Choosing the best winter sleeping bag for yourself is no easy task. Fear not! We researched over 50 of the top models, purchasing the top 13 contenders for side-by-side comparison. After several months of testing, we've identified the best bags for going fast and light, and the best bags for hunkering down in basecamp. We've spent ours cramming them into stuff sacks, zipping and unzipping zippers, and of course, sleeping. All so you don't have to scratch your head wondering which $700 sack of bird feathers will keep you warm and happy on your next winter adventure.
The Best Winter Down Sleeping Bags
|Price||$710.00 at Amazon||$619.00 at Feathered Friends||$449.95 at Amazon|
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|$600 List||$559.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Warm, awesome comfort, great warmth to weight ratio||Warm, highly weather resistant||Comfortable, spacious, lightweight||Superior warmth-to-weight ratio||Lightest bag in its class, super lofty, awesome zipper|
|Cons||Expensive||Small hood, tight cut||Not as warm as similarly rated bags, zipper snags on draft tubes||Tight fit for bigger sleepers||Shallow hood, not as warm as the heavier contenders|
|Bottom Line||For temps down to zero degrees, you can't beat the Kodiak.||We love this bag for any time we need protection against wet snow or snowmelt.||This bag has a wide, comfy cut and vents for temperature control. Perfect for finicky sleepers.||This bag has 35oz of high quality down with a scant 11oz for the materials weight.||A solid choice for those looking to go fast and light.|
|Rating Categories||Kodiak MF||Feathered Friends Snowbunting||NEMO Sonic 0||Big Agnes Crosho UL -20||Versalite 10|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Weather Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Kodiak MF||Feathered Friends...||NEMO Sonic 0||Big Agnes Crosho...||Versalite 10|
|Measured Weight (lbs)||2.85lb||2.85 lb||2.63 lb||2.87 lb||2.06 lb|
|Fill Weight (oz)||30oz||25.3oz||23.6oz||35oz||20oz|
|Material Weight (excludes down, oz)||15.65oz||20.3oz||18.6oz||11oz||13.7oz|
|Temperature Rating||0°F||0°F||0°F||-20° F||10°F|
|Shoulder Girth (inches)||66"||60"||61"||60"||62"|
|Hip Girth (inches)||57"||56"||58"||54"||53"|
|Foot Girth (inches)||41"||38"||53"||36"||39"|
|Shell Material||MicroLite XP||Pertex Shield EX||20 Denier Nylon Ripstop DWR||Nylon ripstop||12 Denier Extremelite|
Best Overall Winter Bag
Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF
This year's roundup brings us a new Editor's Choice Award winner, the Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF. Though new to this review, WM has been quietly churning out churning out this bag to a devoted following of adventurers. Like the Antelope and the Versalite, this bag has a huge 3D draft tube and a snag-free zipper. What elevates it to Editors' Choice status is the super comfy 66" cut in shoulders, and its 30oz of 850 fill down, making our favorite balance of warmth, weight, and comfort for winter camping in the lower 48.
Extra room in a sleeping bag is nice if you're going to be spending weeks at a time under the stars, but keep in mind that uninsulated space won't feel as warm as a tighter fitting bag. You can remedy this by stuffing your extra layers and jackets in the bag with you. Western Mountaineering bags are the gold standard, but they're expensive. Care for it, though, and this high-quality model could last decades of winters.
Read review Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF
Best Bang for the Buck
Therm-a-Rest Questar 0
The Thermarest Questar 0 offers comfort, compressibility, and a decent amount of warm at a nice price. 650 fill power goose down won't break the bank, while its lightweight materials won't break your back. We're thrilled to see a winter sleeping bag at this price that manages to weigh in under three pounds. This bag also features hydrophobically treated down and a resilient shell fabric with a DWR treatment.
This isn't the warmest bag in our review, and the "0" in the name refer to the bag's transition rating, not it's comfort rating, which is 14 degrees. The Transition EN rating refers to the temperature that the standard man will be "fighting against the cold but in thermal equilibrium". Basically, curled up but not shivering. If you're going to face temps hovering around 0, check out the Rab Neutrino 800 or the Big Agnes Crosho -20. These bags aren't a screaming deal like the Questar, but are much warmer, and around $100 less than many top performers.
Read review Thermarest Questar 0
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Kelty Cosmic 0
The Kelty Cosmic Down 0 is great for the winter camper on the tightest of budgets. It's heavy, and it doesn't pack down very small, but it will keep you warm, and we feel warmth is the most important feature when considering a winter bag. This bag also comes with some great features like a full-length draft tube and a draft collar. Measuring 58" in the hips, the Cosmic is comfortable for small to medium size folks.
This bag weighs more than any other bag in our review, a hefty 4.09 lbs, but it's still lighter than most synthetic alternatives when considering warmth provided. If you're doing some car camping on your winter road trip, you don't have to let high prices stand in your way. Because this bag is heavy, we don't recommend it for alpine climbing or long backpacking trips.
Read review Kelty Cosmic Down 0
Top Pick For Lightweight Adventures
Western Mountaineering Versalite 10
The Western Mountaineering Versalite is our go-to bag for ultralight winter adventures. Weighing in at a scant 2 lbs 1 oz, this bag has a great warmth-to-weight ratio and is awesome for spring ski tours and chilly climbing trips. As with all the bags from Western Mountaineering, the Versalite has an awesome snag-free zipper, a lofty draft tube, and a warm draft collar. Paired with a down jacket, the versatile Versalite is a great choice for those who tend to sleep warm and want to cut weight.
The Versalite isn't as weather resistant as some of the heavier bags in this review, but it packs down smaller and weighs less than every bag in its class, except for the REI Co-Op Magma, which isn't as warm. If you're going to be facing temperatures consistently colder than the mid-teens and below, we'd suggest carrying a warmer or heavier bag, like the Western Mountaineering Antelope or the 0-degree Kodiak. If not, this bag is worthy of falling in love with.
Read review Western Mountaineering Versalite
Top Pick For Comfort
NEMO Sonic 0
The Nemo Sonic gets our Top Pick For Comfort Award. The generously wide cut gave our testers plenty of room to toss, turn, and sprawl inside this bag. Thermal vents allowed us to dial in just the right amount of warmth. Additionally, the deep hood, wide shoulder cut, and elastic foot box allowed our testers to change clothes while still inside the bag.
Our testers feel like the Sonic isn't as warm as some of the other 0 degree bags in our review, most notably the Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF. Because of the extra room, this bag isn't as thermally efficient as some of the tighter fitting bags, but if comfort is your top priority, this could be the bag you've been looking for.
Read review Nemo Sonic
Best For Expeditions
Marmot Col -20
The Marmot Col is a great bag for expeditions, where you'll likely spend days on end inside your sleeping bag, staying warm and waiting for good weather. This bag has plenty of room to store water bottles, boots, extra clothing, and anything else you don't want to freeze. This bag is so spacious that one of our testers found he could even read while remaining completely inside.
The Col weighs over 4 pounds and doesn't pack down as small as lighter bags in our review, so this isn't the best choice for long-distance human-powered activities. This is a better choice for folks getting around on a snowmobile, horse, or a dogsled. If comfort, weather resistance, and warmth take priority above weight and packability, the Col is a perfect choice for your winter base camp.
Read review Marmot Col -20
Analysis and Test Results
A good sleeping bag is perhaps the single most important piece of gear you will carry on an overnight or multi-day trip into the wilderness. Think of it as your survival capsule in the wilderness. The ability to burrow inside a lofty down cocoon at the end of a cold day and get warm without fire can turn an unforgiving snowy landscape into a winter sports paradise. Modern down bags allow us to stay alive and even sleep comfortably in the coldest conditions with waterproof/breathable fabrics, hydrophobic down, and a variety of clever design strategies. A good night's sleep is essential for all the hiking, skiing, or climbing you plan on doing in the daytime.
Our review selection includes bags that will keep you warm and comfy in the parking lot of your favorite winter crag, as well as high-end, lightweight bags suited for climbing expeditions and backcountry ski tours. We brought back some tried-and-true favorites from our previous review and pitted them against a range of newcomers. Each bag was evaluated for its warmth, weight, comfort, packed size, features, and weather resistance.
A key part of purchasing a new winter bag is ensuring it fits within your budget constraints. While we don't factor value into a product's score in this review to remain objective about performance, we understand that this is a top consideration for most buyers. A big trade-off in this category is the quality of the down fill and the loft it provides. If you're paying less, the bag will generally weigh more and loft less, leading to a heavier pack and a less warm bag. But, to save a few hundred dollars (or more!), you might be willing to haul a tad more weight and sleep with your puffy on (which is more than likely with you on any winter trip). This is a personal choice, but one worth wrestling with.
A sleeping bag's warmth comes down to a combination of the volume or loft of its fill material and the cut or fit of the bag. A bag with more loft will keep you warmer because there will be more insulated air between you and the cold air outside. This insulated space allows you to create a warm microclimate with your body heat. The cut or fit of the bag determines how much extra space will be inside the bag. Extra space can be useful for accommodating extra layers you may want to wear, or items you want to keep warm with you through the night, like water bottles, boots, headlamps, phones, and batteries. However, if there is more uninsulated space inside the bag, it is less thermally efficient. It will take longer to feel warm inside, and you will notice any drafts that make it past the draft collar.
The warmest bags in our selection are the bags with the most loft and the most fill material. The Marmot Col -20 houses an impressive 44 oz of 800 fill power down, and features a wide cut, with plenty of space for wear/storing extra layers. Our testers found they could even change clothes inside the bag. The tighter fitting The North Face Inferno -20 feels equally as warm with 36.4 oz of 800 fill down because there is less uninsulated space.
Our Editors' Choice award-winning Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF feels only a touch less warm, while being much lighter than the bags mentioned above. It has less room than the Marmot Col but is significantly wider than the similarly rated Snowbunting and Antelope.
For those looking for maximum thermal efficiency, there is the Feathered Friends Snowbunting, and the Big Agnes Crosho -20, two of the slimmest bags in our review. The Snowbunting packs 25.3 oz of 900 fill down into a 2.85 lbs package. The Crosho -20 has an astounding 35 oz of 850-fill down, with a total weight of 2.87 lbs.
The Western Mountaineering Antelope MF, the Rab Neutrino 800, and our Top Pick for Comfort, the Nemo Sonic, are similarly rated and weighted bags, but the Rab Neutrino 800 and the Antelope feel warmer than the Nemo Sonic because they both have more down and narrower fits. The Western Mountaineering Versalite, conservatively rated to 10 degrees, is the lightest bag in our review but is still warmer than the heavier Nemo Sonic and the REI Co-op Magma 10, due to its high loft and a narrower cut.
Less expensive bags like the Best Buy Award Winning Thermarest Questar, Rab Ascent 900, the Kelty Cosmic Down 0 can feel as warm as some of the higher end bags. The Thermarest Questar employs 29 oz of 650 fill power down to a achieve a warmth rating similar to the much lighter and more expensive Western Mountaineering Versalite. The good news is that you can sleep out in the lower temps at a lower price. The Kelty Cosmic Down 0 is as warm and lofty as the Rab Ascent 900, but you'll pay with your legs, back, and the space in your pack.
A sleeping bag's total weight is a function of its fill material and the weight of its shell fabrics. A bag with higher quality down (800 or more) can achieve a lower temperature rating at a lower weight. High-tech shell fabrics allow for weather resistance and durability, even in light, 12 denier shells. Light is right if you're going the distance! But it's usually very expensive.
The lightest bags in this review are the Western Mountaineering Versalite with its super thin 12 denier Extremelite shell, and the sub-two-pound REI Co-Op Magma 10. The Versalite boasts 20 oz of 850 fill goose down and weighs in at 2 lbs 1 oz; it has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio but isn't as weather resistant as the heavier Feathered Friends Snowbunting. The Magma 10 weighs a scant 1 lb 14 oz but isn't as warm as the Versalite. The welterweight Western Mountaineering Antelope MF tips the scale at 2 lbs 10 oz, exactly the same as the Nemo Sonic, but the high-quality lightweight shell allocates more of that weight to insulation, so it feels warmer.
The warmest bags in our selection are also some of the heaviest. The Marmot Col -20 weighs 4.08 lbs, dedicating 21.3 oz to its tough, highly weather resistant 30 denier Pertex shell fabric, while The North Face Inferno -20 (3.44 lbs) shaves off the ounces with a lighter shell and a smaller cut. The Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF (2.85 lbs) cuts off a few ounces while still having a wide fit and great features due to its light shell fabrics.
Midweight bags include the Feathered Friends Snowbunting (2 lbs 13.6) and the Rab Ascent 900 (3 lbs 4.6 oz). The Kelty Cosmic Down is the least expensive bag and the heaviest, weighing 4 lbs 1.5 oz, almost the same as the Marmot Col -20, but nowhere near as warm or weather resistant.
We determine comfort based on the feel of the bag against our skin, how the hood and draft collar fit, and most importantly, how much space is in the bag. Sleeping bags with a wider cut generally received higher comfort scores. If you sleep exclusively on your back, a wide cut isn't too much of a concern, but for some of our testers who spend their nights in a bag for weeks on end, room to sleep on their sides and stomachs is key. The price of comfort? Extra fabric equating to extra weight and less space in your backpack. Consider how well you perform after a poor night of sleep and you may decide the extra weight is worth it.
The Nemo Sonic wins our Top Pick for Comfort because it has the widest cut of all the bags; it employs a 20 denier ripstop fabric to keep the weight down from all that extra girth. Our testers found they could sleep comfortably in this bag in any position, even in the classic "can opener" position, due to the slight stretch in the middle. The Thermarest Questar 0 is also quite comfortable, featuring extra room in the hips and foot box.
The Western Mountaineering Versalite and the Antelope lost points in this metric due to their shallow hoods. Our testers generally preferred the slightly deeper hood of the Kodiak with drawstrings for the hood and the draft collar. The lower scores in the comfort metric go to the Feathered Friends Snowbunting, the Big Agnes Crosho -20 and the Kelty Cosmic Down 0. The Snowbunting and the Cosmic Down have shallow hoods and relatively narrow (but thermally efficient) cuts, while the Crosho isn't as roomy as the more comfortable bags in our review. These three didn't score very high here but are by no means uncomfortable - simply average. Again, if you primarily sleep on your back, the width isn't so important. Additionally, if you're interested in the Crosho and the Snowbunting for alpine and big wall climbing, you'll likely be on your back anyway, sleeping on a narrow ledge or nestled among the rocks.
Ski touring can be a gear-intensive activity, and pack space is a premium once you've accounted for a shovel, probe, food, water, layers, and a tent. Ditto for alpine climbing, when you may find your pack overflowing with ropes and cams. Higher quality materials are critical for increased packability. To assess the packed size, we crammed each bag into our Sea to Summit compression sack and pulled down as hard as we could on the compression straps.
Much to our surprise and delight, each bag fit inside the compression sack, even the hulking Marmot Col, which looks huge when lofted in its storage sack. The ultra-light Western Mountaineering Versalite and REI Co-Op Magma 10 predictably compress the most. The Editors' Choice Award-winning Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF packs down to a backpack-friendly size, even though it's one of the wider and warmer bags in the review.
Bags with a lower fill power down take up the most space. The Kelty Cosmic Down 0 one of the least packable, taking up more room than the Marmot Col and The North Face Inferno -20.
Features are a subjective, multifaceted metric, comparing aspects universal to all the bags such as draft tubes, hoods, and zippers, while also factoring in characteristics unique only to certain bags. Some bags had stash pockets, which are useful for storing batteries or a watch but also can be annoying if you roll over on them.
The Nemo Sonic has a ventilation system employing two zippered gills on the top of the bag, so you can cool off when using the bag in warmer weather. The Western Mountaineering bags are a standout for their awesome snag-free zippers, while the Nemo Sonic's zippers constantly snagged on its double draft tubes. The Thermarest Questar 0 has removable elastic straps for securing it to a sleeping bag, a feature a few of our testers find useful. It also features a down-insulated flap in the toe box to take up some dead space and increase warmth, but you can do the same thing with a jacket or an extra layer, so we don't think it's a game changer. A few bags had a small pocket inside the bag for keeping small items accessible and items with batteries warm. Bags with simple, effective features tended to score higher because they are less likely to break and make for a lighter, more reliable product.
The top scorer in this metric is the Marmot Col -20, pumping out the features. The Nemo Sonic 0 and Rab Ascent 900 were all trailing closely behind.
It is essential that a winter bag can withstand condensation, snowmelt, and even the occasional rain shower, as the climate in the mountains is variable depending on elevation. If down gets wet it loses all its insulating properties and you'll have to cut your trip short, or worse. If a bag can withstand the elements well enough on its own, you get a bonus weight savings since you don't have to bring along a bivy sack or a tent. A sleeping bag's weather resisting abilities boil down to shell fabrics. Some of the bags feature specially treated hydrophobic down.
The manufacturers claim hydrophobic down absorbs less water and maintains its loft better, and dries out faster than untreated down. Our testing team couldn't distinguish a difference between treated and untreated down, in part because the shell fabrics on many of the bags are so effective at repelling water that the down didn't get wet. Short of cutting into the bags to fully soak the down, there was no way to test the effectiveness of this treatment. The Thermarest Questar 0, the Big Agnes Crosho -20, the Rab Neutrino 800 and the Rab Ascent 900 all feature down with a hydrophobic treatment.
The Marmot Col -20 is king when it comes to combating the adverse weather. Its burly, waterproof shell absorbed zero water, even in our submersion test. The Feathered Friends Snowbunting and The North Face Inferno -20 fall in right behind the Marmot Col. All of these contenders kept our testers warm and dry in light rain.
The Rab Ascent 900, the Rab Neutrino 800, and the Nemo Sonic resisted the rain well, but all absorbed small amounts of water in the submersion test (just don't jump in the lake with your sleeping bag and you'll be fine). Even the lightweight Western Mountaineering bags were impervious to light rain and condensation.
Only the Kelty Cosmic Down 0 absorbed enough rain to soak through to our testers. If you decide to purchase this warm, budget-friendly bag, make sure you've got an effective way to keep it dry, like a tent, or the back of your car.
A stuff sack and a storage sack are included with each of the bags in this category, with the exception of the Kelty Cosmic Down 0, which only comes with a stuff sack. The Western Mountaineering bags have the largest storage sacks so you can store them at maximum loft. The North Face Inferno -20 and the Rab Ascent 900 both include stuff sacks with compression straps, and the Rab Neutrino 800 comes with a dry bag. Be sure to purchase a quality pad that will keep your body warmth in. All the expensive, high-quality down is useless if it's compressed underneath your body, with only a thin shell layer between you and the frozen ground. You'll need a pad that light, durable, and insulates well to complement a winter down bag.
We hope we've unraveled some of the mysteries around selecting the best cold weather down bag to suit your specific needs. While a down bag may seem like a huge financial investment, it will keep you warm and cozy for years if properly cared for, and nothing beats a good night's sleep under the stars on a long winter's night.
— Matt Bento