Backcountry Digs at Their Finest

The Best Sleeping Bags of 2016


April 24, 2014 Buying Guides By
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Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect our selections for 2016. Our earlier selections, from 2015 and 2014, 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 once used while couch-surfing back in your college days. These great sleeping bags bring the comfort of home to the dirt floors of the high country, and everywhere else, for that matter.

Additional contribution by AJ Powell and Matt Neundorf.

Down

The best feather-filled bags.

Nemo Salsa 30

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Nemo’s Salsa 30 features a unique spoon shape. The hourglass-shaped bag allows for users to more easily roll around in the bag and sleep in any configuration comfortably. It also features water-resistant DownTek down and stretch stitching in the baffles — which lets the bag shape and move to your body position more readily.

Feathered Friends Swift UL 20

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Seattle based Feathered Friends has been making quality down garments and sleeping bags since the 1970’s (we’re big fans of their down booties). Its Swift UL 20 is the an ultra-lightweight bag designed to pack down to almost nothing while still offering the finest materials available like Pertex Endurance UL fabric on the outside and 900+ fill down on the inside.

Western Mountaineering MegaLite

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Western Mountaineering crafts some of the best down sleeping bags on the market. It is technically cut to fit a larger frame, but even if you are smaller, it allows for more room to move around inside without an extra weight penalty. The tech here, aside from its incredibly light weight of one pound, eight ounces, is in the draft collar. The collar helps to block out any wind and drafts that try to work their way inside your fortress of warmth.

Marmot Ion 20

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Marmot’s new Ion is filled with 850+ fill power hydrophobic down, which helps to mitigate down’s biggest downfall — that it loses insulation when wet. It also has an optimized insulation layout; the baffles are body mapped to provide more heat where you need it most. It also offers an anatomically designed footbox, which increases comfort.

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed Elite 850

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Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed features one of the more unique sleeping bag designs on the market. It is essentially a flat quilt that wraps up around your body and has a blanket attached. The design is odd at first, but after testing, it is incredibly comfortable and is one of the best backcountry sleeps you can get short of bringing a massive air mattress and comforter. The Elite 850 version is the top-of-the-line model featuring technology like 850-fill duck DriDown and 10D ripstop nylon.

Synthetic

The best alternatives to duck and goose.

Eddie Bauer Igniter 20

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Part of the Ascent series, Eddie Bauer’s Igniter 20 features lofty Climashield Apex synthetic insulation that will keep you toasty all the way down to 20 degrees. It also features a Pertex ripstop nylon outer that helps to repel water in the event of an unexpected shower.

Montbell Burrow Bag #3

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As far as synthetic sleeping bags go, Montbell makes some of the best, at super affordable prices. The Burrow Bag #3 is rated to 30 degrees, which makes it extremely versatile. It also features spiraled baffles with stretch stitching to move and conform to your body, eliminating dead spots in the insulation.

The North Face Aleutian 20

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At $110, you can’t go wrong with the Aleutian 20. It features The North Face’s Heatseeker Eco synthetic insulation, which is composed of 30 percent post-consumer recycled material, so you can go camping with a clean conscience.

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Spark 34

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In the Spark 34, Mountain Hardwear uses its proprietary Thermal Q insulation, which is lauded for its stellar weight-to-warmth ratio. It is also packed with other tech, like zoned insulation that maximizes warmth where it’s needed most and a Lamina construction that eliminates cold spots caused by traditional stitching.

Big Agnes Cross Mountain 45

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Don’t be fooled by its hoodless appearance. The Big Agnes Cross Mountain is the pocketknife of sleeping bags. At a 40-degree temperature rating, it can be combined with a warmer bag for colder temperatures or used on its own as a summer weight kit. Its quilted construction is comfortable and warm. If you wish to combine it with a sleeping-bag liner, interior loops help to lock it down and keep it in place inside the bag.

Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame 20

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With proprietary seam-welded construction, the HyperLamina Flame 20 is designed to eliminate unintended venting that permeates conventional bags. Its synthetic and lofty Thermal.Q insulation is rated to keep you warm until 21 degrees Fahrenheit with strategically placed zones, while maintaining incredible compressibility. And at only 2 pounds, 10 ounces, it won’t bog you down on the trail.

Sea to Summit Spark Sp III

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All of Sea to Summit’s products take packability to the extreme. The Spark Sp III is no different: Packed down into its stuff-sack, this 850-fill power bag eats up less space than most tool rolls and provides enough warmth to keep riders who hit the high altitudes cozy and content. Its hydrophobic Ultra-Dry Down internals and DWR-treated shell also mean it won’t turn to mush in a downpour.

REI Lumen

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At under $200, the REI Lumen delivers Ritz Carlton comfort for Days Inn dollars. Its double rip-stop nylon shell is abrasion- and water-resistant and has an overlapping layer construction, and the contoured hood features an insulated face muffler. Roomier dimensions, especially in the shoulders and hips, make this bag a great choice for tossers and turners.

Rab Expedition 1400

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Built to keep blood flowing in mountaineers hitting 8,000-meter summits, zipping up the Rab Expedition 1400 is even warmer than sliding into a Taunton — and it smells better, too. That’s thanks to 1,400 grams of Nikwax-developed hydrophobic, fluorocarbon-free, 850-fill power goose down lining its Pertex shell. A roomier fit allows maneuvers with your full climbing kit still in tow and further lends to its -40 degrees Celsius thermal rating. Longitudinal baffles are employed to keep those feathers at bay, which are hand filled in Derbyshire, England (as is proper).

Marmot Always Summer

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Marmot’s sleeping bag line wins awards with every update, so it’s no surprise that the Always Summer, a down bag rated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, 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

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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

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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.

Kifaru Slick Bag

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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.

REI Expedition

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REI’s -20 degree Fahrenheit 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 tree line. 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.

The North Face Mercurial 1S

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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 Silver 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.

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