We’ve spent enough nights while in the military shivering ourselves to sleep, and sometimes not sleeping at all. This however, was not our choice. When departing for a trip in the backcountry, enjoyment is high up the priority list with the choice of equipment all our own.
Consequently, we’ve created this guide to help you find the best sleeping bags both for warm weather and cold weather, to ensure you get the most out of your future trips.
Nailing down ‘the best’ sleeping bag is rather difficult, like many things in life, your choice of bag should be tailored to the conditions you will be deploying it in. Once you know the environment in which you wish to operate and thus level of warmth required, further considerations include volumetric size, weight, fill and waterproofing to name but a few.
The two most popular fills today are either down or synthetic. Down bags offer unparalleled lightness and warmth however, become troublesome when met with particularly damp conditions. Conversely, synthetic bags boast better performance in damp conditions (think snowholing etc.) but offer a less creditable warmth:weight ratio.
Ultimately the accomplished exped junkie would have 2 or 3 bags to account for a range of environmental scenarios, respecting the priorities of warmth, weight and comfort.
Below are in our opinion, the best sleeping bags currently available for both warm and cold conditions. To cover all bases, we’ve also included a compromise option – that would suit a temperate climate somewhere in between the two.
Weight: 454g Filling: Goose Down Temperature: +4°C
Simply the best sleeping bag for warm climates or summer camping.
The Ghost Whisperer is not a new bag, it is however still unmatched for its lightweight design and very compressible construction, allowing a very tight pack. A renowned name among inner circles, it offers a 900-fill power goose down internal filling allowing a mega warmth:weight ratio at only 454g. Mountain Hardwear made the great choice of then protecting it with ‘QShield’ which markedly mitigates the damp issues we’ve had in wetter environments.
The package is then completed with 7x10D Ripstop allowing a confident straddling of the two/three-season category, with a lower rating of +4°C
In our opinion the Ghost Whisperer shines brightest in the alpine mountaineering role due to its sheer portability. This bag has proven itself time and time again to be the top choice for warmer environments.
Weight: 1520g Filling: Goose Down Temperature: -18°C
Combat extreme cold with extreme comfort, the best choice for bitter nights.
Cold? What cold. Sleep doesn’t get better than when nestled in one of these thick beasts. The feature-rich Nordisk Celcius -18 performs so admirably at the lower extremes with thanks to its internal European 600+ fill goose down. Nordisk have then employed a pairing of 30D Nylon and 30D R/S Polyester for the lining and outer shell respectively. This creates a silky soft inner environment and an effective water-repellent outer. The handy inner pocket is a great place for any batteries or particularly cold prone devices and the zipper draft tube construction ensures the cold remains outside.
The comfort and warmth does however come at a cost of increased weight, of course. Although we’d argue that you’ll be hard pressed to find a bag offering the same performance for a lighter weight penalty. The included two-in-one compressor bag does a good job of minimising its packed volume too.
We’ve taken this bag down to around -6°C without any problems at all, presumably it would keep you unaware of the cold until about the -10°C mark – a fine feat.
Weight: 907g Filling: Goose Down Temperature: -6°C
When faced with more temperate climes, this is your best bet.
Lofty, warm and light. The Klymit KSB 20 works well for three-season expeditions, a true jack of all trades. The choice of 20D Ripstop allows light and compressible advantages, with 650-fill power duck down internals for fantastic warmth for its moderate weight. Impedance of thermal performance is again mitigated by an effective water-repellent coating.
A nice feature of the KSB is the half-moon foot box that allows lots of room to wiggle about and the ability to use certain sleeping pads inside the bag. The zipper is also thoughtfully designed with no snagging to be seen and an internal pocket present for small items.
Look no further for a true all-rounder.
So there you have it, our three favourites that should see you suitably accommodated across the environmental spectrum.
Inspire yourself and accompany your new sleeping bag with one of these top reviewed pieces of equipment from our post: Part 1: Best Outdoor Gear Picks for 2018
To help you in your purchasing and decision making process, here are a few thoughts that you may want to consider when choosing your new bag:
– Sleeping bags are one of the heaviest personal items you carry, make sure to consider how you balance the priorities of warmth, weight and comfort and what’s right for you.
– Sleeping bags don’t create heat, they trap it. Remain cognoscente that greater amounts of interior space are harder for your body to warm up.
– Ratings are often misleading (exaggerated), allow for an extra 5-10°C from the limit rating to ensure a good experience.
– Be aware of the difference between limit and comfort ratings.
Down vs Synthetic
– Down is more expensive but has a better warmth:weight ratio and as such is the preferred choice. Synthetics perform better when wet.
Down Fill Power
– Higher fill power down weighs less and compresses more effectively, a rating below 600 may well work for a cold bag but should be avoided when looking for a summer bag even though it’s cheaper. You get what you pay for!
– Slim cut mummy bags can be very warm but make sure it’s not too restrictive for you or you’ll be opening the zip to move and letting the cold in.
We sincerely hope this has been of help to you, it’s always a pleasure to pass on our experiences to help enrich the outdoors community – we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.
See you on the mountain,