reviews-backpacking-tents-banner-9.png

Best Sleeping Bags of 2019

JUMP TO:  FEATHERED FRIENDS LARK  /  FEATHERED FRIENDS FLICKER  /  ZPACKS CLASSIC BAG

"Warmth to weight ratio". It is the metric that sleeping bag manufacturers are aiming to optimise. After a hard day on the trail you deserve a good nights rest. To facilitate that, the sleeping bag you climb into needs to be warm and comfortable. But the next day when you squash it down and put it into your backpack you want that sleeping bag to be the lightest package possible. The recipe for the best warmth to weight ratio is high quality goose down, innovative lightweight fabrics, and only including necessary features.

The goose down sleeping bags in our list below find a good balance between warmth, weight, and features. Our list includes both traditional "mummy" bags, as well as two hoodless bags (the Feathered Friends Flicker and the Zpacks Classic Sleeping Bag). A hoodless bag is great for those front or side sleepers who find themselves getting tangled in the hood of a traditional bag. In many climates a hoodless bag is likely to be warm enough as-is. In cold conditions, consider wearing a warm hat, a hooded jacket, or use a detached goose down hood.

Note that we do not include any "rectangular" bags in our list since these aren't ideal for backpacking. Their rectangular shape introduces a weight penalty for little additional benefit. They are also less warm than a tapered "mummy" design.

If you've always felt constricted in a sleeping bag, then consider checking out our Best Backpacking Quilts. An ultralight backpacking quilt can be more comfortable than a sleeping bag, particularly in warmer climates, as well as for side sleepers or restless sleepers.

blue-strip-1000-by-4px.jpg

TEMP RATING: 10F / -12.2C

FILL POWER: 950+

FILL WEIGHT: 20.0 oz / 567 grams

TOTAL WEIGHT: 31.3 oz / 887 grams

PROS: Warm, Cosy draft collar, Two way zipper

CONS: Footbox won't open up in warmer climates

BEST FOR: Those who sleep cold, or want a bag for use in colder three season temps

MRRP: US $559

The Feathered Friends Lark 10 UL is an epic sleeping bag for those who want a three-season bag that they can push right to the limits of spring and fall. The Lark isn't a true winter bag, but it is much warmer than most three-season sleeping bags. And weighing in at under a kilogram means this bag is well within reach for the average thru-hiker, or those trying to reduce their base weight without sacrificing warmth and safety.

Feathered Friends are always conservative with their temperature ratings. We found that the Lark, with its 950+ fill power down, hood, full draft tube, and draft collar was warmer than other bags that claimed to have a lower temp rating.

The footbox on the Lark is fully enclosed and cannot be unzipped. The #5 YKK two-way zipper provides some versatility, since it can be unzipped in either direction (as far as the lower calf). But if you are using your bag predominantly in milder climates then the warmth of this bag may be overkill.

blue-strip-4px.jpg

stock-feathered-friends-flicker-ul-20.jpg

TEMP RATING: 20F / -7C

FILL POWER: 950+

FILL WEIGHT: 14.7 oz / 417 grams

TOTAL WEIGHT: 26 oz / 743 grams

PROS: Ultralight, Draft collar, Opens up as a blanket

CONS: No obvious ones

BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers; Those who get tangled in sleeping bag hoods, Those who want versatility

MRRP: US $409

For those looking for versatility in their sleeping bag, then the Feathered Friends Flicker 20 UL is hard to beat. The Flicker can be opened up as a blanket on warmer nights, while in colder temps it can be zipped up and the bottom of the footbox cinched in to form a hoodless mummy bag.

A novel crossover zipper design helps seal off any drafts along the length of the bag and avoids the need for a down-filled draft tube. When the footbox is cinched in at the bottom, your feet will be cosy in all but the coldest conditions.

The Flicker 20 UL is made with the highest quality 950+ fill power goose down. As with all Feathered Friends sleeping bags, the Flicker is conservatively rated. We find is warm and cosy for a 20F rated bag. With the draft collar, we find it much easier to retain warmth in cold conditions compared with a bag without the draft collar. Nonetheless to push this bag down towards it's temp rating (e.g. below freezing) you will need to pair it with a warm hat, or a down hood

The Flicker 20 UL is made with a 10-denier water-resistant outer shell fabric and a 15-denier liner fabric, ensuring optimal weight savings without sacrificing durability. Note that Feathered Friends do not allow customisation. However they do sell an alternative version of the Flicker known as the YF version (instead of UL). The YF Flicker is made with a slightly heavier shell material (20 denier), and slightly lower fill power down (900+). The YF version is therefore slightly cheaper (about $50 less) and more downproof (i.e. the down feathers have less chance to escape). However, ff you are willing to spend the extra few dollars, then we suggest going with the Flicker 20 UL.

If you want a hoodless, 3 season bag, then the Feathered Friends Flicker 20 UL is our top choice.

blue-strip-1000-by-4px.jpg

ZPACKS CLASSIC 20°

Zpacks Classic Sleeping Bag is ideal for the ultralight backpacker.

COMFORT RATING: 20F / -7C

FILL POWER: 900+

FILL WEIGHT: 13.7 oz / 388 grams

TOTAL WEIGHT: 20.0 oz / 568 grams

PROS: Ultralight, Dry sack included

CONS: No draft collar, Flat foot box

BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers; Those who get tangled in sleeping bag hoods

MRRP: US $379

The Zpacks Classic Sleeping Bag is an ultralight hoodless bag made with 900+ fill power goose down. Although not quite as warm as some other 20°F rated sleeping bags, this ultralight bag does pack in a lot of warmth for how much it weighs.

Zpacks use a 10-denier ripstop nylon for both the inner liner and outer shell. Their default design include a 3/4 length zip with no draft tube. This provides weight savings compared with a full length zipper and draft tube. With no draft tube, Zpacks suggest the user sleeps on top of the zipper to prevent drafts entering along the main body of the bag. But positioning the zipper underneath your body only works if you do not toss and turn during the night. 

If you are a restless sleeper, or plan to use the bag in a wide range of climates, consider switching to their Full Zip Sleeping Bag which includes both the full zip and a draft tube. This will add about 3.2 oz (90 grams) of weight but it will increase the versatility of the bag; a draft tube helps preserve warmth in colder temps, and the full zip means you can open the bag up on warmer nights. 

The top of the Zpacks bag can be cinched in around your neck using the drawcord, and is secured using a flat clip. In minimising the weight of this ultralight bag, Zpacks chose not to include a draft collar. We feel this ok, but for some people they may find this minimalist design less comfortable and cosy than a full draft collar like found on the Feathered Friends Flicker or Katabatic Gear Alsek.

Finally, one great perk of purchasing a Zpacks sleeping bag is that they all come with an ultralight waterproof roll-top dry sack.

blue-strip-4px.jpg

Things to consider when buying a sleeping bag...

CHOICE OF INSULATION: The use of high quality goose down (e.g. 800+ fill power) provides much better warmth for weight compared with synthetic insulation or lower quality down. Aim for a down bag with the highest fill power. The higher the fill power, the better the warmth for weight. But of course, with a higher fill power comes a higher price tag. 

SHELL FABRICS: The use of innovative lightweight fabrics for the shell and liner can provide significant weight savings. Look for bags made with a ripstop nylon in the range of 10 to 15 denier. These ultralight fabrics are likely to provide sufficient durability for a bag that is well looked after whilst providing significant weight savings. If durability is a concern - for example, you regularly sleep out on rough terrain - then consider finding a bag with a slightly heavier duty shell (e.g. 20 denier). A 20 denier fabric is also likely to be more water resistant (so you will often find it used on winter bags)

CHOICE OF DESIGN: Depending on your preferences, you may be able to make significant weight savings by choosing a sleeping bag with specific design features. For instance,

  • A tapered mummy bag will be lighter than an otherwise equivalent rectangular bag.

  • A quilt will generally be lighter than a traditional fully-enclosed bag (and sometimes more versatile).

  • Do you need a full zip? Perhaps consider a 3/4 zip over a full length one. But be aware that you might be sacrificing some versatility by being unable to open up the footbox

  • Or consider going with a hoodless bag. As well as providing weight savings, they can be more comfortable for some front or side sleepers.

Finally, aim to choose a bag that has the appropriate amount of down for the conditions you will likely encounter. When choosing the warmth of your sleeping bag, we suggest you consider the following:

TEMPERATURE RATINGS: For the most part, manufacturer temperature ratings are massively exaggerated. In general consider adding 20°F to the manufacturer rating. For example, a 20°F (-7°C) degree rated bag is likely to be comfortable down to about 40°F (4°C) degrees. Below that we believe you would need to be adding warmth by wearing an insulating jacket, for example.

GENDER-SPECIFIC DESIGNS: In general, women sleep colder than men. So, female backpackers should consider options for purchasing a women-specific bag. As well as being slightly warmer, these bags often have a women-specific cut. Many manufacturers such as Feathered Friends offer women-specific designs. Alternatively, if you think you sleep cold, consider a bag that is rated about 10°F less than you might otherwise have purchased.

DRAFT TUBE & DRAFT COLLAR: A draft tube is an extra baffle, filled with down, that runs along the entire length of the bag behind the zipper. It is used to prevent cold air from entering the bag through the zipper. A draft collar is a down filled baffle along the collar of the bag that stops warmth escaping when the top of the bag is cinched in around your neck.

Most sleeping bags include some form of draft tube and draft collar. However, some ultralight sleeping bags exclude these features in order to minimise weight. If a sleeping bag doesn't have a draft tube, then you can sleep on top of the zip to try and prevent drafts in cold weather. In general, if you plan on using your sleeping bag in temperatures below freezing then we recommend purchasing a bag with both a draft tube and draft collar.