A good night’s sleep in the outdoors is the refresher we all could use. There’s nothing comfier than snuggling up on a chilly night in a warm sleeping bag while camping. No matter if you’re deep in the backcountry or under the stars in your own backyard, finding the best camping sleeping bag for nature outings near and far is a necessary step in completing your gear checklist.
That’s why we interviewed camping experts to find the best sleeping bags for any adventure. Ashleigh McClary, a gear expert and senior account manager at Backcountry and Emily Pennington, a journalist, photographer and author of the upcoming book “Feral,” share their insights on what makes a sleeping bag warmer than others, which materials stand up best to the elements and what determines the packability and price of different types of bags.
A sleeping bag’s shell and fill — or the internal and external components of a sleeping bag — play a huge role in both comfort and warmth while camping. Campers will want to consider both the fabric the sleeping bag is made of (the inner lining and outer shell of the sleeping bag) and what the sleeping bag is filled with (down or synthetic material inside the bag) to determine their ideal purchase.
Down insulation and synthetic insulation are the most common types of fill you’ll find inside sleeping bags. Each material comes with its own list of pros and cons — and requires campers to consider the types of environment they’ll most often camp in before selecting their preferred fill.
Most often made of goose feathers, down provides the most warmth, lightest weight and smallest packable size of any type of sleeping bag insulation. The higher the loft — or fluffiness — of down, the more room it takes up, and the more efficiently it traps warmth in cold weather. On the downside, down is not waterproof and takes a very long time to dry. Campers can find water-resistant down sleeping bags, treated with durable water repellent (DWR), which helps protect the feathers during wet conditions. Down bags are also the most expensive type of sleeping bag.
Synthetic insulation, most often made of polyester, is the most affordable fill option for camping sleeping bags. Synthetic sleeping bags are hypoallergenic, will keep you warm even if they get wet and dry much quicker than down. Unlike down, synthetic fill does not compress as small and is heavier in weight.
“The main benefit of a synthetic bag is going to be the cost — they’re usually a bit less expensive,” said McClary. “Some synthetic bags are super comfortable but most of them are not going to be quite as comfortable as down. The way down wraps around your body and provides this super light and airy feeling is hard to beat.”
“Most sleeping bag shells you’ll find are made of ripstop nylon on the outside, with the exception of some car camping, hunting, or dog-friendly sleeping bags, which are usually made of durable cotton, canvas or fleece,” says McClary. “Taffeta is another common sleeping bag shell material usually found in backpacking sleeping bags, which feels silky and smooth to the touch.”
Beyond taffeta — the highest quality sleeping bag material known for its durability, softness and breathability — nylon and polyester sleeping bag shells are commonplace. Bags made with these three fabrics are often treated with DWR to help with moisture control and prevent waterlogging the fill.
Like much of the outdoor industry, sleeping bag brands continue to aim to produce more eco-friendly products made with environmentally conscious and sourced materials and more sustainable manufacturing processes.
This is especially true for sleeping bag insulation, which traditionally has been made with harmful, chemical-filled materials or unethically sourced down. Receiving a sustainable down certification from the NSF, including Responsible Down Standard (RDS) or Global Traceable Down Standard (GTDS) certifications, is just one of the ways brands can go above and beyond to responsibly source materials that respect animal welfare and can be transparently traced.
“[Sleeping bags] marked with Responsible Down Standard are a big deal,” says McClary. “It means a lot, for both brands and consumers, to receive this certification. RDS products go through very stringent testing and standards, and it usually takes years and scrutiny to receive them. So, if you see this on a garment or sleeping bag, don’t take it lightly. It means that the company is working really hard to be more sustainable and to be better.”
Temperature ratings — especially if you’re not familiar with the process for how they’re determined — can be pretty complicated.
McClary groups camping sleeping bags into three main categories: summer, 3-season and winter bags. 3-season bags tend to perform best during spring, summer and fall camping, whereas summer and winter bags should be used during mostly warm months or mostly cold months. She also says you’ll notice lab-tested ratings, which are marked with an “EN” and/or “ISO” on the bag, which indicate the bag was lab tested for its teperature rating.
According to REI, EN (European Norm) was the original standard adopted by the sleeping bag industry, but today, a new entity called the ISO (International Standards Organization) oversees testing using a nearly identical set of rubric standards. Standard lab tests run by the ISO categorize sleeping bag temperature ratings into two categories: a comfort rating and a lower limit rating.
Comfort ratingis the degree at which a cold sleeper might start to feel cold. Lower limit rating is an even colder temperature at which a warm sleeper might start to feel cold. And to make it even more complicated, the rating you see in the product name of a women’s sleeping bag is always the comfort rating, whereas the rating on a men’s bag is the lower limit rating.
“In my experience, summer bags are usually rated for 50 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, 3-season bags for 35 to 20 degrees and winter bags for 20 to 0 degrees,” says McClary. “Anything rated below 0 degrees is a specialized bag for extreme temperatures and weather conditions.”
Pennington says considering the average weather conditions and climate where you expect to camp is a key determinant when choosing a sleeping bag. Factors like understanding elevation, weather patterns and the typical seasons you expect to camp will help you better understand what temperature rating of sleeping bag to purchase.
“Keep in mind the type of climate you’ll be using your sleeping bag in: Are there freak rainstorms,” Pennington asks. “Does it get very cold very quickly at night? Is it humid? Will you be carrying it for one night or for 20 nights?”
At the end of the day, it’s important to know that temperature ratings are estimates, not the ultimate truth. It’s impossible to predict how warm or cold you personally will be on any given night, so always be prepared to adjust your sleep setup. If you know you’re a super cold sleeper, consider sleeping with a sleeping bag quilt or adding a fleece liner inside your bag to help you stay warm.
“The [most important] thing to know about temperature ratings for sleeping bags is that they’re subjective,” says McClary. “It totally depends on the person whether they tend to sleep cold or sleep hot and the weather conditions also play a big role in warmth.”
Packability and weight
When it comes to weight and packability, synthetic bags tend to be heavier and bulkier while down-filled sleeping bags will always be campers’ lightest and most packable option.
Down bag quality is measured by their down fill rating, which ranges from 300 to 900 and above. In technical terms, down fill rating measures the cubic inches of loft that a single ounce of down produces. The higher the down rating, typically the more warmth it will provide. And while counterintuitive, the higher the down rating, the smaller the bag will pack down.
“Synthetic stuffed bags have gotten a lot better in recent years, but as a whole, they aren’t as lightweight or packable as down. They are, however, much more waterproof,” says Pennington. “I typically look for an 800 fill down sleeping bag that’s under 2.5 pounds if I can find it.”
You’ll also find sleeping bags in all shapes and sizes. Each size has their pros and cons, whether that means more warmth, more space to move around, or more versatility based on the season you’re using your sleeping bag.
Most often used for backpacking, mountaineering or trips requiring lots of gear, mummy bags tend to provide the most warmth and are super compact. This shape follows the natural curves of your body and tapers at the feet — cutting down excess fabric and space where heat can escape.
Rectangle bags, on the other hand, have ample room for moving around in at night. They tend to be a little on the more breathable (sometimes colder) side but are great for side sleepers or campers who tend to shift around in their sleep.
Sleeping bag quilts, which lay on top of your sleeping bag or can be used as a blanket, do not have a back side. These type of sleeping bags are great if you want an extra layer of added warmth or for use in summer months when you want to easily put it on or take it off as temperature fluctuates. Backpackers also often use quilts without sleeping bags to cut down even more on weight, but they need to be paired with a well-insulated sleeping pad if you’re planning on sleeping in it on a chilly night.
Similar to camping tents, quality sleeping bags come with a high price tag. More often than not, you get what you pay for. Sleeping bags with a promise to stand up to the elements and stay with you for the long haul are bound to be a big-ticket item purchase.
“Off-name brands have not worked well for me in this product category,” says Pennington. “[In my opinion] it’s actually worth it to put down some cash. High-end bags with 850 or 950 fill will cost you a pretty penny.” But to Pennington, they’re worth it.
McClary says synthetic bags are the most economical for car campers and families on a budget. For hikers looking for a backpacking or lightweight sleeping bag, McClary recommends looking for a higher rated down fill, even if it costs more.
“I usually look for 700 to 800 plus down fill as the magic number,” says McClary. “Sleeping bags with 700 fill and over are usually just fine [for backpacking] and you can also usually find those for a reasonable price.”
To help you find the most practical sleeping bag for your future camping adventures, we’ve rounded up 26 the best sleeping bags on the market. From car camping at a local state park to thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, cozy up and sleep tight with these expert-recommended and favorite picks.
From $379 at Sea to Summit or from $378.95 at Backcountry
“For more ‘regular’ hikers and car campers, I adore Sea to Summit’s Altitude sleeping Bag for women, which comes in 25- and 15-degree options,” says Pennington. “It’s soft, lightweight and has a bit more features that campers like to see, like a hood and a cozy neck baffle.”
From $259.95 at REI and Nemo
Best used as a 3-season backpacking bag, the Disco was specifically designed to fit a woman’s body type. An integrated pillow pocket keeps your pillow from shifting around at night and vents on the top of the bag, which look like gills, can provide extra ventilation when unzipped on hot nights.
“I also love that the Nemo sleeping bags can be zipped together,” says McClary. “That’s a great feature because [a couple] with two different styles of preferences can combine their sleeping bag[s] into one large double bag.”
From $545 at Backcountry
“I can talk about this bag for days,” says McClary. “This mummy-shaped bag has a ton of room in it and it actually converts to a quilt. I like recommending this bag because with a 25-degree Fahrenheit rating it will be warm enough for most times of the year and in all kinds of weather.”
From $399 at Patagonia
Patagonia’s Fitz Roy down sleeping bag is a 800-fill bag that boasts all the warmth with none of the frills and features. This bag is perfect for campers who want a sleeping bag that’s straight forward, simple and warm. A front zip makes it easy to get in and out of the bag without fussing with side zippers and it also comes in short, regular and long sizing so you have a bag that fits your needs.
From $369 at Sea to Summit
Looking for a super warm sleeping bag that you won’t overheat in? This 3-season bag designed with several ventilation features is your pick. The Ascent has three different ventilation zippers — one half zip at the right shoulder, one full zip on the left shoulder and one zipper opening at the feet — to let out unwanted heat. It also keeps in warmth when you want it with its unique vertical, torso-height baffles, which helps prevent the insulation from shifting down when moving around at night.
From $369.95 at REI and Big Agnes
It can be super frustrating to slide off your sleeping pad in the middle of the night. That’s why Big Agnes designed this bag to attach to the sleeping pad under you so you stay put while you sleep. The Lost Ranger is a 3-in-1 bag that provides campers an outer bag (which functions like a quilt), an inner bag (which is an entirely separate and removable sleeping bag) and a pad sleeve (which secures your sleeping bag to the pad).
The three different sleeping configurations provide different levels of warmth. You can use the top quilt for summer camping or on trips when you want to travel as light as possible, the inner bag on colder nights, or combine both for the warmest setup. This modularity means you don’t have to buy two separate sleeping bags for warm weather and cold weather.
$299.95 at REI and Nemo
“I love to recommend Nemo bags because they make high-quality products that I trust,” says McClary. “This bag specifically is made with super comfortable polyester that’s soft on your skin, a large hood, and a ton of other features.”
Additional features include a 100% recycled and machine-washable sheet, double zipper pulls on both sides for ample and custom venting and a foldable draft collar that makes you feel like you’re tucked into bed.
$79 $47.40 at Backcountry
“I sell this bag more than any other bag,” says McClary. “They’re just [a] really great price and perform super well for the money. The Groundwork comes in three different variations – a mummy, a single and a double. For someone going car camping, I recommend the single, which is rectangular in shape, or the double. If they’re going backpacking, then the mummy.”
$109 $75.93 at REI
A beginner backpacking bag that will provide ample warmth, packability and weight without an enormous price tag. The fully synthetic mummy shaped bag is filled with water-resistant fill and comes with a stuff sack to compress it down even smaller when packing for a backcountry trip.
From $129 at REI and The North Face
Designers had sustainability top of mind when they designed the Eco Trail. This eco-conscious sleeping bag is made with 100% recycled polyester fill and shell that provides warmth even if it gets wet. The fill in this bag is rated to keep you warm down to 20 degrees. This bag is best for car camping or short-range backpacking since it doesn’t pack down as small as down sleeping bags.
From $269 at Sea to Summit
This ultralight backpacking sleeping bag weighs only 12 ounces and packs down smaller than a Nalgene water bottle. Its 850+ loft down is RDS-approved and water resistant, making it a great all-around bag for backpacking in all seasons — especially because it comes in 40-degree, 28-degree, 18-degree and 5-degree Fahrenheit temperature rating options.
$485 at Backcountry
The 36-degree Flylite was built as a lightweight backpacking bag, specifically for thru-hikers. Its no sewn-through baffle design helps eliminate cold spots for added warmth. The down in this bag is not treated for waterproofing, so consider that when choosing this bag for your adventures (or make sure to pack a dry sack to stuff this bag in).
$209.95 at REI
Kelty’s Cosmic line is one of the most robust ranges of sleeping bags built for the backcountry. Each bag in the line boasts its own unique array of features like gender-specific designs, synthetic insulation and a range of temperature ratings — making them a great option if you have a particular need in mind. The Cosmic DriDown is our recommendation because of its waterproof-treated down, butter-like soft shell, and packability.
From $269.95 at Big Agnes or $299.95 at REI
Consider yourself a side sleeper? This is the bag for you. Specifically designed for campers who like to sleep on their side or toss and turn in the night, the Sidewinder SL looks and feels like a traditional mummy bag but has additional technical specs to support side sleepers. Big Agnes body mapped where side sleepers need more insulation to keep in warmth where you need it most and added extra down insulation to reduce pressure points along the hip.
$399 at REI
A super light, ultra- compressible sleeping bag that will keep you warm and dry, even when it’s wet outside. This bag is insulated with water-resistant 850 fill goose down and outer shell and REI claims this bag provides campers with the Co-ops best warmth-to-weight ratio compared to any other bag they sell.
$299.95 at Nemo
“I love this bag because the way it unzips makes it feels a little bit more like your bed from home,” says McClary. “Nemo also makes this bag with a very specific foot box, a big hood which is rare for a double bag and a draft collar that can fold down kind of like your comforter would fold over in your own bed — making it super comfortable.”
$209.95 $199.95 at Kelty
If you’re a hot sleeper (or sleepers in this case), this double sleeping bag was designed for you. Customizable features help you cool down when you start to overheat, including a zip-off top layer, separate foot vents, and two built-in blankets — one for each camper.
$329 at REI
The HunkerDown Double, which also comes in a single size, is a super spacious and warm two-person sleeping bag. This bag is known for its creature comforts like an extra large hood that can fit two at-home-sized pillows, 600 fill down for fluff that mimics your comforter and a wraparound zipper that lets you turn this bag into a full-blown quilt.
$69.95 at REI
A pint-sized backpacking sleeping bag for kids that will grow with them over time. This bag’s unique attached stuff sack at the foot allows you to adjust the length and cinch the sleeping bag to the ideal size. And even though it’s a fully-synthetic bag, it’s still rated to keep kids warm down to 25 degrees.
$69.99 at Teton Sports
Canvas sleeping bags aren’t the most common or sought-after bags due to their weight and bulk. However, on a car camping trip with the family, it’s a super comfortable option for kids. The bag is built with a durable and heavy outer canvas shell. On the inside, kids will love the blanket-like feeling of the soft and warm fleece inner lining. Bonus: This bag comes in an adult size too.
$69.95 at REI
Whether it’s intended use is for a family camping trip or a sleepover, this bag was built with kids’ needs in mind. The synthetic fill bag has a rectangular shape to accommodate kiddos who tend to toss and turn at night. Its outer shell is treated with a water-repellent coating to help with rainy nights at the campground or unexpected spills at a friend’s overnight birthday party. And an anti-snag zipper helps with unwanted struggles when tucking in at night.
From $199 at Sea to Summit
A lightweight and super-packable quilt that’s great for weight-conscious backpackers. The quilt can be used on its own or cinched overtop another sleeping bag for extra warmth. Built-in snaps also allow you to securely attach this quilt to any other Sea to Summit sleeping bag.
$335 at Enlightened Equipment
“For ultralight backpackers, I always steer them to Enlightened Equipment’s Revelation Quilt,” says Pennington. “It has cloud-like softness, ultra high loft, 850 fill-down stuffing and numerous venting options, should you wander into a warm evening.”
$429.95 at REI and Therm-a-Rest
“My favorite car camping sleeping bag is the Therm-a-Rest Vela quilt because it feels just like your quilt at home,” says McClary. “I even use this bag for my friends when I have too many guests for the number of bedrooms I have at my house.” The 650-fill Nikwax-treated down in this bag can also absorb 90 percent less water and dry three times faster than regular down, according to Therm-A-Rest, which means it’s a great bag for high-humidity or rainy car camping.
$199 at REI
Sleeping bag warmth you can wear in and out of the tent. The Selk’Bag, made out of 100% post-consumer recycled material fibers (230 discarded plastic bottles to be exact), is both warm and planet-friendly. Rated to keep you warm down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the bag fits like a full-body suit and comes with a hood, kangaroo pockets for storage and zip-off booties for keeping your feet warm at night or the ability to put on shoes to walk around the campground.
$130 at Poler
Style, comfort and mobility make this wearable sleeping bag a great option for all types of outdoor adventures. The wearable bag, which fits more like a poncho than a sleeping bag suit, has zippers at the shoulder that let you pop your arms out and a cinch at the bottom to open up and stretch out your legs. Don’t buy this to keep you warm on the coldest nights. Instead, use this bag in the summer for sitting around the campfire, walking around the campsite, or bringing it along to a music festival or the beach for a quick warm up.