The Best Sleeping Bags for all Seasons

Learn about the different types of sleeping bags on the market, including shape, fill, shell and EN rating to help you find the best for you.

By Stephanie James

Summer means camping trips, and camping trips mean sleeping outside under the stars in a sleeping bag. While your camping mattress will protect your back and neck and provide some measure of insulation, your sleeping bag will provide most of the warmth and protection you need to get your best rest.

Here, we tell you how to choose the best sleeping bag for your purposes, what to look for in a sleeping bag, and give our recommendations for the best options available to make sure you sleep soundly when camping!

What To Look For In A Sleeping Bag

There are three main things you want in a sleeping bag: warmth, weight, and water resistance. Sleeping bags also come in a variety of sizes. It’s important to choose a sleeping bag in the correct size to promote body heat retention and eliminate unnecessary weight when packing. These elements are determined chiefly by the material and shape of the sleeping bag. Let’s look a bit more closely at the types of material and shapes available.

Shape

The shape of your sleeping bag partially determines its weight, ease of transport, and ability to retain body heat. Sleeping bags come in mummy, rectangular, semi-rectangular or barrel, and double-wide.

Mummy

Mummy sleeping bags are often the warmest. They contour to your body to retain heat and eliminate the weight of extra material, providing the best warmth-to-weight ratio of all sleeping bags. They often include a hood to keep your head warm. However, mummy sleeping bags don’t allow much extra space for moving around at night.

Rectangular

Rectangular bags are roomier, easy to roll up and transport, but tend to be less warm because they do not contour to your body as mummy bags do. They are also a bit heavier due to the excess material.

Semi-rectangular

Semi-rectangular sleeping bags are wider at the top and taper down around your feet. This construction makes them a bit more lightweight and warm than rectangular sleeping bags.

Double-wide

Double-wide bags are ideal for a co-sleeping experience. Sleeping bags are either made to be doublewide, sacrificing some insulation for the extra space or can be created by unzipping two rectangular bags with compatible zippers (one left zip and one right zip) and zipping them up together.

Materials

Sleeping bags are made up of three layers of material. The lining is the innermost layer which will touch your skin while you sleep. This layer should be breathable, so as not to trap moisture and gain odor. The fill provides insulation and warmth and gives the bag most of its weight. The shell is the outer layer which is exposed to the elements and protects the sleeping bag from water, rocks, and tears.

If you’re planning to bring your sleeping bag on a backpacking or hiking trip, weight and water resistance of the materials are especially important to consider. Let’s look at each layer of the sleeping bag a bit more closely, and break down the pros and cons of each material.

Types of Fill

There are two primary fills you will find in sleeping bags: down and synthetics.

Down: Down is made from goose or duck feathers. It is the warmest fill for sleeping bags, and has a high warmth to weight ratio as it is quite lightweight compared to the insulation it provides. It compresses when rolled up and fluffs up when unfurled. It’s good for hiking trips in colder or windy environments. However, down is not water resistant, and doesn’t provide insulation when wet. Down-filled sleeping bags are not machine washable and may provoke allergies.

Synthetic: Unlike down, synthetic fill provides insulation for the sleeper when it is wet, and dries much more quickly than down. Synthetic filled sleeping bags are hypoallergenic, but they are heavier and less compact when rolled up than down filled sleeping bags. They’re ideal for summer camping, rafting trips, or other trips where your sleeping bag may be exposed to humidity and moisture.

Types of Shells

Here’s a look at four different shell types you’ll find on sleeping bags:

Nylon & Polyester: Nylon and polyester are affordable shells for sleeping bags, but they are not very durable and tear easily. These are best for indoor camping, slumber parties, or car camping.

Ripstop: Ripstop is synthetic nylon or polyester material with heavier threads woven in to make the material more resistant to tears and moisture. It’s a good option for camping in the spring, summer and fall as it is breathable and doesn’t trap heat.

DryClime, Microfiber, Gossamer Micro: These are synthetic materials that are softer than Ripstop material. They’re strong and water resistant.

Dryloft: Dryloft is a breathable, water-resistant material which doesn’t let moisture seep through to the fill. It’s the best shell material for rafting, canoeing, or camping in environments where it might rain.

Types of Linings

Nylon & Polyester: Nylon and polyester are smooth, synthetic materials which are breathable and less likely to retain heat when you lie in one spot. This makes them a good choice for summer camping when it’s hot outside, even at night.

Fleece: Fleece is extremely soft and warm. If you’ve ever snuggled up under a fleece throw blanket, you know this material retains heat well. This is a good lining for hiking or camping in cooler environments, or for a sleeping bag which you’ll use indoors when your kids have their friends over for a sleepover.

Silk: Silk is often used as a lining in luxury, down-filled sleeping bags. It is smooth and breathable. It doesn’t trap heat, but it tears more easily than other linings. (If you love silk as much as we do, check out our guide to silk pillowcases!)

Cotton & Flannel: Cotton and flannel are warm and durable lining materials. They are very soft, but they trap moisture and aren’t great for sleeping humid, hot environments. Even though flannel isn’t a great choice for summer camping, it’s great for winter!

EN Rating

Manufacturers denote sleeping bag warmth using EN rating. EN stands for European Norm, the lowest temperature that the bag should be used in, independently tested. EN ratings are divided into three categories: comfort range, lower limit, and extreme range.

The EN comfort range is the temperature in which the typical “cold sleeper” sleeping in a relaxed posture will be comfortable.

The EN lower limit is the minimum temperature where the typical “warm sleeper” sleeping in a curled up posture will be comfortable.

The EN extreme range is the minimum temperature which a camper will survive, but will be extremely cold. We recommend choosing a sub-zero sleeping bag if you expect to camp in extreme conditions.

The Best Sleeping Bags

Now that you are up to speed on that to look for in a sleeping bag, check out our top picks!

  • Price: $219
  • Style: Mummy
  • Fill: Down
  • Shell: Nylon

Filled with 650-degree duck down, the Klymit KSB 20 3-Season Mummy Style sleeping bag weighs in a 2.75 lbs. It has an exaggerated mummy shape which provides extra wiggle room for your arms and is good for side sleeping. Constructed with stretch baffles which allow your legs to stay warm and allow movement. The outer nylon shell is treated with durable water repellent to make it waterproof and protect the down filling. Also, available on Amazon.

  • Price: $69
  • Style: Mummy
  • Fill: Synthetic
  • Shell: Ripstop

Coleman is known for making affordable camping gear, and this quilted mummy sleeping bag doesn’t disappoint. With a Ripstop shell and filled with synthetic ColeTherm-4 insulation, this bag is listed as resistant to extreme temperatures as low as 0F. This insulation is a trade-off for weight, as this bag weighs 5.8 pounds. It has many versatile features that make it appropriate for three-season camping, making it ideal for people who want one sleeping bag for all occasions. These features include a zipper foot box to provide ventilation on warmer nights, a drawstring hood which can be tightened for heat retention or left loose. However, for camping in extreme sub-zero temperatures, we would recommend getting a bag designed specifically for that use. However, it does feature a draft tube around the zipper, which prevents heat from escaping from around the zipper. This bag comes with a stuff sack for transport and storage and a 5-year warranty. Available on Amazon.


Best For Summer

REI Co-Op Siesta 30

  • Price: $99
  • Style: Rectangular
  • Fill: Synthetic
  • Shell: Polyester

The REI Co-Op Siesta 30 Sleeping bag is a quilted, rectangular sleeping bag and comes in Long, Regular, and Short sizes. Rectangular style bags are known for being roomy, and this bag provides comfort and space for side-sleepers or those prone to tossing and turning. The dual size-zip means this bag can be unzipped from the top or the bottom, or fully unzipped and used as a blanket on warmer nights. It can also be zipped to another sleeping bag for a co-sleeping experience. Filled with polyester with a polyester shell and lining, this bag weighs just over 3 llbs and comes with a half-compression bag, making it light enough for hikers who dislike the lack of room that mummy bags provide. Available on REI.com.

  • Price: $178
  • Style: Mummy
  • Fill: Down
  • Shell: Ripstop

The North Face 20 degree down sleeping bag is a mummy shaped bag specifically designed for camping in cold, wet climates. It is filled with down, specially treated to absorb less water and dry faster to keep sleepers dry and warm regardless of conditions. This bag also includes an anti-compression layer to protect the down filling when it is stuffed into the stuff sack, ensuring the down fluffs up and retains its warming abilities. It also has a hood and a draft collar to prevent heat loss. Weighing only two pounds, this is a water-resistant, warm bag for backpacking in a variety of climates and conditions. Available at Backcountry.com with a lifetime warranty.

  • Price: $22
  • Style: Rectangle
  • Fill: Synthetic
  • Shell: Polyester

An affordable polyester sleeping bag for kids is the RevalCamp Lightweight Sleeping Bag. With tons of color options, plush materials, and packing down to just two pounds. The stuff bag includes pull straps which allow the bag to be scrunched down and thrown into a backpack. It is appropriate for temperatures above 40 degrees, and best for indoor use or warm weather camping.


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