The right (or wrong) sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a backpacking or car camping trip. If you choose the wrong one, you’ll have a long and restless night but if you do your research and pick the best bag for your target destination, you’ll sleep as soundly in a shelter as you do at home. Whether you want a lightweight bag for warm summer nights or a three-season bag to cover you for a variety of seasons, these are our recommendations for the best sleeping bags you can buy.
Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30
Why should you buy this: The MegaLite keeps you warm and won’t weigh you down.
Who’s it for: Anyone who plans to sleep outside, whether they’re camping or backpacking.
How much will it cost: $499
Temperature rating: 30 degrees Fahrenheit
Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces
Fill: 12 ounces of 850+ goose down
Why we picked the Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30:
Western Mountaineering goes to great lengths to ensure its products are made in the United States with the best quality materials possible. This excellence even extends to the down filling, which is harvested from healthy, farm-raised geese. The company also doesn’t treat its down with a water-repellent finish because it wants to avoid compromising the longevity of the down’s performance.
The MegaLite is the epitome of quality. The bag offers 12-ounces of high quality 850+ European goose down and 4-inches of loft, making it one of the warmest 30-degree bags on the market. It’s also lightweight, weighing a mere 1 pound and 8 ounces. This weight is even more incredible when you climb inside the bag and realize how roomy it is — 64 inches for the shoulders, 56 inches for the waist, and 39 inches for the feet. The MegaLite bucks is also incredibly compressible, stuffing down smaller than other comparable bags when in a third-party compression sack.
Instead of cutting down on insulation, Western Mountaineering opted for a lightweight 12D nylon shell. This provides enough durability for the bag as long as you’re careful to avoid sharp objects and prominent roots or rough stones. There’s also a full-length YKK zipper that’s handy in warmer weather when you want to use the sleeping bag as a quilt. Additionally, the company added a 1-inch wide piece of Dacron stiffening tape along the length of the zipper that prevents it from snagging any fabric.
The MegaLite is an all-around versatile bag. It’s warm enough for three-season usage — possibly even four seasons if you consider yourself a warm sleeper. The bag is right at home in the campsite but also remains light enough to carry while backpacking or mountaineering. With a price tag of nearly $500, the MegaLite is on the expensive side but you do get a lot of bag for the high cost. Take care of it properly and the MegaLite lasts a lifetime.
The best 3-season down sleeping bag
NEMO Riff/Jam 15
Why should you buy this: The men’s Riff 15 and women’s Jam 15 from Nemo are the first bags to incorporate two of Nemo’s award-winning technologies — its innovative Spoon shape and cooling Thermo Gills — into one product.
Who’s it for: The Nemo Riff/Jam 15 are for campers who place a priority on comfort when it comes to sleeping. The unique spoon-shaped design adds extra space where it’s needed most, making it ideal for side-sleepers.
How much will it cost: $399.95
Temperature rating: 15 degrees Fahrenheit
Weight: 2 pounds 9 ounces
Fill: 21 Ounces of 800 Fill Power down with Nikwax, Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified
Why we picked the Nemo Riff/Jam 15:
The Riff and Jam merge the best of Nemo’s innovative design into a single package. Both the Riff and Jam have a unique spoon shape that provides extra room in the shoulders and legs so you can move around in the sleeping bag and even sleep comfortably on your side. Both bags also have Nemo’s novel Thermo Gills feature which provides slits in the bag for temperature management. When you start to heat up inside the bag, open the Thermo Gills to provide much-needed air flow. It’s perfect for those times when it is warm enough to overheat but too cold to unzip the bag entirely.
The Riff and Jam also offer another Nemo exclusive called the Blanket Fold. This feature sits at the opening of the bag and allows you to fold it inside as a soft and cushiony draft collar to hold in the heat and give you the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket. This comfort does come at a cost as the Riff and Jam are not ultralight bags, weighing 2 pounds and 9 ounces — which makes them backpacking-worthy as long as you don’t mind a few extra ounces.
The Riff/Jam 15 have a temperature range that makes them a solid three-season bag suitable for spring, summer, and fall in the mountains. If your weather is typically wet, the Riff/Jam 15 have an added benefit — 800 Fill Power down with Nikwax water repellency. This DWR treatment allows the bag to keep its warmth even in wet weather. The Riff/Jam also are available in a 30-degree version suitable for backpacking and camping in warmer climates.
The best 3-season synthetic sleeping bag
The North Face HyperCat 20
Why should you buy this: Backpackers who want all-weather protection should look at the North Face HyperCat 20, which is crafted with a durable and lightweight synthetic insulation that stays warm even when it’s wet outside.
Who’s it for: Backpackers and car campers who explore in areas where wetness is a major concern.
How much will it cost: $239
Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit, lower limit of 24 degrees Fahrenheit, comfort 30 degrees Fahrenheit
Weight: 1 pound 14 ounces
Fill: HeatSeeker One insulation
Why we picked The North Face HyperCat 20:
There is little argument that a down sleeping bag is warm — it’s perhaps the warmest material you can wrap yourself in. However, down insulation does have a significant flaw in that it loses its warmth when wet. Manufacturers have turned to a special water-resistant down that is treated superficially with a DWR like Nikwax but this technology is relatively new, and its effect on the longevity of a down bag is unknown.
While many sleeping bag makers use down in their high-end bags, manufacturers like North Face realize there is a huge market for synthetic fabrics, as well. These synthetic bags offer a significant advantage because they stay warm even while wet, though wet warmth does come at a cost — synthetic bags are often heavier and bulkier. Enter the North Face HyperCat 20, a synthetic bag that offers the wet warmth advantage of synthetic insulation but maintains a lightweight profile that rivals many down bags in the same temperature class.
So, how does the North Face manage to make a synthetic bag light as down? The answer lies in the materials. The company uses a unique HeatSeeker One insulation which utilizes blended Thermolite fiber technology. This type of insulation is manufactured with different-shaped fibers 22 percent lighter but equally as warm as round fibers. The result is a lightweight insulation that’s warm, durable, and compressible.
The North Face trims ounces by using a shortened center zipper and a narrow cut to reduce weight from extra materials. The company also distributes insulation, concentrating it on the top of the bag where it’s needed most. Other features include an ultra-light 20D nylon shell, a cinch-closing hood with glow-in-the-dark pull strings, an integrated draft overlap and draft collar, and a compression sack that’ll compress the bag down to 9.5 liters.
The best hybrid sleeping bag
Salewa Fusion Hybrid Sleeping Bag: 28 Degree Synthetic
Why should you buy this: The Salewa Fusion Hybrid takes the lightweight qualities of down and blends it with the water resistance of Primaloft to create a bag that’s warm under all conditions.
Who’s it for: Hikers who want a bag that stays warm when it’s wet, yet lightweight like down.
How much will it cost: $275
Temperature rating: 28 degrees Fahrenheit
Weight: 2 pounds 4 ounces
Fill: 50 percent PrimaLoft, 50 percent down
Why we picked the Salewa Fusion Hybrid 28-degree sleeping bag:
When purchasing a sleeping bag, many face the age-old decision of down versus synthetic. It’s a difficult choice of whether to opt for the light weight and compressibility of down or the “warm while wet” feature of synthetic insulation. Thankfully, Salewa’s Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag features 50 percent down and 50 percent Primaloft, providing the best of both worlds in a single package.
Salewa designed its mummy bag for the mountaineer or backpacker who needs to be warm regardless of outside conditions. The Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag offers a 90/10 duck down (90 percent down, 10 percent feather) that’s lightweight, highly compressible, and warm when conditions are dry. Salewa also stuffed the bag with Primaloft which provides warmth even while wet. The result is a 650-fill power that stays warm down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps 94 percent of its insulating warmth when wet. Furthermore, the down/synthetic blend dries four times faster than down alone.
Salewa didn’t stop wth the insulation when it designed its Fusion Hybrid sleeping bag as it also built-in all the convenience features anyone might need in a sleeping bag. Extras such as a drawstring hood, a draft collar and tube for warmth, and a foot section with its zipper make this bag a solid choice. When it’s warm outside, it’s also capable of being unzipped and used as a blanket and features a full-length, two-way YKK zipper compatible with other sleeping bags — a welcome bonus for those camping with a significant other.