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You’ve nailed down your camping trip and your crew, your meals, and your itinerary. But planning for your sleep setup is a priority one, because if you can’t get a good night’s sleep, you won’t have a good daytime experience. Sure, it can seem like whatever will do — it’s just a couple of nights, right? — but having a sleepless night in the outdoors can ruin a trip. So your choice of the best sleeping bags is a crucial decision.

The Basics of Sleeping Bags

The best sleeping bags depend on the season you’ll be using it, but that’s not to say you need to invest in more than one. It does, however, mean that it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are contextual questions you need to ask — about climate, mode of transportation, size, preference, and of course budget — but before you dive into those, it pays to understand some principles, measures, and materials that cover all bags.

  • Fit: While you may love your California king at home, bigger isn’t better when it comes to finding the best sleeping bags. The more empty space there is inside, the harder it is to keep warm. A snug fit means less cold air — hence the design of the mummy sleeping bag.
  • Heat rating: Sleeping bags have standardized heat ratings (specified as “EN” or “ISO” ratings) that note the lowest degree of comfort for the average sleeper. You want something that goes slightly below the temperatures you’ll face, and know that your experience will vary based on a host of factors, including wind, humidity, whether your body sleeps hot or cold, and more.
  • Sleep style: Don’t neglect your sleeping position. If you find it impossible to sleep on your back, you’re not going to magically do so while outdoors, and tightly cut mummy bags might be too restricting. Nemo Equipment sleeping bags are cut to keep that tailored fit for warmth while also striving to be the best sleeping bags for side sleepers.
  • Fill material: Sleeping bags are lofted with either down or synthetic fill. Down sleeping bags tend to be more expensive (especially goose down, rather than duck down), and they definitely have their perks. For starters, they’re significantly lighter than synthetic bags of the same warmth rating. But they’re not always the better choice, especially when dampness is a factor. Even treated down doesn’t do as well as synthetic in wet conditions.
  • Occupant: Sleeping bags are generally sold by gender, but that’s not a hard and fast rule to follow,  Double sleeping bags, a.k.a. two-person sleeping bags, allow for couples to share space (and body heat!). Kids sleeping bags are sized for smaller bodies, of course, but also tend to be heat-rated in proportion, too. Dog sleeping bags keep a camp pup happy.
  • Size and Weight: Bag weight and how much it matters is mostly a question of how you’re getting to your campsite. If you’re driving, it won’t matter much. If you’re on foot — or intend to be in the future — get a down sleeping bag.

And a word to the wise: Don’t bundle up inside your bag; clothing actually interferes with insulation doing its job. It’s the “help me help you” of letting the best sleeping bags perform like it.

What is the climate where (and when) you’ll be using the sleeping bag?

Climate is consideration number one in finding the best sleeping bags for your camping trip. If you’re only a summer camper — and you are also not in the mountains or another location where it still gets chilly in the evening — a three-season or warmer bag will treat you fine. And while waterproof sleeping bags are not a thing, look for a fill and outer material that are treated to perform well in wet conditions. (Also do not skimp on a tarp and camp mattress to keep you off the ground and away from the water.)

Best Three-Season Sleeping Bag: Marmot Trestles 30

A durable, tested and trusted sleeping bag ready for all but the coldest temps.
MARMOT

If you’re looking for one sleeping bag to carry you through most climates and circumstances, the Marmot Trestles series won’t let you down. No bag is waterproof, but this one’s fill is designed for better performance in damp conditions.

Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bag: Big Agnes Echo Park 40 FireLine Max

A minus-20 degree sleeping bag for camping in truly frigid weather (that’s also available as a 0-degree sleeping bag for less frigid conditions).
Big Agnes

Tailored at the feet for heat retention but without the restriction of a mummy sleeping bag (though a conversion accessory is available), the Big Agnes sleeping bag is not only rated for 20 degrees below zero, its design features also make it feel more like a real bed. It attaches to a sleeping pad like a fitted sheet, the top of the bag wraps like a comforter, and the hood is not restricting. This is also the best tall and wide bag.

Best Summer Sleeping Bag: Marmot Voyager 55

Summer camping comfort, in one not-too-hot sleeping bag.
MARMOT

The summer sleeping bag conundrum is how to get comfort without overheating. The solution: This Marmot mummy sleeping bag rated at 55 degrees — and with a full-length zipper so it can be used as an open blanket, or just for extra ventilation. It’s available in two sizes.

Do you need sleeping bags for the whole family?

If you’re shopping for the crew, you have several decisions to make. You may need a two-person sleeping bag for you and a partner, kids’ sleeping bags for younger campers, and even a dog sleeping bag, because, let’s face it, they’re family members — and they have much more domesticated needs than their wolf progenitors. 

Best Double Sleeping Bag: Nemo Jazz Duo 20

Keep cozy company in a two person sleeping bag, with the features of a top solo bag.
NEMO

This Nemo two-person sleeping bag has several comfort options. There’s a built-in (and removable) sheet to add warmth or to use alone in warm conditions, as well as a “blanket fold” and wrap-around hood at the top for added comfort at the head and neck. Plus, there’s an integrated slot for sleeping pads.

Best Sleeping Bag for Kids: Marmot Voyager Jr. 40

A high-quality sleeping bag, sized down.
MARMOT

This 40-degree Marmot Voyager is designed to withstand damp conditions (note: no bag is waterproof). It’s cut to fit those under five feet tall.

Best Sleeping Bag for Dogs: Alcott Adventure

Bed, blanket, and burrow zone in one.
Alcott

This affordably priced dog sleeping bag comes in three sizes, has a waterproof base, and rolls up for transport in an included bag. If your dog is a premium-goods only kind of pup, upgrade to the Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag.

Should you buy a down sleeping bag or one with synthetic fill?

Down sleeping bags tend to be more expensive, particularly those made with goose down (the price mostly has to do with the availability and processing of the feathers). A down sleeping bag is significantly lighter than a synthetic bag of the same warmth rating. This means the best backpacking sleeping bag, or best compact sleeping bag, is going to be a down sleeping bag.

However, in wet conditions, synthetic bags outperform down, so if you know you’ll consistently be contending with water (rain, humidity, dew, etc.) and if the weight does not outweigh price as a factor in your decision, a synthetic bag is likely the way to go. Many leading down sleeping bags are now treated to help the materials perform better when damp, although they still generally don’t match synthetic on that measure.

Best Down Sleeping Bag: Nemo Riff

Ultralight, ultra cozy, and great for side sleepers.
NEMO

800 fill power down means this thing can bring the heat (and will be ultra-plush), but a proprietary venting system dubbed “Thermo Gill” technology means you will not overheat. It comes in long and regular sizes, at 15- and 30-degree ratings, and is cut to be comfortable for side sleepers.

Best Affordable Down Sleeping Bag: Marmot Ironwood 30

The water resistance of down at a low price point.
MARMOT

A remarkable price for a down sleeping bag from a great sleeping bag brand, this one is designed to keep you comfortable down to 30 degrees. The down, at a 650 down fill power, has been treated to improve water resistance, and design choices like ground-level side seams boost the performance, too. Need one for colder temps? Go for the Marmot Ironwood 20.

Are you looking for something well-cushioned and comfortable?

“Roughing it” is a relative term, and there’s a huge middle ground between backpacking and “glamping.” An air mattress makes things extra comfortable in this category — especially if you’re not in your 20s anymore. New mattress-ready sleeping bags make the whole thing a delight.

Best Air Mattress Sleeping Bag: Nemo Jazz 20

It’s designed to integrate a camping mattress and has a removable sheet, making it super comfortable.
NEMO

This three-season Nemo Equipment sleeping bag is ready to keep you cozy in comfort, with a slightly tapered shape to give some mummy bag-style warmth retention, but without limiting your space. There’s also a removable sheet and a “blanket fold” at the neck, in addition to the built-in slot for a 30-inch wide sleeping pad. (Note that the air mattress is sold separately, so if you already have a sleeping pad or camping mattress, that may work here, too.) 

The Best Sleeping Bags on a Budget: What You Get for Less Than $40

Sometimes you’re just going on a weekend jaunt with friends in stable weather and would rather save your cash for something else. If your expectations are manageable — and if you don’t mind if your bag is heavy and bulky, as that’s a major trade-off with price — there are some very good budget sleeping bags out there.

Best Cheap Sleeping Bag: Coleman Brazos 20

A trusted camping equipment brand at a great price.
Coleman

This is a classic, trusty sleeping bag with a 20-degree warmth rating. It doesn’t have a mummy shape or a hood for warmth and comfort, but it does have a soft lining—and a price that’s roughly 15% of some leading sleeping bags.

FAQs

Q: Which sleeping bag brand is the best?

Generally speaking, Nemo Equipment, Marmot, and Big Agnes are the best sleeping bag brands. They can be pricey, but the quality — both in terms of performance and durability — is exceptional.

Q: Is a down sleeping bag worth it?

Down sleeping bags are worth it for their lighter weight than synthetics for equivalent warmth. However, if the price is a driving factor in your choice, and weight is not as essential (e.g., you’re driving to your campsite instead of backpacking there), a synthetic sleeping bag is a fine option.

Q: What is the best cold weather sleeping bag?

The best cold-weather sleeping bag is the Big Agnes Echo Park 40 FireLine Max, which is rated to 20 degrees below zero.

The wrap on the best sleeping bags

The best sleeping bags must be suited to your camping climate and how much of a factor water will be — not just with rain, but with humidity and dew. Pay attention to the warmth rating but also consider your particulars, like how your body temperature runs while sleeping, as well as wind, shelter, and other environmental factors that will affect the insulation’s performance. Also, make sure to choose the best sleeping bags that will accommodate your sleeping position.

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