring camping, and cannot wait to see how far into fall/winter I can go camping with this sleeping bag. Very comfortable inner material, and superior zippers. My favorite sleeping bag.

What are your favorite sleeping bags?