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How to Buy a Good Sleeping Bag

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A sleeping bag can make the difference between blissful comfort and a verrry long, miserable night. It can even help you ward off life-threatening hypothermia if you get cold and wet.

Follow these tips on choosing the right sleeping bag for your next adventure and check out the Gear Guy’s favorite models.

KNOW THYSELF

If you are warm-natured, get a bag rated about 10 degrees lower than the lowest temperatures you typically encounter on trips. If you are cold-natured, get a bag rated 20 to 25 degrees lower than the coldest nights you anticipate.

BSA 30° F Mummy Sleeping Bag – Youth ($59.99, scoutstuff.org): Warm enough for most autumn nights, this 6-foot-long bag is big enough for a Scout to grow into and has everything you need in a basic sleeping bag. The durable 70-denier nylon ripstop shell is what you’ll find in many models costing two or three times as much, making it a great value. 2 lbs., 13 oz.; rated to 30° F

KNOW YOUR BUDGET

Sleeping bag prices can vary from $60 to $600, depending on factors such as:

INSULATION

There are two main types of insulation: down, which is natural, and synthetic, which is man-made. Generally, goose down is warmer, lighter and easier to pack, but it’s typically more expensive and requires extra care. The biggest downside to down is that it loses its ability to keep you warm if it becomes wet.

Synthetic insulation, like PrimaLoft, is typically less expensive, requires little care and retains its warmth if the bag gets wet. Synthetic sleeping bags are heavier than down competitors, but they remain the best choice for routinely wet adventures.

To blur the line, you can now buy water-resistant down, which retains its ability to trap heat when wet. Still, even saturated water-resistant down loses some of its ability to trap heat, and you might have trouble drying out any bag in prolonged wet weather.

Kelty Dualist 20 (Starting at $139.95, kelty.com): This hybrid-insulation mummy delivers big value for its small price. It combines 550-fill water resistant down as an outer layer of insulation with synthetic insulation next to your body. This helps keep the bag lightweight while still trapping heat when wet. It is, however, heavier and bulkier than more expensive bags. Available in two lengths. 3 lbs., 3 oz.; rated 33° F (comfort) to 22° F (limit)

Kelty Dualist 20 (Starting at $139.95, kelty.com): This hybrid-insulation mummy delivers big value for its small price. It combines 550-fill water resistant down as an outer layer of insulation with synthetic insulation next to your body. This helps keep the bag lightweight while still trapping heat when wet. It is, however, heavier and bulkier than more expensive bags. Available in two lengths. 3 lbs., 3 oz.; rated 33° F (comfort) to 22° F (limit)

WEIGHT

This matters when you’re backpacking, but not so much when you’re car camping. Lighter, higher-quality insulation costs more, but you can trim weight and bulk simply by buying the right bag for the conditions.

Western Mountaineering Summerlite (Starting at $390, westernmountaineering.com): Ultralight bags often come with tradeoffs: thin insulation and a cramped fit or lacking features like a full-length zipper or hood. Not the Summerlite, which comes in three lengths. Packed with 850-fill down feathers, it was toasty on late-March nights below freezing in southern Utah. Continuous baffles let you move feathers to the top or bottom. Really cool: the bag packs into a 1-ounce stuff sack that’s slightly larger than a loaf of bread. 1 lb., 3 oz.; rated to 32° F

TEMPERATURE RATINGS

You’ll notice labels with ratings like -10 degrees or +30 degrees, which tell you the lowest temperature at which most people will be comfortable sleeping in that particular bag. Price is affected by both the quality and amount of insulation, so price goes up as rating goes down.

Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0 ($599, featheredfriends.com): For winter camping or climbing a big mountain, the Snowbunting EX 0 excels. With 25 generous ounces of sustainably produced, 900-plus-fill down, it was a cocoon for the Gear Guy on frigid nights during an April ascent of California’s Mount Whitney. Bonus: Its bulk and weight compare with many three-season (roughly 20° F) bags. 2 lbs., 12 oz.; rated to 0° F

SHAPE

Mummy bags taper from head to foot for thermal efficiency and to minimize weight and bulk, but some can feel claustrophobic. Rectangular bags are more spacious but are generally heavier and bulkier, and you can sometimes hit a cold spot. Try it on before buying.

Big Agnes Haybro 15 ($99.95, bigagnes.com): Sized for teens up to 5 feet 6 inches, the mummy-style Haybro is more spacious than many mummies but designed for thermal efficiency with the Big Agnes sleep system: Slide any 20-inch-wide air mattress (purchased separately) into a sleeve on the bag’s bottom side, and there’s no need for insulation on the bag’s bottom. 2 lbs., 14 oz.; rated to 15° F

CONSTRUCTION

Less expensive — yet lightweight — bags have sewn-through baffles, which can create cold spots along seams. Higher-quality horizontal baffles are typically warmer. Other high-quality construction upgrades include a draft tube (along the zipper), a collar (inside the hood) and a no-snag zipper guard.

Exped DreamWalker Camp 450 (Starting at $219, exped.com): Is it a sleeping bag or a down jacket? With a draw cord at the foot end, a full-length center zipper and zippered arm openings, the DreamWalker (available in three lengths) converts from a bag to a blanket to a parka. Stuffed with 700-fill down, this mummy kept the Gear Guy warm on nights that dropped into the 30s. 1 lb., 14 oz.; rated 39° F (comfort) to 33° F (limit)

GEAR GUY’S ADVICE?

Get what you can afford. You can still get outside with an inexpensive bag — which is what’s most important, right? If and when you have the dough for a nicer bag, your wilderness adventures will be a little more luxurious.

CARING FOR YOUR BAG

Properly cared for, a sleeping bag can last 10 to 20 years. Body oils can compromise insulation, so you should always sleep in clean base layers. Post-trip, hang the bag to dry for a day or two, and then place it in a big storage sack and keep in a dry place. If your bag gets really dirty or starts losing loft, follow manufacturer instructions for washing it.

70 Comments on How to Buy a Good Sleeping Bag

  1. A 5lb synthetic fill is good down to plus 10 degrees usually. Dont go by the mfg label number. Only fill weight can describe the temperature that the boys will sleep well in.

  2. Ozark Trail 10-Degree Adult Thinsulate Packable Size Adjustable Sleeping Bag, Blue/Lime is only 39 dollars but is warm. Walmart

  3. Our inside troop joke is that your bag temperature rating is the temperature the manufacturer states you won’t freeze to death. I recommend a bag liner for any bag; increases the rating another 10 degrees or so.

  4. I love rectangular sleeping bags the best! Mummy sleeping bags are not good for those who have claustrophobic issues! Thank you for all your tips on sleeping bags and other information on camping in general! Take care! 🙂

  5. Where can I buy this?

  6. I so would love to have where can i buy !!!?????

  7. I want the wearable sleeping bag! Can I buy one of these somewhere?

  8. I am 62 years old. I would buy a wearable sleeping bag, provided I could find one to fit.

  9. I’m 6 and in 1St grade. I think theu are cool.

  10. I think it is cool I would buy one

  11. Were can we buy one

  12. Want to buy one where can i

  13. Were can I get one

  14. I Would like to know if this could be used on the rare occasions it gets cold down south. my child has Autism and doesn’t like wearing coats. She might would wear this. So is that possible?

  15. where can I purchase some for the homeless people

  16. How much is one to buy

  17. Would like to purchase sleeping bag for my 12 year grandson, he is a scout and lives in the Southwest. Any suggestions?

  18. How good for say winter camping would a 20 degree bag be? Im thinking of getting one

    • Depends where you live. I have a 0 degree and put a liner in it and some nights I’m cold. I’ve camped at -30.

    • It all depends on how cold it will get where you are camping. A 20 degree bag is fine if you temps are not going to drop below 25 or so at night. However, if it is going to drop down to -10 you might want one that can handle those temps.

  19. Seahawks Will Beat The Patriots // January 26, 2015 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    Ive got a 16 degree rated Kelty bag I got for Christmas and it kept we warm at 16 degrees with no other blankets or clothing layers.

  20. North Face down bags are rated at like 17 degrees and weigh about 2 pounds sometimes.

  21. Mummy bags are ok, unless you sleep on your side or back, then they aren’t. I have a Lafuma Patrol Lady, it’s 25F sleeping bag that I’ve used 2-3 times. I didn’t sleep well anytime I used it. Every time I tried to turn over to get comfortable, it felt like I was being constricted. I’m going to let my 9 year see if he likes it any better.

  22. 1MoreBoyScout // February 10, 2014 at 7:29 pm // Reply

    Make sure you are using a closed cell sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag. Cardboard under the pad can be used for a little extra insulation. Wool socks as well. And Keep hydrated! Your body has a hard time regulating heat when you are not hydrated properly. And yes, DRY LONG JOHNS & SOCKS!!

  23. We’ve found Marmot bags to be really great; small compression, strong and handy- double zippered. They are available in mummy and rectangle shapes, down and synthetic. If you think all bags are alike, try one of these and you’ll change your mind right away.

  24. if you can afford it a groe-tex 4 piece modular sleeping system used by the u.s. military for YEARS!! thats what i recommend

  25. hiking scouter // September 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm // Reply

    Guide needs updating. Newer down bags have water repellent down and breathable water resistant shells.

    There is a standard rating system for tempurature

  26. You could spend $350 on a 15 Oz. bag from Western Mountaineering

  27. A big help thanks.

  28. outdoorsman107 // October 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm // Reply

    I think you should get what you need and what fits you best

  29. Big Agnes makes the most comfortable sleeping bags. at 6,2 i have plenty of space so i don’t fell like i cant move. and they weigh almost nothing and compress tiny. they are AWSOME!!!!!!!!

  30. where can I find a sleeping bag that costs less than $20 but keeps one warm down to 35 degrees?

  31. outdoorman // June 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm // Reply

    idon’t like mummy bags at all

  32. Personally i prefer a Wiggys , Made in USA Used by U.S. Army , check out their site i have a Wiggy’s Ultra Light , Weighs 3 pounds and does +20 degrees , but their worth it , their heaviest bag is 7 pounds and goes to -60 but is extremely expensive , Ultra Light Costs 200$ but is worth it , i reccomend them for tents gloves knives sleeping bags clothing and anything else , their worth their price

  33. Marmot Zion 0 bag, pure heaven.

  34. ultra-light master // July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm // Reply

    terranova gear laser bag,only 12 oz

  35. i have a field and stream bag rated to +20 degrees and its only 4 lbs and compresses well only about $45

    • runnerdude11 // May 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm // Reply

      Only four pounds!!!
      That’s really heavy. I have a 30 degree bag that is less than a pound and a 0 degree bag that is a pound and a half.

    • Runnerdude11, Where in the heck did you get an awesome bag like that? Was it under 20$?

  36. Canadian eh // March 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm // Reply

    The canadian military bags are great for cold weather and will beat most of the bags out there for a fraction of the price. Goose down fill. -60C (-76F) temperature rating. You can find them at army surplus stores. They will be used a bit but fully functional and ready to go. Check out anything used good before buying.

  37. i hate mummy bags i go with a sgaure

  38. you can buy a $20 wal-mart coleman steeping bag and a $10 polar fleece sleeping bag and use them together for a sub zero sleeping bag for a fraction of the price.

  39. i have a down kelty trekker($90) its rated to 20 degrees and it weighs only like 2 pounds

  40. a colman is warm and only cost about$20.

  41. peace corps // August 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm // Reply

    I’m going to the Peace Corps and need something that will last me for 2 years! The PC gives us a sleeping bag for the really cold months so I need something for 5-20 degree weather. I can’t take much with me so it has to be super compressible and light! Any recommendations?

  42. and also the big agnes bags come with a intagrated pillow sleeve wich is nice :]

  43. lightweight gu-ru // July 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm // Reply

    My Mountain Hardwear Lamina is a 20 degree bag. Used at summer camp in 80 degree nights. Was well ventelated and never got too hot but still keeps me warm in the winter. Weighs like 2 pounds!

  44. U. S. Army Dependent 409 // May 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm // Reply

    Sometimes the “P-X” of a local army base may let civilian campers and dependents of U. S. Army personnel purchase the inventory over run of U. S. Army Mummy Sleeping Bags at U. S. Government Auctions. The Mummy Sleeping Bags are quite warm in winter; however, most require dry clean only when washing. Sometimes a person can launder the sleeping bag by washing the sleeping bag by hand and then letting the sleeping bag air dry. For U. S. Army dependents, the “P-X” is a great place to shop for over run inventory camping equipment.

    • Our military bags are warm (two separate bags and a Gore-Tex bivvy) but heavy. They weigh over 10 pounds. You can get better civilian bags cheaper. I prefer my Northface PolarGaurd 3D!!!!

  45. i need your help on were to get sleeping bags i am going camping next week and dont know were to go please replay fast

  46. u can find good ones ant bass pro shop or cabela’s. I hope that helps

  47. Jonathan, you might want to do some research before buying a bag that warm. I rarely recommend a bag that is rated for much colder than 32F, they get to be too warm for most trips. I think it is better to get a bag that is roomy enough to allow you to wear a vest or jacket inside of…more versitile. I like Montbell bags. I’ve never used a compression bag, so I can’t help you there.

    • Depends where you live… We live in Minnesota and used to live in Utah, I won’t buy a bag rated above 30′ not worth it here. You can always sleep on top of the bag in the summer with a blanket, you can’t make it warmer in the winter.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // November 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm // Reply

      You must live in Florida or Texas. anything rated for more then 15 degrees is out in my book! of course when you live deep in the Idaho Mountains you need a warm sleeping bag!

  48. I use a Slumber-Jack Super Guide 30 degree bag for summer, and it works fine. I also have a REI 0 degree bag for winter camping, and that works well. If you don’t do winter camping, don’t buy a 0 degree bag! You will sweat to death during the late spring and summer. Get a bag that suits the environment of where you camp.

  49. I think I saw good compression stuff sacks at the Recreation Outlet, and for the sleeping bag I think they have those too.

  50. Hey guys –
    My dad and i are going to spend about ten days backpacking in Wyoming. Do any of you know where i could find good reliable compression bags? Also I have a huge down sleeping bag – do any of know where i could find a good 20- degree synthetic sleeping bag.
    -URGENT

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