This post has been updated to reflect the best sleeping bags of 2014. Our earlier selections are on the following page.
You’ve got your summit day kit dialed in, your favorite pair of hiking shoes picked out, and you’re just about packed for the ultimate outdoor summer adventure. So when you get to your campsite after a long road trip of grueling hike into the wilderness, don’t get caught unrolling the same musty sleeping bag you used to surf couches back in your college days. These 10 sleeping bags bring the comfort of home to the dirt floors of the high country, and everywhere else, for that matter.
MORE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: SKI MOUNTAINEERING | MULTI-DAY HIKING | DIVING BELIZE
Marmot Always Summer
Best Summer Weight Sleeping Bag: Marmot’s sleeping bag line wins awards with every update, so it’s no surprise that the Always Summer, a 40-degree down bag, once again garnered a lot of praise from testers. Water repellent down, stretch baffles, and insulated zipper guards and draft collar make this the perfect bag for warm summer camping.
Eddie Bauer Airbender +20
Best New Technology: The guides and design team behind Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line have redefined lightweight with their new Airbender bag. At just over three pounds — including a built-in inflatable air pad — the combination Climashield and DownTek insulated, waterproof bag is the perfect lightweight expedition sleeping solution. It’s also the most expensive on our list, a fine example of getting what you pay for.
Nemo Tango Duo Slim 30
Best Bag For Couple’s Camping: We’ve all tried to zip a pair of conventional mummy bags together for some more “intimate” camping. The result? Uncomfortable sleeping and flaring tempers all night. The Tango Duo sleeping bag from Nemo is the camping equivalent of a full-sized bed. It comes complete with a slip cover to attach any two 20-inch-wide sleeping pads, which fit inside the bag; because it has a backless design, it packs down to the same size and weight of a traditional bag. It’s an ideal solution for those who want to stay active off the trail, too.
Western Mountaineering TerraLite
Best Made-in-America Sleeping Bag: When you start talking to the ultralight climbing and thru hiking crowd about their sleeping arrangements, a handful of brands make the cut. Western Mountaineering’s ExtremeLite series of sleeping bags are without a doubt part of that elite set. Featuring 850+ fill power down, microlight 12- and 15-denier nylon shell fabric and a dual zipper (plus foot box zipper), the TerraLite is a perfect bag for campers who want a superb bag weighing less than two pounds. Did we mention all their bags are handmade in the USA?
Kifaru Slick Bag
Best Sleeping Bag For Hunters: Colorado-based Kifaru got their start in 1978, and the Slick Bag harnesses their decades of hunting and tactical innovation. Featuring RhinoSkin shell and lining that the company says will stand up to boots-in-bag use, continuous Climashield insulation along the whole body, expanded shoulder space and extra-wide foot boxes, the Slick Bag is an excellent extreme conditions bag.
You’ll find all kinds of features and specifications in the search for your next bag, but the following three variables are what matter. Keep an eye out for them.
Temperature Rating: This one’s obvious. Choose your bag based on the coldest temperature you plan to be confronted with. The ratings are standardized based on the “EN Standard”.
Insulation Type: Down, synthetic, and now DriDown. Down is lightweight, breathable and compresses well — but pricey; synthetic is better for cold or wet conditions — and typically cheaper; DriDown is new and offers the best of both.
Weight vs Space: Choose based on what matters more to you or the conditions you plan to backpack in. You don’t want to carry a heavy load, but last we checked, a good night’s rest is critical on the trail.
Big Agnes Zirkel SL 20
Best Sleep System: We spotted the DownTek-treated Zirkel SL at Outdoor Retailer this winter and we’ve been excited about it ever since. Featuring an integrated sleeping pad sleeve along the bottom, the bag ensures you’ll never wake up alongside your padding rather than atop it. Pertex fabric, Insotect Flow Construction (for uniform heat distribution) and water-repellent down round the Zirkel out as a perfect bag for wet environments.
Best Sleeping Bag For Extreme Weather: REI’s -20 degree Expedition bag is a true four-season bed. A double zipper system allows you stay comfortable in any temperature; unzip the inner zipper to reveal a little extra space and dump heat, or keep both zippers closed when you’re high above the treeline. Water-repellent down and face fabric, as well as an independent hood and collar closure, firmly plant the Expedition as a powerhouse for heat retention. It might be overkill this summer, but if you’re heading anywhere high altitude, you’ll thank us while your partners shiver all night.
Ticla Rambler 15/25
Best Sleeping Bag for Car Camping: Loading up the car with all your best gadgets and extras for a night near your favorite lake or the festival grounds? Throw in the Rambler. It’s reversible, with different temperature ratings for each side, so you’ll be prepared for any weather through summer and fall. It’s also designed to be stuffed in Ticla’s G.O.O.D. system, which means you pack the bag, pad and miscellaneous gear into one camp-ready kit.
The North Face Mercurial 1S
Best Fast and Light Sleeping Bag: Weighing in under two pounds, the Mercurial 1S is perfect for ultralight fastpackers and hammock campers. The semi-rectangular cut has extra room to fit a liner bag ($109+) for extra warmth (it’s rated at 45 degrees alone, so you’ll probably need the liner most of the year). The Primaloft Sport insulation is wicking, so even humid nights or desert camping will be comfortable year-round. As a bonus, both the Mercurial and its liner unzip to lay flat for blanket or comforter use around camp.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800
Editor’s Pick: A zipperless sleeping bag? It may seem a little strange at first, but the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed’s unique comforter top is the most versatile and comfortable sleeping bag we’ve used in years. The inner comforter can be tucked in or folded out for different temperatures, and the foot vent, hand pockets, and sleeping pad sleeve make it an effortless favorite. Sierra Design’s 800 fill DriDown is the finishing touch for a three-season bag weighing in at only two and half pounds.
Click through to the next page for last year’s selection.
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