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.
The Best Budget Backpacking Sleeping Bags
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 more substantial 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 ok 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.
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 toasty 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.
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 foot box 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 foot box 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 the 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.
Ultralight sleeping bags often cost $300-500 which make the Burrow a refreshingly affordable choice. It's $100-300 cheaper than every bag that scores higher in our Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review. Like most quilt models, it's versatile and works in hammocks as well as on the couch. Two people can get bare snuggle under it for an afternoon nap. It's almost a pound lighter than every other bag in our review.
To shed weight, bags with this design don't allow you to fully zip the bag closed. This requires extra preparation to keep cold air from leaking in the sides. However, even experienced lightweight backpackers may have trouble keeping cooler air from leaking in. This bag is made to order direct from the manufacturer. You must allow a few weeks or more to get your bag.
Read review: Hammock Gear Burrow Econ 20
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.
We've found too many people buy backpacking sleeping bags only to primarily use them at home or camping near the car. If this describes your use, then skip the expense of a backpacking model and get an affordable, spacious and genuinely cozy option like the Wenzel Grande. It beat out stiff competition in our camping sleeping bag review because it's just so warm and comfy. Best of all, it's only $90!
The enormous downside to this bag is its weight and girth. Many thru-hikers have backpacks that weigh less than the Wenzel's nearly 14 pounds. Unless you are only backpacking a few miles from the trailhead, it's not practical to carry this beast. But if you're camping by the car or in the backyard: who cares!
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 foot box. 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.
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.
— Ross Robinson