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10 Best Winter Sleeping Bags for Backpacking

10 Best Winter Sleeping Bags for Backpacking
The most important attributes of a winter sleeping bag for backpacking and thru-hiking are: high value insulation, low weight, compressibility, and interior space, so you can be comfortable and store gear, like damp boots and water bottles, in your sleeping bag so they don’t freeze overnight. Cost is also a factor, although a good winter sleeping bag will last ten years or more if maintained and stored properly.

Here are our top 10 recommended winter sleeping bags for cold weather backpacking. For more information, see our evaluation criteria and buying advice below.

Make / ModelWeightFill WeightFill PowerPrice
Big Agnes Blackburn UL 02 lbs 12 oz23.5 oz850$500
Big Agnes Orno 02 lbs 7 oz28 oz850$560
Feathered Friends Ibis EX3 lbs 1 oz28.5 oz900$635
Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 02 lbs 13 oz25.3 oz900$599
Marmot Lithium2 lbs 9.5 oz27.8 oz800$499
NEMO Sonic 02 lbs 11 oz23.6 oz850$479
Sierra Designs UL Nitro 02 lbs 8 oz26 oz800$379
The North Face Inferno 02 lbs 14 oz29.3 oz800$519
Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF 02 lbs 12 oz30 oz850$675
Montbell Down Hugger 800 #03 lbs 2 oz33 oz800$589

1. NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag

NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag
The NEMO Sonic 0 is a mummy-style sleeping bag insulated with 800 fill power water-resistant down. It has a highly adjustable draft collar that encircles your neck and shoulders as well as a zipper draft tube to seal in warmth. The Sonic 0 has innovative Thermo-Gills (see picture) that let you release up to 20 degrees of the warmth so you can regulate your temperature without cracking open the zipper and introducing cold drafts.

Check the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

Read our Sonic 0 Review

2. Big Agnes Orno 0 Sleeping Bag

Big Agnes Orno 0
The Big Agnes Orno 0 is insulated with 850 fill power water-resistant down. It has a 1/2 length zipper to save weight, an oversized draft collar, zipper draft tube, and a contoured hood that prevent moisture from your breath from re-entering the bag and chilling you. Body mapped and vertically oriented baffles let warm air flow from one end of the bag to another, while reducing the weight of the materials required. The Orno 0 does not come with a sleeping bag sleeve like many of Big Agnes’ classic sleeping bags.

Check the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

3. Marmot Lithium Sleeping Bag

Marmot Lithium 0
The Marmot Lithium is a feature-rich mummy-style sleeping bag insulated with 850 fill power water-resistant goose down. It has a full-length two-way zipper with a draft tube and snag guard, so you can vent the bottom by your feet or anywhere you’re too warm. The Lithium has an adjustable, double-sided draft collar that runs over your chest and neck and and behind your back to seal in your warmth. A second 1/4 length zipper on the other side provides additional ventilation and increases the bag’s range of use.

Check the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

4. Western Mountaineering Kodiak 0 Sleeping Bag

Western Mountaineering Kodiak 0
The Western Mountaineering Kodiak 0 is a spacious mummy sleeping bag insulated with 850 fill power goose down. Designed for large folks up to 7′ in height (multiple lengths are available), it has 66″ of shoulder girth and 7″ of loft, to keep you comfortable and toasty. The Kodiak has a 3-dimensionally cut draft collar and zipper draft tube, as well as continuous baffles. Found on many high-end bags, these let you shake the down to where it’s needed most (for example to your chest or feet) and help you configure the insulating power to satisfy your individual needs.

Check the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

5. Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0 Sleeping Bag

Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0
The Feathered Friends Snowbunting Ex 0 is a mummy-shaped sleeping bag insulated with ultralight and ultra-warm 900 fill power goose down. It has a generous sized draft collar, draft tube, with an overlapping zipper-guard that prevents snags. The shell is made with  Pertex Shield EX water-resistant/breathable laminate, which is fully waterproof and windproof, making it good for use in snow caves and bivy sacks. The flexibility of continuous baffles allow the Snowbunting to also transition into the warmer months.

Check the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

6. Big Agnes Blackburn UL 0 Sleeping Bag

Big Agnes Blackburn UL 0
The Big Agnes Blackburn UL 0 is an 850 fill power down mummy bag with a sleeping bag sleeve to keep you on your insulated sleeping pad all night, a very useful thing. It has a yoke-style draft collar and draft zipper tube to seal in warmth, along with Insotect vertical baffles to prevent down shift. Designed with side sleepers in mind, there’s a pillow sleeve in the hood, so you can sleep in your normal position all night long.

Check the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

7. The North Face Inferno 0 Sleeping Bag

North face Inferno 0
The North Face Inferno 0 is a mummy style sleeping bag insulated with 800 fill power goose down. It has a 1/2 length center zipper that makes it easy to get in and out of the bag or sit up in a tent while preventing zipper snag. A wrap around draft collar and overlapping down baffles under the zipper seal in warmth, while trapezoidal side baffles prevent downshift from the top of the bag to the bottom. An internal pocket is provided for storing a flash lite, glasses case, electronics, and personal items, which is super useful in the confines of a winter bag.

Check the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

8. Sierra Designs Nitro UL 0 Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Nitro UL 0

The Sierra Designs Nitro UL 0 is a low-cost 1/2 zip mummy-style sleeping bag insulated with 800 fill power water-resistant down. Weighing just 2 lbs 8 oz, it has a simple draft collar and zipper draft tube to seal in your body’s warmth. Plus, there’s a foot vent on the bottom of the bag that you can stick your feet out of if you’re too warm at night. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and the price is right.

Check the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

Read our Nitro UL 0 Review

9. Feathered Friends Ibis Ex 0 Sleeping Bag

Feathered Friends Ibis Ex 0
The Feathered Friends Ibis Ex is insulated with 900 fill power goose down, cut wide in the shoulders, that excels when you are pushing the comfort rating of bag and need space to wear a down jacket in the sleeping bag. It has a draft collar, draft zipper tube, and is made with a waterproof/breathable fabric enabling use with bivy sacks and in snow caves. Snap closures on the draft collar and zipper are easier to use than velcro fasteners, while continuous baffles let you position the down where you need it.

Check the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

10. Montbell Down Hugger 800 #0

Montbell Down Hugger 800
Montbell’s Down Hugger 800 #0 is a down-filled mummy sleeping bag with diagonally oriented baffles that conform to your body shape. Sewn with elasticized thread, the sleeping bag moves with you as you change positions throughout the night, drawing the goose down closer to your body and eliminating dead spaces. It has a draft collar that runs in front and behind your chest/back with dual zipper draft tubes for maximum heat retention.

Check the latest price at:
Montbell

Winter Sleeping Bag Selection Advice

Mummy Sleeping Bag or Quilt?

A mummy sleeping bag is warmer and more comfortable than an ultralight down quilt under 20 degrees fahrenheit. While quilts are popular for warm weather use, mummy bags are far less drafty when the mercury drops below 20 degrees. They also provide a warm overnight space where you can keep water, filters, and footwear overnight to prevent them from freezing. This is harder to do with an ultralight quilt, which is usually shorter and sized narrow to save weight. Sleeping in temperatures below freezing definitely changes your behavior and requires a different skill set and gear list than regular three-season camping or backpacking in warmer weather.

Temperature Rating

What is the best sleeping bag temperature rating to get for winter backpacking? While there are bound to be regional differences, a zero degree bag is usually a good baseline temperature to aim for because you can easily make it warmer by 20 degrees by wearing insulated clothes or by using a sleeping bag liner. A zero degree bag can also be used in warmer temps up to about 20-30 degrees by cracking open the zipper or loosening up the hood and venting it if you’re too warm. The weight and packability of a zero degree sleeping bag is also pretty reasonable compared to a  minus 20 degree bag and usually doesn’t require the purchase of a larger backpack to carry.

Best Type of Insulation

If you plan to do any winter backpacking, you’re going to want a down-insulated sleeping bag because it’s the warmest insulation available by weight. It compresses very well, making it very packable. Aim for down fill powers of 800, 850, 900, or 950: the higher the better. Higher fill power down traps more warmth by weight than lower fill power down. People often wonder whether goose down is better than duck down. All down is graded the same way, in a species-independent manner. In other words 800 fill power goose down is as good as 800 fill power duck down, only more expensive because there’s a smaller supply.

Sleeping Bag Dimensions

It is common to sleep with boot liners or boots, water bottles, and other items, like water filters, that should not freeze overnight. This means you’ll want some extra space in a cold weather sleeping bag to store the gear, while still maintaining your personal comfort. In addition to added shoulder, hip, and foot width, some people get a longer sleeping bag so they can store gear below their feet. Winter nights are long and it pays to be comfortable, especially if you have to sleep with cold, damp boots and water bottles.

Must-have features

Winter sleeping bags should have a draft collar, zipper draft tubes, and snag-free zippers at a minimum. Partial length zippers, continuous baffles, vents, and even water-resistant down are all nice-to-haves, but you can get by without them to save on cost or because they’re not strictly necessary.

Draft Collar

Most winter sleeping bags have draft collars and I consider it a cold weather essential. A draft collar is a tube of insulation that drapes over your chest and neck and seals in the bag’s warmth. Without it, the war air inside the bag will rush out around your neck when you move around inside. The simplest draft collar is a down tube that covers the front of your chest. Higher end bags add a second draft collar around the back of your shoulders and neck and provide additional controls, so you can tighten or loosen it.

Zipper Draft Tubes

Draft tubes are tubes of down that cover up the side zipper so your legs don’t come in contact with it (because it’s cold). Most winter bags have at least one zipper draft tube, although some have two, both top and bottom, that fall into place when you zipper up your bag.

Snag Free Zipper

Snag-free zippers prevent the side zipper’s teeth from tearing the shell fabric of your bag and spilling its insulation. The zipper is usually bordered by stiff fabric of some sort, to keep it away from the down baffles.

Nice-to-have features

Water-Resistant Down

Water-resistant down is a nice to have, not a must-have in a winter sleeping bag. The truth is most people can keep their sleeping bags dry. If you notice moisture on the outside of your sleeping bag in the morning, it doesn’t mean that the down inside is wet. Simply drape it over your tent in the sun while you eat breakfast and it will dry in no time.

Continuous baffles

Continuous baffles usually run horizontally across a bag. They allow you to shake the down in the baffles and move it to a different location. For example, if you’re too warm, you could shake the down so it fell down the sides of the bag, rather than keep it on your chest. While continuous baffles let you customize the distribution of down for different needs, many people prefer baffles that keep the down in one place reliably and permanently. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Partial length zippers

Partial length zippers are often used as a weight-saving feature, however they can reduce use across a wider temperature range by limiting your venting options.

Vents

Vents like NEMO’s Thermogills or Sierra Design’s Foot Vent can increase the temperature range of a sleeping bag, but they’re just one way of accomplishing this goal.

See also:

Check Out All of SectionHiker's Winter Gear Guides!

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5 comments

  1. The Thermarest Oberon deserves to be on here IMO.

  2. Clicking on the Montbell link in the chart at the top takes me to a picture of women’s bewb’s. Happy Holidays!

    • Too funny! I’ve fixed that link, but it was an article about how men can live longer if they see women’s breasts. My brother-in-law does this all day long as a medical researcher. I thought he’d find that article amusing. It was from the NY Post. So much for cut and paste!

  3. I’d like to add the LL BEAN -20 F. 750 fill down bag to this distinguished list.

    This bag is the best DESIGNED winter bag i’ve seen. I own a Western Mountaineering Megalite 3 season bag and have seen their winter bags. All are top of the line, indeed world class.
    But the LL BEAN -20F. bag is so convenient to use and so thoughtfully designed with “self-covering” Velcro closures, “findable-in-the- dark” draw cords, etc. that I wish other winter bags had all their features.

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