There are great ways to enjoy the camping experience even during the winter season. Fabric technology in particular has advanced so much that packing for a winter camping trip doesn’t involve hauling truckloads of woolen clothes or sleeping bags stuffed with down. On the other hand, sleeping in a cold environment can really take its toll since that’s when the body regenerates. You need to feel rested both in your brain and your body or your camping trip will be filled with fatigue and chills for a couple days after. You simply need to strike that balance between cumbersome sleeping bags and lightweight sleeping delights. If you’re exposed to serious cold, a proper sleeping bag can even save your life and limb.
Finding the kind of sleeping bag that fits you is a tough task so here’s a roundup of all the best sleeping bags for cold weather, ranging from synthetic weather-resistant ones to the best ones for cold weather. We’ve used Fahrenheit for temperature ratings, though we’ve assumed you’ll be using appropriate attire inside it and slide a pad under the bag. Keep in mind that no rating is absolute and that there are plenty of variables that can affect the sleeping bag’s performance in the wild.
Beginners in the area of cold-weather sleep-outs (or those who just want a one-and-done kind of bag) should opt for budget products before reaching for something pricier. To be fair, sleeping bags can easily cost in the thousands of dollars but that’s not what a newbie would necessarily need. Kelty is a great budget brand that still provides quality products, with the Cosmic fitting the bill. The bag itself is rated down to 5° and has a wallet-friendly price tag.
It’s not going to blow anyone’s mind away but it does do what it’s supposed to do in all relevant categories, such as water resistance and warmth. At slightly over 4 pounds, it might be a bit heavier for novice backpackers but it’s manageable and works great if camping out the car. We fell in love with the 550-fill filling, officially called DriDown, since each feather is treated to protect against moisture while also being mega-comfortable to sleep on.
Sporting 44 ounces of down (800-fill-power), this is a bag that feels like sleeping on a feathery cloud. Comfort is the main selling point here, which is crucial when you find yourself trudging through a hostile wilderness for several days in a row. The price can make your jaw drop but it’s quite worth it since comfort is what boosts morale the most on a long journey. Simply having a comfy place to lay your head at night will make you appreciate having this bag by your side. The bag is also cut in such a roomy way, allowing the sleeper to toss and turn or add extra layers if that’s what it takes.
Foot box in this sleeping bag is cozy enough to provide extra thickness around the feet. Zipper pull glows in the dark, letting you deal with night-time snags as you zip or unzip it. There’s a bit of bulk on this sleeping bag but if you pack it down as you should, a 60-liter bag will do just fine, leaving you with plenty of extra room for other gear and clothes.
Here’s a super-warm bag that will have you pay an arm and a leg but at least the remainder of you will be nice and toasty in the extreme cold. Though the name might indicate otherwise, this sleeping bag is actually rated for -20°. Down is 800-fill-power and there are some nifty design touches too – the interior pocket makes it so you can keep your hands inside the sleeping bag when you want to fiddle with a smartphone or a flashlight.
Baffle shaped like a trapezoid comes in handy as well: it’s meant to stop you from sinking further inside the bag in sleep. The zipper is centered, meaning you can shimmy in and out of the bag no matter if you’re left- or right-handed. When you decide to draft the bag as you’re in it, the center zipper position helps you air the bag evenly rather than drafting on one side.
Drawstrings on the hood have a slightly different texture than the rest of the bag, letting you cinch them easily in the dark. Compression and storage sacks are included with the bag, letting you store its bulkiness out of sight back home.
Mid- to high-winter temperatures (about 25°) can be quite inconvenient for a winter camper, since that’s when you can expect rainy weather or just a wet climate. If you’re going out camping in those conditions, choose Big Agnes’ Boot Jack 25, since it’s treated to provide maximum protection from the weather. First off, the outer shell is water-resistant, making it a very effective layer of defense against moisture, but the company has more tricks up its bag.
The lining itself contains specially treated insulation to repel moisture, which is all thanks to a special Big Agnes water repellant. The shape of the bag is also chosen to provide more insulation, all in a compact package that makes it a breeze to shoulder on your camping trips.
Sleeping inside this bag feels like being inside a down comforter, with a nice feature being exterior loops that make it easy to air out.
If expeditions aren’t your thing and you just want to get something for a short trip in the cold, here’s a great sleeping bag that will serve you well for 3-4 days at a time. Rated to 0°, the price is middle of the road but there’s some great value to be found here and Ascent doesn’t skimp on value.
The bag is roomy enough: back, legs, side and stomach all have more than enough space for the sleeper to wiggle about. The down is 650-fill duck feathers, weighing in at 32 ounces, meaning it’s just right amount of hot without being unbearable when it comes to weight. Trapezoid-shaped baffle is a great design choice on this bag, preventing the cold pocket problem that can occur with other sleeping bags.
The bag does tend towards the heavier side, which is why it’s not suitable for longer expeditions or just prolonged trips. For camping from the car, staying at base camp position or just going camping for a couple days, this is a decent choice.
When it comes to cold weather, you need a heavy-duty bag, and Nemo Sonic is just the right kind. Rated at around 0° thanks to its 850-fill (duck down), there’s a great feature inside this sleeping bag for all the hot sleepers out there: Thermo Gills can be zipped down to let the cool air take away some of that core heat as you’re sleeping. This is a great feature for those who tend to wake up sweating as temperatures spike to 20° with the approaching dawn. If other sleeping bags make you wake up in sweat, then Nemo Sonic is the right pick for you.
Sonic has plenty of wiggle room too, helping those who tend to toss about in sleep as they try to get a bit of fresh air or just the comfiest sleeping position. When packed down, this bag is so tiny since it weighs a total of 2 pounds and 10 ounces. There’s a great bonus feature hidden in Sonic’s design that makes the bag a real gem: drawstrings are textured differently compared to the rest of the bag, helping you tighten or loosen them in pitch dark.
In some cases, you’re already carrying more than enough gear and just want the lightest sleeping bag with decent performance possible. Whether you just don’t want all the extra baggage or are looking for a lightweight backpacking experience, here’s perhaps the lightest possible cold-weather sleeping bag in existence. At 2 pounds and one ounce, which is a phenomenal feat for a sleeping bag, it’s rated all the way down to 10°. Deluxe goose down is very comfortable and let you get plenty of rest, especially when considering the rest of the design. With marvelous collar design and interlocking draft tubes, the air will circulate and remain breathable all the while the sleeper is toasty and comfy inside.
This sleeping comes in models sporting varying lengths, which is what the entire reviewing team liked, especially since sizes go much more specific than just “long” and “regular”. With two long and medium lengths, there’s a special size “short” for anyone shorter than 5’6’’. Durability is on par too, since the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 sports an ExtremeLite shell that makes ample use of taffeta on the inner layer to provide even greater durability.