Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Sleeping Bags for Women of 2021

Our lady backcountry experts test women's-specific sleeping bags from Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, The North Face, REI, and more to find the best
We've spent hundreds of nights in the backcountry testing out these ba...
Photo: Ian McEleney
By Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday October 20, 2021
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Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
For 8 years, our backpacking experts have tested 51 of the best women's sleeping bags. Our 2021 review compares 17 models bought and tested for side-by-side analysis. We have carried these bags on our backs and spent many chilly nights snuggled in these bags, sleeping under the stars, under a tarp, and in tents. We have experienced soggy, humid, cold, and dry conditions, putting these products through the paces. We scrutinize specific performance metrics like weight and comfort to give you an objective comparison. After almost a decade of reviewing women's sleeping bags, we recommend the best bags to keep your pack light, your wallet full, and your body rested for many adventures to come.

Top 17 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 17
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $439.00 at Feathered Friends$549 List$570 List
Check Price at Backcountry
$519.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$400 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
89
86
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82
78
Star Rating
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Pros High-quality down, warm, lightweightHigh-quality down, warm and lofty, light, a top tier productLightweight, warm, comfortable, versatileLightweight, high-quality materials, comfortableLightweight, compressible, comfortable
Cons Sizing not for everyone, fabric is a bit noisyExpensiveHigh price tagExpensive, included compression sack is heavyExpensive, not particularly warm
Bottom Line This high-end bag will keep you warm and comfortable from Spring to Fall in all conditionsA high-tech, high-quality backpacking sleeping bag with more roomy dimensions than mostThis versatile, lightweight bag will keep you warm and comfortable on your extended backcountry foraysThis is a top of the line, lightweight unisex sleeping bag that comes in a size that fits women for anyone who can afford itThis lightweight sleeping bag is a great choice for alpine climbing or fast and light adventures
Rating Categories Feathered Friends E... Sea to Summit Flame 15 Western Mountaineer... Mountain Hardwear P... Rab Neutrino 400 -...
Warmth (25%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Weight (25%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Comfort (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Packed Size (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Features (15%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Feathered Friends E... Sea to Summit Flame 15 Western Mountaineer... Mountain Hardwear P... Rab Neutrino 400 -...
ISO/EN Comfort Rating (F) 20 F (not EN rated) 15 F 20 F (not EN rated) 23 F 21 F
Fill Type Goose down Goose down 850-fill down Goose down Goose down
Measured Weight (in lbs) 1.7 lb 2.0 lb 1.9 lb 2.0 lb 1.7 lb
Total Weight (oz) 27.5 oz 31.2 oz 29.6 oz 32 oz 27.2 oz
Fill Power 950+ 850+ 850 850 800
Women specific features Extra fill in footbox and chest Women's specific fit - more insulation in key areas This bag comes in a "Short" length, which is a standard women's size This bag comes in a "Short" length, which is a standard women's size Women's specific fit
Fill Weight (oz) 17.3 oz (medium) 22.9 oz 17 oz 20 oz 14.1oz
Material Pertex Endurance UL Ultralight 10D Nylon Shell Nylon 10D nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum
Neck Baffle Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pocket No No No No Yes
Sleeping Pad Sleeve No No No No No
Zipper Length 62 in 56 in 65 in 59 in 62 in
Shoulder Girth 54 in 60 in 63 in 58 in 60 in
Hip Girth 56 in 58 in 56 in 52 in 56 in
Foot Girth 38 in 40 in 39 in 44 in 38 in
Stuff Sack included? Stuff sack and storage bag included Compression stuff sack and storage bag included Stuff sack and storage bag included Compression sack and storage bag included Stuff sack and storage bag included


Best Overall Women's Sleeping Bag


Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 - Women's


89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 10
  • Weight 9
  • Comfort 8
  • Packed Size 8
  • Features 9
Weight: 1.7 lbs | Fill: 950+ goose down
Lightweight & packs down small
Comfortable
Toasty
Ethically harvested, high-fill power down
Pricey
Sizing can be an issue

Winning our top accolades once again, the Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 continues to stand up to tough competition and comes out on top. This high-end bag sets a high bar that other manufactures, large and small have not quite met yet. The Egret has the highest quality, 950+ fill power that means it is much warmer per square inch, needing less down fill, and therefore saving weight. It is one of the lightest bags in this review and also one of the warmest, a winning combination of warmth to weight ratio. The Egret is also very compressible and packs down to a small, portable package. We also love the cheery color options it's available in.

It is difficult to find fault with this bag, there are not many in this simple, functional package. Our only minor complaint is that this bag comes in lengths of 5'3" (size Small) or 5'9" (size Medium). If you are in-between sizes, like our 5'5" tester, the larger bag is a bit too big, and the smaller bag is too small. Other than that small sizing gripe, the Egret beats out other craft companies and mega corporation competitors. It is our favorite bag for long trips into the backcountry and can be stretched across spring to fall seasons in most climates.

Read review: Feathered Friends Egret 20 UL - Women's

A More Spacious Overall Favorite


Sea to Summit Flame 15


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Weight 8
  • Comfort 9
  • Packed Size 9
  • Features 8
Weight: 1.95 lbs | Fill: 850+ goose down
Comfortable
Lightweight
Very warm
Compression sack included
Poor long-term storage sack
Price

The Sea to Summit Flame 15 surprised us in our tests by keeping weight and packed size low, warmth high, and still offering comfortable, spacious upper body dimensions. Among the top-shelf, low weight-to-warmth ratio bags we tested this bag is also very comfortable with enough room to move your arms around. The Flame's generous 23 ounces of high quality 850+ fill down makes this a very fluffy and warm model, lofting up huge. However, its down is very compressible and it packs up small inside its included compression stuff sack, which is handy when space is tight inside a backpack. Everything about this bag feels well-thought-out and designed intentionally, creating a fit and backcountry experience that few can come close to rivaling.

The main downside we discovered about the Flame is the included storage cube (not the compression sack used when backpacking). Our testers found that it stores the bag and its precious down feathers in a much more compressed state than other storage sacks included with products. This can damage the loft over time. Also, the price is prohibitory to some folks. If you're attracted to the specs and can stomach the price, this bag takes warmth and comfort to another level when heading deep into the backcountry.

Read review: Sea to Summit Flame 15

Best Bang for the Buck


Sierra Designs Cloud 800 - Women's


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 5
  • Weight 9
  • Comfort 8
  • Packed Size 9
  • Features 8
Weight: 1.7 lbs | Fill: 800-Fill DriDown
High-quality materials
Great price
Comfort and freedom of movement
Very lightweight
The comforter can untuck easily
Using the pad sleeve reduces warmth

The Cloud 800 is a high-quality product with a clever design in a small and lightweight package. Sierra Designs has been making innovative products that focus on saving weight, and this zipperless bag is the best of the bunch. It couples a low weight and quality design with a surprisingly low price tag, ringing up for less than many lower quality products we've tested. The Cloud has high-quality 800 fill power down with light shell materials and an attached quilt instead of a zipper. All these features are smart weight savings, and the quilt design also adds an element of comfort and flexibility.

The Cloud is not the warmest of the bunch, with less down fill than our top contenders, and its temperature rating is higher than most we've tested. We noticed that sometimes the quilt becomes untucked, letting a draft in if you move around a lot. It is less warm than a traditional mummy bag for this reason. It has no down fill on the backside of the bag and instead utilizes a sleeping pad sleeve to keep you secure on your pad. It's an excellent choice for summer backpacking, and you can stretch its use into the shoulder seasons with a warm sleeping pad and some extra layers. We think the Cloud offers stellar value for a superior product.

Read review: Sierra Designs Cloud 800 - Women's

Best on a Tight Budget


The North Face Cat's Meow - Women's


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weight 6
  • Comfort 8
  • Packed Size 6
  • Features 7
Weight: 2.5 lbs | Fill: Heat Seeker Guide Synthetic
Lightest synthetic bag we tested
Most insulation on top to maximize loft for warmth
Compressible
Tight fit
Heavier and bulkier than most down bags

The Cat's Meow once again rises to the top of the fluffy pile and earns its recognition for the strong value it presents. Great for tight budgets, it's also our favorite synthetic bag of the bunch. It outshines all other synthetic models we've ever tested, as well as some of its down-filled sleeping bag competitors, for its warmth, low weight, and compressibility. This bag weighs less than many of the down-filled bags we tested at a scant 2.5 pounds (a pound lighter than some synthetic competitors), is surprisingly compressible, and comes with a decent compression sack. Cleverly, The North Face designed this bag with the vast majority of the insulation on the top of the bag to pile on the warmth. Since most of the insulation you lie on gets compressed and isn't useful, we think this is a great idea. The Cat's Meow is a great choice to keep you warm from spring to fall in cool climates and its synthetic materials will keep you warm even if they get damp.

The Cat's Meow is a bit on the short side. Our 5'5" tester maxed out the bag, and it was a stretch to get the hood on. If you're taller, you may want to consider purchasing the Long size. And while it's impressive for being moderately priced and filled with synthetic insulation, there are further weight and packed size savings to be had if you're willing to spend more. We think this bag is well priced and a great deal. We readily recommend it to ladies just getting into backpacking, as it performs adequately for a bargain price.

Read review: The North Face Cat's Meow - Women's

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
89
$489
Editors' Choice Award
The highest three-season performance of any model in our bunch
86
$549
Editors' Choice Award
The premium product comes at a premium price, but is very high performing
82
$570
A warm, comfortable, and lightweight choice for all your mountain adventures
82
$550
This bag has high quality materials, is super light, and will fit most women
78
$400
A great choice for fast and light adventures, the Neutrino is comfortable and compressible
77
$330
Best Buy Award
A well-priced, comfortable alternative to a mummy bag that keeps weight low on long backpacking trips
75
$400
If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of warmth and comfort for this lightweight package, the Hyperion could be the bag for you
73
$455
This warm and cleverly designed bag is great, but on the expensive side for what it is
71
$259
This bag is a popular choice for a good value, down-insulated backpacking sleeping bag
71
$250
A good sleeping bag that fights off cold weather well, though it doesn't pack as well as more expensive models
71
$190
Best Buy Award
Our favorite synthetic model that offers a lightweight and compressible design with a wide range of uses
69
$389
Great for cool weather camping, this bag is warm and lofty. We're not crazy about the zipper design
69
$280
An all-around fine sleeping bag that covers the bases well without excelling in any given area
64
$420
The expansion panels add roominess, but all that extra room makes for a not very warm bag and the extra features add weight and bulk
61
$170
Too heavy and bulky for backpacking but a great choice for car camping comfort
59
$180
A fair price for a beginners' backpacking model, this bag keeps costs low but also has a significant weight penalty
56
$200
The generous shape and ability to open vents makes this bag a good choice for warm climates or folks who run hot

We take each product into the backcountry to explore their strengths...
We take each product into the backcountry to explore their strengths and weaknesses. And we have a good time doing it.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Why You Should Trust Us


This review was crafted by outdoor educator and guide Jessica Haist. Jessica holds a Master's Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College in Arizona. Originally from Canada, she moved to the US after growing up in Toronto, migrating to the mountains of British Columbia, and now resides in Mammoth Lakes, CA, amidst her beloved Sierra Nevada. She frequently goes backpacking, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing. As an avid and multi-faceted mountain athlete who has spent time in cold environments, Jessica brings to the table a keen eye for the essential features of a women's specific sleeping bag.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

We looked at over a hundred bags on the market before purchasing the most compelling models included in this review. To create the tests, we needed to identify the most critical factors that contribute to the performance of a women's sleeping bag. We identified six key performance areas to focus on while testing the bags. Then we spent months taking these bags out and using them in the field. We took them on rugged backpacking trips in various mountain ranges, and car camping trips to the desert, National Parks, and climbing areas.

Related: How We Tested Backpacking Sleeping Bag for Women

The REI Magma is on the heavier side for longer trips into the...
The REI Magma is on the heavier side for longer trips into the backcountry.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Analysis and Test Results


Why choose a women's specific bag? It may seem obvious, but physiologically, women are different from men. So when it comes to choosing something as important as a bag that will keep you warm and well-rested for a big day in the mountains, these differences should be taken seriously. Everyone wants to find the most suitable product for themselves; for most women, that will most likely mean choosing a women's specific bag. Shorter humans in general, if you have struggled to find a bag that doesn't have you swimming in extra material, a women's bag may be a good option for you.

Related: Buying Advice for Backpacking Sleeping Bag for Women

Luckily, it turns out that a women's specific bag can be more bang for your buck. Almost all of the bags we tested in this review have at least the same amount of insulation, if not more, than the corresponding men's models. Women's bags are smaller and have less volume, so they often end up having more fill per square inch.

The Western Mountaineering AlpinLite is a great choice for all your...
The Western Mountaineering AlpinLite is a great choice for all your fast and light adventures in the mountains.
Photo: Ian McEleney

After many months of testing, we compiled our assessments, compared specifications, and wrote this review. Our testers' experiences with each of these bags while car camping, thru-hiking, and summit attempts provide us with incredible insight into each bag's performance. All scores here are relative among the bags we tested. Below we go through each testing metric and highlight which products stood out and why, and we'll also discuss the value of the different options so you can get a sense of what to look for when purchasing on a budget.


Value


The prices of the women's specific models that we tested ranged almost across a factor of 10. Why such a significant disparity, and what is the difference between them that warrants such a price gap? When it comes to sleeping bags, many of them use various types of down fill. The wholesale price of down varies with the "power" or loft, so a higher-loft down, say 850-fill, will cost the manufacturer more than the same amount of 600-fill. There is also a quality and cost difference associated with the type of down – duck down is typically much cheaper and less lofty (and therefore heavier) than goose down. Costs, of course, get passed on to you as the consumer. Higher-loft down bags are warmer for their weight, more compressible, and typically end up scoring higher in our testing metrics. The Feathered Friends model, which uses 950+ fill power goose down, has a hefty price tag. The Sierra Designs Cloud 800 is a little more reasonable but still very high quality at 800 FP in that department.

If you are looking for a bag that performs well but does not cost as much as the Egret, you will have to sacrifice fill-power, compressibility, or weight, or some combination of these factors. For example, the Cat's Meow costs comparatively little and does well across the metrics, but is heavier, not as warm, and less compressible because of its synthetic materials. Its application for longer or fast and light adventures is more limited than the Feathered Friends, but it will fulfill most backpacking needs and save a lot of cash, too.

The REI Magma 15 will keep you warm on cool nights in the alpine.
The REI Magma 15 will keep you warm on cool nights in the alpine.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Warmth


Many of the bags in this review, except the Egret and the Western Mountaineering AlpinLite, have been EN tested for their warmth rating. The EN rating can serve as a rule of thumb for deciding which bag you should use for a particular season, and it makes it easier to compare between the bags that have also been EN tested. During our tests, whether or not a bag had an EN rating was not a huge factor in determining its actual warmth. Instead, we compared these bags side-by-side in similar conditions to determine what we thought were the warmest. We found that even some with the same EN rating differed in warmth because of the fit and additional features like neck baffles. Consider a winter down sleeping bag if you are looking for a bag to take winter camping on high-altitude expeditions. Many manufacturers make a women's or smaller-sized version.


Related: Best Winter Down Sleeping Bags of 2021

Things to consider when evaluating a bag's warmth are the loft, fit, and insulation location. Down bags with a higher fill power and more ounces of down fill will generally be the warmest. For instance, the Sea to Summit Flame 15 (23 ounces of fill) and the REI Magma 15 (23.5 ounces of fill) are some of the warmest of the bunch. The Egret outshines them all with 950+ fill power and 17.4 ounces of super lofty down. This higher fill power requires less total down to create the same warmth, resulting in a loftier and lighter weight bag.

The Egret is the warmest product we tested, guaranteeing a cozy...
The Egret is the warmest product we tested, guaranteeing a cozy night's sleep!
Photo: Jessica Haist

A proper fit is essential when shopping for a bag. If your bag is too large, it can be drafty, which means your body will need to work harder to warm up the bag's dead air space. The Kelty Cosmic and the Marmot Angel Fire bags fit most of our testers very well. They had enough wiggle room to wear a few extra layers when it got below freezing but no spare room for cold air. The fit is one of the most compelling arguments we can make to purchase a women's specific bag. We have noticed that more women's products are entering the market that have a wide or adjustable fit, like the Nemo Forte 20. If you're not a larger person these bags will be colder because there will be more empty internal space your body heat will need to warm up. The bags that included draft collars like the Flame, AlpinLite, and the Mountain Equipment Glacier 700 offer a little extra warmth. These draft collars blocked the cold drafts from entering and retained our body heat inside the sleeping bags.

Many manufacturers are being more strategic about placing their insulation — especially for women's specific bags. As women are known to sleep colder, manufacturers are putting extra insulation into their women's models, and often they put it into the foot box for our cold feet. The Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's and the Egret have more insulation than their unisex counterparts. The Angel Fire and The North Face Cat's Meow specifically have extra insulation in the hood and foot box areas. The Cat's Meow has most of its insulation on the top of the bag where it won't be compressed underneath you, and the Egret and AlpinLite both have continuous baffles that allow you to move all the down on top of you for extra cold nights (or beneath you on warm nights).

As the EN rating system gains popularity and becomes the industry standard, we've noticed a trend in manufacturers naming their bags deceivingly with numbers that don't reflect what the EN tests indicate. For instance, the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20 has an EN comfort rating of 32 degrees F – that's a pretty big difference, and we would not take the Hyperion out with forecasts of 20F. It feels a little misleading, but we think it serves as a gentle reminder to always double-check what the numerical qualifier on a sleeping bag actually means when shopping for a new sleeping bag.

3 of our top contenders (AlpinLite, Egret and Flame) are all...
3 of our top contenders (AlpinLite, Egret and Flame) are all slightly different shapes, but all contain high quality, lofty down.
Photo: Ian McEleney

When planning your backpacking kit, one thing to consider is choosing a sleeping pad that will add warmth, especially if your bag does not have insulation on the back. The higher the "R-Value," the more the pad will insulate you from the ground, making you warmer.

Related: Best Sleeping Pad For Women of 2021

The S2S Flame 15 is super warm. At low elevation in the summer it...
The S2S Flame 15 is super warm. At low elevation in the summer it was too warm some evenings.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Weight


On average, women have less brute strength and less lung capacity than men, so all advantages are welcome when it comes to reducing pack weight on a long overnight trek. No backpacker wants to add extra weight to their pack; we all want to have a bag with the greatest weight-to-warmth ratio and no extra material. Of course, if you are looking for a car-camping bag, this metric shouldn't be a deciding factor for you. The weight of a bag is a sum of its fill, shell materials, and added features.


Over the past few years, we've noticed that many manufacturers are labeling their products as "Ultralight." We think this word is overused, and none of the bags in this review are what we consider to be truly ultralight. Synthetic insulation is typically denser, as is down insulation with a lower fill power, like the 550 fill duck down found in the Kelty Cosmic, since you need a higher amount to achieve the same warmth. Having a lightweight shell material will lighten up your bag but generally will be much less durable. Bags with sleeping pad sleeves tend to be heavier, even without insulation in the back of the bag, because this material is usually heavier than insulation. The more features your bag has, such as double zippers and pockets, the heavier your bag will be, so it's helpful to decide which amenities are important to you before purchasing a bag.

Related: Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2021

The Therm-a-Rest Hyperion is a great choice for fast and light...
The Therm-a-Rest Hyperion is a great choice for fast and light adventures.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The Hyperion blows the competition out of the water in this category, weighing just 19 ounces. However, it is also the least warm bag in our review, indicating a pretty clear trade-off. The Neutrino, Egret, and Sierra Designs Cloud 800 come in around 8 ounces heavier than the Hyperion at 27.2 oz, 27.5 oz, and 27.4 oz, respectively, but they are all much warmer. These bags' low weights result from their high down fill power (950/800), lightweight shell materials, and streamlined features. The Cloud doesn't even have a zipper, and the Hyperion only has a half zip, both of which cuts weight. If you're not planning on carrying your bag on your person, consider getting something less expensive, heavier, and with more comfort features. If this option sounds like something you're after, the Nemo Forte, with its synthetic fill and roomy cut, is a good choice. Another way to lighten and tighten your load is to find yourself a lightweight compression sack, as the included stuff sacks can be heavy and bulky. The compression stuff sack included with the Sea to Summit Flame is an exception and is excellent.

Remember, every ounce you can shave off your pack saves you some suffering from weight penalties down the trail.

The Big Agnes Torchlight UL and the Western Mountaineering...
The Big Agnes Torchlight UL and the Western Mountaineering AlpinLite. Both bags have the same down fill power, but the AlpinLite is much lighter and a better choice for long backpacks.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Comfort


When you're working hard during the day, you want to get a good night's sleep. The most important factors affecting comfort in these bags are the size, shape, and liner materials.


Lately, it seems like manufacturers have been going to great lengths to figure out how to make the traditional mummy design more comfortable. The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 15 has a "Performance Plus" mummy shape that is roomier than a traditional one. We have found that comfort is a direct correlation between shape and size through many nights evaluating bags. Often, the roomier the model is, the more comfortable it feels. Unfortunately, these bags are less warm than other tight-fitting bags, as body heat is wasted filling up the "dead" space in the roomier bags. Bucking this trend, though, is the Sea to Summit Flame 15. Its shoulder and hip dimensions are noticeably more spacious than its lightweight competition, but it remains very warm. Our testers found this to be a huge reason to consider this bag, as few models offer the warmth, weight, and comfort that this bag can.

This comfortable bag has plenty of room for lounging and reading...
This comfortable bag has plenty of room for lounging and reading your book.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Many bags have added features for comfort like the Cloud's innovative foot vent that you can slide your feet through without letting in cold air in and the Big Agnes Torchlight 20 that has expansion panels you can zip open or closed to tailor the size of the bag to you. Shell and liner materials are also essential factors for comfort. We prefer the soft, silky material of the Rab Neutrino next to our skin.

The Big Agnes Torchlight UL has interesting expansion panels, that...
The Big Agnes Torchlight UL has interesting expansion panels, that are a unique innovation for folks who need the extra room. They also decrease warmth and add weight.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Packed Size


When it comes to your sleeping bag, size does matter. If you are carrying it on your back for multiple days, you want it to become as compressed as possible, so your pack can remain small for better balance and maneuverability in tricky terrain.


It's a general rule that, per ounce of insulation fill, down fill is much more compressible than synthetic insulation. The down-filled Hyperion, by far, has the smallest packed size followed by the Rab Neutrino. Both of these bags have only 15 ounces or less of down fill, though, which means there is less volume to compress and so are less warm than most of the competition. Impressively, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom and Sea to Summit Flame have 20 ounces or more of 850 down fill that compresses down to a similar size as the Neutrino, while also providing more loft and warmth.

The synthetic Nemo Forte is the bulkiest model we tested. The other synthetic bag we tested, The North Face Cat's Meow, wasn't as bulky as we had expected for the warmth it provides, though it still stands out as larger in packed size than most down bags we tested. The packed size of these two bags is improved by the inclusion of a compression sack, which helps to cinch down the packed size of each model. All of the products in this review come with a stuff sack, but most are not compression sacks. We prefer compression sacks for squeezing the bags into the smallest bundles possible. Other bags to include compression sacks are the Sea to Summit Flame, Mountain Hardwear Phantom, and Mountain Hardwear Rook.

Packed size is important. Models that came with compression sacks...
Packed size is important. Models that came with compression sacks pack down smaller than if packed in a normal stuff sack.
Photo: Jessica Haist

When you purchase a new bag, consider also getting a separate compression sack that is waterproof and will compress your bag to the smallest size possible.

Remember that compressing your down bag shortens its lifespan; this is why most manufacturers include a large cotton or mesh storage sack with your purchase. Unfortunately, Kelty does not provide one for the Cosmic Down. The ones that come with the Flame and the Cloud are on the small side, so the down is still slightly compressed and is not ideal. Always store your bag uncompressed.

The Forte comes with a good compression sack, but doesn&#039;t get...
The Forte comes with a good compression sack, but doesn't get particularly small.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Features


In this category, we evaluated shell material, zippers, pockets, baffles, drawstrings, sleeping pad sleeves, and any other added features. We also note what features are necessary and useful compared to superfluous features that make the bags heavier and more cumbersome. We like the Mountain Hardwear Phantom's streamlined features because they are designed with weight savings in mind. The bag is soft, made of lightweight fabric, and has high-quality 850 fill with no other frills, making this our favorite simple-featured bag. The AlpinLite and Egret are also very streamlined.


Almost every down bag in this review comes with some type of hydrophobic down. It seems that manufacturers are on a level playing field in this department. Each company has a proprietary hydrophobic down; Mountain Hardwear has Q Shield, Rab uses Nikwax, Sierra Designs uses DriDown, etc.

The Glacier 700 has lots of clever features including a great hood...
The Glacier 700 has lots of clever features including a great hood and drawstrings to help adjust it how you want.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The effectiveness of hydrophobic down is difficult to test, and folks trying to do so have done everything from getting in the shower to jumping into frozen lakes to test the effectiveness of a manufacturer's treated down. Some realistic tests are looking promising as to the actual performance of this treated down fill, but skepticism still exists about how beneficial the treatment is. One consideration is that this coating can add around an ounce to your bag's weight, and potentially harmful chemicals may be off-gassing while you sleep. We asked Feathered Friends about why they don't treat their down feathers, and here's what they had to say:


"We made a conscious decision not to treat our down with a water repellent coating. Although waterproof down has recently become popular in the outdoor industry, we find that it compromises the down's effectiveness and longevity while providing little real-world benefit. We also have concerns about the widespread and excessive use of PFCs, which have a demonstrable negative impact on the environment. Because we take such pains to source high quality down and take such pride in the quality of our products, we don't have any plans to use down treatments, and, as far as I know, neither do Western Mountaineering, Arc'teryx, or other purveyors of high-quality down products. We do, however, use a DWR on all of our fabrics, which should be effective in keeping out moisture from condensation, ice, or light precipitation."

The burly separating zipper makes sure it won&#039;t get caught on the...
The burly separating zipper makes sure it won't get caught on the shell material. We think it's slightly overkill, but it works.
Photo: Jessica Haist

A trend we've noticed recently is burly "anti-snag" zippers and extreme measures taken for zippers not to get caught on the bags' shell material. Overall we prefer these zipper pulls to stiff material along the zipper to prevent snagging.

Conclusion


With so many women's products on the market these days, we hope we've cleared up the industry hype and helped you determine what will work for your needs. We've shared which ones are our favorite for carrying around and sleeping in, and hope you feel confident selecting the right one for your adventures. Good luck and happy trails.

The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 in the short length is a great...
The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 in the short length is a great choice for a lightweight women's backpacking bag.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Jessica Haist