The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bags

By Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday October 18, 2017
  • Share this article:

Baffled by expensive baffles? Modern sleeping bags can cost several hundreds of dollars, more than some of us spend on home mattresses. If that sounds too much to enjoy an overnight in the outdoors, this review of the best budget backpacking sleeping bags is geared to you. Our backpacking experts are no strangers to stretching a buck. Through research and testing, we created a list of the best 10 bags that won't sack your bank account. This list includes men's, women's, and kid's models under $200, with several less than $100. We rank each one and highlight their attributes, such as weight, packed size, comfort, features, and more.


Best All-Around Budget Sleeping Bag for Men

The North Face Cat's Meow

The North Face Cat's Meow
Best Buy Award

(6% off)
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz | Temperature Rating: 20F
Low weight yet plenty warm
Fantastic value
Dries fast
Comfy dimensions
Large packed size compared to down bags
Not super cozy

This bag has been around since 1977, which should tell you something. The latest version of the Cat's Meow sticks to this bag's workhorse roots. It's a durable bag that manages to keep its weight down to an acceptable weight for even weeklong backpacking trips. A true three-season option, this model kept our reviewers warm better than most synthetic models with the same temperature rating and even higher prices. Down bags compress to a much smaller size, yet The North Face's proprietary Heatseeker Pro insulation dries in a quarter of the time, making it an excellent choice for kayak/canoe trips. Quick drying properties mean this cat won't fret getting wet either. The bag is spacious enough for bent knees and side sleepers, too, and the zipper is full-length.

The most significant compromise to make when selecting this bag concerns packed size. The Cat's Meow doesn't curl up to a tidy package. It's smaller than the Kelty Tuck 20 by about 25%, yet a smidge larger than the Kelty Cosmic Down 20. This North Face model comes with a compression sack, a great addition to cinch the bag to a smaller size. Another downside of this bag is its average coziness. The internal fabric is fine but lacks the soft touch found in more expensive models. For sub-$200, this model provides a lot and sacrifices little. Roomy, warm, and versatile, this is a great do-it-all bag, from backpacking to car camping to canoe trips to big wall climbing. The North Face also makes a female version of this bag, which made the list further down.

Read review: The North Face Cat's Meow


Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bag for Women

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 - Women's

Cosmic Down 20 - Women
Best Buy Award

(31% off)
at REI
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 15 oz | Temperature Rating: 20F
Hydrophobic down fill
Draft collar traps heat
Great price on a down bag
Heavy for a down bag
Doesn't compress as well as other down bags

Try as you might, it's tough to find a cheaper down sleeping bag than the Cosmic Down 20. This bag is comfortable, featuring a soft and cozy interior with enough room to accommodate multiple layers of clothing, if necessary. It packs down into its stuff sack smaller than most synthetic bags, but don't expect it to disappear in your pack. The shell is durable and adds to this bag's longevity. Features like a draft collar and an easy to adjust hood help keep warm air in and cold air out.

This isn't the warmest bag, though, and the "20" in its name is somewhat deceiving. It's warm in the low 30's, but you'll need to layer up when temps enter the 20's. The 600 fill made up of hydrophobic DriDown won't dry out as fast as synthetic models (a drawback of all down models). And while this model is filled with lightweight down, it's still almost three pounds. If you're new to backpacking and daunted by price tags, this down bag gives you the best performance-to-price ratio overall. Women looking for a synthetic bag of similar performance should check out the female version of the Cat's Meow, shown below. Of these two excellent budget options, our lady testers preferred the Cosmic Down while our male testers favored the model from The North Face.

Read review: Kelty Cosmic Down 20 - Women's


Best Budget Down Sleeping Bag for Men

Kelty Cosmic Down 20

Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Best Buy Award

(38% off)
at REI
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 13 oz | Temperature Rating: 20F
Best value for men's down bag
Compact for its price range
Heavy for down
Veering toward too roomy
Not the warmest 20-degree bag

The men's version of the Cosmic Down 20 is the best deal out there on a three-season down sleeping bag. Down fill creates a cozy and comfortable sleeping experience, and this bag doesn't disappoint. Stomach and side sleepers appreciate the roomy interior, as will anyone who likes to curl up with high knees. If mummy bags tend to make you claustrophobic and constricted, this model might be your answer to backcountry happiness. The roominess also provides space for extra layers you wear as the temperatures drop, increasing this model's versatility. As temperatures rise, unzip the full-length zipper to turn your bag into a cooler blanket. The bag packs down to a reasonable size. When you factor in the price and the warmth it provides, the compressibility is even more impressive. Higher-priced sleeping bags pack smaller, but then again, they are higher-priced. And over the long term, the value of this bag continues to rise as down fill maintains its loft and insulating properties longer than synthetics.

Roominess also has a flip-side. The extra material means extra weight and packed size, which becomes more noticeable the longer your excursions are and at higher altitudes. It also isn't very warm for its temperature rating. The Cat's Meow is warmer and more lightweight but doesn't match the comfort of the Cosmic Down. This is an excellent down sleeping bag for budget hikers and newcomers alike. Kelty made some sacrifices in material quality (and therefore size and weight), but the cash savings outweigh any drops in performance. It's our top women's model and our second favorite men's bag overall for budget shoppers.

Read review: Kelty Cosmic Down 20


Best Synthetic Bag for Women

The North Face Cat's Meow - Women's

Cat's Meow 22
Best Buy Award

(7% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 3 lbs | Temperature Rating: 22F
Extra insulation in key areas
Lightweight for a synthetic model
Bulky and heavy compared to down bags
Not for women over 5'5"
Not our favorite compression sack

The best synthetic model under $200 for women is the Cat's Meow 22. It's the warmest women's non-down-fill bag we ever tested, and due to its synthetic fill properties, it doesn't lose its loft when wet. Down bags can't compete on that front, as their insulation drops when wet and they take longer to dry. The large neck baffle and draft tube do well to trap heat, and the placement of extra insulation in the hood and foot box boosts warmth in the extremities (not featured in the men's version). The North Face included an internal hand pocket, too. We didn't utilize this pocket much for our hands, but the extra layer of fleece on top of our torsos was welcome on chilly nights. Our female testers also found it to feels cozy and comfortable.

This bag isn't for tall backpackers, and we don't recommend it for women over 5'5". The foot box is also a bit small, perhaps due to the extra insulation. It weighs three pounds, which is at our upward weight limit (hovering around 3 lbs) for multi-day backpacking trips, although this is a drawback of nearly every budget backpacking sleeping bag. We like that it comes with a compression sack, but it didn't compress as well as the Cosmic Down. A hook and loop closure at the neck baffle struck us as unnecessary. Our hair got caught in it a few times, it's noisy, and didn't seem to help trap more heat. It performs well overall, and women heading into wet environments will benefit from the quick-drying ability of this synthetic bag. This model represents the highest synthetic performance in the land of women's budget bags.

Read review: The North Face Cat's Meow 22


Top Choice under $100

Kelty Tuck 20

(26% off)
at REI
See It

Weight: 3 lbs | Temperature Rating: 20F
Awesome value
Regulates temperature well
Wearable design
Falls short of warmth rating
Bulky and heavy

For full three season use under $100, the Kelty Tuck 20 is our favorite model. It's one of the best-ventilated bags and allows for versatile temperature regulation. The zipper at the footbox opens up for increased comfort and airflow on warm nights. For warmth around the campsite before going to bed, extend feet out of the open footbox and pin up the bottom of the Tuck with provided loops to create a wearable, mobile cocoon. With the full-length zipper, you can also unzip this sleeping bag to lay it flat like a blanket. This bag is roomy and comfortable, too. The feature set is full on this budget bag, including anti-snag zippers, an adjustable hood, and an internal pocket.

Our testers started donning layers in this bag when temps sank to 30-35F, but we didn't experience any cold spots due to its offset quilt construction. It doesn't compress to a likable packed size, although it fares better in volume than other bags at this price point, such as the Slumberjack Boundary 20, which is also heavier. Three pounds is also a bit heavy, but small packed size and weight savings are much more expensive. The Women's version boasts versatile ventilation too and a fit designed to better for a female body. For the price, we don't think there's a better low budget sleeping bag out there.

Read review: Kelty Tuck 20


A Good Bag at a Great Price

REI Co-op Trail Pod 29

REI Co-op Trail Pod 29

$80 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 15 oz | Temperature Rating: 30F
$80 price tag
Great comfort
Mesh storage bag included
Not super warm for its size and weight
Zipper tends to snag

The REI Co-op Trail Pod 29 brings a lot of quality to the tent for $80. It has several features of more expensive bags, such as a face muffler and draft tube to ward off cold air, offset quilt construction to prevent cold spots, and differentiated drawcords for adjustments to the neck and hood in the dark. Many budget sleeping bags don't include a storage bag, but the stuff sack included with this model also expands to a large mesh bag. Being able to store a sleeping bag uncompressed in a storage bag increases the life of synthetic loft and prevents cold spots from forming. Whereas most bags come in only long and regular, REI offers the Trail Pod in a short version as well. This bag has a relaxed fit to accommodate restless sleepers, and the polyester taffeta material feels better than expected next to the skin.

The zipper isn't well-designed on this sleeping bag. It tends to snag when zipping up, even when being careful. This isn't our first choice for temps that dip below freezing either. To stay warm below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, most sleepers need to wear additional clothing to bed with the Trail Pod. REI claims this bag is a unisex model, but we know women often benefit from models designed with female anatomy in mind. Women seeking a bag in this price range are better served by the women's versions of the Kelty Tuck 20 or Slumberjack Boundary 20. For summer and light shoulder season backcountry and campsite use, this bag costs a little but provides a lot.


Bargain Basement Price for a Solid Bag

Slumberjack Boundary 20 - Women's

(20% off)
at MooseJaw
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 8.4 oz | Temperature Rating: 20F
Very affordable
Not super warm
Lower quality materials

This bag costs $60, and it works. Backpacking on a budget often means even $100 is too much for a bag when factoring in the expense of other essential gear pieces. Being synthetic, it's appropriate for wet and dry climates. The materials might not be as soft and cozy as more expensive models, but they are durable. While some down bags require careful treatment, feel free to be rough with this synthetic bag. It can handle few music festivals. The women's model we tested weighs two and a half pounds, which is the most lightweight adult model on this list (besides the summer-only REI Helio 55). The men's version weighs nearly a pound heavier, which is a bit much. The lofty feel to the synthetic fill adds comfort, and there's sufficient wiggle room inside the bag.

In our tests, the Boundary 20 didn't remain comfortable with temps between 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit, despite its temperature rating. It's best used in the warmer nights of spring and fall, with full summer usage. There were significant compromises in the material quality to keep the price low. Don't expect a comfortable shell or liner as found on the Cosmic Down or Cat's Meow. We also wish it came with a larger sack for home storage. It only comes with a stuff sack. You'll feel the difference against your skin, but take comfort in the extra money still in your wallet. This bag provides basic backcountry bedding at an incredible price.

Read review: Slumberjack Boundary 20 - Women's


Best Bag for Kids

Slumberjack Go-n-Grow 30

Slumberjack Go-n-Grow 30 (Boys model)

(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 13 oz | Temperature Rating: 30F
Doesn't cost a bomb
Adjustable length
Great kid features
No hood
Large packed size

For kids and preteens, the best bag at the best price is the Slumberjack Go-n-Grow 30. Some kid-friendly features make this synthetic model stand out. First, the pockets — there are lots of them. There's a mesh pocket at the end of the bag for campsite sandals or shoes, an internal pocket for a headlamp or retainer, and a pocket at the top of the bag to keep a pillow in place during wiggly nights. The stuff sack comes with shoulder straps to be worn as a backpack. The same straps are used to compress the packed bag to a limited extent. Our favorite feature is the expandable footbox. Open the bottom zipper to release ten extra inches of room, allowing the bag to adjust and lengthen with your kid's growth spurts. Fully extended, this bag fits youth up to five feet tall, fitting larger children than the Kelty Woobie 30 described below. Finally, this bag didn't skimp on details, such as a draft tube along the anti-snag zipper to keep out night chills.

Although this bag is tapered like a mummy bag, it doesn't have a hood, so a kid might need a stocking cap if camping in cold temperatures. This bag seems to do best down to 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Bitter nights in late fall could be too cold for this model without layering up. There are plenty of models that weigh more than the Go-n-Grow 30, but at 2.8 pounds, it's not lightweight considering its small size. Its packed size is also large, but again, most kids bags take up even more space. If backpacking is more than a one-off experience for your child, consider picking up a compression sack to reduce this model's packed volume. Unfortunately, it's tough to find a backpacking model for kids that prioritizes portability. The Slumberjack Go-n-Grow offers our favorite balance of features, warmth, and comfort for a growing child's needs to the affordable tune of $70. There is a "Boys" (shown above) and "Girls" version of this bag, but the only difference is the color.


A Great Summertime Option

REI Co-op Helio Sack 55

REI Co-op Helio Sack 55

at REI
See It

Weight: 1 lb 9 oz | Temperature Rating: 55F
Very affordable
Lightweight and small volume
Only for warm-weather
Narrow leg and foot space

For backpackers who primarily head to the wilderness in warm summer temps, there's no need to lug a heavy and bulky 20-degree bag. For these situations, the REI Co-op Helio Sack 55 helps you move fast and light. Compared to the other models in this list, it's extremely lightweight and compact. It weighs just over one and a half pounds and packs down to a volume of three liters. This bag fully unzips to lay flat like a blanket, and by employing the hook and loop tabs near the head opening, it's wearable, too. If overnighting in cold temps, this sack doubles as a liner inside a heavier-duty sleeping bag. Travelers also appreciate this bag, especially couch surfers and hostel hoppers who want a layer between their skin and the bedding. Best of all, the regular size of this model only costs $60!

As you expect from a summer bag, the Helio Sack 55 is limited in use to warm temperatures in the mid-50s or higher. Even during summer use, a storm can drastically reduce temperatures below this bag's comfort range. Stick to warm, calm weather when sleeping in this bag. The legs and footbox of this bag are also narrow. While this cuts back on materials and lowers this product's total weight, it might not be comfortable for all sleepers. This isn't an all-around bag, but it fills the summer sleeping bag/cold weather liner niche well.


A Sleeping Bag for Wee Ones

Kelty Woobie 30

Kelty Woobie 30

(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz | Temperature Rating: 30F
Dual anti-snag zippers
Affordable yet quality
For toddlers and young kids up to 4'
No hood cord for cinching
Large packed volume
3/4 zip

Kelty makes a few kid-friendly bags, and the best for early childhood adventurers is the synthetic Woobie 30. The bag fits kids up to four feet tall and only costs $65. Besides its small dimensions and affordable price, this model has some great features for kids. With an anti-snag zipper on both sides, young ones can adjust how much heat they keep in or let out. Each zipper tab has a loop of nylon for small fingers to find and grab without a struggle. The bag is broad enough to allow for midnight flipping and early a.m. flopping. The 66D polyester taffeta liner and shell don't feel cheap. We appreciate that Kelty doesn't stiff young ones. This bag comes in "boy" and "girl" versions, but they are the same except for color (one is blue, the other pink).

Although this bag is for little bodies, it doesn't pack down very small. The stuff sack dimensions are 9" x 15". An aftermarket compression sack decreases the packed size, but also adds another twenty bucks or so. The hood fits loose around small heads, with no cords to cinch it tight on cold nights. This was probably a trade-off to make the bag simpler for children. The zipper is also 3/4 length, which might be a little warm some summer nights for kids who sleep hot. Overall, these drawbacks are more than equated for by the advantages of this bag. If you believe your toddler or young child deserves quality gear like you, this is an excellent option for camping and overnight trips into the wilderness.

Pro tip: For smaller children, pinch off the bottom of the bag by shoving the excess material into the stuff sack. Alternatively, stuff some clothes into the bottom of the bag to fill up dead space.

Ross Robinson