10 Best Backpacking 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 2019, including men’s and women’s specific bags.

1. Feathered 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 a 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 an 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:
Moosejaw| 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.

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6. Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 – Women’s

Feathered Friends Egret UL 20
The Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 is a 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 ensure 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 a 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:
Moosejaw | Amazon

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:

9. REI Magma 15 – Women’s

REI Magma 15 Womens
The REI Magma 15 is designed specifically for women, with increased hip room and decreased shoulder room for improved thermal efficiency. A trapezoidal footbox keeps feet comfy, an insulated draft collar fills neck and shoulder gap to prevent heat loss, and a zipper cover and internal anti-snag strip combine for easy zipping. The Magma is insulated with 850-fill-power, RDS-certified goose down and comes with a supple 15-denier lining to provide lasting coziness and a supersoft feel.

Weighing 36 oz, the Magma 15 is available in two lengths, 5′ 6″ and 6′.

Check out the latest price at:

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 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:
Moosejaw | Amazon

Sleeping Bag Purchase 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 nonpremium 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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One comment

  1. I’ve had my Western Mountaineering Megalite down bag for 7 years and love it. After a chilly 23 F. night on the PCT near Kennedy Meadows I sent it back to WM and had the factory overstuff it so it’s now good to at least 20 F.

    Yeah, no neck collar but it’s a 3 season bag that really doesn’t need it in most situations. I have slept comfortably in it to 10 F. with long johns and synthetic puffy top and pants and fleece balaclava in my Tarptent Moment DW.

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