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10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2018 (For Men and Women)

10 Best Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags are still the most popular nighttime insulation option with backpackers because they’re warmer in cold, damp, or drafty weather, especially below freezing. While mummy bag designs still prevail, there’s a lot more variety in the types of sleeping bags that have become available in the five years, including ones designed for side sleepers and women’s specific sleeping bags. Is it worth buying a women’s specific bag? You betcha, but they’re not as widely available as sleeping bags for men.

When choosing a sleeping bag for backpacking, you want one that’s warm, lightweight, and highly compressible since you’re going to have to haul it in a backpack. Sleeping bags insulated with 800, 850, 900, and 950 goose or duck down are the best in terms of warmth by weight, but you’ll pay a premium at the top end. Fit is also important, both width and length, especially if you’re a woman, short, or have a smaller build. If a bag is too large, it will feel colder than one that fits closely, since your body needs to work harder to fill the extra space with hot air.

Women also require more insulation than men because they have less body mass to generate body heat. Add another 10 degrees if you’re female and decide to buy a “unisex” sleeping bag instead of a women’s specific bag. Women also tend to have colder extremities, like feet, hands, and heads, and require more insulation in those areas. They also have narrower shoulders and are predominantly shorter, requiring sleeping bags that are cut differently than their male counterparts.

Here are our top 10 sleeping bag picks for 2018, including men’s and women’s specific bags.

1. Feather Friends Flicker UL 20 – Unisex/Men’s

Feathered Friends Flicker 20 UL
The Feathered Friends Flicker UL 20 is a highly versatile hoodless sleeping bag that’s ideal for side sleepers who find a mummy bag too constraining. In cooler weather, the Flicker functions as a full center-zip mummy sleeping bag with a heat-saving down-filled draft collar that drapes around your neck and over your shoulders to seal in heat. It has a drawstring footbox can be cinched tight on cooler nights or opened up to vent the bag if you’re too warm. Unzipped, it can be flipped over on warmer nights and used like a quilt or a blanket, since the footbox opens completely.

Insulated with 950+ fill power down, the 20ºF Flicker has continuous baffles that let you move the down fill to where you need it. Weighing 26 oz, it’s perfect for cool summer nights in alpine terrain and thru-hikes.

Check out the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

2. Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 – Unisex/Men’s

The Western Mountaineering Versalite is a warm and spacious sleeping bag with plenty of interior room. It has continuous baffles so you can move the down where you need it most, on top on cold nights, and to bottom of the bag on warm ones, thereby expanding its temperature range.  A full length zipper makes it easy to vent on warmer nights, while an insulated draft collar seals in the heat. A “flattish” mummy-style hood is also easier to use for side sleepers.

The Versalite is available in three lengths: 5′ 6″, 6′ 0″, and 6′ 6″. Insulated with 850+ fill power goose down, it weighs in at just 32 ounces. It’s available in three lengths, making it ideal for ultralight backpackers who hike in cool mountain climates.

Check out the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

3. Marmot Phase  20 – Unisex/Men’s

Marmot Phase 20
The Marmot Phase 20 is an lightweight sleeping bag for men that weighs just 23.7 oz. It has curved baffles that help prevent down-shift, with a highly breathable and ultralight 10 denier Pertex Quantum shell. An anatomically shaped footbox provides extra warmth where you need it most, while extra baffles in the hood keep your head warm. It has a full-length, locking 2-way zipper with anti-snag slider that can also be opened to vent the bag in warmer temperatures.

The Phase 20 is insulated with 850+ fill power goose down and is available in two lengths: 6′ and 6′ 6″.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver

4. Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 – Unisex/Men’s

Western Mountaineering Ultralite
The Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 is a mummy-style sleeping bag that’s loaded with technical features. It has a built-in draft collar that wraps around your neck and the front of your chest to seal in the heat. Continuous baffles let you shift the down to where you need it the most, either on top in cold weather, or the bottom in warm, while a full length zipper lets you vent it easily. Dual draft tubes seal a no-snag zipper, keeping you warmer, while the low “flattish” hood is suitable for back and side sleepers

The Ultralite is available in three lengths: 5′ 6″, 6′ 0″, and 6′ 6″. Insulated with 850+ fill power goose down, it weighs in at just 29 ounces.

Check out the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

5. Montbell Down Hugger 900 #2 (25 degree) – Unisex/Men’s

MB Down Hugger 900 #2
The Montbell Down Hugger 900 #2 is a 25 degree sleeping bag with a unique design that literally hugs you when you move around at night, eliminating dead air spots so that your body doesn’t have to heat them to stay warm. The hugging action is realized by integrating a woven fabric “cut on the bias” and orienting the fabric’s threads at 45 degrees to most major seam lines, so the sleeping bag becomes more fluid in nature. The Hugger also features an integrated draft collar, dual draft tubes and locking zipper, which are all features found on premium sleeping bags.

A good choice for side or back sleepers, the Down Hugger 900 #2 is insulated with 900 fill power, natural goose down. It weighs 24 oz and is available in 6′ and 6’6″ lengths.

Check out the latest price at:
Montbell

6. Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 – Women’s

Feathered Friends Egret UL 20
The Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 is top-shelf technical sleeping bag tailored for the female form that features extra fill in the footbox and around the chest. It also provides more room in the elbows including space to draw your knees up in the bag if you like to sleep that way. The contoured hood opens wide in warmer weather and makes it easy for side sleepers to use, while a two-way zipper makes the bag easy to vent. The Egret has a draft collar to help seal in the heat around your shoulders, with a trapezoidal footbox allows your feet to fall in a natural pose without compressing the sides.

Available in two lengths: 5′ 3″ and 5′ 9″, the Egret UL 20 is insulated with 950+ fill power goose down and weighs just 27 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

7. Marmot Phase 20 – Women’s

Marmot Phase 20 Women's
The Marmot Phase 20 (Women’s) is a female sleeping bag with more insulation in key areas where women experience heat loss. A tapered cut provides a narrower fit at the shoulders and a wider flare at the hips to insure a comfortable fit and maximum thermal efficiency. A shorter 5′ 6″ length helps to avoid cold spots and make certain that your body isn’t working unnecessarily to heat uninhabited areas of the bag.

The Phase 20 is insulated with 850+ fill power goose down that’s been treated with water-repellant coating. Weighing 29 oz, the Phase 20 is ideal for women who want to slash pack weight without compromising on sleeping comfort.

Check out the latest price at:
Campsaver

8. REI Joule 21 – Women’s

The REI Joule 21 is designed to fit a woman’s body, with increased room at hips, decreased room at shoulders, and extra insulation in critical heat-loss areas such as the feet and hood. It features a double-protection design that combines treated, water-resistant down with waterproof/breathable fabric at the hood, sides and footbox, all areas that are likely to touch a damp tent wall. A contoured hood, insulated face muffler, and full-length draft tube all work to seal in the warmth so it doesn’t escape when you move around in the bag at night.

The Joule is insulated with 700 fill power duck down. It weighs 35 ounces and is available in 5′ 6″ and 6′ lengths. A wider size is also available.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

9. NEMO Jam 30 – Women’s

Nemo Jam 30 womens
The NEMO Jam 30 is a spoon-shaped women’s sleeping bag with extra insulation in the feet and torso to keep you warm. Ideal for side sleepers, the Jam has front vents, called Thermo-Gills, that let you vent excess heat in warmer weather. A full-length double-slider zipper with snag guard helps to further regulate warmth. A blanket fold at the base of the hood tucks around you neck and helps seal in the heat in colder temperatures, while the hood is large enough to hold a pillow in place when you don’t need to pull it closed in cold weather.

Weighing 35 oz, the Jam 30 is available in two lengths, 5′ 6″ and 6′. It is insulated with 800+ fill power Nikwax water-resistant down.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

10. Marmot Xenon 15 – Women’s

Marmot Xenon 15
The Marmot Xenon 15 is made specifically for women with increased room at the hips, decreased room at the shoulders, and extra insulation in female heat-loss areas. An anatomically shaped footbox with wraparound construction eliminates seams and has extra insulation to keep your feet toasty. The ergonomic hood has extra baffles to reduce heat loss and keep your head warm and comfortable. A “fold down” second zipper lets you to fold down the front of the bag to vent excess heat and makes it easier to get in and out of the bag.

The Xenon 15 is insulated with 800 fill power, water-resistant goose down. It weighs 38 ounces and comes in a 5′ 6″ length.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

Sleeping Bag Evaluation Criteria

Here is a list of the most important factor to consider when purchasing a sleeping bag for backpacking, so it fits your needs and preferences.

TEMPERATURE RATINGS: The introduction of standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings by the outdoor industry substantially improved their reliability. Bags tested with the European Norm (EN) 13537 get two ratings: a Comfort rating and Lower limit rating. The Comfort rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average woman (or “cold sleeper”) comfortable, and the Lower Limit rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep an average man (or “warm sleeper”) comfortable. The difference in the Comfort and Lower Limit ratings is usually about 10 degrees, since women feel colder than men when sleeping. If you’re a woman and decide to buy a men’s or unisex bag, get one that’s 10 degrees warmer than you need so you’re comfortable at night

INSULATION and COMPRESSIBILITY: High quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers and base campers because they’re so lightweight. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down makes a difference in the long-term, since it’s easy to keep your sleeping bag dry with a little care.

SIZING: The fit of a sleeping bag is usually measured in terms of length and girth. Girth measures the maximum internal circumference of the bag, usually at the shoulders, hips, and feet. Measure yourself at these points and compare them to the girth to see if the bag will fit tightly or loosely. People with bigger shoulders or sides sleepers tend to feel more comfortable in bags with higher shoulder girths, while women typically need a shorter length bag and a smaller shoulder girth because they have narrower shoulders than men. It’s important to get a bag that minimizes the amount of unoccupied interior space relative to your measurements, so your body has less air to heat up to stay warm.

WEIGHT: While gear weight is important, be careful not to sacrifice your comfort by selecting a sleeping bag that won’t keep you warm or dry in the conditions you need it to.  When choosing between bags with different outer shell fabrics, consider their breathability, so they will vent perspiration that can degrade your insulation, and whether they have a DWR coating, which can be important if the foot of your quilt gets wet regularly.

FEATURES: Most sleeping bags are pretty similar when it comes right down to it, but there are some features that set premium sleeping bags better than non premium bags. These include draft collars, continuous baffles, very high fill-power goose down, non-snagging zippers, draft tubes positioned behind zippers to seal out the cold, ventable foot boxes, and full length zippers that help extend the range of a bag in warmer weather.

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Written 2018.

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26 comments

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for specifically including women in this post!

    • Thanks for noticing. :-) I feel it’s really important to get the word out about male/female differences when it comes to sleep insulation and to point women towards high quality female-specific sleeping bags that they may not know about. I wish there were more choices available for women, but these are the picks of the litter.

  2. Philip the FF Flicker has a wide version , being a side sleeper would you go with the added cost of that model or is the regular version in your opinion enough? Do you know anyone who has the wide version?

    • I have the regular sized Flicker 40 and it’s plenty wide for this side sleeper. I don’t know anyone has the wide version, sorry.

      • Under what range of conditions do you choose to take the Flicker 40? I’m trying to decide between a 30 and 40 degree bag.

      • I’ve taken a 40 down to 30 with a down jacket. FF is VERY conservative on their temperature ratings. You might be able to do the same thing with their 30. But everyone’s metabolism is different. In warm to hot weather. It unzips completely. You can just open it up and lie on it if you want…

    • I have a wide Flicker 20 and it is roomier to me than a mummy bag. I suppose if it got really cold my body would have a harder time warming up the bag. I toss and turn nearly all night. I am mostly comfortable on my back but just have to turn on my sides at times during the night. That doesn’t last, though, because then either the arm I’m lying on goes to sleep or my shoulders start to hurt.

      • Can I ask why you opted for the wide?

      • Because of my restlessness during sleep. Even at the end of a day on the trail, I don’t sleep very well. I had tried a regular width 40 Flicker and found it great as a warmer weather option, even zipped it up one night, but it was too restrictive for me.

    • I have the wide version Flicker 30. I had initially gotten a regular 20 and exchanged it. I felt the regular was too restrictive.
      I’m very happy with the wide version and the bag in general. Currently, it’s in our spare room on a Chameleon as an underquilt.

  3. Thanks Philip I know you had one but I didn’t know which version. That helps a lot.

  4. I’m about an average size male, 5’8″, 170 lb. and I prefer more girth which usually comes in the “long” versions of most bags. The regular size ones feel too restrictive and I just fill the additional space at my feet with my extra clothing. As a hot sleeper, I like full length zippers since they are easier to vent and require less contortion to get into and out of.

  5. I have the flicker 30 long and wide. I’m 6’4″ 220 with a 54″ chest. More than happy with my choice and I’m a side sleeper when I’m not tossing and turning.

  6. “Sleeping bags are still the most popular nighttime insulation option with backpackers because they’re warmer in cold, damp, or drafty weather, especially below freezing.”

    Warmer than what?

    I’ve Nemo-ized my sleeping bag line up. Disco (30º) and Sonic Zero (yep, 0º). I toss/turn/rotate/flip until i fall asleep, so the generous width/girth is a major reason i like these. Not constricting at all. And they have the zippered vents on top that release a little heat if needed.

    I could do without the little extra-protecton, blanket flap thingie in the Disco. There’s no way to secure it to keep it from flapping into/onto your face when you take it out of the bag and turn on your side. If you need the extra warmth, just wear a neck tube.

  7. So you are a fan of continuous baffles that don!t keep the down in place. I turn with the bag, not in the bag, so I like the down to stay in place. More important is the shape of the baffles. Is it slanted, dubble H or V-shaped? A woman should not buy a sleeping bag 10 degrees warmer than what, lower limit? She should look at the comfort limit rating. The EN-norm has not two but four ratings. Like the extreme temperature in which you should survive the night. These are all very heavy bags. I like my Lightwave with 250 gram of 950 cuin white European goose down, only weighting 520 gran/18,3 oz.

    • There are multiple bags listed here, some with continuous baffles and others without. In practice I haven’t found that much down shift when wearing a bag but your concerns are valid. As for the EN standard, there’s a detailed explanation of them at the bottom of this page that goes into how to interpret them for men and women. Thanks!

  8. You wrote, “the Lower Limit rating is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep an average man (or “warm sleeper”) comfortable.” How sure are you that this interpretation is correct?

    According to Wikipedia, the EN lower limit is “the temperature at which a standard male can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking.” Thermarest’s blog entry of 2/21/17 (“Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag: Part 1—Understanding EN Temperature Ratings”) expands upon this idea, referring to the range below comfort as the “transition range”, and stating, “Here, a standard man is “in a situation of fighting against cold (posture is curled up inside the sleeping bag), but in thermal equilibrium” and not shivering. ”

    Fighting against the cold by *having* to be curled up sounds to me a little bit less than comfortable. Moreover, they use the term “standard man”, who is by definition 25 years old – well younger than an “average man”. Standard man is also 5’8″ and 161 lbs. So I’d say, unless you are a young, short, and reasonably fit man who can sleep well while fighting cold by being curled up, take the EN lower limit with a large grain of salt. As for me (and I sleep cold), I add 20F to a sleeping bag’s lower limit rating, and that is about right to get a rating that accurately indicates the lower temp limit of my comfort. So a bag rated 20F EN lower limit (or just rated 20F without EN ratings), that’s good to about 40F for me.

    Through trial and error, each person can find the right adjustment factor for them.

    • It’s a outdoor industry standard who’s primary purpose is to help consumers compare bags from different manufacturers and get a sense of how warm a bag actually is. There will obviously be individual differences, but the value of the standard is that the manufacturers themselves have to ship the bags out to independent testing labs and there’s a high degree of confidence in the similarity of temperature ratings between bags. When existing US manufacturers had their bags tested against this standard (its been in place in Europe for many years), they were on average 10 degree off from the standard’s temp rating for their bags (and not in the favor of consumers) While standards aren’t perfect, I view this one as constructive. Like you I was very skeptical when the standard was being introduced in the US and wrote about it quite extensively. But I’ve come around to believing it’s a good thing and wish one existed for quilts as well.

  9. I’m surprised that you didn’t include any Sierra Designs 800 fill bags. I have the Nitro 800/20 and I’ll put it up against any on your list here. Trackmydown lot was certified 930 fill and with 15d DWR shell my regular sized weighs in at 1.75 lbs.

  10. Do you prefer Marmot Phase over Feathered Friends mummy bags (medium width) and why?

      • Great thanks. FF 30F Osprey has about same fill as Phase 20F ~14oz. FF also changed to Quantum shell dropped ~2oz only 13g heavier than their “UL” for $50 less seems like an even better value now. :).

      • Did you get that one, Bret? I’m about to pull the trigger on the Flicker, and the new fabric for $50 less seems like the obvious choice. So obvious that I wonder what I’m missing. More durable, very nearly same weight, and $50 less? Am I missing something? Did you get this, and how’s the fabric? Thanks.

  11. Hi, thank you for the post. It really hard to choose a good sleeping bag. Here I got a solution for that. This article is really helpful.

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