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Best sleeping bags for cold weather

In 2017, when we camped our way around the Northern Territory, it was winter, and so we needed to purchase one of the best sleeping bags for cold weather camping.  While we are reasonably experienced campers, coming from sunny and warm Brisbane, we didn’t know too much about camping in cold weather and so had no idea what to look for to purchase the best cold weather sleeping bag.

Jumping online to start the research for the best sleeping bag for cold weather camping, I was hit with a stack of information about insulation, temperature ratings, and various other features – all things I had never considered before.  At the last minute, I purchased some random winter sleeping bags for sale, and while they did the job, I certainly didn’t put much thought into whether they were the best winter sleeping bags for camping.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have put together this guide for others looking to purchase the best sleeping bag for winter camping or for any climate with cold temperatures.  If you are wondering what the best sleeping bag for cold weather is, then this guide is certainly for you.  In this guide, I will firstly help you understand how a sleeping bag is designed to keep you warm and then take you through the various features that make the best winter sleeping bag.   Once you have a better idea of what to look for when on the hunt for good sleeping bags for cold weather, I will share with you my top recommendations for the best sleeping bags for winter camping.

Whether you are after winter camping sleeping bags, the best winter backpacking sleeping bag or the best budget winter sleeping bag, I have no doubt after reading this guide you will be in a better position to make the perfect choice.

This post may contain compensated links.  Please refer to my disclaimer here for more information.

 

Our Pick for the Best Sleeping Bag for Cold Weather 2020: TETON Sports LEEF

If you don’t have time to read my entire winter sleeping bag reviews, my pick for the best winter camping sleeping bag is the Teton Sports LEEF Ultralight Mummy Sleeping Bag.  I love this sleeping bag as a good all rounder – it offers great value for money and is reasonably light at just over 4 lbs (2 kgs).  This sleeping bag will keep you nice and warm in cold weather down to around 0 degrees (-18 c).

If you are interested in a super lightweight sleeping bag, there are some other options in the review, or alternatively you may like to read our guide to the best lightweight sleeping bags for backpacking.

Click here for more information about the TETON Sports LEEF sleeping bag and to check the current price – or

Keep reading below for the full review on the Teton sleeping bag.  

 

Comparison Chart for the Best Sleeping Bags for Cold Weather 2020

Check out the table below for a quick view of the various features of my recommendations for the top winter sleeping bags.  Keep reading below for my detailed reviews.  

Sleeping BagShapeWeight (lbs / kgs)Insulation TypeTemperature RangeCheck Price / Buy Now
Teton

Mummy4.2 lbs / 1.9 kgsSynthetic0 F / -18 C
Teton TrailHead
Mummy2.9 lbs / 1.3 kgsSynthetic20 F / -7 C
Marmot Ironwood

Mummy2.6 lbs / 1.1 kgsDown20 F / -6 C
ALPS Blaze
Mummy6 lbs / 2.7 kgsSynthetic-20 F / -28 C
Slumberjack Boundary
Mummy6 lbs / 2.7 kgsSynthetic-20 F / -28 C
Coleman
Mummy5.8 lbs / 2.6 kgsSynthetic0-10 F / -12 C
MH Ration
Mummy2.7 lbs / 1.2 kgsDown12 F to 24 F / -11 to -4 C
Therm-A-Rest
Mummy2.7 lbs / 1.2 kgsDown20 F / -6 C
Browning
Mummy / Rectangle8 lbs / 3.6 kgSynthetic0 F / -17 c
TETON Celsius
Rectangular5l bs / 2.2 kgsSynthetic0 F / -18 C

 

How Does a Sleeping Bag Work?

Sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm by trapping and holding a layer of air next to your body. Your body heat warms this air, and the bag forms a barrier between it and the colder ground or outside air. The less air space there is to heat, the faster you warm up and stay warm.

Best sleeping bag for cold weather

How to Choose the Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

There are a variety of factors that you will need to consider to ensure you purchase suitable sleeping bags for cold weather.  Before going out to buy a good winter sleeping bag, consider the following factors:

1. Insulation

Sleeping bags are insulated to keep your warm.  The insulation is usually in the form of either down or synthetic material which is sandwiched between two layers of fabric –  shell fabric on the outside and lining on the inside.

Down Insulation

The best warmth to weight ratio sleeping bag is one insulated with down.  This means a smaller amount of insulation is required for the same amount of warmth, as is needed for synthetic insulation.  Of course, the benefit to this is a lighter sleeping bag and one that takes up less room, making down the perfect choice if you are after the best sleeping bag for cold weather backpacking. A down sleeping bag can easily fit into the bottom of a backpack!

Despite being a great compact winter sleeping bag, down is unfortunately far more expensive than even the best synthetic winter sleeping bag.  However, down sleeping bags are incredibly durable, and the best down sleeping bag will last you for years.   Another negative is that down tends to lose its ability to insulate if it gets wet.  To avoid this issue, many manufacturers treat the down with a durable water repellent.   The quality of down is measured by a fill power index from 400 to 900 – the higher the fill power index, the better the weight to warmth ratio of the sleeping bag.

If using a down sleeping bag, it is recommended you purchase one that has been ethically sourced.  This means that animals have not been ill-treated to produce the down for the sleeping bag.  Look for companies that follow the Responsible Down Standard.  You can find a list of companies that follow this standard here.  All the down sleeping bags in this review are by companies that follow the Responsible Down Standard.

Synthetic Insulation

If you are looking for the best price sleeping bags or just one of the cheap winter sleeping bags, you should opt for a synthetic insulated sleeping bag.  Synthetically insulated sleeping bags are so much cheaper than down as well as being quick-drying and insulates even if it gets wet.  A Synthetic winter sleeping bag also tends to be better for people suffering allergies.   The negative about synthetically insulated sleeping bags is that it doesn’t pack down as small as down, so not ideal when space is a premium.

 

2. Temperature Rating

You will need to consider the temperature of the environment you will be camping in to choose a sleeping bag that will keep you warm enough.  Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t use a standard temperature rating system and so choosing an appropriate winter weight sleeping bag can be difficult.  Basically, the rating is a guess as to the ideal temperature; the average person will keep warm in the sleeping bag.

The one universal rating method that you may see on a sleeping bag is the EN13537 rating – the European standard for labelling sleeping bags.  This standard expresses temperature ratings in the following way:

  • Comfort: This is the warmth level required for a woman to sleep comfortably.  It is based on a woman, because on average women need more insulation to stay warm than men.
  • Limit of Comfort: This is the lowest temperature that a man would feel comfortable sleeping in.
  • Extreme: This is basically the coldest temperature you would survive in, not sleep comfortably, but survive without freezing to death.

It is also important to note that everyone’s body temperature is different.  Various factors will affect your body temperature when you sleep, such as:

  • Sensitivity to temperature
  • Conditioning, fitness and level of experience
  • Gender and age
  • Sleeping habits
  • Hunger and nutritional intake
  • Level of exhaustion; and
  • Environment

There are other reasons for your level of comfort inside a sleeping bag, such as your sleepwear, sleeping mattress, and prior exposure to wind, rain, snow and humidity.   Many camping experts suggest that when in doubt purchase a sleeping bag rated at least 5-10 degrees below the average temperature you will be using your sleeping bag in.   For easy identification, some manufacturers label their sleeping bags as two seasons or three season sleeping bags:

  • 2 Season Sleeping Bags: also referred to as Summer sleeping bags are recommended for warmer weather or from temperatures 32F / 0C. These sleeping bags are only recommended if you are always sleeping in warm weather.
  • 3 Season Sleeping Bags: ideal for temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) and above. Features of a 3 season sleeping bag include cinchable hoods, draft collars and zipper draft tubes.  These sleeping bags are perfect for all sorts of climates.
  • Cold Weather Sleeping Bags: Suitable for those camping in extreme climates 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) and below.

 

3. Size / Length

Sleeping bags generally come in one of three lengths that are supposed to fit men and women of varying heights.  Usually these lengths are tall (78 inches / 200cm), average (72 inches/ 185 cm and short (66 inches / 170 cm).

 

4. Shape

There are a variety of shapes when it comes to sleeping bags with the main ones being the mummy, tapered rectangular and rectangular.   If you are trying to save weight and space, look for a tapered sleeping bag such as the mummy, whereas if comfort is the priority, a standard rectangular sleeping bag is your best bet.

Rectangular 

Most camping bags are designed with a rectangular shape for maximum comfort and roominess.   You can even join two rectangular sleeping bags together if one bag has a “right-hand” zipper and the other a “left-hand” zipper, creating a winter double sleeping bag. The zippers also need to be the same size, style and roughly the same length to create a double winter sleeping bag.

Mummy 

If maximum warmth is a priority and you’re looking for a sleeping bag for extreme cold weather, then a mummy shaped sleeping bag is the best choice.  A mummy shaped sleeping bag is wide at the shoulders and narrows down towards the feet, creating less air that needs to be heated within the bag.   Some people don’t find these bags very comfortable as they are more restrictive than rectangular shaped sleeping bags.

Tapered Rectangular  

The tapered rectangular is somewhere in between the mummy and the rectangular shaped sleeping bag.  These sleeping bags have a tapered design offering greater warmth and efficiency than rectangular bags, but they’re still plenty roomy for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Women’s Sleeping Bags

Some warm sleeping bags for adults come in women specific versions.  Basically these bags are designed to match a woman’s contours. When compared to standard bags, women-specific bags are shorter and narrower at the shoulders, wider at the hips and add extra insulation in the upper body and footbox.

 

5. Weight

Along with your tent, your sleeping bag is likely to be one of the heaviest and bulkiest items you take camping.  Sleeping bags come in a range of weights from the ultra-light at around 1 pound to 3 + pounds.  If weight is a priority to you, check out the table above as I have listed the weights of all the sleeping bags in this guide.

 

6. Other Features

Above we have covered the main features of good quality sleeping bags, but all the top winter sleeping bags come with many additional features to increase your comfort.

Sleeping Bag Shell

The outer shell of a camping bag is typically made of ripstop nylon or polyester for durability.   Many synthetic-fill bags feature a shell fabric treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. DWR allows water to bead up rather than soak through the fabric. Linings, on the other hand, promote the dispersal of body moisture, so DWR is not used here.

To tell if a shell has a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment, rub a wet cloth across the surface. If the water beads up, then it has DWR.   The downside to a sleeping bag treated with DWR is that it tends to be less breathable, trapping perspiration inside the sleeping bag.  Trapped sweat reduces the insulations ability to trap heat so you will be colder in a sleeping bag treated with DWR.

Lining

Polyester or nylon breaths and draws away moisture.  Cotton (flannelette) increases comfort but won’t draw away moisture so you can be left feeling damp.

Zippers

Most sleeping bags have two zippers so you can easily open your bag from the inside and the outside.   Look for sleeping bags with good quality zippers.  Zippers that continuously get caught are a pain and make getting in and out of your bag difficult.  Also look for zippers that go all the way around rather than just halfway so you can easily open the bag if you get too hot.

Neck Collar

Neck collars are perfect sleeping bags for cold conditions as they ensure the warmth stays within the bag by ensuring heat doesn’t escape from the sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag Hood

When camping in colder temperatures, you’ll lose a lot of heat through your head. The best cool weather sleeping bag will include a built-in hood. When cinched with a drawcord, the hood prevents heat from radiating away. Some hoods offer a pillow pocket that you can stuff with clothing to create a pillow.

Internal Pockets

Some sleeping bags have small pockets on the inside where you can store small items, such as an MP3 player, watch or glasses, close at hand.  These are ideal for sleeping bags for cold weather backpacking.

Sleeping Pad Sleeve

On some bags, the underside insulation has been replaced with a sleeve to fit a sleeping pad. The result: no more rolling off the sleeping pad in the middle of the night!

 

The Best Winter Sleeping Bag Reviews

 1. Best Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Teton Sports LEEF

As far as synthetic sleeping bags go the Teton Sports LEEF is one of the best and at 4.2 lbs (1.9kgs) the lightest synthetic sleeping bag in these reviews making it a great choice if you are after the best lightweight sleeping bag for cold weather.

This lightweight, warm sleeping bag is a mummy style sleeping bag suitable for temperatures around 0° F (-18°c) making it one of the best sleeping bags for sub zero temperatures in this guide.  Features to keep you nice and warm include the 3 piece ultra-puff hood which contours to your face and cinches down tightly, adding padding along the zipper to keep drafts out, built out foot box with extra filling and a soft micro polyester double brushed lining.

This warmest lightweight sleeping bag is one of the perfect sleeping bags for winter backpacking as it folds up nice and compactly and will fit well in the bottom of your pack.   The shell is made from 40D ripstop nylon and is water resistant.  Other great features of this lightweight sleeping bag include an interior pocket perfect for keeping your wallet or keys close, anti-snag zippers which can be opened from the inside or outside.

This sleeping bag also comes in two lengths – 75 inch or 87 inches.   Perfect for any family camping trip or for backpackers and one of the best cold weather sleeping bags for the money.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or   

 

2. Best Lightweight Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Teton Sports TrailHead

The Teton Sports Trailhead is one of the best ultralight synthetic sleeping bag options in our reviews.  Plus with a temperature guide of 20F/-7C, this cold weather sleeping bag will keep you toastie and warm on cold nights and won’t blow your budget.

The mummy design of this sleeping bag is perfect for keeping your face and head warm on those colder nights. The full length zipper draft tube and vaulted foot box provide extra comfort and warmth, while the soft, breathable, double-brushed liner makes for a super comfortable nights sleep while camping.

This is one of the best portable sleeping bag options as it is super lightweight weighing only 2.9lbs (1.3kgs) and made with innovative microfiber insulation which offers more loft and compressibility. Hence, you can store it in the bottom of your hiking bag easily.

Other great features of this best lightweight, packable sleeping bag are the durable compression sack that allows you to stuff your sleeping bag in and tighten with the heavy-duty straps for ultimate compression, a mummy hood with drawstring to keep your head nice and warm, interior pocket to keep your valuables close by, the built-out foot box and anti-snag zipper.

This is a great sleeping bag that provides maximum warmth and is lightweight too so perfect for travel as well as everyday camping.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or

 

3. Marmot Ironwood 20 Mummy Sleeping Bag

If you’re after a great quality down sleeping bag for those cold nights camping, then the Marmot Ironwood is the perfect one to consider.  With a temperature rating of 20F / -6C this will down sleeping bag will keep you warm, as well as being lightweight and having great compressibailuty making it perfect for traveling.

Weighing only 2.6lbs (1.1kgs), this is one of the best lightweight winter sleeping bags on offer.   This mummy-style sleeping bag has a fill power rating of 650 which means it will keep you nice and warm without adding too much weight to the sleeping bag.  Plus this sleeping bag has been treated with a down defender, which makes it moisture resistant, so perfect in damp conditions.

The anatomical shaped footbox helps to increase and intensify the insulation but still leaves plenty of room for your feet to wriggle around.  Other great features of this lightweight, warm weather sleeping bag are ground-level seams which are more thermally efficient, full length YKK Two Way Zippers, hood to prevent heat loss from your heat and an internal stash pocket to keep your small items close.

Marmot is a trusted brand when it comes to outdoor gear, and this Marmot cold weather sleeping bag is another great quality sleeping bag which is highly rated and so well worth considering for those after both a lightweight and warm sleeping bag.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or

 

4. ALPS Mountaineering Blaze

When looking for the best sub zero sleeping bag at a great price, you cannot look past the ALPS Mountaineering Blaze mummy sleeping bag.  With a temperature rating of -20F / -28C even in extreme cold weather, this sleeping bag will keep you warm.

If you are after sleeping bags for camping in winter, you will love the ALPS Mountaineering Blaze.  The shell of the sleeping bags is made with a durable polyester ripstop, while inside they feature TechLoft Silver insulation which is a synthetic fibre designed to keep the warmth in and the cold out.  They also have an insulated chest and zipper baffles, as well as a contoured hood which improves the sleeping bags performance with heat retention. 

Overall for a synthetic sleeping bag, these are also surprisingly good in terms of how compressible they are, so you don’t need to be overall concerned with carrying around bulky sleeping bags.  Plus they come in two different sizes you can choose the one that suits you best in terms of your height.

If you’re after one of the best zero degree sleeping bag options, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, the ALPS Mountaineering Blaze sleeping bag is certainly one you should consider. 

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or

 

5. Slumberjack Boundary Sleeping Bag

The Slumberjack Boundary Sleeping Bag is another good one to consider if you’re after the best priced warm sleeping bag for super cold conditions.  While certainly not as good as quality as some of the other sleeping bags in these reviews, the Slumberjack will nevertheless keep you warm on the coldest of nights.  

Made from polyester taffeta and featuring Slumberloft synthetic insulation, this cold weather sleeping bag is rated to keep you warm at temperature up to -20F / -28C.  To increase heat retention, the Slumberjack Boundary sleeping bag has a contoured hood which can be cinched closed, or you have the option of turning it inside out so it will lie flat on warmer nights.  It also features dual zip sliders so you can easily adjust your body temperature as needed throughout the night.

This sleeping bag certainly is on the heavy side at 6.06lbs / 2.74 kgs, so if you’re after something lighter, you’ll need to choose one of the other sleeping bags in this guide.  Nevertheless, for the price, this sleeping bag is a great option for staying warm on those cold camping nights.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or

 

6. Best Budget Winter Sleeping Bag: Coleman North Rim

If you are not a regular camper, you may not be able to justify spending a lot on a sleeping bag but there are plenty of best value winter sleeping bag options available at great prices too.

This mummy-style sleeping bag is 100% polyester and polyester fill and can keep adults warm in conditions as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17C). It also has a Semi-sculpted hood that you can tighten by pulling on a drawstring to help trap warm air inside and insulate yourself better.   It fits most people up to 6 feet 2 inches in height and also has an insulated foot box to keep your feet nice and toasty. This, combined with the quilting construction and Thermolock draft tube to increase warmth and heat retention, making it a super warm and cozy sleeping bag.

Another great feature of this sleeping bag is the ZipPlow system that pulls away the fabric to prevent it from being caught in the material and snagging while zipping.

The Coleman North Rim is one of the best cheap winter sleeping bag options with all the usual great features you would expect in a good quality sleeping bag.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or 

 

7. Mountain Hardwear Ratio

There are so many choices when you are looking to buy the best lightweight winter sleeping bag but another good option is the Mountain Hardwear Ratio 32F/0C – Graphite Long Left Hand Zip sleeping bag.

This synthetic sleeping bag is made with Q.Shield Down and 650 fill down that also has an advanced treatment applied to it that helps to retain maximum loft in damp conditions and resists heat robbing moisture and is suitable for temperatures of up to -9 degrees C (15F).   The mummy cut of this sleeping bag is both comfortable and super warm while also minimizing weight you need to carry on your camping trips. The Unique Thermo Trap Baffle locks down into smaller chambers for even loft height, less down migration and an overall more consistent warmth.

Other great features of this sleeping bag are the down-filled face gasket that blocks drafts at the hood opening, insulated draft tube and anti-snag panel that helps to prevent cold spots along the zipper.

This is one of the best lightweight warm sleeping bags and is available in blue or red colour.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews.

 

8. Therm-A-Rest Questar

The Therm-A-Rest Questar is a 20 degree F (-6C) lightweight mummy style sleeping bag made with down.

This warm lightweight sleeping bag is made from 650-fill power Nikwax-treated Hydrophobic Goose Down which is water resistant and will dry up to 3 times faster than untreated down in the chance that it might get wet.   The Reflective ThermaCapture seams help to trap in the body heat and the zoned insulation concentrates on fill at the top of the sleeping bag to capture all the warm air rising.

There are removable connectors that integrate the sleeping bag with a sleeping pad to help prevent shifting and sliding during sleep and eliminate cold spots.   These warm, lightweight sleeping bags only weigh 2 lbs 7 oz (1.2kgs) each and packs down to 9 x 14 inches.  Other great features of these lightweight winter sleeping bags are the storage bag and stuff sack that come with this sleeping bag.

When looking for lightweight sleeping bags for cold weather, be sure to check out the Therm-A-Rest Questar.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or 

 

9. Browning Camping 0 Degree Sleeping Bag

If you are after a larger size sleeping bag to keep you extra warm on a cold night, you will love the Browning Camping McKinely.

This is a tapered shaped sleeping bag, so it is designed to be extra warm whilst providing you with plenty of room to move around. This sleeping bag is 36 inches wide and 90 inches long for a comfortable sleep for even the tallest camper with many customers over 6 foot claiming the sleeping bag fitted them perfectly.

This sleeping bag is made from durable 210T nylon, a brushed polyester liner and filled with 7 denier TechLoft Silver insulation.  The two layer construction of this sleeping bag traps the heat inside and helps to keep you nice and warm.   For easy transportation, this Browning sleeping bag comes with a compression sack and roll up straps.

At 8 lbs (3.6 kg), this is certainly not the lightest sleeping bag in these, but perfect for those campers wanting a larger size sleeping bag.

Click here to check the price and read more reviews or

 

10. TETON Sports Celsius XL Sleeping Bag 

If you are after one of the best cheap cold weather sleeping bag options, that is lightweight and easy to carry on hiking trips, the TETON Sports Celsius is a great option to consider.

This sleeping bag provides ultimate comfort and warmth with soft poly-flannel lining, SuperLoft Elite fibre fill, double-layer construction and zipper and shoulder draft tubes that work together to keep the cold out and the warmth in.   The Half-circle mummy style hood helps to keep you warm and keeps your pillow clean while the main sleeping bag unzips on either side for easy access and maximum airflow.

Another great feature of this sleeping bag is the compression sack that allows you to stuff the sleeping bag into it, instead of having to try and roll it neatly to fit inside the bag.

This is a fantastic budget winter sleeping bag available in 4 different colour options.

Click here to check the price and to read more reviews or 

 

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