The Best Camping Sleeping Bag Review

What the best product for general-purpose uses like camping and sleepovers? To find out we tested over 70 different models all types, sizes, and styles in an epic multi-year camping spree. This review compares 15 general-purpose bags for car camping, crashing on your friend's living room floor and sleeping out of your '73 EuroVan. We ranked each bag on comfort, warmth, features and packed size. Our awards identify the best all-purpose, the best value and the warmest bag for its price.

Going fast and light? Check out our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review, which compares 37 of the highest quality lightweight bags available. Also check out our Women's Sleeping Bag Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Camping Sleeping Bags Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Slumberjack Country Squire 20
Slumberjack Country Squire 20
Read the Review
Video video review
Wenzel Grande
Wenzel Grande
Read the Review
L.L. Bean Katahdin 20
L.L. Bean Katahdin 20
Read the Review
Marmot Trestles 15
Marmot Trestles 15
Read the Review
Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20
Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Street Price $189
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$83
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$180Varies $82 - $129
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $97 - $140
Compare at 5 sellers
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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Pros Impressively warrm, widest and longest bag tested, most comfotable bag tested, room for two people, removable cotton sheet, zips to another bag for double width fun, very strong zipper, canvas shell fabric is less slippery than nylon or polyester, duffelWarmest bag for the price, adjustable straps secure bag for storage and travel better than most other bags.Warmest general purpose bag tested, better materials and construction than most other synthetic mummy bags, passive draft collar seals out cold air.Two zippers gives mated bags ecellent ventilation.Lightweight, inexpensive, anti-snag zipper.
Cons Heaviest sleeping bag tested, canvas shell material is less water resistant than polyester or nylon, rolls into a large duffel bag but can pack twice as small, no hood or neck drawcord, can get twisted in removable sheet.Flannel lining can be too hot for warm summer nights, lack of draft tube on zipper lets in cold air.Cut is wide in the chest and tight in the legs. Most expensive general purpose bag tested.Very heavy, very bulky, other general purpose bags offer better value.Budget rectangular bags offer better value.
Best Uses Camping, around the house, as a queen sized blanket.Cold weather camping, around the house, as a queen sized blanket.Cold weather car camping.Car camping, general use.Budget car camping and backpacking.
Date Reviewed Sep 12, 2012Oct 18, 2012Oct 30, 2012Nov 05, 2012Nov 06, 2012
Weighted Scores Slumberjack Country Squire 20 Wenzel Grande L.L. Bean Katahdin 20 Marmot Trestles 15 Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20
Warmth - 35%
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Product Specs Slumberjack Country Squire 20 Wenzel Grande L.L. Bean Katahdin 20 Marmot Trestles 15 Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Wenzel Conquest
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Wenzel Grande
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REI Travel Sack 55
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L.L. Bean Katahdin 20
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Mountain Hardwear Pinole 20
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Marmot Trestles 15
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Eureka Dual Temp 30/50
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REI Siesta 35
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REI Polar Pod 25
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Kelty Mistral 20
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Slumberjack Esplanade 20
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Sierra Designs Wild Bill 20
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Kelty Eclipse 30
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Coleman White Water Cool Weather 40
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Product Selection
This review aims to identify the best all-purpose product for use everywhere, and anywhere, except on multi-day backpacking trips. We tested 15 bags of a variety of types and styles. All bags have synthetic insulation, weigh three pounds or more and cost less than $180. They are ideal for car camping, picnics, or just keeping in the closet for the unexpected guest.

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General purpose = four types, left to right: rectangular (most comfortable), hooded rectangular (moderately warm), hooded mummy (warmest), and hood-less mummy (moderately warm, least comfortable)
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Different Types
General purpose models come in mummy and rectangular shapes. Rectangular bags are the largest, heaviest and most comfortable type of bag. Mummy shaped bags generally have a hood to seal in warm air and a tapered cut that saves weight and makes the bag more thermally efficient. For most general use applications we believe rectangular bags offer greater performance than mummy bags, and, more often than not they're also a better value. We believe the two main reasons to get a general use mummy bag are: (1) warmth, because mummies are warmer, and (2) packed size, because the smaller the bag the more room you have in your car for other things. Otherwise, rectangular bags are more comfortable and can be nearly as warm. We also tested several semi-rectangular bags, which aim to combine the the efficiency of a mummy bag with the comfort of a rectangular bag.

Synthetic Insulation
All bags tested here use synthetic insulation made of thin polyester filaments. Synthetic insulation is heavier, bulkier and less durable than down. It's the insulation type of choice for general purpose bags because it's much more affordable than down and can be washed in any washing machine without expensive detergent made specifically for down. If you aren't carrying the bag backpacking, then there's no need to pay top dollar for low weight and compressibility.

Nylon or Cotton Interior Lining
One of the huge advantages of a camping sleeping bag is the option for a cotton liner. Few backpacking sleeping bags use cotton because it's heavy and sucks away your warmth if it gets wet. But cotton linings are much cozier than nylon or synthetic linings. When camping near the car, there is a low chance your bag will get wet and weight is not an issue. When you can, choose cotton (or another natural and cozy material). After all, who uses synthetic nylon sheets on their bed? Nobody. Nylon is more slippery and typically holds odor. The right cotton, whether flannel or standard, can feel like bringing your favorite bed sheets to the outdoors. Yes, you will probably sleep fine in the typical nylon-lined bag, but but why sleep fine when you can experience epic slumber.

The Bottom Line: Stop Using a Backpacking Sleeping Bag Outside of the Backcountry
We are surprised how many people use backpacking sleeping bags when the don't have to. Actually we are not that surprised because before we did this review, we often used backpacking bags for car camping. Then we saw the light. Backpacking bags are light, cool and display just how sweet an outdoorsman you are to sleepover guests. But otherwise, they really just belong in, well, your Backpacking Backpack. A big and cozy cotton-lined bag blows away the backpacking option any time that weight and size are not a concern. Best of all, the camping bags in this review are less expensive than lightweight options, much less expensive. If you take one thing away from this review it is this: when camping near the car or home, use the tool that was designed for that purpose: the biggest and coziest rectangular bag you can find.

History
Sleeping bags have been used for centuries by militaries around the world and alpine adventurers exploring new regions. In the 1850s, French military used a system that conveniently rolled up into a knapsack. They opened at one end and were essentially body length bags of sheepskin lined with wool. The knapsack design was utilized for officials who were constantly on the move and in need of a way to stay warm while on patrol.

In 1861, alpine explorer Francis Fox Tuckett tested a sleeping system that utilized a rubber coated fabric on the bottom for remaining dry and adding insulation; this design was the prototype for alpine style sleeping bags and they were marketed until the 1920s.

Up until 1876, they were only open at the top. In 1876, the Euklisia Rug, designed by Pryce Jones, was brought to market, specifically for Russian military. This new design was a wool rug that folded over your body and fastened on the side. It had a sewn in pocket for an inflatable rubber pillow or for stuffing with clothes or straw for cushioning. This design reached production of 60,000 units. When the Russian Army no longer needed their entire order of Euklisia Rugs, Pryce Jones began selling them in catalogs; he marketed them to charities and shelters as suitable bedding for the needy but also fulfilled orders to the British military and Australians who camped in the Outback.

The evolution continued with the design of down feather filled sleeping bags. In 1892, Alfred Mummery, well known for his alpine ascents in the Alps, recorded use by himself and his team of mountaineers. A London furnishing company fulfilled special custom orders of these specifically for mountaineering expeditions. The designs came from the Alpine Club and when mountaineers or explorers returned from their trips, they would provide feedback to enhance the design.

Around the same time period, Ajungilak and Woods of Canada manufactured sleeping bags for commercial use; Ajungilak is the oldest manufacturer for commercial production.
In the 1920s, they began seeing more commercial production and use for alpine and mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. And, until the mid to late 1930s they all were constructed of animal fibers including camel hair, natural plant matter including seeds, down feathers, and animal hides.
Synthetic materials began to shift the construction processes and designs from the 1930s up through the 1960s. Synthetic materials were used to lower the cost of many outdoor gear products and made an effort to mimic the qualities of down feathers and other animal based materials. With synthetic materials and treatments, breathability could be added to a design that would otherwise gather condensation.

At this point in time, sleeping bags had a global presence. They had evolved from animal hide bags to comfortable wool bags to down filled bags to synthetic bags and synthetic outers. Elaborating the sleeping system to include bivouac sacks (outer covers) and sleeping pads for added insulation and comfort had become common knowledge for enduring the elements. The evolution was influenced strongly by mountaineers who were pioneering exploration of the continents greatest mountain ranges and by militaries spending months outdoors and on the move. The design shapes also began to change from literal bag shaped to rectangular bags to mummy bags that were anatomically curved. Today, mummy bags are most common for adventure use and rectangular sizes are still common for car camping.

During all of this evolution in material design, temperature research was also underway. Ratings have been based on one of four ratings developed by the EN: Upper Limit, Comfort rating, Lower Limit, and Extreme rating. The EN is the European Norm which are standards based on research that began in the 1920s and continues today. The EN rating system intends to set a standard for sleeping bag manufacturers although they are not yet widely accepted across the board. Due to a wide range of considerations including different body types, different levels of conditioning, men and women, and accuracies in testing, the ratings are not standard but serve as a guideline for comfort. The ratings are defined as follows:

Upper Limit: based on the average man, this is the highest degree to which one can have a comfortable nights sleep without sweating.
Comfort rating: based on an average woman, this is the range for a comfortable nights sleep.
Lower Limit: based on the average man, this is the lowest temperature for a comfortable nights sleep.
Extreme rating: based on the absolute lowest temperature that the average woman can survive for a short period of time (6-8 hours).

These ratings and limits were developed around thermal mannequins that simulate a person sleeping. The air temperature, humidity, metabolic heat output, insulation from the ground, skin temperature, and body temperature could all be measured through these tests. To date, sleeping bag and outdoor clothing manufacturers utilize these testing methods to base their designs and ratings on.

Year after year, modern sleeping bags encompass the latest design in synthetic and down materials to offer a sleeping system that is lightweight, or waterproof, or warm in this environment or comfortable in that environment. The goal is to regulate body temperature for a comfortable nights sleep. This is achieved through maximizing comfort while reducing air space. Mummy bags were designed, and continue to be designed, to form fit the body so there is little air space to lose heat. The less dead air space, the more retained heat. Recent designs are little altered from century old designs, but they are savy to scientific data on how to retain heat while remaining breathable and while utilizing high tech fabrics and down.


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Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.
Credit: Max Neale
Criteria for Evaluation
We evaluated each product based on its comfort, warmth, features and packed size.

Comfort
Comfort is king with general-purpose bags. Almost all of the models tested are equally if not more comfortable than the most comfortable backpacking and winter bags we've tested. This is primarily due to the fact that with general use bags, weight is not an obstacle for design. The wider and longer, the more comfortable it is! Insulation on the bottom of the bag also contributes to comfort by adding cushion to your sleeping pad. The most comfortable bag we've ever tested, by a long shot, is the Slumberjack Country Squire. This bag is wide enough (42") to fit two cozy people inside and long enough (84") to cover the heads of our six-foot tall testers. The Country Squire is also the only bag we've tested that has a removable cotton sheet, which is an excellent feature for hot summer nights and keeping the bag clean. The REI Travel Sack, occasionally used indoors, is the least comfortable bag tested.

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The Slumberjack County Squire, the most comfortable bag we've ever tested, fits two people and has a removable sheet.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Warmth
The majority of contenders tested here are not as warm as their manufacturers claim. Without clothing they're best for summer use. A few, however, are capable of keeping you cozy below freezing. The primary three factors that influence warmth are loft (depth of insulation), shape (mummy or rectangular), and construction type (sewn-through or not). Although some types of synthetic insulation are warmer, more durable and more hydrophobic than others, more loft is always warmer than less loft. The contoured shape of a mummy bag is warmer than a rectangular bag because it reduces dead air spaces that form when a bag is too big for you. The warmest bags are those that leave only a small amount of space for you to move around in. (The less air you need to heat up the better, yet a bag that's tight and restricting won't loft properly.) Most of the mummy bags tested here have hoods, which add warmth and reduce the need to wear hooded clothing or a hat when temperatures approach the bag's limit. Rectangular shapes are the coldest type of bag, so wearing a hat, hood, or tucking your head into the bag can be key to staying warm when it's cold out.

Construction type also contributes to a bag's warmth. "Sewn-through" bags, the majority of those tested here, sandwich insulation between two pieces of fabric and have stitching that pierces the bag's three layers. This is the fastest, lightest, and most cost effective way to make them (and any insulated garment), but it's also the worst at keeping you warm (air escapes through the seams and there's less loft around the seams). Alternating the stitching, so that the seams don't line up, or laminating the insulation to the shell fabrics, which eliminates the need for stitching entirely, are two warmer ways construct them. Although other bags claim to be rated to 15 degrees, we found the L.L. Bean Katahdin 20 to be the warmest bag tested in this category. The REI Travel Sack was the least warm. OutdoorGearLab is in the process of designing and developing quantitative methods to test insulation values through a combination of manikin skin-temp probes (inside the test piece) and thermal imaging to look at heat loss (outside surface of the bag).

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Sewn-through construction, shown here on the Western Mountaineering Highlite, is the cheapest and lightest form of construction. Stitching passes through both shell fabrics and doesn't insulate as well as box baffles found on warmer and heavier bag
Credit: Max Neale
Features
Here we assessed important features such as fabrics, zippers, hood design, pull cords and evaluate the performance of any unique features. Features can turn a good bag into a great bag or reduce the performance of a great bag to a good bag. Zipper quality is critical to the bags tested here. Many of the budget bags, those that cost $50 and under, have low quality zippers that fail faster than better zippers found on backpacking and winter bags. The ability to stuff and store is also important, yet some bags come with inadequate storage sacks. For example, the Kelty Eclipse has a gigantic and only moderately useful duffel style storage sack that's permanently attached to the bottom of the bag. This is the only bag we've ever tested with this feature, and our testers found it to be so cumbersome they cut it off. The bag with the best features is either the Slumberjack Country Squire (which has the strongest zipper we've ever tested, a removable sheet, and a durable canvas fabric that doesn't slip off sleeping pads) or the L.L. Bean Katahdin, which incorporates many high quality features typically found on $400+ backpacking bags.

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Rectangular shape doubles as queen sized blankets. The Sumberjack County Squire, shown here, has a removable sheet and serves as a warm winter blanket for house guests, or for you.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
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The bombproof Slumberjack County Squire zipper (left) compared to the much less durable, and more prone to getting stuck, zipper on the Kelty Mistal.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Packed Size
Packed size is important because the amount of space inside our vehicles is limited. The most compact product tested here is the REI Travel Sack 50. The bulkiest tested is the Slumberjack Country Squire, which has a packed volume roughly equivalent to the size of three basketballs.

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size comparison, from left to right: Slumberjack County Squire 20, Wenzel Conquest 30, Kelty Cosmic Down 20, REI Travel Sack 55, and Katabatic Gear Palisade 30.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Check Out Backpacking Bags Before You Decide
If you think backpacking might also be of interest to you, either now or in the future, we urge you to take a look at our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review, and in particular check out the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 before you make your final decision. The Kelty Cosmic won our Best Buy award for Backpacking, but it also is a terrific choice for camping, a slumber party, or any other general purpose. Reasonably priced, warm and comfy, it is a model that can handle a wider range of activities than many similarly priced bags found in this category. While we included it in the Backpacking category due to it's high performance design and low weight, it is one bag we think can stand toe-to-toe with the lower cost camping bags. Although, for camping trips you can spend less and still get what you need, the Kelty Cosmic's higher performance and expanded functionality may well be worth the extra investment.

Editors' Choice award: Slumberjack Country Squire
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Slumberjack County Squire
Credit: Slumberjack
Sleeping in the Slumberjack Country Squire is the camping equivalent of checking into the Library Suite at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel. It's amazingly luxurious and also rustic. The Country Squire is the longest and widest we've tested; it fits people of all shapes and sizes and even has space for two average size people! Hog it for yourself or spoon with someone else. Several of our testers used it on hard ground without a sleeping pad it's that cushy. The 20 degree version kept us warm to around freezing and we loved the removal cotton sheet, a unique feature. This is the premium general purpose bag for those that value comfort, quality and longevity. For two people, we recommend that you buy two, unzip both completely and lay one on top of the other. We can't think of a more comfortable sleeping situation for two people.

The only downsides are the massive size and we had the cotton sheet liner get tangled up, especially with two people. The liner is removable and if space is a consideration, consider a giant compression stuff sack. Alternately, you can you use the included duffel bag/stuff sack to store other items on your trips, such as a full-sized pillow (the duffel bag/stuff sack is a loose fit with lots of space). The upside to the massive size is you may be able save some space (and money) by leaving the sleeping pad at home. If the sleeping surface is warm and soft enough, you might be plenty comfortable. We were okay sleeping without a sleeping pad on decks, docks, sand, pine needles, soft dirt and, of course, carpet.

Best Buy award: Wenzel Conquest
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Wenzel Conquest 25
Credit: Wenzel
We selected the Wenzel Conquest as our best value winner because it's warmer and more comfortable than all of the other ultra budget bags we tested. This offers substantially more warmth and is much more durable than $20 bags and it's also more comfortable and much cheaper than the "budget" bags from companies like REI. The Conquest offers a comfortable rectangular shape, soft felt lining, and three-season warmth for less than $50. Keep in mind that this is still a budget bag; it's warm for summer use but not viable in spring and fall nights that dip close to or below freezing.

Top Pick Award for Warmth: Wenzel Grande
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Wenzel Grande sleeping bag.
Credit: Wenzel
The Wenzel Grande is uniquely positioned between the Country Squire and the Conquest in that it's capable of frosty mornings and it's also very affordable. Consider this bag if you sleep really cold or plan to camp in the 30s, and don't want to cough up the extra cash for Country Squire. This bag offers the most amount of warmth for the lowest price.

Dream Camping Gear List
Check out our Dream Camping Gear List to see OGL's "dream" camping gear items. Also see our Camping Mattress Review.

Testing Location Notes
We used the contenders on the beach, in our cars and truck beds, in campgrounds and on the floor for when friends crashed out. We used these with and without sleeping pads. While the category is camping sleeping bags, we see these bags as just as useful around the house for guests. The big bags especially are less like sleeping bag and more like the ultimate poofy flannel sheet set. These are also idea for picnics and beach BBQs because they are relatively easy to clean (if your washing machine is big enough).

We have been continuously testing these over three years while driving, flying and camping all over the western United States. Some of our testers lived the dream (aka, stopped working much and lived on the road for months at a time). One tester even went a full two years on the road! We also compared our testing here to experiences with backpacking and ultralight sleeping options.

A sample of the testing locations: our houses, Lake Tahoe beaches, Yosemite campground, lawn camping in Carbondale CO, picnics on Donner Lake docks, star gazing on Mt. Tam and Baja surf trips.

Chris McNamara
Buying Advice
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How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag

by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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