Down-insulated sleeping bags are still the most popular nighttime insulation option with backpackers because they’re highly compressible and warmer in cold, damp, or drafty weather particularly in the spring and autumn when temperatures are close to 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, women’s specific sleeping bags, and hoodless quilt-style sleeping bags.
When choosing a sleeping bag for backpacking, you want one that’s lightweight and highly compressible since you’re going to have to haul it in a backpack. Sleeping bags insulated with 800-950 goose or duck down are the best in terms of warmth by weight, but you’ll pay a premium at the top end.
Here are our top 10 down sleeping bag picks including men’s and women’s specific bags.
Be sure to read our recommendations below on how to choose the best sleeping bag for your needs.
1. REI Magma 15 (men’s and women’s)
The REI Magma 15
is a lightweight and compressible 850 fill-power down sleeping bag that’s loaded with features. It has a trapezoidal footbox with body-mapped baffles for maximum warmth retention while reducing weight. The bag has an insulated draft collar while the hood has a pillow pocket and two drawcords for flexible adjustment. A hybrid zipper path provides easy access along the shoulders and torso and the zipper is backed by an anti-snap strip for worry-free use. A Women’s REI Magma 15
is also available and designed specifically for women. Read the SectionHiker Magma 15 Review
. The REI Magma is also available in a 30-degree version.
2. Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 (unisex)
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 the 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 backpackers who hike in cool mountain climates. Read the SectionHiker Versalite Review.
3. Sea-to-Summit Ascent AcII 15 (unisex)
The Sea-to-Summit Ascent AcII
is a 15-degree hybrid sleeping bag with three zippers, one full-length, one half-length, and a foot box zipper. The combination makes the Ascent AcII really easy to get in and out of and adjust the temperature across a wide range. We were skeptical about how this would work when we tested this bag, but we were blown away by how comfortable and convenient it is to use. The Ascent AcII is insulated with 750 fill power UltrDry RSD-certified down and weighs 2 lbs 7 oz. It also has a shaped hood, an oversized draft collar, and a zipper draft tube to keep the cold out and the warmth in. Read the SectionHiker review.
4. Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 (unisex)
The Mountain Hardware Phantom 15
is a lightweight high-performance mummy sleeping insulated with 850 fill power goose down. It has a beefy draft collar and zipper draft tube to lock in warmth with vertical and horizontal baffles to keep the down located where you need the most insulation. A two-way anti-snag zipper gives you the option to vent the bag if you’re too warm, while an anatomically-shaped trapezoidal foot box keeps your feet from compressing the insulation and creating cold spots. The Phantom 15 weighs 31.8 oz and is cut slim to keep it as lightweight as possible for summit attempts. Right-hand and left-hand zipper models are available and a lightweight compression sack and mesh storage sack are included.
5. NEMO Disco 15 (men’s and women’s)
The NEMO Disco 15
is a spoon-shaped sleeping bag designed for side sleepers that adds room at the elbows and knees but is shaped to save weight. It is insulated with 650 fill-power hydrophobic PFC-free RSD-certified down and comes with a waterproof/breathable footbox to prevent it from getting wet if your tent develops internal condensation. This bag comes with a full-length double-sided zipper, a pillow pocket, a huge draft collar to seal in your torso heat, and thermo-gills to help you vent excess heat, extending the range of the bag for warmer weather. The Riff weighs 2 lbs 11 oz and fits men up to 6′ tall. A women’s Disco 15
is also available.
6. Sea-to-Summit Flame 15 (women’s)
The Sea-to-Summit Flame 15
is an exceptionally warm lightweight sleeping bag designed for women who care about both low pack weight and comfort. Insulated with 850 fill-power Ultra-Dry down, it is narrower at the shoulder and wider between the hips and knees with extra insulation in female heat-loss areas. Available in two lengths, it features an ultralight 10 shell fabric and a 7d internal liner for ultralight packability and warmth. Weighing 31.4 oz, the Flame 15 has a full-length side zipper and comes with an ultralight compression sack and storage cell. Read the SectionHiker review
7. Feathered Friends Flicker UL 20 (unisex)
The Feathered Friends Flicker UL 20
is a highly versatile hoodless sleeping bag that’s ideal for side sleepers who find a mummy bag to claustrophic. 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 foot box that 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 foot box 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. Read the SectionHiker Flicker Review.
8. Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 (women’s)
The Feathered Friends Egret UL 20
is a top-shelf technical sleeping bag tailored for the female form that features extra fill in the foot box 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, making 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 foot box that 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.
9. Enlightened Equipment Convert (unisex)
The Enlightened Equipment Convert
is a hoodless, quilt-style sleeping bag with a full-length zipper and drawstring foot box that allows it to be completely closed like a hoodless sleeping bag, completely open like a down comforter, or partially zipped up like a backpacking quilt. It’s insulated with RSD-certified 850 fill power down and has a snap and drawcord neck closure that lets you fine-tune draft control. The lack of a hood makes it a great choice for side sleepers while the full-length zipper and foot box gives it more temperature flexibility than a quilt or sleeping bag alone. When ordering you can specify the temperature rating or width you’d like. For spring and autumn weather, we’d recommend a 10 or 20 degree bag, since it’s so easy to vent for warmer weather. For women, we suggest adding another 10 degrees worth of insulation. Read the SectionHiker Review.
10. REI Magma Quilt 30 (unisex)
The REI Magma Quilt 30
is a good bet for warmer weather use because it offers the snug warmth of a mummy bag but with great ability to adjust your warmth as needed. The magma Quilt is insulated with water-resistant 850-fill-power goose down with a supersoft Pertex shell fabric. Like premium sleeping bags, it has an adjustable, insulated draft collar that can be cinched around your neck to keep warm air in and has a roomy trapezoidal foot box to keep your feet comfy and warm. Pad cords let you adjust fit and warmth and keep you centered on your sleep pad all night (we recommend using an inflatable pad for maximum comfort.) Read the SectionHiker Review.
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. 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.
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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