Best Sleeping Bags for Cold Weather Camping: 6 Top Bags 2020 Reviewed
Looking for the Best Sleeping Bag for Winter Camping?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- Why you need a great (not good!) winter sleeping bag
- What to consider when buying a sleeping bag for cold weather
- Reviews of the top cold-weather bags on the market
- Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 cold-weather sleeping bag
We should start by letting you in on a little secret.
Remember all those times your hardy camping friends were out there being beyond-belief badass by continuing their camping in the dead of winter?
Well, the truth is, there wasn’t much badass about it at all.
Sure, it might seem like you need to be blessed with a special kinda nuttiness/masochism/makeup to carry on your camping when temps start heading south of 30 degrees. In reality, however, all it takes is one of the best cold-weather sleeping bags your money can buy.
To help you find just that kinda sleeping bag, in this article we’ll provide a detailed guide of what to look for when buying a sleeping bag for winter camping along with reviews of our top six picks for 2020.
Best Winter Sleeping Bag
Nemo Sonic 0
The Nemo Sonic 0 is a toasty, lightweight, and versatile sleeping bag that is designed to keep you comfortable, warm, and cozy wherever your camping adventures happen to take you.
Having weighed up the merits of a wide array of the best cold weather sleeping bags out there, this one stood out as a clear, hands-down winner.
The Sonic 0, in short, is a true all-rounder, doing everything we could ask a winter sleeping bag to do.
This bag weighs in at a mere 3 lbs and 10 oz. And yet, its 800-fill power, hydrophobic goose down insulation means it’s more than capable of keeping you snug and sleeping safe and sound in temps as low as 0°F (-18°C). That, in case there’s any doubt, is darned cold! In terms of warmth-to-weight ratio, they don’t come much better.
What we love most about this bag, however, is the careful attention paid to its finer details by makers Nemo.
There are adjustable “Thermo Gills” that vent body heat without letting cold air seep inside…
There’s a waterproof/breathable foot box that adds an extra layer of synthetic insulation to eliminate cold spots…
A draft tube and collar and offset zipper ensure a secure seal that keeps you warm all night through…
The stretch construction provides freer movement for side-sleepers and tossers and turners…
All of the above features, as you might have gathered, make this a bag that doesn’t rely on insulating capacity alone to bring warmth, comfort, and value. While it offers each of these in spades, these dialed-in, non-standard add-ons all contribute to making the Sonic 0 an absolute winner for all kinds of sleeper in all kinds of conditions.
Bottom Line: A versatile and super-cozy sleeping bag that boasts one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios out there and packs plenty of great, convenience-enhancing features that ensure your cold-weather sleeps in the wild are as comfortable as can be.
Lightest Winter Bag
Western Mountaineering Versalite 10
For the gram-counting minimalists out there, there are few sleeping bags as suitable for your backcountry MO as the ultralight Western Mountaineering Versalite 10.
Weighing in at a tiny 2 lbs and 1 oz but boasting an EN (European Normal) lower-limit rating of 0° F, this bag’s warmth-to-weight ratio is nothing short of outstanding. And with a packed size of just 15” x 8”, it allows you to shave further pounds off your overall load by leaving the 80-liter pack at home and using your daypack instead.
But this sleeping bag has a heck of a lot more going for it than weight savings alone…
It uses 20 oz. of high-loft, superbly snug, 850+ fill power goose down, measures a very generous 6’6” long, and throws in a handful of handy features that boost both overall performance and convenience and practicality.
The most notable of these features are its meaty, full-collar baffle and snag-resistant, full-length #5 YKK zipper, a cinch-down closure on the hood, and a rip-resistant, Extremelite shell.
Bottom Line: A great choice for Ultralight backpackers looking to shave off a few more ounces without depriving themselves of a good night’s sleep.
Best Budget Winter Bag
Kelty Cosmic 0
A budget sleeping bag that keeps you warm in the bleak midwinter? Really?
Yeah, we know. They’re few and far between. In Kelty’s super-cozy, surprisingly well-made Cosmic Down, however, we find an exemplary exception to the rule.
Weighing in at 3 lbs and 13 oz, the Cosmic Down is far from being the lightest option in our review. However, if you prioritize performance and price over weight savings, then it thoroughly deserves a place somewhere very near the top of your shortlist.
In addition to boasting an impressive 5° F temp rating, the Cosmic Down uses the ever-so-handy add-on of DriDown technology. In short, this usually top-end-only technology is a hydrophobic treatment that helps each plume stay dry longer, loft better, and dry up to 33% faster than regular, untreated down.
And there are a few other nice features, too. These include a burly, full-length, no-snag zipper, a cinch closure in the hood, great insulation in the hood, and full-length draft tubing all the way down the zipper.
Not bad for a bag whose RRP is a mere fraction of competitors boasting similar specs, right?
Bottom Line: A low-cost option that’s a little too heavy for venturing too far into the backcountry but is ideal for car camping and those pitching up closer to their trailheads.
Why You Should Get a Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are made for different temperatures and climates. Cold-weather bags are better insulated and created for the purpose of camping in harsh weather than a lightweight sleeping bag for summer/shoulder season camping. The main advantage of a cold-weather sleeping bag is that it increases the camping season for you and will no longer be restrained by the plummeting temperatures outside.
Alternatively, a sleeping bag that is rated for colder weather can be a good choice for sleeping under the stars. If you are hiking and want to travel light, or just enjoy sleeping under the stars, a cold-weather sleeping bag might allow you to forgo a tent or shelter. If you usually employ the combination of a regular bag and a tent to keep warm, then the winter sleeping bag alone may get the job done.
You always want to use the correct tool for any job. If you select the wrong sleeping bag, it can lead to a miserable trip. You will be spending a lot of time in your sleeping bag, so you want to be sure to get one that matches the environment you camp in.
Things to Look For When Buying a Sleeping Bag
When you select a sleeping bag, there are a number of things to consider. Price, quality, shape, and size are all important. You will want to check the sleeping bag’s temperature rating, build materials and features as well.
One of the first things to consider is the temperature rating of the sleeping bag. The ratings show the lowest temperature that the bag should keep you comfortable in. For example, a 20-degree comfort rating will allow you to sleep in comfort as long as the temperature stays at 20 degrees or above. The ratings assume the user will be wearing warm attire and using a high-quality sleeping pad underneath.
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For a consistent standard on temperature ratings, look for a seal or tag that says the product is EN tested. EN is short for European Norm. This is a set of criteria for rating the sleeping bags. Keep in mind your tolerance for the cold. Everyone is different in how comfortable they can be at various temperatures. You need to consider this when looking at the temperature ratings. No rating system is infallible. They are not exact measurements meant to be followed precisely but think of them as a general guide.
Do proper research and make sure you understand the environment you will be camping in. Select a sleeping bag that will handle the coldest temperatures possible, from sleeping bags for cold weather to a summer bag. It is often a good idea to choose something rated for more frigid temperatures than what you believe is necessary. If you get too hot while sleeping, you can always unzip the bag and get cooler. For cold weather, mummy-style bags are usually recommended.
Your next choice should be the type of insulation. For cold weather, it is often advised to avoid cotton. Feather down provides excellent warmth and quality. Synthetic fibers can provide strength, durability and some level of water resistance. Many bags use a mixture of materials. If you are conscious about the issue of using a down-filled bag, then look for companies that ethically source the material. Goose down often provides better insulation than duck down. This is something to be aware of when comparing models. Not only does the filler affect the warmth factor, but it changes how comfortable your bag will be as well.
The shape of your sleeping bag is an important factor in how it will work for you. The size of your sleeping bag also contributes to its effectiveness. The correct size should be form-fitting. If the bag is too big, this will harm its efficacy at insulating you. You don’t want it to be uncomfortably small, but it should be snug for maximum warmth. For ladies, sleeping bags are produced specially to fit the contours of a woman. These may be more comfortable for you.
The main shapes are the mummy and rectangular. The two most common forms of a sleeping bag are rectangular and the mummy. A rectangular bag is your common sleeping bag that is suitable for regular weather. The mummy-style bags offer more protection for your head during colder temperatures. Most cold-weather sleeping bags come in this shape.
Rectangular bags may allow more room to move around in, but Mummy bags tend to offer better insulation and prevent heat from escaping through your head. However, if you are a bit claustrophobic, then a mummy bag may not be the best choice for you.
The weight of your sleeping bag should be a consideration if you plan on hiking. This can be a delicate balancing act. You need to weigh the need for warmth against the inconvenience of carrying heavy gear. Protection from the cold should always take precedence. Try to select a bag that will fit your body correctly. Many manufacturers only offer bags in a few sizes such as small, large and extra-large. Check the packaging for information on each size and the heights they are built to accommodate.
Outer Shell Material
The insulation material is not the only thing to pay attention to while shopping for a sleeping bag. Most of the bags externals will be made of nylon or polyester. Pay attention to the stitching and thickness of the materials. If you are camping in damp environments, look for a bag that has is water-resistant.
One of the most important features to take note of is the zipper. Some sleeping bags forgo having a zipper at all. These may be better at keeping you warm, but they can be challenging to get in and out of quickly. Check to make sure the zippers are of a high quality. A good sleeping bag may include a draft tube. This is an insulated tube that is designed to keep heat from escaping through the zipper.
For cold-weather mummy bags, they will feature a hood to protect your head from the cold air. This is the area that closes around your head to prevent heat from escaping. Pay attention to how the drawstrings are constructed. Face mufflers, draft collars or neck baffles are all good features to have. These add further protection from the cold for your neck and head areas.
A low price may seem like a bargain at the store. It will seem less so if you end up freezing in the wild or watching the bag easily tear with normal use. Compare prices with bags that have similar features, but do not necessarily go for the lowest cost. Your sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll use while camping.
Get the Most From Your Sleeping Bag
Once you purchase your sleeping bag, there are a few things to remember to get the most out of it. You never want to place your sleeping bag directly on the ground. A sleeping pad should be used to prevent the ground from quickly cooling the bag. This is less necessary when sleeping inside of a tent with a floor, but still not a bad idea.You can warm the sleeping bag throughout the day by placing it in the sun or close to a campfire. This may get you some extra warmth for the first hour or two of your sleep. Using hot-water bottles is another method of keeping even warmer. If you have trouble finding a sleeping bag that fits snugly, you can always stuff extra clothing or materials into your bag. This negates any air pockets and keeps your own body heat close to you. It’s important to take care of your sleeping bag so that it provides years of use. Store your bags in a dry area. It is a good idea to store them uncompressed, so the filling doesn’t get bunched up and crushed. Clean your sleeping bags after every use. Be sure to clean and dry them as soon as possible if they get wet on your camping trip.
The Best Sleeping Bags for Winter Camping: The Results
NEMO Sonic 0
Best Cold Weather Camping Bag
The Nemo Sonic 0 offers a unique feature. It allows the user to regulate the temperature. A proprietary system called Thermo Gills is used to vent off heat in strategic locations. This allows you more control over the warming level. It makes the cold-weather tent useful if you need it for more moderate temperatures. It features distinctive drawstrings for the hood. This means you can feel a difference in the dark. The feature allows you to adjust the hood tightness in any lighting conditions.
The Sonic 0 has a temperature rating of 0F / -18C. It is filled with 850 Fill Power Down. The material is goose down, which should keep you both comfortable and warm. The Sonic 0 can comfortably fit campers of up to 6 ft. tall. It is 61″ at the shoulder, 58″ at the hip and 53″ at the knees. It is the typical mummy shape that you find in most cold-weather sleeping bags. It weighs in at around 2 lb 11 oz. The outer material is made from 20D Nylon Ripstop fabric. This is a very durable material. It should resist most scratches and tears with regular use.
- The adjustable Thermal Gills allow you to regulate the temperature inside by up to 20F without allowing drafts into the bag
- Filled with premium 850-fill duck down
- Bag has been constructed with stretch around the knees to help you find the most comfortable sleeping position
- Waterproof footbox protects against any tent moisture and ensures comfort
- The nylon shell is designed to be breathable from the inside out, while waterproof from the outside in
- Draft collar blocks out cold while sealing in heat
- Innovative Thermo Gills
- You can side-sleep in it
- Good price
- Only available in two sizes so you may not get the perfect fit
Rab Ascent 900
The Rab Ascent 900 is a good mid-level choice for campers who need quality, but don’t wish to pay the highest price. It comes with a stuff sack, storage sack, and internal storage compartments.
The Rab Ascent 900 features a 0° F temperature rating. The filling is 650-fill duck down. This is less comfortable and warm than the previous bags on this list. Duck down is considered less premium and cozy than goose down. It does, however, feature a hydrophobic treatment to keep you dry in damp weather.
The Ascent 900 has a hybrid shape. It is a semi-rectangular shape, but still, has a hood like mummy-shaped bags. This allows the user to have more room to move in. You could even sleep on your side within this bag. If you typically dislike the mummy-shaped bags, this may be the solution. You still get the heat protection for your head, making it the best of both worlds. Regular bags fit campers of up to 6′ tall, while a long version can fit those up to 6’7″. It weights 3 lb 6 oz, or 3 lb 8 oz for the extra long. The shell is made of 30D Pertex Microlight fabric.
- Filled with 650 European Duck Down, the Rab Flurocarbon free Hydrophobic down
- Pertex Microlight fabrics for the inner and outer shells help keep the overall weight down
- Wide footbox area for extra comfort
- Zippable internal stash pockets so you don’t lose track of your important possessions overnight
- Comes with two storage sacks, small compression sack for on the go storage and a large sack for home storage to preserve the down
- Affordable Price
- Good Quality materials and manufacturing
- Duck down rather than goose
Kelty Cosmic 0
Best Cheap Winter Bag
The Kelty Cosmic 0 is an excellent budget sleeping bag. While, this model is one of cheapest choices on our list, it still offers quality and good protection from the cold. It features a zipper tube that prevents heat loss around the zipper opening. It also includes a stuff sack. A full draft collar helps to prevent heat loss.
The Kelty Cosmic 0 has a temperature rating of 0° / -18°C. The filling is 600 fill power DriDown. This filling will keep you warm, but it’s less comfortable than some of the other choices. It is also less water-resistant, making it a less desirable choice for damp climates.
The Cosmic 0 is the most cumbersome product on our list at over 4 lb. This makes it a poor choice if you plan on hiking long distances with your gear. The Cosmic can fit anyone up to 6’6″ tall. The outer shell is made of 50D Down Proof Polyester Ripstop shell. This is an adequately durable material, though not as robust as some competing models.
- Filled with soft, warm 550-fill-power down to keep you cosy all night long
- Thoughtful construction keeps draft tube in place and prevents cold breezes coming in through the zipper
- Durable polyester shell, with inner taffeta lining for breathability
- Hood has drawstrings of different widths for easy “in the dark” identification
- Sleeping pad loops
- Full baffle draft collar to keep in the warmth
- Very affordable
- Nice and warm
- Cheaper shell material
- Heavy Weight
The North Face Inferno
The North Face Inferno is the warmest sleeping bag on our list. It is also the most expensive choice out of the six models listed. This is a good choice for those who camp in the mountains and the coldest climates. It features an internal pocket for insulated storage of items. It also comes with a storage sack and compression sack. It offers a centered zipper. This is good for left-handed or right-handed campers. The hood drawstrings can be differentiated in the dark by feel, making them easy to adjust in the middle of the night.
The North Face Inferno has a rating of -20 degrees. This makes it the best protection from the cold on our entire list. North Face uses 800 Fill ProDown for this model. The down comes from geese. This is one of the most comfortable sleeping bags on our list. Regular-sized bags fit campers of 6′ and less. There is also a longer model for those up to 6’7″. The total weight is rated as 1644 g by the manufacturer. The outer shell is highly water resistant. It is made of a tough, proprietary material that is one of the strongest on this list.
- Filled with 800-fill-power ProDown™ for extreme subzero temperatures
- Comes with full draft collar and integrated overlap to prevent any cold breezes giving you the chills
- Water resistant NeoVent Air fabric on moisture prone areas to keep the bag dry
- Central zipper for easier access
- Inferno is designed with a trapezoidal side baffle to prevent downward migration as you sleep
- Internal pocket for insulated storage
- Extreme warmth even at -40 degrees
- Sturdy construction
- Highly water resistant
- Expensive price
Western Mountaineering Versatile 10
Best Lightweight Winter Sleeping Bag
The Western Mountaineering Versatile 10 is a solidly-built sleeping bag. The premium goose down is among the most comfortable fillings available. This bag features a breathable outer material and lining. This helps you to stay warm while avoiding heavy, uncomfortable sweating. A broad shoulder dimension allows campers to wear more clothing for those times when it gets even colder than expected.
This Western Mountaineering Versatile has a temperature rating of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The bag is filled with 850+ Fill Down. The down type is goose, for extra comfort and warmth. The Versatile 10 comes in short, regular and long versions. The short is for persons of 5’6″ and under. The medium is for campers of around 6′ in height. The Long model can accommodate those who are up to 6’6″ tall. The weights of each model are 1 lb, 14 oz, 2 lb and 2 lb 2 oz, respectively. The outer shell material for the Versatile 10 is ExtremeLite with a taffeta lining for extra strength. ExtremeLite is a brand-exclusive material that is made to be sturdy, water-resistant and still lightweight. The material is thinner than many of the competitive sleeping bags, so that may be a concern.
- Ultra-premium 850-power-fill down gives superior warmth to weight ratio over synthetic fibers
- Design of interlocking draft tubes and the collar prevent cold draughts and keep you warmer
- At just over 2 lbs, ultralight for a winter sleeping bag
- Full length #5 YKK zipper
- Extra girth in the shoulder area to allow the most restless of sleepers a good slumber
- Very Warm
- Weather Resistant
- Thin Outer Shell
The Nemo Sonic 0 is the winner among the top cold-weather sleeping bags of 2021. Each of the six models on the list are excellent choices. You wouldn’t be disappointed with any of them. The Sonic 0 offers a tremendous weight-to-warmth ratio, high quality, and a reasonable price. It is not the least expensive model but is packed with useful features. This makes it an excellent value and the all-around top choice for most situations. Keep in mind that your specific needs and tastes may be different.
Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch 3
- Q?Shield DOWN 800-fill has an advanced treatment applied that resists heat…
- Performance mummy is cut snug, for maximum warmth and minimum weight
- Tight 5″ baffle spacing maximizes loft
- Lightweight but durable two-way #5 zipper for easy entry and exit
- Down-filled face gasket comfortably blocks drafts at the hood opening
The Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch is high in quality and loaded with features. It manages to be both light and also durable. This makes it a good choice for anyone hiking or those carrying lots of gear. The shell material is durable and can repel water. It can keep you nice and dry even in the snow.
The Torch 3 sleeping bag has a nice weight-to-warmth ratio. It is light and easy to carry but also retains a high level of warmth and protection from the environment. It comes with a nylon compression sack that is good for hauling it around. It also includes a mesh storage sack that won’t crush the down filling when you store it for extended periods.
The temperature rating is 3° F / -16° C. The Torch 3 is filled with comfortable goose down. This manufacturer coats the down with a proprietary substance called Q-Shield. This gives the filling a good level of water resistance. This sleeping bag weighs a light 2 lb 9 oz. It is a mummy-shaped bag that will keep your head warm. It is approximately 72″ long, 53″ at the hips and 59″ at the shoulders. The outer shell is made of 10D Bright Filament Cire Plain Weave. The material is strong and durable. This bag should last you for many years of hard use.
This is not the cheapest sleeping bag on the list, but it is a good value. The level of warmth, water resistance, and features is excellent for a bag in this price range. In our opinion, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch is the best 0 degree sleeping bag there is.
- Filled with Q Shield™800-fill down – designed to prevent build up of heat robbing moisture
- Mummy design is cut snug, to maintain minimum weight & maximum warmth
- Hood designed with 6 chambers to ensure consistent down filling around the head
- Comes with down filled face gasket to prevent drafts
- Comfort footbox allows for natural feet position during sleep
- Ergonomic draft collar prevents the escape of warm air from inside the bag
- Very Warm
- Small Packed Size
- Zipper can occasionally snag
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Last update on 2021-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API