A sleeping bag is an indispensable piece of gear for any good backpacking adventure. With the right sleeping bag, you can stay warm and cozy, even when the temperatures dip well below freezing at night.
But what is a good sleeping bag for backpacking, you might be wondering?
Our two favorite sleeping bags for summer backpacking include models like the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 and the Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30. Keep in mind, you need to find a model that fits both your backpacking style and the conditions that you’ll face on the trail. The important thing is that you get the perfect sleeping bag for YOUR camping needs.
We know how difficult it can be to get a good sleeping bag for backpacking, so we’ve put together this quick intro to all things snoozing-related in the great outdoors. Coming up, we’ll discuss some of the most important things you need to know about good backpacking sleeping bags so that you can get the best possible gear for your next adventure.
Important Features of a Good Sleeping Bag for Backpacking
Sleeping bags are integral parts of any backpacking adventure, but finding that perfect model for your needs isn’t always easy. The reality is that there’s no such thing as the “ideal sleeping bag” because every manufacturer designs models that are crafted with different kinds of backpackers in mind.
Rather than focusing on getting the world’s best sleeping bag, which simply doesn’t exist, it’s better to concentrate on finding a sleeping bag that will meet most, if not all, of your needs.
There are a few key things that you can look for when shopping for a sleeping bag, including:
A temperature rating is supposed to help you determine how warm a given sleeping bag actually is. Keep in mind that you generally want to get a sleeping bag that’s at least 15ºF warmer than the coldest temperatures you’ll face.
Also, everyone experiences the cold differently, so use these temperature ratings as guidance, not gospel. If you get cold at night, consider getting a warmer sleeping bag.
Since we humans come in all different shapes and sizes, sleeping bag manufacturers craft sleeping bags in a range of widths and lengths. Each company uses slightly different measurements for their bags, so be sure to check a model’s length and width before you purchase.
It’s best to get a sleeping bag that’s a little wider and longer than you need so you can move around comfortably at night, even if you’re wearing a whole lot of layers.
Weight & Packed Size
If you’re going backpacking, the weight and packed size of your gear are of the utmost importance, and sleeping bags are no exception.
You’ll generally find that sleeping bags made with high-quality down insulation tend to be lighter and more packable than their synthetic-filled counterparts. But you normally have to pay more for these ultra-light down bags, so you have to decide if you want to prioritize cost or weight savings in your gear.
There are plenty of other factors that you ought to keep in mind when shopping for a sleeping bag, like brand, sleeping bag shape, and additional features. But the three factors that we’ve listed above are arguably the most important.
Our Two Favorite Sleeping Bags For Backpacking
As we’ve mentioned there’s no single “best sleeping bag” on the market that will work for everyone. However, if you’re looking for a tried and true model, consider two of our favorite sleeping bags, which are the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 and the Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30.
Both of these bags are best for summertime camping and they’re both fairly pricey. But they’re made from super high-quality down insulation and they pack down to an impressively small size for backcountry travel. For something that’s a bit more affordable, consider the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30 instead.
What is a Good Weight for a Backpacking Sleeping Bag?
A good weight for a backpacking sleeping bag is around 2 to 3 lbs. A summer sleeping bag in this range provides a good mix of durability, affordability, insulation, and packability without sacrificing too much on any of those qualities. Do note, however, that quality winter sleeping bags are normally in the 3 to 6 lbs range.
However, if you’re looking to keep your pack weight at an absolute minimum, you’ll probably be in the market for an ultralight sleeping bag. A summer sleeping bag under about 2 lbs would be considered very lightweight and these models are hard to find at big name brands.
Models that are under 1 lb are almost always made by specialty ultralight brands, but they do exist if you’re willing to pay more for them. Something like the Zpacks 30f classic sleeping bag coming in at just 12.2 oz, but at a cost currently of $389.
Alternatively, if budget-friendliness is of the utmost importance, a summer sleeping bag that weighs about 3 to 5 lbs is more realistic. Most budget-friendly sleeping bags are made from synthetic insulation, which is cheaper but heavier than down.
All this is to say that what you consider to be a “good weight” for a backpacker sleeping bag will depend a lot on your camping style and your budget. There are no right or wrong answers here as the key thing is that you get a model that works for your preferred type of adventuring.
Is a 30 Degree Sleeping Bag Warm Enough?
A 30 degree sleeping bag is warm enough for most summer and some shoulder-season adventures. But this really depends on where you’re camping and what conditions you expect to face in the mountains.
We personally wouldn’t use a 30ºF sleeping bag if we were expecting overnight low temperatures to be below around 45ºF. This 15ºF buffer increases the chances that we’ll be warm enough to get a good night’s sleep while camping, but this is based on our personal tolerance for the cold.
If you’re someone that sleeps very cold at night, you might not want to use a 30ºF bag when the overnight low temperatures are forecasted to be below about 50ºF. On the other hand, people who sleep very warm might be okay using a 30ºF bag when it’s 35ºF outside (though this isn’t very common nor recommended).
As a general rule, it’s best to get a sleeping bag that’s about 15ºF warmer than the coldest temperatures you’ll face so that you can be as warm as possible at night.
Final Thoughts on Sleeping Bags for Backpacking
Your choice of sleeping bag while backpacking is highly dependent on everything from your budget and your camping style to your tolerance for the cold.
While there’s no one sleeping bag out there that will work for everyone, it’s important that you consider factors like a sleeping bag’s temperature rating, weight, packed size, and unpacked size as you shop. That way, you can get a sleeping bag that’s warm enough, light enough, comfortable enough, and affordable enough for your unique backpacking needs.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.