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The Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2019

It's a tough job  but somebody's got to do it! The author testing the Trail Pod in the field.
Sunday May 19, 2019
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Are you baffled by expensive baffles? We set out to find the best budget backpacking sleeping bags you can buy in 2019. Modern sleeping bags can cost several hundred dollars, more than some of us spend on home mattresses. If that figure sounds like too much money to enjoy a simple overnight in the outdoors, this review of value backpacking bags is for you. Our backpacking experts are no strangers to stretching a buck. They used this experience to select 10 of the top-rated sleeping bags under $200. Each of these bags then underwent a battery of hands-on tests in the field and lab to evaluate their comfort, warmth, and versatility. Below we report our findings and try to help you figure out whether you'd be happier in a cheaper sleeping bag with a couple extra hundred dollars in your pocket.

Related: The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2019


Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Best Buy Award   Best Buy Award  
Price $199.95 at Amazon
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$159.95 at Backcountry$169.95 at Backcountry
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$159.95 at REI
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$130.00 at Backcountry
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Pros Awesome warmth-to-weight ratio for the price, very compressible, tons of venting options, nice compression sack includedThick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sackCheap, anti-snag zipper, sturdy materials, versatile synthetic insulationInexpensive, burly, decent warmth, roomy fitExtra-long zipper, lightweight, packs small, unzips into a quilt
Cons Not as warm as its temp rating, no draft collar, uncertain durabilityBulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratioModerate warmth-to-weight ratio, doesn't compress well, limited extra featuresHeavier than average, bulky, no storage sack, no compression sackColder than its warmth rating, no draft collar or stash pocket, unpleasant smell
Bottom Line An exceptional deal for a lightweight bag that excels in wet conditions.A simple but effective synthetic mummy bag.An affordable workhorse with solid all-around performance.A legit backpacking sleeping bag that won't cost you an arm and a leg.Lightweight and packable, but minimal insulation.
Rating Categories NEMO Kyan 35 The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30 Kelty Cosmic 20 Klymit KSB 35
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Specs NEMO Kyan 35 The North Face... Mountain Hardwear... Kelty Cosmic 20 Klymit KSB 35
Measured Weight (size long, in lbs) 1.89 2.39 2.28 2.63 3.14
Temperature rating (F) 35 20 30 20 35
EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women) 35 / 46 22 / 33 27 (lower) 19 (lower) 21 / 32
Manufacturer claimed weight of size Regular (lbs) 1.69 2.25 2.17 2.41 1.90
Compression/Stuff Sack Weight (oz) 2.4 4.0 3.7 0.8 0.8
Compressed Volume (L) 6.6 11.4 8.6 8.7 7.0
Fill Synthetic - Primaloft Silver Synthetic - Heatseeker Guide Synthetic - Thermal.Q 600FP Down (83%) / Polyester (17%) 650FP Down
Hydrophobic down? N/A N/A N/A Yes No
Fill Weight (Reg oz) 12 26 Unknown 18.2 14.1
Shell material Ripstop nylon (20D) 20D Nylon Ripstop Ripstop nylon (30D) 20D Nylon taffeta Sil-Nylon
Neck Baffle No No No Yes No
Small organization Pocket No Yes No Yes No
Zipper Full-length / Side Full-Length Side Full-lengh / Side 3/4-Length Side Full-Length+ Side
Shoulder Girth (Reg) 62 Unknown 60 64 in 60 in
Hip Girth (Reg) 57 Unknown 58 60 in 60 in
Foot Girth (Reg) 46 Unknown
Stuff or compression sack included? Compression Compression Compression Stuff Stuff
Storage sack included? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Water resistant shell? DWR No DWR No DWR
Total Weight (Long size, in Pounds) 30.2 38.2 36.4 42.0 30.6
Manufacturer claimed weight (Long, oz) 30 39 Not listed 42.7 N/A

Best Budget Synthetic Sleeping Bag


NEMO Kyan 35


Best Buy Award

$199.95
at Amazon
See It

69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 20% 3
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 9
  • Features & Design - 10% 8
Weight: 1 lbs 14 oz | Packed size: 6.6 liters
Super light
Very packable for a synthetic bag
Innovative "gills" for venting
Comes with a good compression sack
Warmth doesn't match the temperature rating
Finicky zippers on "gills" and stash pocket
Uncertain durability

The Nemo Kyan 35 stacks up well against sleeping bags that cost up to twice as much. Perhaps its most impressive attribute is its weight. A weight under two pounds for a synthetic 3-season bag is pretty much unheard of. It also won't take up much room in your pack because it comes with a great compression sack and packs down as small the best down bags we've tried. In camp, we think you'll be pleased by the dimensions that feel surprisingly roomy for a traditional mummy bag design. Another feature we like are the zippered "gills" on the top of the bag that allow you to reduce the level of insulation on warmer nights.

Our only concern is the Kyan's overall warmth. The 35°F version that we tried didn't quite live up to its temperature rating, so it's not a great choice for colder spring or fall overnights. Fear not, though, there's a 20F version that comes with six extra ounces of Primaloft Silver insulation. We haven't had a chance to test this warmer version yet, but the advertised specs and customer reviews suggest it's every bit as good as the 35F version that we love. Pick the temperature rating that fits your needs, and we're confident you'll get a great backpacking sleeping bag at an even better price.

Read review: Nemo Kyan 35

Best Budget Down Sleeping Bag


Kelty Cosmic 20


Best Buy Award

$159.95
(6% off)
at REI
See It

54
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 3
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Packed Size - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Features & Design - 10% 6
Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz | Insulation: 600 fill power down
Burly materials
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 Kelty Cosmic. 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 model isn't the warmest bag, though, and the 20°F manufacturer rating is somewhat generous. It's toasty in the low 30's, but you'll need to layer up if temps enter the 20's. The 600 fill power hydrophobic DriDown won't dry out as fast as synthetic models (a drawback of all down models). And while this model contains lightweight down, it still weighs more than two and a half pounds. If you're new to backpacking and daunted by price tags, this down bag gives you a tremendous performance-to-price ratio overall. It's also available in a women's version that our female testers appreciate.

Read review: Kelty Cosmic 20 and Kelty Cosmic Down 20 - Women's

The Nemo Kyan impressed us with its outstanding performance and surprisingly low price. We consider it one of the best sleeping bag deals out there.
The Nemo Kyan impressed us with its outstanding performance and surprisingly low price. We consider it one of the best sleeping bag deals out there.

Our Top Choice for Under $100


REI Co-op Trail Pod 30



$79.95
(11% off)
at REI
See It

45
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Weight - 20% 2
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Packed Size - 15% 3
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Features & Design - 10% 6
Weight: 3 lbs 1 oz | EN Temperature Rating: 29°F
Unbeatable price
Soft fabric lining
Anti-snag zipper
Roomy for a mummy bag
Heavy
Bulky
Few additional features

Everyone should have an opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the great outdoors. No matter their bank balance. REI embraces this philosophy with the affordable Trail Pod 30. It's not as light or as packable as some of the top performers, but it's still a legit backpacking sleeping bag. The 30°F temp rating seems accurate to us, which means it's suitable for most 3-season applications. Our testers are also impressed with the comfort provided by its roomy dimensions and soft polyester lining. Also, the zipper snags less and is easier to use than some much more expensive competitors.

This model is an ideal bag for novice backpackers or anyone on a genuinely tight budget. However, if you have some cash to spare or you plan to spend a lot of nights in the backcountry, a higher-performing budget bag will probably be worth the added cost. For an extra hundred bucks, there are several models that compress substantially smaller and offer significant weight savings. But for short distance overnight trips, there's no better deal than the REI Trail Pod 30.

Read review: REI Co-op Trail Pod 30


Why You Should Trust Us


Jack Cramer and Ross Robinson combined forces to find the best budget backpacking sleeping bag. Jack is an avid climber and an experienced backcountry traveler. His backpacking chops include a 3-month National Outdoor Leadership School course, a solo trek across Mongolia, and countless off-trail overnights throughout the Lower 48. Ross is a similarly seasoned backpacker and world traveler who gained his expertise on separate 500+ mile hikes in Peru, Thailand, and Germany. None of these travels were as lucrative as the authors would have liked, so they also know what it's like to be shopping for gear on a budget.

All bags were weighed without their included stuff or compression sack.
The lead author measuring compressed volume in the 15-liter compression sack that we used for all the bags.
The author of our women's backpacking sleeping bag review on top of a pile of approximately 17 quadrillion down feathers.

This review began by researching more than 100 of the most popular backpacking sleeping bags. Ten of the top-rated bags were then purchased to undergo full hands-on testing. Our team of testers then brought them on overnight trips throughout the American west, where they evaluated their comfort, versatility, and features. Back in the lab, we weighed each bag on our scale, measured their packed size in a third-party compression sack, and slept in them under controlled conditions to determine their warmth. An overall score was then calculated by weighting performance in each of these areas according to what our experienced authors consider to be the most critical characteristics in a budget backpacking sleeping bag.

Related: How We Tested Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bags

Analysis and Test Results


A sleeping bag is a cornerstone piece of gear in the modern overnight kit. Even in the nicest of climates, storms and cold temperatures can roll in unexpectedly. When they do, your comfort and safety often depend on the performance of your sleeping bag. The obvious question then becomes — is it ok to settle for a budget model? Or due to its importance, is it better to spend more to get the absolute best bag? After testing more than twenty premium and budget bags, here's our advice:

Saving money is always tempting  but in some cases  it's just not worth it. The Furnace  for example  is a low-priced down bag but doesn't perform as well as a cheaper synthetic bag from the same manufacturer.
Saving money is always tempting, but in some cases, it's just not worth it. The Furnace, for example, is a low-priced down bag but doesn't perform as well as a cheaper synthetic bag from the same manufacturer.

Can I Get By With a Budget Sleeping Bag?


The difference between a budget and a premium sleeping bag is kind of like the difference between flying economy and flying first-class. Both accomplish the same purpose, but one is vastly more enjoyable. There is also a vast enough difference in cost that it will factor into most people's decisions. "Economy" sleeping bags can go for under $100 while "first-class" bags filled with goose down retail for $500+.

These versions of the premium Marmot Phase ($459) and the budget Big Agnes Husted ($119) have identical 19F EN temperature ratings  but the Phase packs 35% smaller.
These versions of the premium Marmot Phase ($459) and the budget Big Agnes Husted ($119) have identical 19F EN temperature ratings, but the Phase packs 35% smaller.

For this review, we defined a budget backpacking sleeping bag as a 3-season bag with a 20-35°F temperature rating and an MSRP under $200. Any bags with similar characteristics that cost more than $200 we called a premium backpacking sleeping bag. We observed substantial differences between these two categories in terms of weight and packed size. Premium bags, on average, weigh a pound less and compress 3 liters smaller. The differences extend to comfort and versatility. More expensive models feature more luxurious materials and sophisticated designs that make them more useful across a greater range of temperatures and conditions. After the exertion of a day backpacking, however, our testers noted almost no difference between budget and premium bags in terms of their sleep quality.

Generally premium sleeping bags are made with glossy lightweight fabrics  like the 10-denier nylon on the Rab Mythic (top). Budget bags often use burly materials  such as the 30-denier nylon the Mountain Hardwear Lamina (bottom).
Generally premium sleeping bags are made with glossy lightweight fabrics, like the 10-denier nylon on the Rab Mythic (top). Budget bags often use burly materials, such as the 30-denier nylon the Mountain Hardwear Lamina (bottom).

Our advice for sleeping bag purchases, therefore, is to follow the airline travel analogy. Frequent business travelers may need the perks of a first-class ticket, but the added cost probably isn't worth it for the average joe. When it comes to sleeping bags, we think the lower weight and smaller packed size of a premium bag are easily worth it for frequent, or more serious, backcountry travelers. Occasional and recreational backpackers, however, can sleep nearly as well and save a couple of hundred dollars in a budget bag without compromising their safety should a storm arrive.

Value


After you decide that a budget bag is right for you, it's still important that you get a good deal. Sleeping bags are like any consumer product--price often corresponds to quality. But not always.


We believe the Nemo Kyan 35 is an outstanding value. In our performance tests, it scored as high as many premium bags, but it only costs $200. The Big Agnes Husted 20 and REI Trail Pod are examples of great deals, receiving acceptable performance scores without consuming too much of your paycheck. Keep in mind, however, we use list price when looking at the value of products, but it's not uncommon to find some of these budget sleeping bags on sale.

Warmth


The classic mummy shape of most sleeping bags is designed to provide maximum warmth with minimum materials. Sleeping bags thus offer arguably the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any insulating layer. This warmth is determined by the quantity and quality of the insulation, along with the thermal efficiency of the bag's design. Both work by preventing the heat that's given off by your body from escaping to the outside world.


There are two primary types of sleeping bag insulation: down feathers and synthetic fibers. By weight, high-quality down (800+ fill power) is better at trapping heat than synthetic. High-quality down, however, is extremely expensive, so budget bags must use synthetic or lower quality down for their insulation. The performance differences between these less expensive materials are less apparent and harder to generalize.

Check out the difference between budget down and ultra-premium. The 850+ FP down of the MegaLite (right) lofts 6 inches upward  while the KSB's 650 FP down (left) lays nearly flat on the ground.
Check out the difference between budget down and ultra-premium. The 850+ FP down of the MegaLite (right) lofts 6 inches upward, while the KSB's 650 FP down (left) lays nearly flat on the ground.

The other significant factor that affects warmth is sleeping bag design. The more form-fitting a bag is, the less extra volume your body needs to heat, and all other things being equal, the warmer you will feel. Other specific features can also influence warmth. Draft tubes and draft collars, for example, ensure that heat doesn't escape out the main zipper and hood closure, respectively.

The 4" wide piece of red fabric seen here serves as a passive draft collar. It nestles around your neck to seal heat inside the bag's main compartment and prevent it from escaping out the hood on cooler nights.
The 4" wide piece of red fabric seen here serves as a passive draft collar. It nestles around your neck to seal heat inside the bag's main compartment and prevent it from escaping out the hood on cooler nights.

You can get a rough idea of a sleeping bag's warmth by considering its insulation and design, but without considerable experience, it's hard to make a confident prediction. A standardized test was developed to resolve this problem and to give consumers consistent temperature ratings. These European Norm (EN) ratings use a copper mannequin, rather than a human being, to scientifically measure warmth. Our testers noticed significant differences in how warm they felt in bags with similar advertised EN ratings. Our testers, for example, stayed comfortably warm in the Big Agnes Husted at temperatures near its 19°F rating (EN lower limit) but shivered in temps 20° above the Klymit KSB 35's similar 21F rating (EN lower limit).

Many sleeping bags now receive EN temperature ratings. Although most bags are then advertised at their "limit" rating  we think most people will be happier in temps down to the higher "comfort" rating.
Many sleeping bags now receive EN temperature ratings. Although most bags are then advertised at their "limit" rating, we think most people will be happier in temps down to the higher "comfort" rating.

To share this hands-on knowledge with you, we've scored each bag's warmth relative to the others on a scale of one to ten. We've also tried to comment on a bag's warmth relative to its advertised EN rating. Picking the best sleeping bag, however, is not as simple as picking the bag with the highest warmth score. Rather it's also essential to consider the temperatures in which you will use the bag. We recommend 35°F bags like Nemo Kyan for warm summer nights and lower elevation trips in spring and fall. A 20F bag like the Kelty Cosmic is a better choice for "cold sleepers" and full 3-season use.

Weight


Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of a budget sleeping bag is the weight. For example, an ultralight premium bag like the Rab Mythic 400 provides similar warmth to the Therm-a-Rest Saros but weighs more than 2 pounds less. This weight probably isn't a dealbreaker for short overnights near the trailhead, but it becomes more important for longer trips deep into the backcountry.


Fortunately, some budget sleeping bags are designed to be genuinely lightweight. The Nemo Kyan 35 and Klymit KSB 35 both weigh less than 2 pounds and are suitable for warmer 3-season applications. For full 3-season use, the Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30 and The North Face Cat's Meow offer additional warmth while weighing only a half pound more than comparable premium sleeping bags. For any long-distance backpacking we caution shoppers from purchasing the heaviest budget bags, like the Therm-a-Rest Saros and Marmot Trestles, because their additional weight will almost certainly reduce your happiness.

Several bags in this review (including the Trestles 30) are advertised as backpacking sleeping bags but are really better suited for car camping due to their substantial weight.
Several bags in this review (including the Trestles 30) are advertised as backpacking sleeping bags but are really better suited for car camping due to their substantial weight.

At the same time, try not to get too caught up on the weight of your sleeping bag. The difference between the lightest expensive bag and the lightest budget bag is hardly noticeable. It's also a viable strategy to save money with a budget bag and use the savings to get a lighter tent or backpack to reduce the total weight of your overnight kit.

The difference in weight between the lighter premium and budget sleeping bags isn't a real issue for most applications. For some strenuous activities  however  cutting a few ounces can be worth the added cost.
The difference in weight between the lighter premium and budget sleeping bags isn't a real issue for most applications. For some strenuous activities, however, cutting a few ounces can be worth the added cost.

Comfort


The weight or packed size of your sleeping bag matters little if it's uncomfortable. This issue goes for some of the ultralight premium bags. Fortunately, budget bags haven't gone to the same lengths to reduce weight, so there weren't any bags in this review that seemed uncomfortable enough to disturb the sleep of the average backpacker. For larger folks or more restless sleepers, however, comfort can be an important consideration.


In our view, the comfort of a sleeping bag comes from the spaciousness of the interior dimensions and the feel of the lining materials. All the budget bags that we tried had roomy interior dimensions compared to the narrower cut of some ultralight premium bags. Side and stomach sleepers will likely appreciate particularly wide bags like the Kelty Cosmic 20 and Therm-a-Rest Saros which give you a larger foot box to stretch your legs.

From a materials perspective, most of the budget bags had similarly soft fabric linings made of glossy ripstop nylon. The REI Trail Pod and Big Agnes Husted 20 were pleasant exceptions. Our testers consider their matte polyester taffeta fabric to be even more comfortable.

The hood drawstring on most sleeping bags has a tendency to dangle near your face  occasionally poking you in the nose or eye. The drawstring on the Husted is threaded beneath a simple piece of fabric to direct it away from your face.
The hood drawstring on most sleeping bags has a tendency to dangle near your face, occasionally poking you in the nose or eye. The drawstring on the Husted is threaded beneath a simple piece of fabric to direct it away from your face.

The Husted 20 also has a smart piece of fabric that directs the hood drawstring away from your face. One surprisingly aspect of comfort that we didn't anticipate was smell. Several testers complained about the unpleasant smell of the Klymit KSB 35 during the first month of testing before it was properly broken in.

The bulkiest budget bags are twice the size of the smallest. From left to right  bottom row: Nemo Kyan 35  Klymit KSB 35  Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30  Kelty Comsic 20  The North Face Cat's Meow. Top row: Marmot Trestles 30   The North Face Furnace 20  REI Trail Pod 30 (previously tested)  Big Agnes Husted 20  Therm-a-Rest Saros
The bulkiest budget bags are twice the size of the smallest. From left to right, bottom row: Nemo Kyan 35, Klymit KSB 35, Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30, Kelty Comsic 20, The North Face Cat's Meow. Top row: Marmot Trestles 30, The North Face Furnace 20, REI Trail Pod 30 (previously tested), Big Agnes Husted 20, Therm-a-Rest Saros

Packed Size


Behind weight, the second biggest drawback of a budget bag seems to be the packed size. The smallest premium down bags can be less than half the size of similarly warm budget bags. Depending on the types of overnights you like to do this may or may not be an important issue. If you mostly backpack on wide established trails the extra volume is unlikely to be a huge problem. However, if your adventures include hikes through dense woods or off-trail, then a bulkier sleeping bag becomes less desirable.


All the bags we tested came with a sack for storing them in your backpack. The quality and effectiveness of these sacks varied considerably.

If you're concerned about packed size  consider getting an after-market compression sack (green). These can compress down bags substantially smaller than a simple stuff sack  but the benefit is less dramatic for synthetic bags like the Therm-a-Rest Saros.
If you're concerned about packed size, consider getting an after-market compression sack (green). These can compress down bags substantially smaller than a simple stuff sack, but the benefit is less dramatic for synthetic bags like the Therm-a-Rest Saros.

For evaluating minimum packed size, we tried to keep things fair by using the same 15L Outdoor Research compression sack for all the bags. The Klymit KSB 35 and Nemo Kyan 35 were both impressive standouts for achieving minimum packed sizes below seven liters. On the other end of the spectrum, the Therm-a-Rest Saros and Big Agnes Husted 20 had compressed volumes that were more suitable for car camping than backpacking overnights.

The Nemo Kyan's synthetic insulation is ideal if you're worried about rain getting your sleeping bag wet.
The Nemo Kyan's synthetic insulation is ideal if you're worried about rain getting your sleeping bag wet.

Versatility


All sleeping bags need to be able to keep a single person warm within their specified temperature range. Some sleeping bags, however, can also be comfortably shared between two people or continue to offer their warmth even if they get wet. Other bags have clever designs that allow you to adjust the level of insulation to extend the usable temperature range. The more of these things a single bag can do, the more versatile it is, and the more value it provides.


One significant factor that influences sleeping bag versatility is the type of insulation. Down feathers, regardless of whether they have been hydrophobically treated or not, will clump if they get wet. When clumped, these feathers lose virtually all ability to insulate. Synthetic fibers, in contrast, don't clump when wet and retain a considerable portion of their insulative power even when soaked. This property gives synthetic bags a clear advantage for wet activities and climates.

"Full-length" zippers actually come in a variety of lengths. All are long enough for effectively shedding excess heat  but only the Klymit KSB's extra long zipper (bottom) let us unzip it fully into a quilt.
"Full-length" zippers actually come in a variety of lengths. All are long enough for effectively shedding excess heat, but only the Klymit KSB's extra long zipper (bottom) let us unzip it fully into a quilt.

Another factor that influences versatility is the length of a sleeping bag's main zipper. Full-length zippers allow you to vent excess heat or use the bag as a blanket on warmer nights. The Klymit KSB 35 even has a longer than full-length zipper that lets you unzip it around the foot of the bag. This arrangement gives you the option to use it as a true quilt or share it between two people on an ultralight mission.

The KSB's best feature might be its longer than full-length zipper. Here  two testers comfortably share a single bag that's been fully unzipped into a quilt.
The KSB's best feature might be its longer than full-length zipper. Here, two testers comfortably share a single bag that's been fully unzipped into a quilt.

Versatility increases with smart accessory features. Neck baffles, or draft collars as they're also known, are extra tubes of insulation near your neck that seal heat inside the main compartment of a bag. This feature extends the bag's usable temperature range to colder conditions. In the other direction, the "gills" on the Nemo Kyan 35 allow you to reduce the amount of insulation to ensure you don't overheat on a warmer night.

Open the gill zippers (right) to open gaps in the insulation to let heat escape. Close the gill zippers (left) and the Nemo Kyan seals in heat like any other bag.
Open the gill zippers (right) to open gaps in the insulation to let heat escape. Close the gill zippers (left) and the Nemo Kyan seals in heat like any other bag.

Features and Design


Sleeping bag makers have come up with lots of ways to make their products stand out from the crowd. Some of these features are undeniably useful, but others don't make a whole lot of sense. Our reviewers tested each in the field to evaluate these myriad features, and examine how effectively they addressed the problem they were designed to solve.


Ten years ago, it seemed as if every sleeping bag zipper had a horrible snagging problem. Today that's thankfully no longer the case. The ubiquitous zipper manufacturer YKK now offers a Y-shaped zipper slide that reduces snagging and comes on several bags. Other bags use stiffened fabric adjacent to the zipper to keep the silkier lining fabric out of the teeth. The stiffened fabric grove on The North Face Furnace is a particularly useful anti-snag design.

A standard zipper like that on The North Face Cat's Meow (top) is prone to snagging on the adjacent lining fabric. The Furnace  however  uses a groove of firmer black fabric (bottom) to keep the silky lining fabric away from the teeth.
A standard zipper like that on The North Face Cat's Meow (top) is prone to snagging on the adjacent lining fabric. The Furnace, however, uses a groove of firmer black fabric (bottom) to keep the silky lining fabric away from the teeth.

Zippers can also be modified to offer additional venting options or enhanced versatility. We're big fans of the extra long zipper on the Klymit KSB 35 because it allows you to vent only your feet or to unzip the bag into a true quilt.

The KSB 35 is one of the few bags that lets you unzip all the way around the foot of the bag.
The KSB 35 is one of the few bags that lets you unzip all the way around the foot of the bag.

The Marmot Trestles 30, in contrast, adds a second zipper to let you vent from the hood opening. This detail is kind of nice but requires additional weight and results in lower overall versatility than the KSB's smarter design. Additional zippers on the Nemo Kyan 35 boost versatility while adding minimal weight. It includes two tiny featherlight zippers to operate the "gills" on the top of the bag that adjust the amount insulation.

The Trestles' 1/4-length accessory zipper certainly improves ventilation. However  we believe there are lighter and more effective ways to improve overall versatility.
The Trestles' 1/4-length accessory zipper certainly improves ventilation. However, we believe there are lighter and more effective ways to improve overall versatility.

Another feature that's appearing on a lot of bags is a small stash pocket. These pockets are great for keeping your phone or headlamp close at hand. We especially like lighter stash pocket designs that are located on the inside of the bag because they will keep the batteries in your electronics warm and working well. The zipperless stash pocket on The North Face Furnace is an excellent example of this.

The stash pocket on the Furnace is one of our favorites because its zipperless design is lightweight and it's located inside the bag where your phone batteries will stay warm.
The stash pocket on the Furnace is one of our favorites because its zipperless design is lightweight and it's located inside the bag where your phone batteries will stay warm.

A final feature that more sleeping bag makers are introducing in their newer models is a system for attaching the bag to a sleeping pad. Most of our testers think these attachment systems are unnecessary because it can be downright tricky to roll off a pad inside a cramped two-person tent. Some people, however, do appreciate being able to secure their sleeping bag to their pad. Either way, we've chosen to only award bags additional points for sleeping pad attachment systems that are also removable. The Therm-a-Rest Saros incorporates such a system pretty nicely.

We prefer the pad attachment system on the Therm-a-Rest Saros (far right) over several designs on more expensive bags because it's fully removable and durable enough for long-term use.
We prefer the pad attachment system on the Therm-a-Rest Saros (far right) over several designs on more expensive bags because it's fully removable and durable enough for long-term use.

Other Sleeping Bag Reviews


This study is our best shot at a review of the 3-season backpacking sleeping bags under $200. If the performance of these bags isn't quite up to your standards, you can check out higher-end models.

Related: The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2019

Related: The Best Sleeping Bags for Camping of 2019


Jack Cramer and Ross Robinson