The Best Camping Sleeping Bag Review
What is the best camping sleeping bag? We tested nine models side-by-side every day for six months, through winter and spring, to find out. These roomy and affordable models are perfect for car camping, crashing on the floor or futon when the cabin bedrooms are full, or living in your converted van. Our testers spent lots of nights in below freezing temps, quite a few in the 40's, and everything in between during a Colorado to California (and back!) road trip. After hundreds of warm, cozy nights - and a few miserable ones - we rated each bag for warmth, comfort, features, and packed size. Our award winners represent the overall best bag, and the best values for warmth and all-around use.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Camping Sleeping Bag
Slumberjack Country Squire 0
Best Bang for the Buck
Kelty Callisto 20
Top Pick for Warmth
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Analysis and Test Results
While fun times around the campfire and discovering new trails are often the highlights of a weekend camping trip, getting a good night's sleep is key to having a great time. Camping sleeping bags have a lot more room inside than products designed for backpacking, and are less restrictive and therefore more comfortable. When camping close to your car or truck, your sleeping bag's weight is less important than how comfortable and warm it is. The products tested here are warm, comfortable, and affordable options for those trips when weight doesn't matter. These are the kind of affordable, easily laundered bags that can withstand a few sparks from the fire, a spilled mug of hot chocolate, or getting dragged through the dirt by the kiddos. Save your lightweight, and pricey, down bag for backpacking trips, and enjoy the coziness of one of these bags when car camping.
Our Buying Advice article discusses construction, design, and temperature ratings in more depth, and answers key questions to help you decide between the differing shapes and temperature ratings of these products. The individual review for each model identifies its best uses, details the score in each performance metric, and compares and contrasts each product to similar competitors. You'll find a thorough description of the evaluation metrics below, and the top scorers in each.
This review seeks to identify the best all-purpose products for use everywhere, and anywhere, except on backpacking trips. We tested nine bags of a variety of shapes and styles - all have synthetic insulation, weigh close to four pounds or more, and except for the Editors' Choice winner, cost less than $120. They are ideal for car camping, picnics, or just keeping in the closet for the unexpected guest. Lighter, more compressible bags with down insulation can be found in the several additional sleeping bag categories we test.
Synthetic-insulated mummy bags are a good match for folks that camp a lot, but want an inexpensive bag suitable for the occasional short backpacking trip.
Winter Down Bags
Ladies, you'll want check out our review of the Best Women's Sleeping Bags. Mummy bags designed for women are not only shaped a bit differently than men's bags, but spread the insulation around in proportions unique to a woman's need for warmth.
Big, roomy, comfortable, and affordable . these bags are a great choice for general use. If you need a sleeping bag, and you are not carrying it in a backpack into the backcountry, we feel the bags in this review are the best and most affordable option.
Even those of us that go on a lot of backpacking trips, often spend time camping right by our ride. Which means we get to enjoy luxuries: a big cooler and camp kitchen, cozy camp chairs, books, and a camping tent with standing room. Why not enjoy a roomy, cozy sleeping bag as well? Save your expensive, down backpacking bag for when you need it to head into the backcountry, and snuggle up in a comfy camping bag.
On any given weekend, there are likely 100 people camping close to their cars for every one person who hiked miles into the wilderness to camp and explore. Whether you're in a tent in the campground in one of our National Parks, or set up beside your truck and toy hauler out in the middle of nowhere, camping close to your ride means you can bring the luxuries. Why squeeze into an expensive, constricting, down bag when you have the room to bring a big 'ol comfy bag? Bring a camping mattress or a camp cot and live large. That's part of the fun of car camping.
RV, Van, or Truck
Travelling and living in a recreational vehicle has never been more popular. Nothing beats an extended road trip and nothing is better than having a house on wheels to do it. The bags we tested in this review are perfect for extended travel. Unzipped to make a queen-sized comforter, they make a great cold weather blanket on your RV bed, and are simple to launder. Clear weather making you want to sleep under the stars? Zip it up, take it outside and enjoy some fresh air. Need a blanket for a quick lunch picnic, or a comfy spot for your morning yoga? The rectangular bags we tested are perfect for that.
Cabin or Home Use
Unexpected house guests? More people than beds at your ski cabin for the weekend? The kids keep bugging you to sleep in the backyard for the weekend? These bags are perfect for that too. Unzipped, the bags make a cozy queen sized comforter for your futon or bed. The Slumberjack Country Squire and the Wenzel Grande have insulation so thick use without an air mattress or sleeping pad is reasonable. Either of these bags on a carpeted floor, or even the back deck, provide enough cushioning for a good night's sleep.
Criteria for Evaluation
A sleeping bag must keep you warm enough to get a good night's sleep. This is the starting point for selecting the right model for you. While the products we tested are rated from 0 to 30F, and are appropriate for different conditions, we scored each for warmth. You'll find our judgment of the coldest temperatures each model is appropriate for in the individual reviews. You may be asking, can I sleep comfortably in one of these bags rated to 0F when it's actually that cold outside? We think it's unlikely, but you'll probably get some fitful sleep if you are wearing a lot of warm clothing inside the bag. The manufacturer's rating for each of these bags should be taken with a grain of salt or several grains. A good rule of thumb for these products is to add 20F to the manufacturer's rating. How much clothing you wear while sleeping, along with your tent or other shelter and what you're sleeping on (a pad, mattress, or on the ground), all contribute to warmth as well. Our testing added up to several hundred nights in these products – some in a tent, others right under the stars, and many more in a house on wheels. This real-world testing gave us a much better idea of the warmth comfort range for these products than the numbers in their names. Our rating for warmth contributes 35% of each product's overall score.
For most folks, the warmest of these bags will provide a comfortable night's sleep down into the high teens. The warmest model we tested, the Slumberjack Country Squire 0, proved warm enough when sleeping under the stars with temperatures in the upper teens. The only other models we found just warm enough for these temps were the Wenzel Grande, and (if you wear cozy warm clothes) the Kelty Callisto 20. The Callisto's width is several inches narrower than the Country Squire and Grande, achieving good warmth with less bulk. If you plan to regularly camp when nights are in the 20's or lower, the Country Squire and Grande are your best choices.
With all rectangular bags, wearing a hat, a top layer with a hood, or tucking your head into the bag can be key to staying warm when it's cold out.
The Alps Crescent Lake 20 is the warmest of the mummy shaped bags we tested. The insulated draft tube backing the zipper and ample hood create a warm product that is fairly roomy inside for a mummy bag. The rectangular Wenzel Conquest and the hoodless mummy, the Marmot Mavericks 30, are the least warm models we tested. Both are great choices for summer camping with nights in the 40's or 50's. The Conquest unzips to make a great flannel lined blanket, and the Mavericks 30 is the most compact bag we tested.
Comfort is king with these general-purpose bags, and contributes 25% of overall scores. Almost all of the models we tested are equally - if not more - comfortable than the most comfortable backpacking and winter bags we've ever used. This is primarily due to the fact that with general use bags, weight is not an obstacle for design. The wider and longer it is, the more comfortable it is! Thick, synthetic insulation on the bottom of the bag also contributes to comfort by adding cushioning 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 tall testers. Its removable cotton sheet liner is also comfy against bare skin. The Wenzel Grande and its little brother, the Conquest, along with the Coleman Dunnock all have a soft flannel lining, and are practically the same width. There's plenty of room to move around inside, and again, just enough room for two folks to spoon. These rectangular bags received the highest comfort scores we awarded.
Our evaluation of comfort focuses primarily on how roomy a bag is, and how the lining feels next to your bare skin. It is no surprise then that the mummy bags we tested received the lowest comfort scores we awarded. While these models are more generously cut than most backpacking bags, there isn't nearly as much room to move around as a rectangular bag affords. In addition, the synthetic lining materials on the mummy bags just aren't as cozy next to your skin as a soft, cotton lining. The downside to soft cotton blend linings? You do not want to get them wet. When wet, cotton not only sucks away heat, but takes much longer to dry than synthetic fabrics.
Here we assess important features such as fabrics, zippers, hood design, and pull cords, as well as evaluate the performance of any unique features. While each of these bags is quite similar to several of its competitors, small features can really set a bag apart. Our scores for features contribute 25% to overall scores.
Features can turn a good bag into a great bag or reduce the performance of a great bag to a good bag. As mentioned above, the Editors' Choice winner Slumberjack Country Squire has a removable cotton sheet liner that we quite like. Not only is it nice next to your skin, it helps keep the inside of the bag clean. Many of these bags have two loops sewn in at the foot for ease of hanging. Hanging up your bag to air out and completely dry should be a regular part of extended car camping trips. Most of these products have a Velcro flap to secure the zipper when completely closed up, and the best bags have a flap that folds over onto itself to hide away the prickly side of the Velcro when not in use. Draw cords at the top opening or hood allow you to close in more warmth when temperatures drop; however, we noticed that some are easier to operate than others, and we factored issues like this into our scores.
While a few pounds makes very little difference when packing for a car camping adventure, everyone seems to run short of space when it's time to put in the camp chairs and games at the end. Whether it's a stuff sack or straps, each of these bags comes with a packing system. The heavy, rectangular bags generally get rolled up and secured with a wrap or strap system, and mummy bags get stuffed into a sack. Ratings for packed size contribute 15% of overall scores.
No surprise, the mummy bags, which are cut for efficiency, pack away the smallest. When cinched down in its compression stuff sack, the hoodless Marmot Mavericks 30, is the smallest we tested. The Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Flame stuffed into its fleece-lined sack is the second smallest. These two bags, along with the warmer Alps Crescent Lakes 20, are your best choices if you are looking for an affordable bag for camping that is also compact and light enough to take on the occasional backpacking trip.
The luxurious Slumberjack Country Squire, rolled up and stowed in the included duffel bag, is twice as big as anything else we tested. While this big duffel can be folded over and tied up to reduce its size, we found it useful for stowing extra clothes and a pillow for travel. For a weekend trip, you can fit all your extra clothes, a book or two, and other odds and ends right inside. There's a lot of extra space in there, which we loved when packing for quick getaways. The next largest models when packed, the Wenzel Grande, Coleman Dunnock, and Wenzel Conquest, are all similar in size when rolled and secured. The roomy, comfortable design of these oversized rectangular bags translates to a bigger, heavier product overall, even when tightly rolled up. In individual reviews, we discuss ease of packing, and whether a convenient carry handle is part of the package.
We previously reviewed two additional mummy bags with hoods in this category. The Marmot Trestles 15 is a favorite of testers for creating a double bag for two people that can have the hoods snugged up for warmth, or the top folded back for warm weather. The latest version of the REI Polar Pod 25 has some great features. A pillow pocket in the hood and a zippered storage pocket inside for keys, wallet, or your phone.
Sleeping Pad - When car camping, weight doesn't make much difference, and we love having a big, comfy sleeping pad or air mattress to pair with a roomy bag. See our review of the best Camping Pads & Mattresses for our favorites.
Chairs - Car camping means you can bring chairs to sit in. Woohoo! Lounging around the fire is hard to beat. Our favorite models are found in our review of the best Camping Chairs.
Tents - If you are in the market for a new tent for car camping, check out our review of the best Camping Tents.
buying advice article.
— Brandon Lampley
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