Guides Sleeping Bags

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag for Backcountry Hikers: 2020 Buyer’s Guide and Leading Products

girl traveler

The sleeping bag is considered one of the most important pieces of gear that you can bring when you’re hiking and camping. A poorly designed bag will not only ruin a good night’s sleep, but it can also be dangerous in freezing temperatures. Using the best backpacking sleeping bag is the best way to keep your body warm when you’re camping, which is why it’s so critical that you choose a model that’s designed to provide the type of warmth you need, based on climate and current weather conditions.

But even the experienced camper can have a difficult time choosing a model that meets their needs. Because of this, I’ve created the ultimate guide to finding the perfect sleeping bag for your next outdoor adventure. In addition to this buyer’s guide, I’ve also reviewed many of the best-selling models on the market, narrowing it down to the top six. To learn more about these products, take a look at my comparison chart below, which lists all of the important features, how each model rated, and other information you’ll need to know in order to choose a bag that will meet your needs the next time you find yourself camping in the backcountry during the fall and winter months.

Backpacking Sleeping Bag Comparison Chart

Product Season Insulation Type Rating
Hyke & Byke Sleeping Bag


Shop On Amazon!
4 Season Down Feathers Mummy
SOULOUT Down Sleeping Bag


Shop On Amazon!
Winter Down Feathers Mummy
Western Mountaineering Sleeping
Bag


Shop On Amazon!
Winter Down Feathers Mummy
TETON Sleeping Bag


Shop On Amazon!
Summer Microfiber Mummy
Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag


Shop On Amazon!
3 Season Cotton Semi-Rectangular
Farland Sleeping Bags


Shop On Amazon!
3 Season Polyester Pongee Mummy

Hyke & Byke Eolus Fill Power Hydrophobic Sleeping Bag


Our Rating: (5/5)

This sleeping bag is IDFL certified and third-party tested. If you’re looking for a bag that will help to keep your pack weight low, then you’ll love this eight hundred fill power goose down ultralight bag. The bag features microscopic air clusters that are designed to trap heat, keeping you nice and warm in freezing temperatures. The bag weighs in at just under three pounds and is made out of water repellant 400T twenty denier nylon fabric with a larger than average footbox, wide shoulder area, two YKK zippers, vertical baffles, and a compression sack that allows you to pack this bag up extra-small, to save some serious space inside your pack.

Pros

  • Compression sack
  • Lightweight
  • Down feathers
  • Water-repellant material

Cons

  • May be too roomy for smaller users

Conclusion

The bag is made out of durable material that’s water repellant, so you won’t have to worry about the feathers clumping together in rainy weather. It also comes with a larger footbox and a wider should area, both of which can help larger users to stay warm, even in colder temperatures. However, for smaller users, the larger shoulder area and footbox can be a drawback since a mummy-style sleeping bag should feature more of a snug fit in order to efficiently retain heat.

SOULOUT Down Sleeping Bag


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This mummy bag weighs a little over three pounds and is made out of 400T polyester rip-stop material. The bag will easily compress down to a manageable size and will not add too much weight to your pack. The bag is made out of polyester that has a water-resistant coating that will protect it from wet weather and wind. The bag’s wide footbox will give users more space to stretch their feet, without adding extra weight to the bag. The expanded chest area also provides more room for larger users. The drag collar, combined with the horizontal baffles will work together to prevent heat loss.

Pros

  • Wide footbox
  • Wide chest area
  • Draft collar
  • Horizontal baffles

Cons

  • Wider chest and foot area can result in heat loss for smaller users

Conclusion

The wider footbox can be a pro or con, depending on the size of the user. If the footbox is bigger than necessary this can result in the loss of heat, however, some campers may prefer a more spacious foot area in order to stretch out and relax. You’ll run into the same issue with the chest area, which also offers a more spacious design. The addition of the draft collar, complete with a drawstring and snag-free Velcro can do wonders to improve heat efficiency, in addition to the horizontal baffles that also help to reduce heat loss. The bag has earned top marks as the perfect choice for winter use, but it may be overkill in temperatures over forty degrees. If you’re in need of a sleeping bag that can handle freezing temperatures and keep you nice and toasty, even in inclement weather, then this bag is the perfect investment.

Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a mummy-style sleeping bag that’s perfect for winter use. It comes with a twenty-degree temperature rating and a five-inch loft. It’s made out of weather-resistant twenty denier material and filled with sixteen ounces of goose down feathers. The zippers come equipped with an insulated draft tube, complete with a full down collar that’s designed to minimize heat loss. The bag’s continuous baffles encircle the entire bag, which allows the user to shift the down features in order to achieve the ideal interior temperature. The bag weighs just a little over one and a half pounds, so it will barely add any weight to your pack, although it doesn’t come with a compression sack, which would make packing up this bag much easier.

Pros

  • Continuous baffles
  • Twenty-degree rating
  • Draft tube
  • Full down collar

Cons

  • Price
  • Can become too hot to use in temperatures over thirty degrees
  • Does not come with a compression bag

Conclusion

This is a bag that’s specifically designed to handle freezing temperatures. In twenty-degree or below weather, you need a bag you can rely on to keep you warm, especially if you find yourself in the backcountry when a storm hits. This bag comes loaded with all the right features designed to keep you warm, safe, and dry, in any type of weather. While the price may be steep, the type of comfort and protection the bag offers makes it worth every penny and a solid investment for the serious camper or hiker.

TETON Sports Trailhead Sleeping Bag


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Need a lightweight bag that packs down small? This model comes with an innovative filling that allows you to pack up this bag into a nice small package, with the use of the included compression sack. The microfiber insulation can provide adequate warmth during the summer months, however, the bag is not able to handle temperatures below forty degrees. The bag includes a zipper and draft tube that will minimize heat loss and a mummy hood for added warmth on chilly nights. The spacious footbox is a great design change that allows you to relax and stretch out, without feeling cramped. The liner consists of a double-brushed soft design for added warmth.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Compression sack included
  • Durable
  • Low price

Cons

  • Not designed for spring or winter use

Conclusion

This model is not meant for use during the spring and winter months and should not be used for temperatures below forty degrees. The microfiber filling cannot provide the same level of warmth as higher priced models that come equipped with down feathers, but it’s more than adequate for warm summer weather and chilly summer nights. The price is reasonable, the outer shell is durable, and the lightweight bag can be neatly compressed, offering a compact design that won’t take up too much space in your pack.

Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a three-season bag that’s designed to handle temperatures ranging from thirty-five to fifty degrees. The shell of the bag is made out of weather-resistant material, so you’ll stay nice and dry in the event it rains or snow. The half-circle hood features an adjustable drawstring that will reduce heat loss and keep you nice and warm even in extreme weather conditions. The bag is made out of tear-resistant polyester, complete with a liner that’s made out of 190T polyester. The bag is filled with hollow cotton, which is not designed to provide protection in freezing temperatures but can offer moderate protection in weather thirty-five degrees and higher.

Pros

  • Perfect for temperatures ranging from thirty-five to fifty degrees
  • Made out of weather-resistant material
  • Adjustable half-circle hood
  • Made out of tear-resistant material

Cons

  • Not designed for temperatures below thirty-five degrees

Conclusion

This bag is a great choice if you’re camping out in the later spring or summer months. It’s not designed to handle extreme temperatures, but can work great as a summer bag, offering the type of protection you need on those chilly spring or summer nights. The bag features a rugged design, a waterproof outer shell, and the type of durability you need for those dangerous hiking trips in the backcountry.

FARLAND Sleeping Bags


Our Rating: (4/5)

This bag is slightly heavier than the other models in my top six lineup, which can be a dealbreaker for some potential buyers in search of a lightweight bag that will help to keep the weight of their pack down. However, it will provide ultimate protection from freezing temperatures with its twenty-degree rating. This bag is perfect for temperatures ranging from twenty degrees up to sixty degrees and features a weather-resistant and waterproof design that will protect you from the elements in the event you find yourself caught in a downpour. The outer shell of the bag is made out of nylon material that’s breathable, yet waterproof. The bag itself is filled with polyester pongee, which helps to keep the weight of the bag lower than if it were filled with down feathers. The bag’s compact design will allow you to easily compress it so it fits inside your pack.

Pros

  • Made out of durable nylon material
  • Compact design
  • Twenty-degree rating
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Polyester pongee filling

Conclusion

This bag may be heavier than the other models in my list, but it does an efficient job of keeping you warm and dry in colder weather conditions and can dry off faster than a traditional down feather sleeping bag. The mummy bag design will keep you nice and warm, working to retain heat more efficiently compared to semi-rectangular bags. This bag is a great choice for the hiker and camper on a tight budget, in need of a model with a low-temperature rating and a waterproof design.

Backpacking Sleeping Bag Buyer’s Guide

When you’re shopping for a new sleeping bag for your next backpacking trip, start by considering the type of environment you normally find yourself in on your backcountry adventures. What time of year do you usually hike? Do you often find yourself in cold and wet conditions? Do you prefer to hike during the spring, when the weather is warm during the day but can drop to the low thirties at night? Or do you normally find yourself heading out in hot weather, which would only require a light sleeping bag? As you can see, there are many things that you’ll need to consider before you buy your next sleeping bag. I’ll go over the benefits that each type has to offer, what temperatures they can work for, in addition to the types of materials to look for, zipper durability, and more.

Benefits of Backpacking Sleeping Bags

The most important factor you’ll need to consider when you’re shopping for a new bag is the type of insulation it offers. These bags usually come with primary insulation which consists of down feathers, or you can purchase a bag that’s made with synthetic fibers. There are several different types of synthetic fibers to choose from. These types of bags often offer better insulation compared to bags that are filled with down feathers.

In terms of the type of insulation you need, first, consider the weather conditions and the type of environment you’ll be camping out in.

Down Feathers

These bags tend to be a better option in dry locations. They also pack smaller and weigh a lot less than a synthetic fiber bag, which can be a huge plus if you’re trying to keep the weight down. However, when these bags get wet, they can lose their ability to insulate and tend to clump up. Down bags are very pricey in comparison to bags made out of synthetic fibers.

Down bags still remain the most popular option for hikers, since it offers a significantly higher warmth to weight ratio, compared to synthetic fiber bags.

Additionally, they also last much longer than synthetic fibers and weigh approximately thirty percent less and can be packed twenty percent smaller. When these bags are stored and cared for properly, they can last for twenty years. Synthetic bags will lose thirty percent of their warmth after four to six years of use. When you’re camping out in cold weather, not only does down it lose its ability to keep you warm, but it can also take several hours to dry out.

Synthetic Fiber

smiling girl

Because down feather insulation will clump up and retain water once it gets wet, you’ll be better off using a bag made out of synthetic fibers, should you find yourself camping out in rainy weather. Regardless of how well you care for a down bag, synthetic bags can dry much faster, however, in terms of insulation power, down still remains the top choice for most hikers.

Temperature Protection

Once you’ve decided on the type of insulation you want your bag to have, the next step is looking at a bag’s temperature rating. If you’re looking for a bag to use during the spring, then a bag that has a rating of twenty to thirty-five degrees is a great choice. If you’re very sensitive to the cold, then you’ll want to go with a bag that offers three-season use. Manufacturers will clearly list the type of weather conditions a bag can handle by giving a bag a temperature rating.

Types of Backpacking Sleeping Bags

There are several types of bags to choose from, each of which offers its own pros and cons. When choosing a style, make sure you take the bag’s weight into consideration, especially if you hike several miles a day. Durability, weather conditions, and the environment should also be factored into your decision regarding which type of bag will work the best for you.

Mummy

The traditional sleeping bag will enclose the user’s foot, bottom, and top area, with the help of a zipper and a hood that can be pulled up over the head in order to keep the user’s head warm. These bags are usually referred to as mummy bags due to the tapered head to toe design. There are some drawbacks that come with this style of bag such as a heavier weight. Yet, they’re by far the most versatile option since they can be used in a variety of temperatures. These bags are able to easily adapt to different environments and are very beginner-friendly. Because of this, most backcountry hikers often rely on mummy bags for every season. As I mentioned earlier, the big drawback here is the added weight of the bag’s compressed insulation, which does a great job of providing warmth, but can really add some weight to your pack. When the bag is compressed beneath the user’s body, the bag may fail to provide the type of insulation needed for warmth in colder conditions.

Rectangular

These bags will not have a taper through the legs and are not considered as thermally efficient as a mummy bag. I would not recommend these bags for winter use. instead, they’re a better choice for a summer camping trip.

Semi-Rectangular

These bags feature a design that’s a cross between the standard rectangular bag and the mummy bag. They can be a good choice for the camper who does not like the very snug fit that the mummy bag offers, but needs more warmth than what a basic rectangular bag can offer. These bags tend to be much bulkier than a mummy bag, but they do offer a little extra space that some campers will appreciate.

Seasonal Protection

Despite the heavier weight and its tendency to struggle in colder climates, most hikers still consider the mummy bag the best option for every season.

Bags will fall into a few categories:

  • Winter
  • Three-season
  • Summer

Summer bags are perfect for temperatures at forty degrees and higher. These bags are very light because they don’t have as much insulation as bags designed for winter and spring use. These bags typically come with full-length zippers that will allow you to zip them completely open for improved ventilation in hot weather. Many of these bags feature a simple sack-like design that’s very basic. You don’t need a draft collar or hood in ninety-degree weather.

Three Season

These bags are a great choice for temperatures twenty degrees and higher. They’re often chosen for camping in the fall and spring. A good bag will have some added features that are designed to combat cold weather. This includes zipper draft tubes, draft collars, and hoods.

Winter

These cocoon-shaped bags are ideal for temperatures at twenty degrees and below. They come with the same features that a three-season bag does, including draft collars, but they offer a higher level of insulation and can be very bulky to pack. Because of this, you’ll want to purchase a compression stuff sack which is designed to help compress the bag down to a manageable size for your pack.

Fit

Finding a bag that offers the right fit will also be important since a bag that fits right can provide comfort and thermal efficiency. Most bags that have a high thermal efficiency rating will fit snuggly around the body, in order to prevent drafts and cold air from creeping in during the night. But a bag that’s too snug can be very uncomfortable for the side sleeper or people who are restless sleepers.

Some models of mummy bags now feature a somewhat wider design that will allow the user to roll around or comfortably sleep on their side.

Baffles

winter camping

The three-season style bag comes equipped with a few types of baffles that are designed to ensure that the insulation is unable to shift in the bag. This will prevent any unwanted cold spots.

Stitching that’s visible can indicate whether or not a bag comes with vertical baffles or horizontal baffles.

  • Sewn-through baffles will have a seam that will pierce the fabric all the way through. This type of stitching is commonly found on low-priced bags.
  • Vertical baffles will run from the toe to the head of the bag and include many mesh walls that are designed to prevent the insulation from moving.
  • Horizontal baffles will create the best weight to warmth ratio and are often found on higher-priced three-season bags. With down feather bags, the horizontal baffles allow the feathers to shift from the bottom of the bag to the top or vice versa, for warm weather and cold weather conditions.
  • Neck baffles consist of a thick tube of insulation that’s located near the hood of the bag. This baffle will prevent heat loss. While these baffles usually have an elastic cord that you can use to cinch the fit around your shoulders and neck, some models will feature extended pieces of fabric that can be neatly tucked beneath the user’s shoulders, which will prevent the baffle from moving out of place. This type of baffle is a must-have in cold weather conditions. Choose a bag with a neck baffle if you often find yourself camping out in temperatures that range from twenty to thirty degrees.

Draft Tubes

These are essentially tubes of insulation that are designed to prevent heat loss that can occur through the zipper. These tubes are essential if you have a center zipper bag. These zippers are placed above the body, which can increase the chances of warm air escaping from the bag. Make sure you choose a bag that comes equipped with a draft tube since it works to keep you significantly warmer in colder weather.

Denier Rating

The material used for the shell of sleeping bags is measured in denier. Denier represents the density of fibers. Basically, denier is used to evaluate the durability and strength of the fabric used. For camping out in the winter months, look for a material with a thirty denier rating. Ten denier fabric is a better choice for camping out in the summer or late spring.

While a lower denier indicates less abrasion and puncture resistance, even a bag with a higher denier rating can tear if it comes into contact with sharp objects, such as rocks. Material that’s designed for abrasion is usually made out of fabric with a two hundred denier rating or higher. Regardless of the denier rating, all down bags will leak feathers at some point. You’ll notice the random plume poking out of your bag from time to time. When this happens, avoid pulling it out since doing so can make the hole bigger.

Size

When you’re hiking, the goal is to use a small backpack and keep the pack weight as low as possible, since you may be hiking for several miles. Because of this, you’ll want to keep the sleeping bag packed nice and small. With a sleeping bag, when it’s packed, smaller is always better. Models that are specifically designed for backpacking will offer a more compact folded design.

Weight

While the size of the bag when it’s folded up is always important, for many, the weight of the bag is crucial. A lower weight will equal a pack that’s easier to carry for the duration of your trip. Of course, synthetic fiber bags are much lighter than down bags. In the end, you’ll have to choose between a bag that offers better insulation or a bag that’s lighter. You may be surprised to learn just how heavy a five-pound sleeping bag can feel after you’ve hiked a few miles. If your plan is to hike across the country, or explore the backcountry and spend several hours a day hiking to new and out of the way places, then shoot for a bag that weighs two to three pounds. If you’re planning a shorter hiking trip, then try to find a bag that weighs three to four pounds max.

Backpacking Sleeping Bag Care

Caring for your bag properly will be essential since it can help to prolong the life of your bag, regardless of the insulation type. Caring for your bag will help to maintain the loft while preserving its temperature rating and warmth. During use, it’s important to keep the bag dry in order for the insulation to function properly.

When your trip is over and you’re putting your gear back in the garage, make sure the backpack is completely dry. This prevents mold growth and maintains the bag’s insulating qualities longer.

In the short term, synthetic bags don’t require as much maintenance as down bags do. They will still provide warmth in the event they get wet during use and are considered more durable than down. These bags are also much easier to wash since the insulation will not clump together when it gets wet. However, the fiber tends to deteriorate faster than down. Because of this, you need to avoid compressing the bag for an extended period of time since the more the fibers become compressed, the faster they will break down, which will cause them to lose their insulating power. Many hikers feel that a down bag is a better investment since feathers are able to handle more compression cycles, without breaking down.

Sleeping Bag Tips

  • Keeping a sleeping bag dry in any type of shelter can be a challenge. If you’re sleeping outdoors, then wrap a large garbage bag over the shell of your bag. This can work to prevent the bag from getting soaked due to an unexpected rainfall or morning dew.
  • If you’re camping in the winter, make sure you wear several layers of clothing. This will compress the insulation and prevent it from lofting. Adding several layers of clothing will take up any dead air space if you find yourself using a bag that’s too roomy.
  • If your bag seems worn out, is older than five years, and you’re planning on camping in the winter months or early spring, then invest in a new bag for the upcoming season for protection against intense temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Sleeping Bag Be Too Warm?

Yes, some types of sleeping bags can be too warm. While you can leave the bag unzipped to prevent the heat from your body radiating upwards, the thick insulation that’s between the ground and you can reduce the amount of heat that the body is able to dissipate. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to what type of bag you’re buying, whether it’s a summer bag or a three-season. In some cases, three-season bags can be too hot, especially if you’re dealing with temperatures that are eighty degrees or higher.

How Heavy Should a Sleeping Bag Be for Backpacking?

When you’re hiking and carrying a sleeping bag, obviously, the lighter the bag is, the better. The goal with a backpack setup is to find the lightest bag possible in order to keep the weight of the pack down. This is why many long-distance hikers will look for bags that weigh two to three pounds. When you’re hiking for several miles a day, the weight of the bag will really matter. However, if you’re hiking during the winter months, then you’ll have to use a heavier bag, since weight is increased with thicker insulation. These winter-style bags can weigh anywhere from three to five pounds.

How Can I Increase the Warmth of My Sleeping Bag?

You can do many things to make your old sleeping bag feel a little warmer. Of course, dressing in several layers can help, and so can adding a thermal liner to your bag, wearing gloves and a beanie to sleep in, and investing in a high-quality set of thermal underwear.

Final Thoughts

The best backpacking sleeping bag will offer the type of snug fit, temperature rating, and insulation that you need on your next hiking trip. These bags come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can keep you protected and nice and cool in the summer, or warm in the spring, fall, and winter. Remember, the type of bag you buy should depend on the season, temperature, and average weather conditions. You don’t want to be caught in the summer using a bag that’s designed for winter use. additionally, for winter camping and hiking, a bag that offers a higher level of insulation will be a must. I hope this guide and my product recommendations have helped to point you in the right direction, to find a bag that will keep you comfortable, whether you’re enjoying a family camping trip in the summer, or you’re roughing it in the backcountry during the winter.