The Different Types of Sleeping Bags
Hoodless bags come in two variants, rectangular and semi-rectangular. Both offer the sleeper more room to move around at night. The rectangular design has more dead space that your body has to warm up, thus making them less warm than mummy bags.
On the other hand, semi-rectangular bags, with tapering at the foot box and head, are a good hybrid solution if you need a lighter and warmer bag than the rectangular bag can offer, but require more room for changing positions during the night. The other benefit of both rectangular and semi-rectangular bags is that they are usually less expensive than mummy bags, giving you more leeway for other gear.
The camp quilt is essentially an insulated blanket. It provides a lot more freedom of movement than a sleeping bag and can be lighter and smaller in pack size. Its versatility is the number one reason people choose to purchase a camp quilt.
While it can be tucked around you in the cold weather, it can be draped loosely in the warmer temperatures. However, camp quilts are not able to work as well against the draft that a properly-zippered sleeping bag keeps out. Thus, you can find camp quilts that keep you warm down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit; at the same time, though, a properly fitted sleeping bag can keep you warm down to 20 degrees or even lower, depending on the bag. If you find yourself regularly sweating in your sleeping bag and then catching a chill, you may be better off with a camp quilt.
Form-fitting, a mummy bag is wide at the shoulders, and then tapers off to the foot box. All mummy bags also have a hood that encircles your head to keep it warm as well. Mummy bags are the warmest type of sleeping bag on the market, sometimes having temperature ratings as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. They pack down small and maintain low weights. However, mummy bags are generally the most expensive type of sleeping bags on the market. Also, some people find the close quarters of this style of bag constricting and sometimes even claustrophobic.
A hybrid between the sleeping bag and the camp quilt is the bed-style sleeping bag. With a very broad, oval-shaped opening from shoulder to waist and no zippers, this style of bag is ideal for people who want a combination of sleeping bag for their legs and comforter for their torso. The benefit of the bed-style sleeping bag is that you can be as comfortable as you are at home with a regular sheet and comforter. Unfortunately, if you shift much, you will get cold because the comforter shifts with you, leaving openings into the bag section. Also, these bed-style bags typically weigh more with the extra fabric.
What to Consider in a Sleeping Bag
This is the single most important consideration when it comes to purchasing a sleeping bag – how warm will it need to be for you to comfortably (and safely) get a good nights sleep. There are two measurements that matter when you look at insulation, fill power and fill weight. Fill power, according to Standard Fiber, is a measurement of the fluffiness of the down, whether natural or synthetic. A higher number has more insulating air pockets. Thus, a higher fill power leads to better insulation.
Fill power typically ranges from 550 to 850+, says Standard Fiber. Good insulation ranges from 650 to 750, while the best insulation has a fill power of 800 or more. The other measurement to keep in mind is the fill weight, which is the weight of the down in ounces. The higher the fill weight, the heavier the insulation will be.
Keep in mind, though, that heavy does not equate to warm. If you consider two sleeping bags, one with 15 ounces of 600 fill down and one with 11 ounces of 750 fill down, the former will be heavier, but the latter will be warmer. There are also two types of insulation, natural down, and synthetic down. Which you choose will have an impact on your comfort level and overall warmth. For an introduction to the differences, check out this YouTube video on natural down versus synthetic down.
Natural down has been used in sleeping bags for generations. Made from the soft plumage under the feathers of a duck or goose, it makes the sleeping bag feel soft and fluffy. Insulating by trapping air, natural down is popular for being light, compressible, durable, and breathable. This type of insulation is the top choice for cold, dry backpacking adventures or any trip that requires something lightweight and with a small pack size. Warmer than synthetic, it can nonetheless move around and cause cold spots.
Duck, Duck, Goose
The only concern if you are trying to decide between duck or goose down is the fill power. While goose down can go up to 900 fill, duck down can only reach 800 fill. This factor will not matter to you if you are not willing to pay the extra cost for the very best fill power. If you are interested in the very best, on the other hand, your choice is made for you since only goose down goes to the highest.
Is Your Down Certified Ethical?
Ethical down is collected from a source that does not harm the birds or that uses the meat of the birds. The most ethical way to source down is to collect it from the nests of ducks or geese. However, because this is time-consuming, it is not feasible for the production on the scale of most companies. Another way to ethically retrieve down is as a bi-product of the meat industry.
The most common source of down, this is efficient enough for companies to be able to produce as many down products as they need. There has been some controversy in the down production as some companies have stooped to the plucking of down off live birds or the killing of birds for their down without the use of their meat.
All of the products reviewed in this article have been made with certified ethically obtained down, so you need not be concerned that you are condoning unethical practices. Furthermore, natural down is a much better choice than synthetic material if you are worried about the environment. This is because natural down is biodegradable and longer-lasting, leading to fewer products in landfills.
Prized for its exceptional overall performance and budget-friendly price tag, synthetic down is typically made from polyester. Though it is hypo-allergenic and continues to insulate if you get it wet, there are disadvantages as well. Synthetic down is less compact and heavier than natural down. It also provides less warmth for the amount of weight it adds to your sleeping bag.
Short-staple or Continuous Filament
Two styles of synthetic down exist. The first, short-staple, consists of short strands of low denier fibers closely packed together for minimal heat loss. Short-staple synthetic down can make a sleeping bag feel softer and more flexible. They are also much easier to compress, making pack size smaller. Less durable than continuous filament and can create cold spots as it moves around.
On the other hand, continuous filament insulation uses a thicker, continuous filament that is strong and durable. Less compressible than natural down or short-staple synthetic down. However, this style of synthetic down stays in place much better, preventing cold spots.
Whether polyester or nylon or something else entirely, there are a few things you should consider about the material of the shell and lining. Like a hiking backpack, denier and water-resistance are very important. However, softness is also a major factor, something you would also consider when looking at a comforter.
If you’re interest in the outdoors is new, then consider checking out our camping for beginners guide.
When you are looking at the specifications of an outdoor product, such as a sleeping bag, backpack, or jacket, you might see the term “denier” behind a number. The fabric denier is a term that essentially denotes the weight of the fabric. For example, if a polyester fabric has a 20-denier weight, it means that 9,000 meters of the strands that make up the polyester weighs 20 grams. A lower number, then, represents, a lighter but less durable fabric, while a higher number represents a heavier fabric that is more durable.
If shedding every ounce you can matters, looking for a low denier fabric is the best solution. Since the sleeping bag is not likely to come into contact with rocks, bushes, or other abrasive surfaces, you can get away with a 20-denier fabric for the shell of your bag. On the inside, you may want a slightly more durable material because of abrasive nature of your skin or clothes against the sleeping bag’s lining.
The idea of a water resistant shell is attractive to many consumers. With a water resistant shell, you likely will not have to worry about drying your sleeping bag if the bag touches the side of a damp tent wall. However, you will lose breathability, creating perspiration. This sweat gets in the insulation, reducing the insulation’s ability to maintain your warmth and causing you to catch a chill. Also, the seams of a sleeping bag are rarely tapered, leaving tiny openings in the baffles which allow water to get through to your insulation.
Finally, sleeping bags with water resistance are heavier and more expensive than their counterparts without the water-resistance. A good alternative to a water-resistant shell is to carry a bivy sack and put it over your sleeping bag at night. These sacks are more versatile since you can leave them behind when the trip does not call for a high dew point or precipitation. You may find them more waterproof as well because they have tapered seams that do not let water in through the tiny holes made by the needles.
If you do not want to pack yet another piece of gear, look for sleeping bags with shells that have been treated with a DWR spray. A coating of DWR will make your bag waterproof, causing water to bead and roll off the side of the bag.
Depending on multiple different factors such as time of year, temperature, weather conditions and your own style of backpacking, weight may also play a factor. If you are looking to keep your weight down then you’ll want to choose an ultralight sleeping bag. Of course, choosing a bag is usually a fine balance between the qualities you want or need and the overall weight.
There are many features to ponder when looking at a sleeping bag. Which ones do you really need? Which ones can you do without? Here are four features to keep an eye out for. While they will not make or break your decision, they can provide a little something special to your otherwise simple sleeping bag.
Some bags can be zipped together so two people can share warmth and comfort. If one bag has a left-handed zipper and the other has a right-handed zipper, and they use similar size zippers, then they are said to be zipper compatible. Often, companies make the male version with a zipper on one side while the women’s version has a zipper on the other side. Perfect for couples, this feature does not add any extra cost or weight to the bag.
Are you camping in winter? Without a hood, you will lose much of your warmth through your head. Draw the cord on a mummy or semi-rectangular bag’s hood, and you will retain the heat you would otherwise lose. Some hoods even provide a pocket where you can place a small camp pillow or some clothing for your head to rest on.
A small pocket on the interior of your sleeping bag, this allows you to keep glasses, chap stick, or a mp3 player close at hand so you can retrieve them without exiting the bag. Certainly not a make-or-break feature, the pocket can come in handy when you are cozy warm and want to change the song on your mp3 player or apply chap stick to your dry lips.
On the foot of many sleeping bags are two hang loops, which come in handy if your sleeping bag needs to be washed or dried. Simply hang the bag on a clothesline and let the sun dry out your wet sleeping bag. Hang loops are also useful for storing the bag in a closet, since hanging the bag up is a much better way to store it than rolled into a pack.
The Sleeping Bag Reviews
Marmot HydrogenMarmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag – Dark Citron/Olive Left-Zip
- Material: Pertex Microlight (20D nylon ripstop)
- Insulation: 800-fill down, Down Defender treatment
- Shape: mummy
- Zipper: left / right
- Max User Height: [regular] 6ft, [long] 6ft 6in
A mummy bag with a 20-denier shell and 30-denier lining, the Marmot Hydrogen is second only to the Western Mountaineering SummerLite in weight and pack size. Rated down to temperatures down to 30F.
Able to fit up to a 6’9” frame, it has a full-length two-way zipper on the left side and a thirteen-inch zipper on the right side. These zippers make the Hydrogen ideal for warmer nights since they allow for ventilation both at the top and the bottom of the bag. It has all the extra features mentioned earlier, including the stash pocket and hang loops. Compatible with most right-hand zippers, you can mate the bags together for a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Nautilus hood can shrink down to a small hole around the mouth for heat retention
- Small pack size to save space
- 1.5 pounds weight makes the bag great for minimalist and ultralight backpackers
- Not as warm as the temperature rating implies
- Heat retention decreases over an eight-hour time frameBottom-Line: The Marmot Hydrogen, lightweight and compressible, is an excellent choice if you are a minimalist or ultralight backpacker who is counting every ounce of gear you put in your backpack and every inch of space you have available.
Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Best Sleeping Bag
Extremely versatile, the Enlighten Equipment Revelation is a camp quilt that can be used in many different ways. Use it as the quilt it is with a partially zippered foot box to stay warm on a cold night, lay it flat for warmer nights, or drape it over your shoulders around camp or during break time.
When you set it up for the night, attach the sides of the quilt to your mattress pad with the included straps, and you will have an amazingly warm sleeping system. This camp quilt is also great as a hammock topper. Available in different temperature ratings, lengths and widths, colors, and fill powers, the Revelation is amazingly customizable without the added price of a custom bag. Since it is customized to your needs, the current shipping time is five to six weeks. A long time to wait, it will be worth it when you receive your Revelation camp quilt!
- Partially zippered foot box that traps warmth in when you need it most
- Customizable to fit your particular needs
- No hood, so you lose warmth where it matters most
- Large pack size if you use the included stuff sackBottom-Line: The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is best used by people who feel confined or claustrophobic by other sleeping bags. Its design provides a loose, roomy feel. If you are willing to wait on the delivery time, the most customizable bag to fit your needs.
Western Mountaineering SummerLiteWestern Mountaineering SummerLite 32 Degree Sleeping Bag Cranberry 6FT / Left Zip
- Insulated draft tube protects you from cold air interrupting your precious…
- 5 1/4″ Spacing/Continuous Baffles that encircle the bag from zipper to…
- 10 oz of down fill with 850 fill power
- A narrow cut of 59/38″ Shoulder/Foot girth maximizes heat efficiency
- 1 lb 3 oz total weight makes this Western Mountaineering’s lightest bag…
An ultralight sleeping bag that is super compact, the Western Mountaineering SummerLite is a traditional mummy bag with all the features: a full-length zipper with a draft tube behind it, a toasty warm hood, 360-degree continuous horizontal baffling, and a “Made in USA” tag that doubles as a hang loop. Consumers found that, if you are not thin, the SummerLite is quite constricting and indeed too tight to add layers of clothing for the coldest nights, but for someone of the right size, this bag can keep you cozy all night long.
- Extremely light weight at one pound, two ounces
- Durable materials
- No noticeable loss in loft after many unpackings
- Too constricting for anyone but the thinnest of peopleBottom-Line: The Western Mountaineering SummerLite is best used by those who are thin enough to fit in it without feeling constricted since a constricted feeling is indicative of compressed insulation, which leads to a lack of air pockets to keep you warm.
Best Budget Sleeping Bag
The REI Igneo is a mid-priced sleeping bag with the quality of a high-end bag. With 700 fill duck down treated for water-resistance, this bag is rated for 20-degree weather conditions. Surprisingly enough, the rating holds true, making the Igneo one of the warmer sleeping bags of those reviewed. For the temperature rating it offers, this sleeping bag is decently lightweight at one pound, 13 ounces. Not able to pack down quite a small as the Marmot Hydrogen, it does beat out the slightly warmer bags like the Kelty Cosmic Down sleeping bag.
As far as space for moving around, the Igneo is a little tight, but not too constricting. It does, however, have a smaller foot box than that of the Marmot Hydrogen, leaving little room for you to shift your legs.
- Comparable to the Marmot Hydrogen, but rated for lower temperatures
- Relatively lightweight
- Great price
- Smaller foot box restricts leg movement
- No way to secure a sleeping pad to the bagBottom-Line: Ideal for three-season camping, the REI Igneo will keep you warm in temperatures down to 20 degrees. This sleeping bag is best for the person who sleeps and stays on their back, since shifting around will likely cause you to come off the mattress pad, and the foot box does not have enough room for leg movement.
At two pounds, 11 ounces, the REI Lumen is one of the heavier sleeping bags reviewed, but it does have some great features. First, it is a traditional mummy bag with a few differences. Its insulation is synthetic, made from durable polyester that is highly compressible and maintains insulating factors even when it becomes wet.
This synthetic down is evenly distributed around the bag rather than being mostly on the top and sides, accommodating the multi-position sleeper, while the relaxed fit in the shoulders and hips gives you the ability to move during the night.
Another great feature is the contoured hood, which has an insulated face muffler for regulating warmth in that area and differential pull cords- one round and one square. The differentiated pull cords are great because you can quickly adjust the neck or head fit without struggling to figure out which cord belongs to the draft collar and which to the hood.
While it provides excellent comfort in most weather, it shines in cool, damp conditions because of the synthetic down. There is a small stash pocket near the neckline that is easy to reach and can hold a small flashlight, headlamp, or any other small item. The shell, made of a ripstop nylon, is durable and holds up well against many abrasive surfaces.
- Comfortable fit
- Durable fabric
- A heavy option
- Foot box is too roomy and gets coldBottom-Line: The REI Lumen sleeping bag is best used by people going into cool, damp environments and those who like sleeping in different positions during the night.
Kelty Cosmic DownKelty Cosmic 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag – Regular – Ultralight Backpacking Camping Sleeping Bag with Stuff Sack
- The Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree sleeping bag is ideal for 3-season backpacking…
- This sleeping bag is insulated with 600-fill DriDown. Renowned for…
- Employing a unique, innovative polymer application, DriDown actually…
- A draft tube behind the 60″ two-way locking anti-snag zipper and an…
- A polyester taffeta liner provides internal comfort. Other features include…
While there are other sleeping bags reviewed in this article that are lighter, more compact, and warmer, the Kelty Cosmic Down is the best budget-friendly sleeping bag on the market. It is one of the lightest bags at its price point, but cannot be considered “lightweight” at two pounds, 12 ounces. It contains 21 ounces of 600 fill down, which is quite obviously where a lot of the weight comes from. However, because of the low quality of the down, you may be better off using it for 25-30 degree weather, rather than the 20-degree conditions it is rated for. If it did not have the draft collar, it could easily be expected that this bag would be even less warm.
As far as comfort, consumers found this bag plenty roomy and loved the ability to bring their knees up high if they slept on their side to add to the comfort and warmth. This roominess may be a great option for someone who does not usually like mummy bags. Though it is comfortable and relatively warm, it lacks the weight, pack size, and extra warmth to be considered a three-season sleeping bag. If you’re looking for an inexpensive three-season sleeping bag, try the REI Igneo. However, none of the other bags, including the REI Igneo, will beat the low price of the Kelty Cosmic Down.
- Very comfortable fit
- Differentiating draw cords
- Lower warmth than temperature rating states
- Heavy and bulkyBottom-Line: With its extra room, the Kelty Cosmic Down’s best use is for someone who gets claustrophobic in a traditional mummy bag. As the best budget-friendly sleeping bag, the Cosmic Down is also great for anyone watching their finances.
Sierra Designs Backcountry BedSaleSierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 35 Degree (Regular)
- Material: [shell] 20D polyester ripstop, [lining] 20D polyester taffeta
- Insulation: 700-fill Dridown
- Shape: mummy
- Zipper: none
- Max User Height: [regular] 6ft, [long] 6ft 6in
An innovative new product, the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, is designed for ultimate comfort and versatility. Created with a ripstop nylon shell and taffeta lining, the Backcountry Bed comes with 600 fill duck down, which is a little low quality compared to other sleeping bags reviewed in this article. Thankfully, it also comes in an 800 fill down, so quality is available if you have the desire for it.
The innovation comes in when you consider the design of the bag. It has a large, oval opening dipping from the shoulders to the waist. Covering this is a down comforter, so you can have more of a feeling of being at home in your bed with sheet and comforter. The comfort of this combination is excellent, providing ample space for multi-position sleepers. However, the warmth is a bit lacking in cold temperatures.
The quilt, though it can be tucked into the bag to maintain body heat, comes untucked rather easily, creating drafts. Though it does well in warmer weather, allowing for excellent ventilation, the cold-weather warmth is not consistent. A great feature of this bag is the integrated sleeve for a sleeping pad because you will not have to worry about slipping off your pad during the night.
- Extremely comfortable design
- Great for side and stomach sleeping
- Integrated pad sleeve
- Lacks warmth in very cold temperatures
- Heavy and somewhat bulkyBottom-Line: The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, because of its lack of warmth in cold temperatures, is best suited to summer sleeping and mild autumn or spring nights. This sleeping bag is also a great option for novice campers who are not quite ready to use a traditional sleeping bag.
Klymit KSB 20 DownKLYMIT KSB 20 Down Sleeping Bag, Black
- LOFTY, WARM, AND ULTRALIGHT: High-end lightweight down sleeping bag that’s…
- TEMP RATING: Tested and rated at 20 Degrees F for three season comfort -…
- INCREDIBLY LIGHTWEIGHT: Weighs only 2.75 lbs! High tenacity fabrics are…
- SLEEP COMFORTABLY ALL NIGHT LONG: A draft collar, over-stuffed foot box,…
- EXPANDED CHEST AREA and FLEXIBLE BAFFLES provide room to move; STASH POCKET…
Another budget-friendly sleeping bag, the Klymit KSB 20 Down is filled with 650 fill duck down. Its stretch baffles help keep you warm in very cold climates by conforming to your body to shed the extra unnecessary space. Another feature that adds to the warmth is the half-moon foot box. The shape of the box saves room, so you do not have excess room around your feet.
The stretch baffles and half-moon foot box are great for warmth, but if you do not like close-fitting bags, try a roomier bag like the Kelty Cosmic Down, which costs about the same as the KSB Down. A great feature of the KSB Down is its three-quarter zipper, which allows you to easily slide into the bag. Comfort is not an issue with the KSB Down, which has great loft and soft fabrics.
- Saves space for a warmer sleep
- Draft collar is extra soft
- Includes a large mesh storage bag
- Too tight-fitting for some individualsBottom-Line: A good quality sleeping bag at an excellent price, the Klymit KSB 20 Down is a must-have for individuals look for a snug and comfortable fit. It holds up to its 20-degree rating for cold nights, so is also excellent for backpacking in very cold environments.
Camp Bedding Reviews
If none of our selected sleeping bags below fits your particular needs then check out our other reviews on:
- The best sleeping bag liner
- The best camping sleeping pad
- The best winter sleeping bags
- The best backpacking pillow
- The best camping hammock
- The best underquilt for hammock camping
- The best camping cot
…or alternatively check our full length reviews on: