Best Sleeping Bags for Camping – 2018
When it comes to the great outdoors, nothing quite compares to camping. Sleeping under the stars and living in nature is a great way to spend your time and reconnect with yourself, your friends and family, and the world as a whole.
One thing about camping, however, is making sure that your sleeping arrangement is both comfortable and warm. Sleeping bags are one of the most important pieces of gear you can have on your trip, so make sure that it’s a good one.
Today I”ll be talking about what to look for in sleeping bags, as well as show you some of the best sleeping bags for camping in general. Be sure to keep all of this in mind when shopping for your next expedition into the wild.
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How to Choose a Sleeping Bag
No matter what time of year you go camping, odds are that the nights will get colder than you’re used to, meaning that one of the most important things a bag can do is keep you warm.
To that end, you need to pay attention to the temperature rating of your bag to ensure that it will stay toasty even if the ambient temperature drops.
The best sleeping bags have a rating of around 20-40 degrees, but some will go as low as ten degrees or even less. Depending on the area you’re traveling in, whether or not you’ll have a tent, and the time of year can all determine what rating you should choose.
When it comes to keeping you warm, the shape of the sleeping bag can have just as much of an impact as the material. The way most bags work is that the air around your body is heated by your natural body warmth, thus keeping you warm all night long.
The bigger the bag, the more space there is, and the longer it takes to heat. There are four primary types of bags to choose from, each with a specific purpose.
- Rectangular: the most common design is rectangular, which means that it has an even shape all throughout. These bags can fit almost any body shape and size.
- Mummy: if you want to reduce the amount of air around your body, so you warm up faster, a mummy bag is the way to go. It’s called a mummy bag because of the way it’s shaped, meaning that it conforms to your body more, so there’s less dead air in the bag. The tradeoff, however, is that you are more restricted in how much you can move.
- Barrel: these bags (also called semi-rectangular) have a tapered bottom to reduce the amount of air, but are not as restrictive or as form-fitting as a mummy bag. They are something of an in-between design, for those who want quicker warmth but also some room to spread out.
- Double wide: if you like to sleep with a partner, then you’ll need a double-wide bag. It is possible to join two single sleeping bags if the zippers are a match and on opposite sides (one’s on the right, the other’s on the left), but a double-wide is made for two people and is much better at holding both of you than just joining two single bags. These bags can also be paired with a mattress or sleeping pad for better comfort.
One aspect of warming you is by reducing the amount of air around your body. The other aspect is the type of insulation that’s in the bag itself. There are three primary insulation types, as listed below. The best sleeping bags use synthetic down, however.
- Synthetic: if you want something cost-effective, then synthetic down is the way to do. While it’s not as high-performance as feather down, it gets the job done adequately. Unless you want to do some extreme backpacking in a frozen environment, synthetics are mostly fine. Also, they dry out much faster when wet.
- Goose-down: if you’re not familiar with feather down, it refers to the layer of feathers on water birds that keep them warm and buoyant. Feather down is rated by how much loft it has (how big it is when not compressed) and how thick it is. For best results, down is unmatched, however, if it gets wet, then you have a big problem.
- Water-resistant down: to help combat the issue with most down bags, some companies will treat their down with synthetic treatments to keep the feathers dry, even if they get soaked. Most “synthetic down” is much more expensive than other alternatives, but it has the best of both worlds.
Recommended Best Sleeping Bags
First on our list is the Sierra Designs Backcountry Sleeping Bag. What makes this a great buy is the fact that it has 800 fill DriDown. When it comes to down ratings, the fill count means how lofty the down is when not compressed. Most down is rated for 500-700, with the higher numbers taking up more space.
Thus, an 800 fill down is one of the lightest options out there (since it takes less material to fill the bag) while still maintaining its temperature rating.
Another great thing about this down is that it is DriDown, which means that it has been treated to stay dry even when wet, so you can still use your bag if it gets soaked.
Other features of this bag include a mummy design, a hideaway hood for better warmth of your head, arm and hand pockets to keep your body swaddled through the night, and a carrying sack that comes with it for your convenience.
- Durable construction
- High-quality insulation
- 800 Fill DriDown
- Mummy style bag
- Hideaway hood included
- Insulated arm and hand pockets
- Dry clean only
- More expensive than other models
- Not ideal for larger campers
- Zipper only goes down halfway, which can make getting in and out difficult for some
Our next bag is the Cosmic Down Sleeping Bag by Kelty. This particular model also uses DriDown, meaning that you don’t have to worry about the bag getting wet and ruining your camping experience. The fill rating is not quite as high as the Sierra model, however, so it’s not quite as light. This bag is rated at 550 instead of 800.
This is another mummy style bag, with a zipper on the side instead of down the middle. The bag also comes with an adjustable hood, a tunnel for the zipper so it doesn’t get stuck, and is rated for three seasons, meaning that it will keep you warm in temperatures as low as twenty degrees Fahrenheit.
- Durable construction
- Mummy style design
- DriDown included
- 550 fill down
- Lightweight and water-resistant
- Adjustable hood for comfort
- Full-length zipper for better venting
- Ideal for most weather conditions
- Stuff sack included
- Not 100% down filling
- Lower fill count means it is not as lofty as other models
- In rare cases, the bag only stays warm at 30 degrees or higher
Next, we have the Sports TrailHead Sleeping Bag from TETON. This is a fantastic company that makes excellent camping gear, and I have had great experience with its sleeping bags. To that end, I have two TETON bags on the list.
The TrailHead is classified as a mummy bag, but I would say that it’s more of a barrel design than a mummy, due to its even tapering at the bottom.
Misnomer aside, this bag is ideal for both backpackers and campers due to its lightweight design and durable construction.
The interior is synthetic, so it won’t work quite as well as down, but regardless this bag is rated at twenty degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Other features include an adjustable hood, interior zippers so you can close all the way when inside, a larger foot area so your feet aren’t cramped, and an internal pocket to hold any valuables or other items you need with you.
- Lightweight design
- Durable synthetic material
- Interior and exterior zippers
- Adjustable hood
- Enlarged foot area
- Barrel design
- Rated at 20 degrees and above
- Interior pocket included
- Stuff sack comes with the bag
- Material is not as effective as feather down
- In rare cases, it may only keep you warm at temperatures of 30 degrees and above
- Synthetic filling has limited loft, meaning the bag is thinner than most models
If you want to share your sleeping space with a significant other, then the best way to do that is with a double wide sleeping bag. One of the best double wide bags is the Mammoth Queen Size Bag from TETON.
What sets this model apart from the rest is not just its size, but that it also has a temperature rating of zero degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that it’s perfect for almost any terrain or environment.
Other notable features of this bag include synthetic filling, a polyester lining, a stuff sack, and zippers on both sides so each person can get in and out easily and quickly. Overall, this is a great buy for any camping couples out there.
- Durable polyester construction
- Relatively lightweight, given the size
- Zero degree temperature rating
- Synthetic fill material
- Zippers on both sides
- Stuff sack included
- Adjustable hood for both sleepers
- Not as efficient as feather down
- Large size can result in more air, meaning it takes longer to heat up
- Not very lightweight for backpacking
- In rare cases, the bag may only keep you warm at higher temperatures (20 degrees and up)
Finally, we come to the Outdoor Vitals Summit Sleeping Bag. This is another feather down model, meaning that you will get unmatched warmth and performance, albeit at a higher price tag.
This mummy style model is rated for 20 degrees and up, making it ideal for campers and backpackers alike. This bag has an 800 fill down rating, making it both high-quality and super lightweight.
Other features include an adjustable hood, reinforced zippers, and a one-year limited warranty. It also comes with a stuff sack for your convenience.
- Cost-effective (for down)
- 800 fill down rating
- Mummy style design
- Durable nylon outer shell
- Reinforced zippers
- Adjustable hood
- Lightweight design
- 20-degree temperature rating
- Ideal for backpacking or camping
- Not fully water-resistant
- In rare cases, the bag may only stay warm in temps of 30 degrees and above
- Certain parts of the bag (such as the hood) are filled with synthetic, not down
Overall, when picking out the right bag, I want something that will keep me warm at night and not take up a bunch of space in my backpack. That being said, I would highly recommend either the Sierra or Cosmic bags, because they both come with DriDown, which is the best filler you can buy.
I would prefer the Sierra model, however, because of the higher fill count, but both of them are similarly rated for temp, so it’s just a matter of preference and compression. If you have two campers, however, you can’t beat the TETON Queen Size Bag. When I camp with my wife, that’s what we use.