The Best Men's Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2017
To help you create the ultimate backpacking experience, we researched 70 backpacking sleeping bags, and included the top 13 models, testing them side-by-side for an extended period of 6+ months. When shopping for the best model for your adventures, it can be difficult to even know where to start. It's hard to know which product provides primo comfort, dries fastest, or performs at its claimed temperature range. Our review team of experts tackles these issues, testing each model on the John Muir trail and through the Sierra Nevada, Washington Coast, and Cascade Mountains in temps ranging from 12-65F on both dry and rainy nights. For all kinds of sleepers (back, tummy, and side) with varied preferences, this comprehensive review helps you find the bag that meets your backpacking needs.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
This spring, we've updated our review to include previous top scorers as well as a new award winner, the Marmot Phase 20. We've included the brand new release of Patagonia's bag, and an updated REI Co-op Igneo 25, as well as The North Face Hyper Cat and other budget-friendly options. This review focuses primarily on backpacking models. However, several of the bags proved to be well-suited for car camping, summertime mountaineering, and late spring ski-touring. They tagged along on several road trips throughout our testing too. Also, our women's backpacking bag review got a light update.
Western Mountaineering MegaLite
If we could only have one sleeping choice for backpacking and 3-season camping, it would be the Western Mountaineering MegaLite. The MegaLite was among the lightest and most compressible in our review (and on the market); weighing in at half the weight of several bags we tested, it still offers roomy enough dimensions to be comfortable for car camping or for side and tummy sleepers to enjoy on extended outings. The materials are top notch and felt the best against our skin. The icing on the cake is Western Mountaineering is a small California-based company that manufactures all of its sleeping bags and garments in the USA. Plain and simple, the MegaLite is pretty rad. From single overnights to the John Muir Trail, this contender is among the most versatile in our review, thanks to its weight and dimensions. It's worth noting that it's only two ounces heavier than our Top Pick for light and fast long-distance trips, but offers a full-length zipper, as well as more internal space.
Spacious and comfortable cut
Made in the USA
Best feeling fabric in our review
Stuff sack is not very efficient
Read full review: Western Mountaineering MegaLite
Best Overall for a Light and Cozy Design
Marmot Phase 20
When Marmot re-did their element-themed performance sleeping bag line with the new Phase series of sleeping bags, they certainly didn't hold anything back as far as quality was concerned. The result produced some of the highest quality and overall performing bags currently on the market. Both the Marmot Phase 20 and Phase 30 are top-notch bags. The Phase uses high-quality down fill and some of the lightest weight shell fabrics you can find in an effort to produce some of the lightest and most compressible bags (for their warmth) currently available. An added bonus is that the bag offers an exceptionally well-designed hood and sports some of silkiest feeling internal fabrics we've tested.
Silky feeling internal fabric
Side zipper catches
Read full review: Marmot Phase 20
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Igneo 25
The REI Co-op Igneo 25 wins our overall "Best Value" award, as we feel it offers the best performance for the cost. The Igneo offers a superb balance of quality, low weight, packability, and performance for a pretty unbeatable price. The Igneo isn't the best price pointed bag, as the $150 Kelty Cosmic Down wins in that category. However, for $260, the Igneo is a stand-out sleeping bag, offering solid materials, specs, packed size, and a respectable 700 down-fill; it's nearly half the price and only a few ounces heavier. The Igneo is close in compressed volume to some of our award winners, like the Western Mountaineering MegaLite ($470) and Sea to Summit Spark III ($440).
Fairly light and compact
Solid quality for the price
Descent hood design
Not super warm for its temperature rating
Loose cut comfortable but not very efficient
Read full review: REI Co-op Igneo 25
Best Buy for Budget Backpackers
Kelty Cosmic Down 20
The affordable, yet reasonably lightweight and compressible Kelty Cosmic Down 20 takes our Best Buy Award. While hardly an overall top performer, this is the best down bag we've ever seen by a significant margin, especially for its $150 price. Cold sleepers and backpackers who frequently extend their three-season trips into lower temperatures will want something warmer, but everyone else on a budget should consider the Cosmic Down 20 (and pocket the several hundred dollar savings). This bag is far more durable and compressible than its similarly priced synthetic insulated counterparts and offers beginning or budget-conscious backpackers an exceptional value. If you are backpacking in warm summer conditions and want to shave a few more ounces, check out the Kelty Cosmic Down 40.
Great value bag
Light and compact for its price range
Not super warm
Read full review: Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Top Pick for Cold Sleepers or Colder than Average 3-Season Use
Western Mountaineering UltraLite
The Western Mountaineering UltraLite is an extremely warm bag that was by far the warmest in our review, while remaining among the lightest and most compressible. This award winner might just be a little too warm for most people to use for mid-summer backpacking, but for cold sleepers or colder than average conditions, the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is tough to beat.
Warmest bag in our review
Great no-catch zipper design
Excellent compressed size
Very warm for mid-summer
Weak velcro closure for draft collar
Slightly tight dimensionally
Read full review: Western Mountaineering Ultralite
Top Pick for Wet Conditions
The North Face Hyper Cat 20
The North Face Hyper Cat 20 is our Top Pick for the best bag in wet conditions. During our water saturating testing, the Hyper Cat, like other synthetic-fill bags, dried in roughly 20% of the time as treated water-resistant down, making it a much more ideal bag for wet conditions. However, what truly sets the Hyper Cat apart from most other synthetic bags is how incredibly small it packs down and how lightweight it is (1 lbs 14 ozs) for its temperature rating. It's lighter and more compressible than several down bags we tested and it even offers roomier than average dimensions. All of our testers loved its half-length center zipper that still allowed plenty of ventilation on warm nights; it was also just plain easier to use. If you're looking for a synthetic bag, whether for wet conditions, animal rights, or you have allergies to down and want one of the highest performing synthetic bags out there, the Hyper Cat is your bag. It is worth noting that the Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 is another fantastic option that, while not as warm; is more packable and slightly lighter (1 lbs 12 oz).
Small packed size
Lght for a synthetic bag
Cozy interior fabric
Synthetic insulation isn't super long lasting
Read full review: The North Face Hyper Cat 20
Top Pick for Light and Fast Backpacking and Mountaineering
Sea to Summit Spark III
If you're on a trip where weight and space are your number one priority, but you need something more significant than an ultralight quilt, the Sea to Summit Spark III is hard to beat. This one pound 6 ounce bag is plenty warm enough for nearly any 3-season backpacking trip or summer alpine climbing trip (and it carries a legit OutdoorGearLab tested rating for 25 F). The Spark III packs down the smallest of any bag in our review, easily fitting into the corner of your pack; it won't remind you it's there until you crawl in for a well-deserved good night's sleep. The Spark III is a high quality, super light-weight, traditional mummy style sleeping bag. It is smartly styled with the lightest 10D shell fabric in our review, 850+ Ultra-Dry Down, and a mere 1/3 length side zip keep the weight to an absolute minimum.
Smallest packed size in our review
Nice interior fabric
Accommodates light down jackets
A true 25F bag
Slightly tight interior dimensions
Read full review: Sea to Summit Spark III
Top Pick for Exceptional Comfort
Nemo Salsa 30
The Nemo Salsa 30 wins our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick Award for being the most comfortable sleeping bag for backpacking. While the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season was a strong contender and it remains a cool and unique option, our review teams real world testing and side-by-side comparisons determined that the Salsa was the winner. Our tummy and side sleepers just plain liked the Salsa's stretchy stitching and spacious "spoon" shaped design better. That, coupled with the Salsa weight (2lbs 1 oz, compared to the Backcountry Bed's 3lbs 1 oz), spells out true comfort. While it isn't the lightest bag we've ever tested, it remains respectable, especially considering its spacious cut. It still packs down roughly a third smaller than the Backcountry Bed 600.
Best bag for side and tummy sleepers
Great price for a down bag
Inefficient stuff sack
Read full review: Nemo Salsa
Analysis and Test Results
Your sleeping bag is likely the most important insulating layer that is carried on any wilderness excursion. Sleeping bags provide a better warmth-to-weight ratio than anything else in your pack.
Investing in a quality sleeping bag that is suited to your needs will help you get a more comfortable night's sleep, save weight and space in your pack, and keep you warm when the temperatures start to drop. Sleeping bags are also the bed of choice for car campers, travelers, and couch surfers.
We rated each bag on its warmth, weight, packed size, features, and versatility. You can see overall metric comparisons below; you'll find a more in-depth analysis of each product in the individual review. We updated our existing review to include several new, innovative, and popular models and styles and compared them to previous award winners.
Warmth is basically relative to the amount of loft (AKA insulation) a bag has, measured as the thickness of the insulation between you and the external environment. With the exception of very loose bags, more volume of insulation (not necessarily weight) basically equals more warmth.
Fit is the next most important factor in determining warmth. Bags that are too tight or too short won't allow the insulation to loft properly, and as result, will feel colder where you are pressed against certain areas. Similarly, a bag that's too large will have drafty dead air spaces that make the bag thermally inefficient, even though it may have enough loft for the conditions.
Some bags tested here, such as the Western Mountaineering UltraLite and the Sea to Summit Spark Spark III have tighter interior dimensions, resulting in slimmer cuts; though not to fear, most broad-shouldered folks can still at least wear a lightweight jacket while sleeping inside those bags. The rest of the bags we reviewed are wider and nearly everyone could wear a mid-weight jacket or more to boost insulation on colder nights. It's worth noting that Western Mountaineering sleeping bags are available in multiple lengths and widths, which is a huge advantage because you can get a bag that fits your body well. Look at the foot, hip, and shoulder circumference to compare dimensions for unisex bags. We've included these measurements in the specification tables found in each review when available from the manufacturers.
The backpacking sleeping bags that we found to be the warmest (for their respective temperature rating) were the high-quality down bags from Western Mountaineering, the Western Mountaineering MegaLite and the Western Mountaineering Ultralite with the Marmot Phase 20 closely following the Ultralite. All three of these bags have 850+ fill power down and plenty of it; 13, 14, and 16 ounces respectively. The MegaLite is a 30F bag and is roomier than the Ultralite, which is a 20F model.
The least warmest bag in this review is the lightweight Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 closely followed by the Patagonia 850 Down 30. The thinner insulation and sewn through design of the Patagonia 850 down sleeping bag offers less protection from the elements and the lack of a draft tube allows more cold air inside the bag, leaving the sleeper less toasty than in the other bags. That said, we think the both of these bags will be excellent options for sleepers at 40° F and above.
It's worth noting that warmth is also heavily influenced by conductive heat loss to the ground. Choosing an appropriate sleeping pad is important, especially in colder conditions or when sleeping on snow. Our Best Sleeping Pad Review will point you in the right direction for a warm, comfortable pad. Choosing the right backpacking tent or ultralight shelter for your trip will also influence the perceived warmth of a sleeping bag. OutdoorGearLab also has an excellent Backpacking Tent Review and Ultralight Backpacking Shelter Review, where you can finish out your research on the best sleeping/shelter kit for your next trip.
The sleeping bags in the review were tested in single wall tents, under tarps and mids, and under the open sky during open bivies above tree-line. See the Buying Advice on how standardized testing has helped (or hurt!) companies decisions on what temperature rating to give a sleeping bag.
Weight is a function of insulation type and amount, shell material, and features. In general, heavier bags use either synthetic insulation or lower fill-power down (500-700). Many of the highest performing bags we tested here use the best down (800-850+ fill-power) and lightweight, expensive shell fabrics. A bag's cut and its overall dimensions also play a major factor in the weight as a slimmer cut bag has less overall materials and as a result is lighter as well as a given model's features or lack thereof.
At 1 pound 6 ounces, the Sea to Summit Spark III is the lightest down bag we tested. It's no surprise the Spark III features high quality 850+ fill power down, sports the tightest cut, lightest 10D shell fabric, and the shortest (1/3 length) zipper. What is amazing is both the Marmot Phase 20 and the Western Mountaineering MegaLite are less than 2 ounces heavier. The Marmot Phase is unbelievably light for its temperature rating (20F), featuring top quality 850+ down and a similar 10D shell. The MegaLite (1 lb 8 oz) offers a full-length zipper, is comparable warmth to the Spark III but is much more spacious (but still efficient) dimensions.
While the Marmot Phase was light, it's still worth noting that the Western Mountaineering UltraLite was warmer yet but still remained among the lightest bags in our review (1 lb 13 oz). In addition to being incredibly lightweight, all of these models also scored a 10 out of 10 for warmth.
Among synthetic bags we tested, our testers were very impressed with The North Face Hyper Cat. While not super warm for its temperature rating, at 1 pound 14 ounces, it was warm enough to be used to 20-25° F while wearing a layer or two. It's an exceptionally light synthetic option and is a pound+ lighter than a majority of synthetic models - it was lighter than several 30°F down bags.
Comfort is a pretty subjective category that depends primarily on fit, sleeping style, and internal fabric. Increasing the size of the bag's internal dimensions (to a point) generally provides the most increase of the perceptions of what people would consider a more comfortable bag, as the user has slightly more room to move around within a bag. This becomes even more important as users sleep on their side, tummy, and/or with their knee slightly out to the side - which is a common position for backpackers who like to sleep on their stomachs. The disadvantage of just making the bag bigger is not necessarily worth it as the manufacturer will need to add more material and insulation to maintain the same warmth; this often comes with a weight and packability penalty.
In addition to space for sprawling and thrashing, our ratings focus on a bag's features that will contribute to or detract from comfort. Insulation type influences comfort; all of our testers agreed that sleeping in a high-quality down bag is like floating on a super light cloud while zipping into a synthetic bag is fine but .well, less heavenly.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 3-season and the Nemo Salsa 30 were the most comfortable bags in our review, with the Western Mountaineering MegaLite being a very close second. What makes the MegaLite special is it's significantly lighter and more packable than the two aforementioned bags, but nearly as comfortable.
The Nemo Salsa 30 was our side and tummy sleepers favorite bag because we were able to sleep in those positions more comfortably compared to any bag in our review. We were also able to have our knees extended nearly straight out to the side while sleeping. What we also really liked about the Salsa 30, when compared to the Backcountry Bed, is that it was still a reasonable weight (2 lbs 1 oz) and a respectable packed volume that we would still consider bringing on a week-long backpacking trip.
The Sierra Backcountry Bed remains a pretty cool and very uniquely designed bag that offers the most "bed-like" feel of any bag we've ever tested. It features no zippers, toggles or Velcro flaps of any kind and instead offers a large "U"-shaped opening, that is covered by a down flap that acts (and feels) like a quilt. This not only helps regulate temperature extremely well but also offers unmatched freedom of movement in the user's upper extremities. While we thought this bag was awesome, it is the heaviest and least packable bag in our review, which is why it lost out on our Top Pick award for the Best Backpacking Bag for Comfort. While the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed offers a mega comfort-oriented design, its lower dimensions were average and not as spacious as the MegaLite or Salsa 30; the internal fabric did not feel as nice against our skin.
It's worth noting that it is important to consider total comfort throughout the course of a trip, not just when you're inside your sleeping bag at night. A bag that's slightly more comfortable to sleep in may be far heavier and bulkier, and therefore less comfortable to carry.
If you spend more time carrying the bag than you do inside of it, we suggest prioritizing weight and bulk (comfort while in your pack) over comfort while sleeping. The Marmot Phase, Patagonia 850, REI Co-op Igneo 25, and Kelty Cosmic Down were also top scorers for the comfort metric.
Packed size is a function of down fill power, shell and insulation fabrics, and features. Higher quality down, lighter fabrics, and simple features create the most compressible bags.
A more compressible bag is the better option, as it either gives us more room in our packs or lets us take a smaller, lighter weight pack for a given objective.
The most compressible bag in our review is the Sea to Summit Spark III which was slightly (10-15%) smaller than the Western Mountaineering MegaLite and Ultralite, and Marmot Phase 20, which compressed impressively small for a 20° F bag. The REI Co-op Igneo 25, Kelty Cosmic Down, The North Face Hyper Cat 20, and the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark provide a budget-friendly option, while still remaining compressible.
Three-season models are meant to be used in a wide range of conditions. They must function on warm summer nights at lower elevations, as well as when the temperatures drop below freezing near treeline in the fall. Versatility across environments, elevations, and seasons is an important consideration when assessing a bag's performance and value.
Some of the bags tested here, such as the Western Mountaineering Ultralight and WM MegaLite have continuous horizontal baffles that allow you to shift down from the top to the bottom of the bag, increasing comfort in warm conditions and warmth in cold conditions. We find these lightweight bags to be the most versatile in our test.
Other features that increase a bag's versatility is the ability to vent on warmer nights, meaning a longer zipper offers more versatility than a 1/3 length one. A little extra shoulder room to facilitate adding one (or more) layers can be nice on those colder adventures.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season has no zipper to roll onto and incorporates a quilt that enables you to sleep more like you would with a comforter at home. The quilt can be tucked into the bag when temperatures near the bag's comfort limit and is left outside the bag for warm nights and sleeping on your stomach.
The North Face Cat's Meow is a budget-friendly bag that offers an exceptional amount of versatility. It excels at shorter trips in the backcountry, and is a great option for car camping, kayak or rafting trips, or anytime versatility is important.
Features and Design
We assessed the quality of each of the bag's features and attempted to quantify how well they contributed to the overall performance of the bag. This variable encompasses shell fabric, zippers, draft tubes, neck baffles, and stash pockets.
Traditional bags with snag-free zippers, easy-to-use hood adjustments, and hoods that don't come undone at night scored higher in this category, such as the Marmot Phase 20, and the Western Mountaineering Ultralite and MegaLite. The Nemo Salsa scores particularly high in this metric thanks to its numerous sleeping position capabilities.
In most cases, more features or more complicated features can reduce performance. They add weight, complexity, cost, and the possibility of failing faster. The potential benefit a given feature has on warmth, comfort, or convenience, is rarely offset by its drawbacks.
The Sea to Summit Spark III was a high scorer in the features and design metric; the hood, compression sack, and overall design were impressive, though this model does not necessarily come with many "extras".
Take stash pockets on sleeping bags, for example. It can be helpful to keep your watch with an alarm in the pocket, but it can be hard to hear the alarm through the down; if you roll in your sleep, waking up on your watch isn't exactly comfortable. In general, when it comes to features, smart design scored well and generally, less is more.
Unfortunately, very few bags come with decent quality stuff sacks and many bags come with downright terrible stuff sacks. An exception is the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35; in general, to maximize the compressibility of your bag, we highly recommend purchasing one separately. See our Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack Article for our recommendations for specific applications.
Other Sleeping Bag Reviews
We also offer an Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review, which compares hoodless options, weighing only 19 ounces or less. If you're looking for a lightweight bag that will primarily be used for overnight trips where weight is a concern, we highly encourage you to consider one of the models found in the Ultralight Bag Review. Lastly, we offer a general Camping Sleeping Bag Review that compares large and luxurious rectangular bags that are too heavy to carry backpacking. These offer much more comfort than any model tested here and cost as little as forty dollars!!
— Ian Nicholson
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