The best sleeping bags for backpacking and camping

Most likely, if we use sleeping bags, it is because we are on an adventure that is going to cost us a lot. Sleep should come naturally in those circumstances: stars twinkling, water rushing in the distance, cool air wafting through your tent, no cars or sirens around to disturb you…

So why does it seem inevitable that your bag will be too hot, too cold, too heavy, too rough, or too tight? If you haven’t encountered such a ridiculous situation trying to fall asleep on a hunt or backpacking trip, good for you. But we mere mortals have plenty of bad memories that range from puddles of sweat to full body chills, from the constriction of the straitjacket to needing a road map to find the zipper, usually when you need to get out of your bag quickly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Anyone who has looked into their sleeping bag purchase and narrowed down their options knows how refreshing a full eight hours in the right bag can be.

These expensive purchases need to be reported, so consider a few details first. Learn about the weather you’re most likely to sleep in outdoors, and learn about the weather your own skin and bones create for you. Know how much tolerance you have for extra weight in your backpack. Know your general physical circumference, your height and even if you sleep on your side, stomach or back. Once you have all that information online, read on.

Jump to: sleeping bags we use

What we look for in a sleeping bag

Truth be told, it can be difficult to find a single sleeping bag that will meet your needs all year round. You don’t have a jacket for summer storms and winter bleaches, so why would the same apply for sleeping bags? Of course, because they’re on the more expensive side of the spectrum, a bag is probably all most of us can hold. So make sure you get the job done during the time of year you’re most likely to be there. For us, that is during the fall and winter. With that in mind, we are considering these three features:

  1. Heat-to-weight ratio
  2. Durability
  3. Packability

Jump to: What makes a good sleeping bag

sleeping bags we use

What makes a good sleeping bag

1. Heat-to-weight ratio

My first sleeping bag almost ruined the concept of sleeping outside for me forever. Without naming names, the bag was bulky, heavy, very easy to unpack and, perhaps most frustrating of all, not all that warm. I’m not sure who field tested and rated this bag at their lowest temperature, but I’m a warm sleeper and still couldn’t trust it to keep me comfortable when the mercury dropped.

But I did what all broke 20-somethings do; I struggled, built some decent memories with that sleeping bag, and then recently decided to upgrade for an upcoming backpacking trip. The warmth-to-weight ratio was at the top of my priority list. I wanted half the volume and twice the heat of my old bag. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost every sleeping bag on the market was lighter and warmer than the one I had been using for the last few years.

2. Durability

All that heat-retaining goose down or new-age synthetic insulation isn’t worth much if the outer fabric is going to rip on its first encounter with a rock. These four bags are constructed of either ripstop nylon or polyester and are generally pretty waterproof, snag-proof, and, well, you-proof. That said, most modern bags will come with patch kits if something happens, and you should have a little gear repair kit anyway in case disaster strikes and compromises any of your heat retention or sealing gear. of water.

3. Packability

Have you ever transported one of those rectangular sleeping bags that compress down to the size of a beer keg and are so easy to transport? Clearly, those aren’t designed for field trips, but those flannel interiors are great for backcountry car camping.

The good news is that modern sleeping bags have become so incredibly packable that you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between your bag and all the other stuff sacks you’re stuffing in your backpack. Many companies like to do the Nalgene 1 liter water bottle comparison, and they do so for good reason. It is a feat of modern science to fit so much isolated material into such a small package. Celebrate by shelling out a little more cash for a little less volume.

MeatEater Crew Field Notes