The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review

What's the best ultralight sleeping bag for backpacking, climbing, and fast and light adventures of all kinds? We tested 13 top-tier, cutting-edge bags in order to find out. These bags are hyper light for their warmth, pack down to a minuscule size, and offer exceptional performance for backpacking and all other weight conscious activities, including winter use. Our awards and ratings highlight the best all-purpose ultralight bag and the best bags for specific applications.

We compare several dozen traditional style down and synthetic hooded bags our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review. Keep in mind that few of the bags in this ultralight review have a zipper or hood. Also check out our Women's Sleeping Bag Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Max Neale ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab April 7, 2013

Top Ranked Ultralight Sleeping Bags Displaying 1 - 5 of 13 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Katabatic Gear Palisade
Katabatic Gear Palisade
Read the Review
Video video review
ZPacks 20 Degree
ZPacks 20 Degree
Read the Review
Video video review
Feathered Friends Vireo
Feathered Friends Vireo
Read the Review
Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15
Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15
Read the Review
Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award 
Street Price $420$345$254$465$260
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100% recommend it (4/4)
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100% recommend it (5/5)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Pros Most comfortable and most versatile quilt, high warmth to weight ratio, best pad attachment system, hydrophobic down option, ultra comfy neck closure,Highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any bag tested, custom options include zipper, fill, and draft tube, and hydrophobic down, waterproof dry bag stuff sack.900-fill down, variable fill, packs to grapefruit size, weighs 16 ounces!!Very warm for its weight, highly versatile, best available down, top quality shell material, overstuffed neck baffle is comfortable, five different cuts, large organic cotton storage sack.Versatile, warm for its weight, Inexpensive!
Cons Other Katabatic quilt models are warmer, ZPacks bags are warmer for their weight.Not as versatile as a quilt (doesn't adapt to clothing/body type), zipper can come undone.Feet can get hot in warmer weather, not as versatile as other ultralight bags.Best with optional down hood (~$65), ZPacks bags are warmer for their weight (but less versatile).Pat attachment method isn't as comfortable or warm as others, other bags use higher quality fabrics.
Best Uses Ultralight anything, fast and light winter trips with a down jacket.Ultralight three-season use.Alpine climbing.Ultralight three-season hiking and climbing, winter use with a down jacket.Ultralight anything.
Date Reviewed Mar 31, 2013Mar 31, 2013Mar 31, 2013Mar 31, 2013Mar 31, 2013
Weighted Scores Katabatic Gear Palisade ZPacks 20 Degree Feathered Friends Vireo Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Warmth - 20%
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Weight - 40%
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Comfort - 5%
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Packed Size - 15%
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Features - 5%
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Versatility - 15%
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Product Specs Katabatic Gear Palisade ZPacks 20 Degree Feathered Friends Vireo Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Style Quilt Mummy Mummy Quilt Quilt
Total Weight (oz) 18.8 17.1 16 24.6 19.6
Total Weight (lb.) 1.2 1.1 1 1.5 1.2
Fill Weight (oz) 9.5 11 8.7 15 10.9
Material Weight (oz) 9.3 6.1 7.3 9.6 8.8
Fill Power 900 900 900 850 900
Insulation Volume (cu in) 8,550 9,900 7,830 12,750 9,765
Insulation Volume (cu in)/Weight (oz) 455 579 489 518 498
Zipper Length None 4-Mar None None None
Shoulder Girth NA 56 64 NA NA
Hip Girth NA 56 48 NA NA
Foot Girth NA 30 38 NA NA

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • All Reviewed Products
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Feathered Friends Vireo
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ZPacks 20 Degree
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Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15
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ZPacks Twinn Quilt 20
$605
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Enlightened Equipment Prodigy
$215
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Feathered Friends Rock Wren
$319
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Jacks 'R' Better Sierra Sniveller
$299
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Nunatak Arc Alpinist
$426
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Brooks Range Elephant Foot
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Nemo Siren
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Therm-a-Rest Navis
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Hoodless Sleeping Bags
Traditional style sleeping bags with zippers and attached hoods are ideal for sleeping in temperatures that are consistently around or below freezing. Unfortunately, they suffer from several significant drawbacks that limit their performance for weight conscious applications where the nighttime temperatures are consistently above freezing, or if you want to go ultralight in the winter by wearing a parka with a hood. In this review we discuss how the ultralight bags compared here address the limitations of traditional style bags. Then, we describe our product selection, testing, criteria for evaluation, and present the four award-winning bags.

Limitation #1: Insulation and fabric on the bottom of a sleeping bag is compressed by your body, dramatically reducing its capacity to insulate. Solution: Eliminating insulation from the bottom of a bag saves weight and makes the bag considerably warmer for its weight. Recent advances in sleeping pad design create lightweight warm pads that insulate you from the ground.

Limitation #2: Sleeping bags with fixed girths cannot accommodate changes in clothing. For example, a bag that allows you to wear a lofted parka will be too large and inefficient for use without one. The opposite is also true: a bag that’s efficient when worn with little clothing will not have enough space for a parka to loft properly. Solution: Quilt style sleeping bags with adjustable girths can adapt to changes in clothing. They function well on summer trips when you wear minimal clothing and in colder conditions when you wear insulated clothing. This is a tremendous advantage because it increases the versatility of a sleeping bag; one bag can work in all conditions from summer to winter use.

Limitation #3: Attached hoods are rarely comfortable when fully cinched. More often than not they pinch your nose and chin, and scratch your neck, and nearly suffocate you if you get turned around the wrong way at night. Solution: Eliminating the hood from a bag can create a comfortable and effective closure around your neck. An optional down hood can provide extra warmth when the temperatures drop around or below freezing. In most three-season conditions our testers go without a down hood and just wear a hooded baselayer or a lightweight insulated jacket with a hood. Note that hoodless sleeping bags are nothing new or radical; the majority of the bags tested in our Camping Sleeping Bag Review do not have hoods.

Limitation #4: Although a zipper is an easy way to vent hot air and moisture, it often requires a 1-4 ounce draft tube to insulate the zipper area. Solution: Quilts that tuck underneath you provide better ventilation and omit the weight of a zipper or draft tube. Some mummy bags skip the zipper entirely and others omit the draft tube- just position the zipper underneath you when it gets cold.

Conclusion: Our tests show that hoodless sleeping bags, and quilts in particular, offer the greatest performance for ultralight applications. That said, they require a new relationship with your bag (no hood or zipper) and it takes practice to not have the bag come of in the middle of the night. If you are not ready to give up the zipper and hood, look to the lightest options in our Backpacking Sleeping Bag review like the Western Mountaineering Highlite.

Now, onto the review of the best ultralight sleeping bags.

Product Selection
This review contains nine hoodless sleeping bags. The majority are quilts, some are mummy shaped, and some are wearable modular bags.

Criteria For Evaluation
Warmth
The amount of loft, measured as the number of inches of insulation between you and the external environment, has the most influence on sleeping bag warmth. Fit is the next most important factor in determining sleeping bag warmth: bags that are too tight or too short won't allow the insulation to loft properly. Fortunately, many of the bags tested here are available in many different lengths and widths, unlike the majority of the traditional style bags found in our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review. Many of the bags tested here are available in four different temperature ratings, from 10 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit; select the temperature that meets your needs best. Our testing focused on thirty degree bags, which we believe are the best choice for most lightweight three-season applications.

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Successive exhausting days make you sleep colder than normal. Here Matt Wilhelm settles into the ZPacks 20 Degree bag and Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy at 13,200 ft on the Evolution Traverse, California.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Weight
Sleeping bag weight is a function of fill, shell fabric, and features. All of the bags tested here use 750-900 fill-power down and most use very high quality lightweight fabrics. The primary factor that makes one bag lighter than another is its cut and its features, or lack thereof. The warmest bags for their weight find creative ways to eliminate unnecessary features without reducing comfort. For example, several sleeping bags remove the zipper and/or draft tube to save weight. Features like this save weight without compromising comfort or warmth. The average weight of the bags tested here is 19 ounces. In contrast, the average weight of the hooded three-season bags we've tested is 31 ounces. The lightest sleeping bag tested here is the Zpacks 20 Degree, which weighs 17.1 ounces. If you want to save even more weight you can opt for warmer versions of that bag, which weigh as little as 12 ounces!!

Comfort
Our ratings primarily focus on features that made our testers sleep better or worse. With hoodless bags the single most important driver of comfort is the drawcord around your neck. Bags that add an extra baffle here, like Katabatic Gear quilts, are the most comfortable. With quilts, the sleeping pad attachment mechanism has the most influence on comfort. However, insulation type also influences comfort: sleeping in a down bag is like floating on a superlight cloud while zipping into a synthetic bag is similar to being smothered by a heavy army blanket. The Katabatic Gear Sawatch is the most comfortable bag tested and the Nemo Siren and Therm-a-Rest Navis are likely the least comfortable bags tested.

It's also important to consider net comfort throughout the course of a day, not just when you're inside of a sleeping bag. A heavier bag that's slightly more comfortable to be inside of may be less comfortable overall when compared to a lighter bag with slightly less space. It depends on how long you carry the sleeping bag for. Of all the factors involved in choosing a sleeping bag, we believe that comfort is the least important; no sleeping bag we tested is uncomfortable.

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Zeb Engberg enjoying the luxury of the Katabatic Gear Sawatch quilt (the Palisade's warmer sibling), NeoAir XLite pad, Hilleberg Rogen tent, and a wide variety of energy bars. Camped on snow in Glacier National Park.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Features
Here we assessed the quality of each bag's features and attempted to quantify how well they contribute to the overall performance of the bag. This variable encompasses shell fabric, zippers, draft tubes, neck baffles and stash pockets. Wearable bags, like the Jacks 'R' Better Sierra Sniveller have innovative and highly successful features that allow the bag to double as a down jacket. Some mummy bags, like the ZPacks 20 Degree, prioritize weight savings and have few if any features found on traditional bags – this gives that bag the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any we've ever tested! There's a large difference between the sleeping pad attachment methods found on the quilts tested. Katabatic Gear quilts have by far the easiest to use and most secure attachment mechanism; this greatly increases ease of use, comfort, and warmth. The bag with the worst features was the Therm-a-Rest Navis, which has low quality down, fixed heavy pad attachment straps, sewn through construction in the upper body that's not as warm as box-baffled construction found on most bags, and moderate quality fabrics.

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Katabatic Gear Sawatch, the Palisade's warmer sibling, (upside down). No other quilt balances warmth, weight, and comfort as well as Katabatic Gear. Their unique pad attachement system makes all the difference.
Credit: Max Neale

Versatility
Quilts are the most versatile type of sleeping bag and fixed girth bags without zippers, such as the Therm-a-Rest Navis and Feathered Friends Vireo are the least versatile. Wearable bags are also highly versatile becuase they can serve as a substitute for a down jacket. The Jacks R Better Sierra Sniveller, followed by the Feathered Friends Rock Wren are the most versatile wearable sleeping bags tested. All of the bags tested here are considerably more versatile than the traditional bags found in our backpacking sleeping bag review. This is a huge boon for people that camp and travel in a wide range of temperatures and want one bag to handle them all.

Important Accessories
A waterproof stuff sack is critical for keeping your bag dry. Unfortunately, very few sleeping bags come with high quality stuff sacks and many bags come with downright terrible stuff sacks. Thus, we highly recommend purchasing one separately. See our Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack Article for our recommendations for specific applications.

A down hood can be a useful addition to a hoodless bag if you plan to camp in termperatures around or below freezing. The ZPacksGoose Hood is our favorite hood for three-season applications.

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ZPacks makes the best down hood and best dry bag stuff sack we've tested. Our testers generally use hoods when it's around freezing and always use waterproof stuff sacks. We've found cuben fiber sacks (above) offer the most durability for the least weight
Credit: ZPacks
Editors' Choice Award Ultralight Bag: Katabatic Gear Palisade
From long distance hiking to international travel to fast and light climbing, the Katabatic Gear Palisade offers tremendous versatility, comfort, and a high warmth-to-weight ratio. The bag weighs 18.8 ounces and kept our testers warm to around freezing. The Palisade has the best pad attachment system of any quilt tested, is available in 900-fill down or 850-fill hydrophobic down and uses the best fabrics available. Bonus: this bag comes with a high quality organic cotton storage sack and lightweight, water-resistant SilNylon stuff sack. Every part of the Katabatic system is well refined, well designed, and offers exceptional performance and comfort. This is the sleeping bag of our (and your?) dreams. 0, 15, 20, and 40 degree options are also available! Our top rated bag available from a retailer, and the top rated light bag with a hood is the Western Mountaineering Highlite.

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Meghan Meo unpacks the Palisade bag on a six-week bike tour down Mexico's Baja Peninsula. With the Anjan 2 tent.
Credit: Mike Meo

Top Pick Award for Best Mummy Shape: ZPacks 20 Degree
Packing a ludicrous amount of warmth into its feather light 17.1 ounce package, the ZPacks 20 Degree has the highest warmth to weight ratio of any sleeping bag we’ve ever tested!! Though it doesn’t have the versatility of a quilt’s adjustable girth, this bag is our testers’ favorite three-season mummy bag on the planet. No other mummy bag marries simplicity and performance as well as this. Bonus: this bag comes with the best sleeping bag stuff sack we’ve ever tested. One can also choose from 10, 30, and 40 degree options!

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ZPack's 20 degree sleeping bag (left) and Feathered Friends Rock Wren (right) inside the MSR Nook tent with Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pads.
Credit: Max Neale
Top Pick Award for Alpine Climbing: Feathered Friends Vireo
Climbing technical routes on snow and ice covered mountains can force one to “sleep” in a heinous seated position. When such occasions arise our testers have found that half bags—those that come partway up your body—offer the greatest performance for fast and light ascents. When paired with a down parka, the 16 ounce (!!) Feathered Friends Vireo bag provides a toasty setup for winter; we’ve been comfortable down to -10 Fahrenheit while wearing the Feathered Friends Volant parka. Bonus: the bag also works well for three-season use; just bring a light fleece or down jacket.

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Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag and Volant parka, Mt. Katahdin, Maine.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Best Buy Award: Enlightened Equipment Revelation
A top-tier 20-degree, 20 ounce bag for $265?!!! Yep, that's the Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt. No other bag offers a much performance for such an affordable price. You can also choose from 0, 10, 30, and 40 degree options! If you are not a regular ultralight backpacker and just need to get through a summer trip or two, we were surprised how adequate the Kelty Cosmic Down 40 is for only $100. Unlike the Revelation, it's available at many retailers so it can likely be ordered just a few days before your trip.

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Enlightened Equipment Revelation bottom.
Credit: Enlightened Equipment

Dream Backpacking Gear List
An ultralight sleeping bag is just one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out for other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.

Down Sleeping Bag Wash and Care Instructions
See here for detailed down bag and garment wash instructions.

Max Neale
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