As an outdoors person, you already know that a good night’s sleep can be the difference between a lovely day on the trail and a wilderness nightmare—and that’s the best-case scenario.
In the woods, where circumstances can change very quickly, it’s essential to pack the right stuff. A lousy sleeping bag is not only uncomfortable but can allow precious body heat to escape, resulting in hypothermia.
For its warmth-to-weight ratio, water-resistance, insulation, and compressibility, the Neutrino 400 by Rab is our choice for best all-around sleeping bag in 2021. Check out our other top picks for backpackers, budgeters, and more.
Best All-Around Camping Sleeping Bag
A top-of-the-line model from a top-of-the-line brand, Rab’s Mythic 600 is 2020’s best all-around sleeping bag. Its warmth-to-weight ratio is unmatched, weighing in at just 23 oz. with a temperature rating of -16°C (3F).
The Mythic is insulated with 900-fill down and features a hydrophobic, Pertex outer shell. The baffles prevent the down from migrating and clumping, while the angled footbox and minimal zipper save weight. Adjustable drawstrings around the hood and feet effectively trap body heat. As a four-season bag, it’s designed to keep you warm in a wide array of conditions.
While you can rest assured that you’re investing in a top-notch bag, it does come with a steeper price tag. If you opt for the Mythic 600, be prepared to spend a bit more. That said, you’ll appreciate every ounce of downy goodness while dozing under the starry sky.
- 900-fill down
- Hydrophobic, fluorocarbon-free quilting
- Heat retention
- Impressive warmth-to-weight ratio
- Packs small
- Limited ventilation
Best Budget Sleeping Bag
For its two-digit price tag, the Marmot Nanowave is a breath of fresh air. The polyester shell is surprisingly soft, while the Spirafil High Loft Insulation is warm and durable. A convenient two-way zipper makes slipping in and out for a midnight whiz a cinch.
The Nanowave is perfect for those on a budget. But, if you plan on spending a lot of time on the trail, consider investing a little more on a lighter model, as what you save on cost here you’ll pay for in extra ounces. Don’t get me wrong, at 2lbs, it is very light; however, the temperature rating is a mere -4°C (25F), meaning it’ll really only perform on cool nights.
- Soft shell
- High-loft synthetic insulation
- Great for summer
- Packs large
- So-so warmth-to-weight
- Not for cold temperatures
Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag
If you’re traveling abroad or hitting the trail for extended stretches, then Mountain Hardwear’s Lamina sleeping bag may be right for you. The model is named after Mountain Hardwear’s patented Lamina construction, which increases warmth retention while minimizing cold spots.
With a half-length zipper, tapered toe box, and lightweight synthetic insulation, the Lamina manages to trim the fat. And, for the price, the warmth-to-weight ratio is excellent: 2lbs. 5oz. for -1°C (30F). A draft collar, in addition to an adjustable hood and toe box, makes for a warm and cozy night’s rest.
- Retains heat
- Maintains loft
- Great for backpackers
- Packs large
Best Double Sleeping Bag
No, you’re not seeing double—meet the Exped Versa Quilt Duo Sleeping Bag. If you don’t think sleeping in a tent with another person is intimate enough, this will certainly hit the spot.
So, what’s the difference between a sleeping bag and a quilt? A quilt is an ultralight alternative that nixes the rear panel and zippers. I know, I know—but it actually makes sense. As you sleep, your back compresses the bag’s rear insulation, decreasing its R-value and diminishing heat retention. In fact, your back isn’t kept warm by your sleeping bag at all, but by your sleeping pad. Hence, quilts shave weight without shaving warmth.
Surprisingly, the Versa weighs a mere 2.3lbs. Inside, 650-fill duck down insulation (RDS-certified) provides ample warmth. Outside, the 30 denier shell is soft and durable and treated with a water-repellent DWR coating. The recommended temperature rating is between 8°C and -8°C, making it an ideal choice for a three-season or summer bag.
The one real drawback of a shared bag is in the event that you get separated from your partner; one of you will be without a sleeping bag. For that reason, the Versa Quilt is best for camping trips and not long hiking trips where anything can happen.
- Retains heat well
- Maintains loft
- Extremely light
- Great for two
- Packs large
- Not ideal if you get separated
Most Comfortable Sleeping Bag
For the most comfortable night’s rest on the trail, we recommend the Therm-a-Rest Questar 20F/-6°C Sleeping Bag. Inside, the 650 Fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is warm, water-resistant, and RDS-certified. It also dries 3x faster than your average down insulation.
The Questar features SynergyLink Connectors that allow you to attach the bag to a sleeping pad for increased comfort and thermal efficiency. Tall people fret not! The Quester also comes in size Long. In terms of weight, it’s a middle-of-the-road model at 2.7lbs. Still, for those of us who value a good sleep, the extra few ounces earn their keep.
- Retains heat well
- Fast-drying when wet
- Soft and fluffy loft
- Not ultralight
Best Sleeping Bag for Summer Camping
With a weight of just 1.3lbs, the Sea-to-Summit Flame FMII 35F / 2°C is an excellent ultralight choice. Though its lower temperature rating is only 2°C (35.6F), you won’t have to worry about overheating on warm summer nights. If the temperature dips, a hood keeps the cold out and the warmth in.
Outside, we’ve got 7D and 10D fabrics that reduce weight while enhancing durability. Inside, the insulation is a serious RDS 850+ Loft Premium Goose ULTRA-DRY Down. Because of its high-quality insulation, you can actually use the bag in colder temperatures (though it may be wiser not to push your luck). The Flame FMII is quite possibly the perfect summer sleeping bag.
- Ultralight/ packs small
- Fast-drying when wet
- Soft and fluffy loft
- Not for cold camping
Best Shoulder Season Sleeping Bag
For chilly days and autumn hikes, we recommend the Marmot Sawtooth 15. This model strikes a fine balance between a summer and a winter sleeping bag; it features a 650-fill Power Down, coated in a water-resistant Down Defender to stay dry in damp conditions. The down-filled collar and adjustable drawcords increase heat retention, as does the heater pocket in the footbox. An internal stash pocket lets you store your phone or valuables.
The Sawtooth 15 is a great choice if you plan on hiking in chilly climates, but don’t want to break the bank.
- Warm and cozy hood
- Very well insulated
Best Winter Camping Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom meets all the requirements for any serious winter camper or mountaineer. They thought of everything; the expedition mummy cut creates extra space to store fragile equipment in freezing conditions. It’s also incredibly light for a winter bag, weighing in at just 2.68 lbs.
While the outer shell is made of the highest waterproof and wind-resistant GoreTex WINDSTOPPER fabric, the 850-fill down insulation isn’t treated with a hydrophobic coating. And, although the elastic hood does fit snugly around the head, we would’ve liked to see a cinchable drawstring for added versatility.
- Perfect for winter
- Windproof/ waterproof GoreTex shell
- Awesome color scheme
- Great value
- No hood cinch
- Insulating down not hydrophobic
Made of 100% recycled materials, The North Face Eco Trail Down sleeping bag is a solid choice for three-season adventures in the backcountry. The only reason this bag didn’t make the cut as one of our top picks is because of its weight—a whopping 4+lbs. That said, it has a durable 50D ripstop nylon face fabric and features 600 fill power recycled down insulation.
At just over 2lbs, the Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF boasts an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, which will keep you toasty down to -1°C (15F).
Keep in mind that the Lamina Eco upholds ultralight virtues with its weight-saving design. This is great for ultralighters; however, the drawback is that there is no hood for those especially chilly nights.
When you think of a sleeping bag, you don’t usually think of a jacket. But the Mammut Perform Down Sleeping Bag is a bit of both. With its central zipper, inside pocket, and adjustable hood, the Perform looks more like a parka from the waist up. From the waist down, however, it’s all sleeping bag.
Though uncommon, the central zipper is actually a great way to vent heat in warmer conditions. The RDS-certified 700 fill power down keeps you comfortable in weather as cold as -7°C (19.4F), with an impressive total weight of just 2.2lbs.
Rated for temperatures as low as -12°C (10F), the Marmot Paiju is a worthy shoulder season sleeping bag. It contains 800+ Fill Power Goose Down and features a 20 denier ripstop nylon outer. The mummy-style Paiju is a good choice if you’re planning a weekend camping trip to enjoy the colourful leaves of autumn. Also available in a women’s size long.
How to choose the best sleeping bag
Next to your backpack and your tent, your sleeping bag is your most important piece of gear. Choosing the right one is not only key to your comfort, but key to your survival. Here, we explore the things you need to know when choosing a bag. For a more in-depth discussion, check out our ultimate guide to choosing a sleeping bag.
Type of Camping
The type of camping you’ll be doing largely determines the features you’ll need. For car campers, backcountry campers, and glampers, comfort trumps all else. For thru-hikers and mountaineers, something durable is essential and preferably also lightweight. For all campers, though, warmth and water-resistance should be considered in the context of your camping environment.
The external part of a sleeping bag consists of a shell and a lining. Most shells are made from a synthetic, water-repellent fabric, such as nylon, polyester, or taffeta. For durability, make sure the fabric features a ripstop backer. This is a reinforced weave that prevents abrasions and stops tears from spreading.
Breathability is another important factor; not only will your sleeping bad dry more quickly when wet, but your sweat will be wicked during the night. That said, good breathability usually comes at the cost of decreased water-resistance.
The lining is the part of the bag that touches your skin. Common fabrics include nylon, polyester, taffeta, polycotton, and silk. Polycotton is affordable and soft, but heavy and doesn’t dry well when wet. Silk is breathable, lightweight, and soft, but tricky to repair.
Temperature rating is a measure of the lowest possible temperature in which the sleeping bag will keep you warm. It’s typically given in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Insulation refers to the type of material used inside the sleeping bag. The two main categories of sleeping bag insulation are synthetic and down. The former is a broad category of manmade fabrics. They’re typically less expensive and more water-resistant than down; however, they’re often heavier and have a lower warmth-to-weight ratio.
Down, on the other hand, is a natural insulator made of duck plumage. If you’re eco-conscious, be sure the down is ethically sourced or RDS-certified.
Many modern downs are treated with a hydrophobic coating to keep moisture at bay. Down sleeping bags should never be stored in their compression sacks, as they’ll lose their loft over time thereby decreasing their R-value. Also, down is definitely the preferred choice in cold or dry climates.
A sleeping bag that doesn’t compress well is going to take up a lot of volume in your pack. Most sleeping bags do come with a compression stuff sack, which allows you to condense it. Alternatively, you can ditch the stuff sack and simply cram it into your backpack. This way, instead of creating dead space by imposing the stuff sack’s shape, the sleeping bag will mold to the dimensions of your pack and its contents.
This isn’t so important for car camping or glamping, but if you plan on carrying your sleeping bag into the backcountry, weight matters. Remember, the weight of your sleeping bag on its own is meaningless—what’s key is its warmth-to-weight ratio.
FAQs for Camping Sleeping Bags
How much should a sleeping bag cost?
This depends entirely on your needs. Prices can range from fifty bucks to a grand. Budgets aside, the cost of a sleeping bag is less important than its value. Ask yourself which features you need and whether the model you like meets those standards for a reasonable price.
What degree sleeping bag should I get?
Choose something with a lower temperature rating than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to be too warm than too cold, especially in the woods where nighttime temps can dip significantly and wet clothing can lower core temperature.
Can sleeping bags be washed?
Yes, but washing instructions vary from model to model. Always check the tags. It’s usually best to avoid driers; however, sometimes a light tumble dry can be a good way to restore loft.
Be extra careful when it comes to down sleeping bags. Use a gentle wash cycle and cold water. Front-loaders are best since the agitator of a top-loader can damage your bag. Throw in a few tennis balls to keep the insulation from migrating and clumping. Be sure it’s completely dry before storing.
There you have it—the best sleeping bags of 2021. While there isn’t one perfect bag for every occasion, you’ll want to choose a model that meets most of your personal and environmental needs. For us at Altitude Sports, the Rab Mythic 600 Down Sleeping Bag hits the sweet spot.
If you’re new to camping, opt for a budget option to see what you like about it and what you don’t. That way, your next bag can be everything you ever dreamed of. Zzzz.