The good news for campers is there are many different brands of sleeping bags to choose from. The bad news is that with so many options it can be hard to pick the right one.
July 31, 2020
July 25, 2020
July 25, 2020
July 25, 2020
July 25, 2020
Extreme backpacking aficionados are familiar with Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends. While summer campers who would never dream of sleeping in the snow atop Mt Whitney may know TETON and Kelty.
Whether you’re sleeping under the stars on a mountaintop or spending the night with your kids in a backyard tent, a good night’s sleep makes or breaks the adventure. The Best sleeping bags create a pocket of warm air around you to help you maintain your body temperature while blocking the outside temperature.
When buying one climate, environment, shape and budget are important considerations. Chose the right one for your adventure using these sleeping bag reviews, and you won’t come home like a sleep- deprived zombie.
Best Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Bags Reviews
Suisse Sport Adventurer Mummy Ultra-Compactable Sleeping Bag
If you want an adult size option that is super compact, durable and designed for weight conscious backpackers then check out this beauty from Suisse Sport. This lightweight option comes with a compression storage sack that reduces to 12 x 7 x 7 and measures 29.5 inch by 84.5 inch (W x L) when open. Ideal for long treks when a few extra ounces can make a difference the Suisse Sport Adventurer will keep you comfortable in 40 – 50 degrees, and when the mercury starts to dip it is low-temperature rated to 30 degrees. A strong seller from Suisse Sport, it has both a cinch hood and draft tube for additional body heat retention and protection against the elements. It’s made with a double-layer offset quilt construction and comes with a compression stuff sack, and compression straps that make it easy to stuff down to a very compact size. Perfect for hikers, bikers or anyone who needs a lightweight option that delivers warmth and value. Perfect for spring, summer and fall backpacking adventures, Suisse Sport also offers an Adventurer XL, which is longer and wider on the top.
The TETON Sports TrailHead +20 Degree F Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Designed and developed with backpackers in mind and big on comfort this mummy style version features PolarLite, an innovative 7-denier interwoven insulation. You will also find a breathable, soft, double-brushed liner that delivers warmth even though it’s light and thin. There is plenty of shoulder and legroom for larger builds with its 32 inch by 87inch (W x L) mass while the box foot area lets you lie with your toes up in comfort for a great nights sleep. Weighing just under 3 pounds (2.9 lbs.) The Teton Sports TrailHead +20 Degree F Ultralight has zipper pullers inside and outside, a mummy hood with shoulder baffle and drawstring, and a zippered inner pocket for valuables. Tapered, anti-snag zippers enhance the full-length zippered draft tube. You will stay dry and enjoy long lasting durability with this high quality product from Teton that comes with a 75D 2MM diamond Ripstop water and tear resistant shell.
The Coleman North Rim 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
Looking for warmth for less? This feature rich mummy style offers all the features you’d expect from a technical option for way less. The 0 degree bag includes double batt offset quilt construction to eliminate cold spots, a semi-sculpted hood to keep your head warm, insulated chest baffle to help retain body heat, and the box foot silhouette allows extra wiggle for your toes. You’ll enjoy the full-length insulated draft tubes that lock out chilly air and a two-way zipper for maximum ventilation. Coleman’s ComfortSmart Technology ensures a comfortable, durable, high-quality purchase that comes with a stuff sack, a five-year warranty and is machine washable. It features a 100% Diamond Ripstop polyester cover, a polyester liner and is filled with 100% polyester, so it’s completely hypoallergenic. Great for campers up to 6’2” it measures 32 inches by 82 inches (W x L). This high-on-quality-low-on-cost camper favorite is filled with 60 ounces of Coletherm insulation to keep you comfortable down to 15 degrees F.
Slumberjack Latitude 20 degree Mummy Bag
Unique features, warmth at cold temperatures and the right fit make this a solid choice for campers. With a temperature rating of 20 degrees/-7, the Slumberloft Synthetic Insulation will keep outdoorsmen cozy. A draft tube on the zipper locks out cold air, and the inside has soft polyester taffeta to keep you snug-as-a-bug even below freezing temperatures. Cold spots are eliminated with the two-layer, offset construction and differential cut. You will have your choice of flat or contoured feel with the flip-over hood while the draft collar prevents heat loss from the neck and shoulder area. You will appreciate the ant-snag zipper protection as well as the trapezoidal foot box space that allows your feet to remain in a natural, comfortable position. Weight 3lbs. 14oz.
Slumberjack also ensures there is a option that fits a wide selection for all body types:
- Short Right measures 74 x 30″ and weighs 2 lbs., 15 oz. (fill 1 lb. 12 oz.). Fits up to 5’6″ tall.
- Regular Right measures 82 x 32″ and weighs 3 lbs., 8 oz. (fill 2 lb. 1 oz.). Fits up to 6′ tall.
- Long Left measures 86 x 34″ and weighs 3 lbs. 11 oz. (fill 2 lb. 3 oz.). Fits up to 6’6″ tall.
- Short Right packs down to 9 x 17″
- Regular Right packs down to 10 x 17″
- Long Left packs down to 10 x 18″
Be sure to state Regular Right or Long Left when ordering. The Slumberjack Latitude 20 degree Mummy keeps you warm when temperatures dip.
The TETON Sports Celsius XXL -18 Degree C / 0 Degree F Flannel Lined Sleeping Bag
Designed for larger campers, or for two people comfortably, you’ll find extra room and extra warmth. The oversized version is filled with body-heat trapping SuperLoft Elite four-channel hollow fiber insulation and rated to 0 degrees. It has cushioning around the zipper and shoulder opening to repel drafts while staggered seams distribute the fill evenly to reduce compression and eradicate chilly spots. The soft, breathable flannel lining takes the chill out of cool nights by retaining body heat and the self-repairing, snag-free zipper opens two ways (top or bottom) for as-you-like-it ventilation. With oversize measurements of 39 x 90 inches (W x L) campers who like to zip two sacks together will enjoy the TETON Celsius XXL as it attaches to a second bag via both right and left zippers. There is an adjustable mummy hood, an oxford compression sack, internal storage pockets for keys and other valuables, and the sturdy taffeta shell will wear well for years.
Be sure to know where you will be using the sleeping bag, the temperatures you expect to encounter and the type of conditions you will be sleeping in before making a purchase. And remember to consider weight if you are backpacking, especially for long treks. Even a couple of extra pounds can bring on unwanted fatigue over time. Choose well and you’ll have a good night’s sleep and great camping adventure.
When and Where Are You Using It?
High country backpackers have different needs than beach campers, so it’s important you choose one that matches the climate you will be camping in for a comfortable night’s sleep. There are good options for different seasons, temperatures and environments. They come in three basic categories:
Summer versions are typically lighter and pack smaller, some smaller than a volleyball, and keep you warm to about 30F. They’re lighter as less insulation is needed to maintain your body temperature in the summer months. Less insulation also means less weight, an important consideration if you’re backpacking. If you are camping in July when temperatures are high, you may want to make sure the zipper opens all the way, so you have the option of using it as a quilt. You won’t have much need for a hood or draft collars either.
Winter options are for those hearty souls who think nothing of sleeping in temperatures falling to 20F or below. They are also bulky to pack and a bit heavier. Designed to keep you toasty warm when temperatures plummet, they offer cinch-hoods that cover the head to retain warmth, and zipper draft tubes and draft collars, or insulated tubes that run along the zipper and shoulder to retain body heat. Cinch hoods are an important advantage as humans lose up to 40% of body heat via their heads, but it may take some getting use to them. Try to sleep at home with the cinch hood in place before trekking into the freezing wilderness.
Three-Season bags blend the best of summer and winter versions to keep you comfortable at high altitudes in summer, and in fall and spring when temperatures can dip to freezing. Typically good at maintaining warmth at 20F temperature, Three-Season types offer collars, hoods and draft tubes.
The best way to calculate the right temperature option is to subtract ten degrees from the lowest temperature you expect to encounter on your adventure. That’s your target. You can find options rated for the following temperature zones:
- 30 – 55 degree
- 5 – 25 degree
- -40 to O degree
The ratings will help you select the right one but remember they assume you are wearing long underwear and using a pad or mat between you and the ground. Not only do pads create a barrier between you and the ground that block out cold and moisture, but also protect your purchase from wear and tear. It’s a good idea to pick one up. Many offer pad loops or sleeves to keep you from sliding off the pad when you move in your sleep.
Real or Fake: The Pros and Cons
Goose down, the real stuff, or synthetic materials, the man-made stuff, are used to make sleeping bags. Both have their advantages in keeping you warm, dry and comfortable. Remember, they work by trapping air that your body heats to keep you warm. The less air to trap the more efficient, but you don’t want to be wrapped like a mummy either. You should be cozy without making you feel like you are being smothered
Goose down, taken from the undercoating of the bird’s feathers, traps an amazing amount of heat, allows moisture to escape and is very breathable. Down has a high warmth-to-weight ratio, which makes it appealing for backpacking, but takes longer to dry out than its synthetic brethren. Goose down typically has a long life but require special cleaning and are not hypoallergenic. Despite their light, fluffy qualities down they typically come with a heftier price tag than their synthetic counterparts.
The insulation in synthetic options mimics down by weaving together long single threads or short bits of polyester threads in clusters, it is then filled with these clusters to trap warm air around your body. Synthetic is also water resistant, and may even repel or shed water. They dry quickly and create warmth even when wet.
Although bulkier and heavier than down, synthetic is machine washable, completely hypoallergenic and less expensive. But you will most likely be replacing a synthetic one sooner than a down version.
Nylon, polyester and taffeta are the three most common linings. These three breathe well and tend not to create cold spots when you’re lying in the same position for a long period of time. You will find nylon and polyester in less expensive versions with taffeta being the highest quality of the three.
Fleece lining can make you feel warmer when temperatures fall, but it tends to trap heat that can make for a hot night. Flannel and cotton are natural materials that breathe, but also trap moisture and are best used in moderate to dry environments.
Silk is soft and breathable, and maintains an even temperature without overheating, but it’s expensive and tears easily compared to other liners.
Nylon, polyester and taffeta is the most common, and least durable, materials used for the outside coverings. These three shells are low-cost, extremely breathable and great for car and general camping. They are best used in moderate late spring, summer and early fall climates, and when waterproofing is required.
Ripstop is interlaced with heavier nylon or polyester threads that reinforce the shell to make it stronger and more durable. Great for three-season sacks, Ripstop breathes well and is perfect for conditions that don’t become too damp.
Similar to Ripstop, but offering more moisture resistance are DryClime, microfiber, and gossamer fibers. Using soft and tightly woven materials that lack the heavier threads found in Ripstop, these fabrics are a great choice for three-season or winter camping under ideal conditions.
If you are winter camping, canoe camping or heading for the backcountry DryLoft is the right choice. It offers water resistance, does not trap moisture inside, and keeps you warm and dry while keeping dampness out.
Size and Shape
Size and shape matter with sleeping bags, and again, climate and environment will help determine which shape is best for you. The backyard camper will be happy with a rectangular one with a zipper that allows it to open and be used as a quilt. Larger build folks may prefer a barrel-shaped option that allows for warmth and is a little roomier. Mummy styles offer a snugger fit but can be harder to sleep in. Many manufacturers offer different sizes and lengths, be sure to research the size that best fits your build. There are versions designed especially for women that offer a shorter length, narrower shoulder area while being wider at the hips and have more insulation. They also come in children’s sizes as well.
How to Choose
So how do you select the right one for you? There are three criteria to consider when choosing a sleep sack.
Location: Are you camping in Antarctica or Florida? Will you be experiencing a range of different temperatures during your trip, or a consistently moderate climate?
Material: Down or Synthetic? You may come across cotton bags, but don’t go there. They don’t wear well, and the insulation factor is weak. Synthetic products insulate well, even when wet, and they dry easily quickly. Synthetic tends to be less expensive as well. Down has superior insulation properties and is super light, but does not dry well and is usually more expensive
Construction: Is it sewn or a mummy style? The sewn option has a bottom, top and zipper. It’s like the tortilla of a burrito, and you are the filling. A mummy style makes you look like a mummy. More importantly, a sewn sack often has ‘cold spots’ where cold air gets in along the seams or stitches.
Here are some of the top brands we’ve researched. There are selections for all budgets and types of camping. Be sure to do your research and chose the product that is right for you.
If you’ve decided that synthetic is right for you then check out the options from Slumberjack and TETON. Both companies offer value for money, good insulation for three- season camping and a pretty wide selection.
Most manufacturers make sleeping bags for a wide range of temperatures. So it’s easy to find options from Suisse Sport Adventure, Mountain Hardware and others rated for the following temperature zones:
- 30 – 55 degree
- 5 – 25 degree
- -40 to O degree
The best way to calculate the right temperature option is to subtract ten degrees from the lowest temperature you expect to encounter on your adventure. That’s your target. Remember temperature ratings assume you’re wearing long underwear and using a pad or mat between you and the ground.
For summer camping, you will most likely want a product that keeps you comfortable in the 40-50° range. Unless you are at an altitude where the temperature drops choices from Coleman makes sense; especially if you’re driving to your destination, or just hanging out in the backyard.
Coleman offers a wide selection of cotton and synthetic choices, so be sure to match your activity to the right bag. If the kids are using it for a sleepover at their friend’s house then, this is the one for you. You can just throw it in any commercial washing machine and dryer-no expensive dry cleaning required!
However, if you’re heading off for a four-night trip into the American Southwest where you will experience cold nights, and maybe even snow, you may want to take along a Down product. Costlier than its synthetic brethren, Down insulates better and is lighter. An important consideration when pack weight matters.
What to Look For
Regardless of which way you go, you want to look for Ripstop nylon for the exterior lining and soft, comfy, brushed lining for the inside, taffeta is great. Sierra Design and TETON both offer these exterior and interior options in their down and synthetic bags. The TETON Sports TrailHead +20 Degree F Ultralight is good value for the money, especially when low temps and light packs are on your itinerary.
But many of us have no intention of sleeping in the backcountry when a nice campground with plenty of accommodations like hot showers and flush toilets are available. For this type of camping, a summer season bag is more than adequate.
Several brands, including TETON, have systems that zip together so you can have one big bag for two persons. Many come with anti-snag zippers, and some can even be used like a giant quilt on warm nights. But remember to take a good quality sleep pad with you to ensure a comfortable nights sleep.
On a Budget?
Budget conscious campers who need a super lightweight synthetic option may want to take a look at Suisse Sports. While those who want a Down bag should consider stalwarts like Marmot or North Face, who have a reputation for supplying extreme backpackers with adventure gear.
We are seeing some brands putting out mummy styles without zippers. These use a quilt that is sewn into the opening of the sack. The benefit is greater ventilation opportunities as you can easily open the system and stick out and arm or leg.
Camping for us ladies doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It can be fun if we plan ahead and take the right stuff. So get your “Jane’ on with a list of essentials, go to store and put together your ‘go-to’ make-up kit.
Then get your clothes picked out and packed. Don’t over pack, no need to lug stuff you’re not going to wear to the woods and back. You will want to take two bathing suits though. Climbing into a damp suit is disgusting.
Remember to bring a flashlight, first aid kit and a clothes line to hang your clothes on and to air out your sleeping bag. If you’re tenting it, a rain fly over your tent will help keep you dry.
Keeping some matches or a lighter in a waterproof container is a good idea, as well as having a whistle with you in case you need your man to come running. A daypack, camera (battery operated) and sunglasses and hat are a good idea as well.
Remember, camping with your boyfriend or husband can be fun and stimulating. Just like the spa treatment you will reward yourself with for going camping with them.
Trekking around the world with nothing more than a pack on your back is an exciting right of passage for many. This type of travel puts you on the ground with the locals and opens you to many new adventures. Having the right gear for your trip is essential to a rewarding experience.
You’ll want to capture these memories, and I recommend taking two different cameras, a GO PRO and a DSR. GO PRO’s are great for capturing the action of being in the surf or zip lining down a ravine. DSR’s allow you to take better quality still photos. Many of us like to take our laptops and smartphones on our adventures.
Be sure to include a conversion adapter so you can power your devices. These are low cost and easily available from many electronic, travel and camping stores. Pick up some padded, water resistant pouches to store your devices in to keep them dry and secure.Plan well, pack well, and the adventure of a lifetime awaits you.
You never know what to expect when you’re camping. So it’s best to be prepared and to go with the flow. Even if the weatherman says it will be sunny and warm, pack for rain and chill. The lack of life’s conveniences will force you to get to know those you are with better, as well as develop a better understanding of nature.
Tips in the Kitchen
Camping teaches you to become resourceful in new and different ways. It forces you to invent different ways to accomplish things. For example, if you are using a propane stove, you need to have it level to cook safely. One way to do this is to set a plate of water on the griddle then adjust each leg until the water is evenly dispersed across the plate.
It’s often hard to get a low cooking temperature on propane stoves, one way is to slightly open the tank valve to slow the amount of propane that reaches the stove.
In addition to becoming resourceful, you want to be considerate and take your garbage home with you. Good planning, being considerate and going with the flow are important rules to remember when you’re camping in the great outdoors.
The Gila Wilderness, (pronounced Hee-Lah) is found in southwest New Mexico, just north of Silver City, with low elevations of 5000 feet that climb to over 11,000 feet in many places.
Located in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, you will find the Mogollon Mountains Loop, a fun, challenging hike for moderate to experienced backpackers. Along this 45 mile trek, you will find excellent vistas, streams with deep pools for refreshing dips, lakes and caves. You will also climb to altitudes over 10,000 feet.
The Mogollon’s tallest peak is the Whitewater-Baldy at 10,895 feet that sits at the western point of the wilderness. At the northeast corner is Black Mountain at 9,287 ft. As I mentioned earlier, altitude climbing has to be taken seriously. Experienced backpackers know to prepare by over hydrating two weeks before their trip. You should also carry electrolyte tablets that dissolve in water.
You can find a topography map of this area here: https://mytopo.com/map.cfm?mapparams=zone=12%26easting=708997%26northing=3688047%26title=Gila.gpx?pid=metalback
It’s very dry, even with the summer rainstorms, in this area, and fires are often the result of lightning. It was lightning that caused the Whitewater –Baldy fire, New Mexico’s largest and most devastating wildfire.
It’s a good idea to check with the local rangers if campfires are allowed when you are planning your trip. If they are banned, you can still go, but just plan meals differently. Take along a portable propane stove and foods that can be eaten without too much cooking or heating will get you through. Beef jerky, dried fruit and minute rice will taste like a five star meal after a day of climbing with a pack on your back.
Get Away From It All
The American Southwest offers backpackers a wide variety of hiking and camping adventures. It also offers diverse terrain, swift changing weather and a variety of wildlife. In the high country elk can be found, at desert levels snakes and scorpions abound. Wise hikers always carry a first aid kit and a two-way mirror, GPS and cell phone. One of the three will help you communicate for assistance if the others are out of range.
Plenty of matches in a waterproof container, a poncho and water purification tablets should be in your pack as well. In addition to a good camera, I always take a notebook and pen to jot down my thoughts a the end of a day. There is something about being away from the hustle and bustle of urban life that spurs creative thought.
Backpacking the pristine and remote Southwest, whether it’s the Gila or the San Juan wilderness, will provide you with adventure, beautiful vistas and a chance to get away from civilization.
The John Muir Trail provides experienced outdoor adventurers unparalleled vistas, challenges and opportunity to enjoy nature’s abundance. But it demands careful planning, preparation and support. If you are going for more than five or six days you won’t be able to carry all the food you need.
Pre-packed food buckets will have to be dropped off at secure areas ahead of time. Access to water is crucial, so be sure to check your maps to see where you can easily restock from streams or lakes. And don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and bug spray. Believe it or not, I’ve encountered mosquitos in heavy numbers at high altitudes, especially when I’ve come upon still water.
Change of Scene – Change of Life
A backpacking journey along the JMT is a life changing experience for some who discover inner strength and focus. Others may deepen the bonds of friendship and some may simply regale in its quiet solitude and majesty.
Regardless, America’s premier hiking destination beckons and satisfies all who undertake it with preparation and a sense of adventure.
Taking the time to learn what makes a good sleeping bag, and knowing which brands deliver the goods, is important when buying. The first thing you need to decide is where you will be using it, and what temperatures you will encounter.
With this knowledge, it’s much easier to decide which one will best suit your purposes. If you don’t see it, move on. Leading brands like TETON and Slumberjack will have this information clearly stated on the side of the sack or packaging.
Weight and Price Choices
Backpackers know weight can be an issue. So look for brands that offer lightweight options such as Suisse Sport, Marmont or Mountain Hardware. Warmth, weight and durability are key features for backcountry explorers.
We also have shown a range of products at different price points. Budget conscious campers will find good value with Slumberjack, TETON and Coleman. While those who don’t want to skimp can choose more expensive offerings from Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering.