Your sleeping bag is one of the most important – and one of the bulkiest – items you’ll need with you on a backpacking trip. This means you need to pay careful attention to the weight of your bag when making your choice.
Of course, you also need to be sure the bag is warm enough, which can add weight. The good news is the average sleeping bag has enough insulation to keep you comfortable in most climates so that you can focus more on the weight you’ll be carrying as opposed to the filling when shopping for a lightweight sleeping bag.
Weight and Insulation
When making decisions about a sleeping bag’s warmth, make sure to use the 20-degree rule of comfort. This means that if a sleeping bag says you’ll survive the night at a certain temperature, this doesn’t mean you’ll be comfortable sleeping in that temperature. To determine the comfort rating based on the survival number you’re given, add about 20 degrees. For instance, if a sleeping bag is listed as suitable in temps as low as 10 degrees, you’ll probably be comfortable in it with no additional layers at about 30 degrees.
Though five pounds might not seem like a lot when you’re shopping for a sleeping bag, when you’re carrying it along on your hike with everything else you need to bring with you, the difference between two or three pounds and five pounds can be significant. The key to getting the right bag is to choose the lightest weight possible within your budget and within the level of warmth you need based on your usual hiking destinations.
Other considerations you’ll want to factor in when choosing a lightweight sleeping bag include:
- Compressibility. The warmer the bag, the bulkier it will be. Some bags offer straps and ties to make compression easier. Compression doesn’t necessarily affect weight, but it does affect the efficiency of packing and how much you can carry with you in total.
- Interior space. Some of the lightest weight sleeping bags tend to be narrow, which might not be comfortable for sleepers. Tighter bags are also warmer, so some manufacturers create more form-fitting bags to reduce the amount of insulation needed. The interior size of your bag is a personal preference, but it’s something to consider when shopping.
- Entry and exit ability. If possible, opt for a zipper-free sleeping bag. If you prefer a bag with a zipper, stay away from heavier metal zippers. Nylon and plastic zippers tend to be lighter weight and are more durable.
- Type of insulation. Do you prefer a down or synthetic fill? Down is lighter and warmer, but not everyone wants a bag filled with down feathers. Synthetic might be more cumbersome and not as warm, but it performs better if it gets wet and bags filled with synthetic materials tend to be cheaper.
- Style. Do you prefer a mummy or quilt style bag? Mummy bags offer head coverage and therefore tend to be warmer, but they are too constricting for some sleepers.
- Pad loops and pockets. If you are traveling with a sleeping pad, does the bag offer a way to fasten the pad into place? Both pockets and loops for attaching your pad tend to add weight, but might be worth it if it makes for a secure evening of sleep.
Now that you have an idea of what’s important when it comes to choosing a lightweight sleeping bag, here are a few of our favorite choices:
The Flicker 20 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag weighs in at under 2 lbs. and is a goose down filled sleeping bag, so it provides plenty of warmth. The rating on this bag is 20 degrees F, so if you apply the 20-degree rule from above, you’ll be comfortable sleeping in temperatures as low as 40 degrees.
It’s on the pricier side at just under $400, but you’re getting a high-quality and spacious bag that’s big enough to sleep two in an emergency. It features a crossover zipper design and draft collar with two drawcords. It comes in a variety of colors and more than one length, so it’s easily customized to your preference.
You can buy the Flicker 20 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag here.
This bag is lightweight at 1 lb. 13 oz. and has a 20 degree F warmth rating and is a mummy bag that’s guaranteed to keep you warm in a variety of different climates. It has a full down collar and high lofting down pump filling. It features a full-length YKK zip and comes in three different sizes. At nearly $500 it’s one of the most expensive bags on our list, but it’s one you’re going to be happy with when backpacking and camping.
Check it out on AMAZON.
This is the lightest weight bag on our list at 1 lb. 4 oz. It’s filled with DownTek Treated filling and will provide warmth in temps as low as 20 degrees. This is a high-functioning bag that we consider very versatile. There are two different closer options, including cinching down the sides with a pad attachment for the most extreme temps and warmer sleeping weather, it opens by the zippered foot box and can be used as a blanket. At $280, you’re also getting a great value for a very high-quality sleeping bag.
Check it out on AMAZON.
This bag weighs 1 lb. 14 oz and is filled with goose down. Its warmth rating is 22 degrees, and we consider it our best “warmth to weight” ratio, meaning it’s not as warm or lightweight as the first two bags on our list, but for the weight, you’re carrying you’re getting a great deal of warmth.
This bag offers a significant amount of foot and knee space and the goose down filling is water resistant – providing a little extra protection against the elements. It features a contoured hood with two hood drawcords that allow you to adjust when you are inside the bag. The retail on this bag is just under $350, so it’s pricey, but far from the most expensive lightweight bag available.
Check it out on REI.COM