Looking for an ultralight sleeping bag? Our team has taken a dive into the world of lightweight sleeping bags for camping, looking at over 30 different products to see which bags will keep you warm, and which bags are going to leave you in the cold. Now, we’re bringing you a side-by-side comparison of the 8 best ultralight sleeping bags of 2019.
Now what, exactly, makes a great sleeping bag? We have a few ideas on the matter. When it comes to sleeping bags, there are only a few things to look at when trying to select a new one. Specifically, insulation rating (comfort vs. survival), fill material, & overall weight.
Sleeping bags only serve one real purpose after all, which is keeping you warm when you find yourself out of doors, whether it’s beneath the stars or nestled safely inside you tent. Seeing as how cold temperatures actually kill 20 times more people than heat, it’s kind of an important piece of equipment. Now without further ado, we present the 8 best ultralight sleeping bags…
Best High-End Ultralight Sleeping Bag for Backpacking
Western Mountaineering SUMMERLITE Sleeping Bag: 32 Degree Down
INSULATION RATING: 32 F
FILL MATERIAL: 800g DOWN
WEIGHT: 19 OZ
BEST FEATURE: MADE IN USA
Imagine my disappointment when I roll out my brand new North Face sleeping bag all ready to gloat to my companions about how light it is, when one of them whips out this little ditty. The SUMMERLITE bag by Western Engineering isn’t just lighter than the TNF bag I have been using for years, but it is also more comfortable by a significant degree.
This three-season bag doesn’t have the rating to handle some of the more harsh temperatures that you might encounter during winter travels or high-altitude expeditions, but in terms of a light weight sleeping bag for summer backpacking, you will be hard pressed to find anything lighter than this one. At 1lb 3oz, it is one of the lightest sleeping bags that we have ever reviewed.
While there is no arguing that the SUMMERLITE is pretty supreme in terms of insulation performance and wind blocking, it does have something of a weakness against moisture. While it is true that no down sleeping bag fares well with water, the exterior nylon-based shell of the SUMMERLITE feels a bit more susceptible than other models.
One problem that we had was that the placement of the upper Velcro patches, the ones that extend across the top of the zipper to keep it from unzipping … they’re just unfortunately placed on the inside of the bag. It’s somewhat easy to get your hair caught in the Velcro when you are rolling around at night.
Best Budget Pick Ultralight Sleeping Bag
NATUREHIKE Down Ultralight Mummy Sleeping Bag for Backpacking
INSULATION RATING: 14 F
FILL MATERIAL: 800g DOWN
WEIGHT: 3.2 LBS
BEST FEATURE: Durable 200D Nylon shell
We’re no strangers to the folks over at NATUREHIKE, who have spent the better part of the last decade coming up with newer, more affordable versions of the best outdoor gear that you might get from a more recognizable brand such as The North Face. We’ve reviewed all sorts of stuff by them … everything from tents for ground camping to camping axes and survival knives. And for the most part, we have been impressed. While their products are significantly less expensive than their competitors, NATUREHIKE has managed to hold on to a decent level of construction quality. These aren’t your super cheap-o sleeping bags, but they aren’t your top the line bags either.
Simply put, they are somewhere in between, which is a good explanation of how wildly popular these products have become with people all over the world.
This mummy-style sleeping bag has a surprising amount of loft and comfort. The head cavity is plush and comfortable, but not overly roomy. There is just enough space for some breathing room and a bit of head movement, but with a 4-season bag like this one, what you are really looking for is a reduction of extra space, which means a warmer sleeping experience.
The outer shell is 20D ripstop nylon. This material is significantly thicker than what you would find on an ultralight bag such as the SUMMERLITE we reviewed above. The added durability and tear resistance is a huge pro for anyone looking to spend a significant amount of time in their sleeping bag.
The only drawback in our opinion is that the zippers on Naturehike products don’t seem to last that long before requiring a little maintenance.
Best Mid-Range Ultralight Sleeping Bag
AEGISMAX Ultra-Light Goose Sown Mummy Sleeping Bag
INSULATION RATING: 45 F
FILL MATERIAL: 800g DOWN
WEIGHT: 1.5 LBS
LENGTH: 185 CM
BEST FEATURE: COMFORTABLE HEAD AREA
Next up we have another contender in the high-value ultralight category … in other words, a sleeping bag that is trying simultaneously to be high-performance and low-cost. And we can confidently say that the Aegismax mummy bag does a pretty good job of both. It is a few pounds lighter than its closest competition (the aforementioned NATUREHIKE bag) and has a lower extreme temperature rating (though it is worth noting that it actually has a higher comfort temperature rating than that bag.
So did the AEGISMAX bag hold up to our tests? While we found it to be a highly comfortable bag, it is certainly not the warmest one on our list. We had it out in about 30 degree weather overnight with an under layer on, and it got quite chilly. Anything above 32F and we think it would work just fine, but we are not going to recommend it for four season use.
The key to this reduced insulation rating might have something to do with how this bag is sewn. The horizontal stitching created little compartments of down fill that are ‘trapped’ in place, The result is that you can actually feel the cold spots inside the bag as they align with the stitch lines. That’s where this bag is losing heat, and they might want to look into this stitching style.
Also, the zippers on this bag were just as finicky as they were on the Naturehike bag. It isn’t hard to get a bit on Nylon stuck inside the zipper, in fact, it happens quite often.
Best Envelope-Style Ultralight Sleeping Bag for Camping
NATUREHIKE Ultralight Sleeping Bag for 3 Season Traveling, Camping, Hiking
INSULATION RATING: 32 F
FILL MATERIAL: COTTON
WEIGHT: 2 LBS
BEST FEATURE: DURABLE 320D NYLON
Here is an even lighter bag from the folks over at NATUREHIKE, who have become known for their super-affordable gear. This is without a doubt the least expensive bag on our list, no doubt due to the relatively cheap cotton filling and how thin the bag itself is.
There are a few main differences that set this bag apart from Naturehike’s mummy-style bag that we looked at above. For one, the “envelope” style construction means that the bag is significantly wider from top to bottom. This uniform width provides a bit of extra space for people like me who are usually tossing and turning the whole night through. The width is about 33.5”, which is wider than mummy bags are even at the shoulders.
Now there is going to be a bit of an insulation drop with a bag like this. While cotton is a pretty good insulator, it is not going to match the size-to-warmth ratio of down, or the moisture-wicking capabilities of synthetic. It does however have one major advantage over both those fills, and that is, it is incredibly affordable. This bag is cheap enough that you can keep one in your car at all time and never really have to worry about damaging it. If something ever happens to it you can simply get a new one. Our favorite part of this bag is the compatibility. An included compression sack allows the user to pack the whole thing down to just 11.4” X 4.7”, which is small enough to compete with any down-filled ultralight sleeping bag on the market.
Most Comfortable Synthetic Fill Ultralight Sleeping Bag
MARMOT VOYAGER 55 Mummy Sleeping Bag
INSULATION RATING: 55 F
FILL MATERIAL: SpiraFill SYNTHETIC
WEIGHT: 1 LB, 10 OZ
BEST FEATURE: MADE IN USA
For as long as we can remember, sleeping mag manufacturers have been trying to figure out a way to emulate the high insulation and compatibility offered by down fill. That’s because nothing quite comes close to down in these areas, even with all the ongoing advances in synthetic materials technology. Yes, it’s mostly because synthetic materials are more inexpensive to produce than down-filled products, but there are other things to consider, such as the little animals that provided the feathers in the first place.
There is also the added moisture wicking properties of synthetic materials. The thing about down fill is that if it becomes wet it will lose all or most of its insulation capabilities. Synthetic materials on the other hand are capable of providing insulation even if they are damp or wet. So depending on your conditions, a synthetic bag might indeed be the way to go.
Let’s talk SPIRAFILL. That’s that Marmot is calling their new-ish synthetic fill blend. It’s purportedly a mix of hollow fibers and polyester shreds, and this balance of materials is what makes the VOYAGER feel so much like a down bag. In fact, if someone put this sleeping bag in our hands and told us that it was a down-fill bag, we probably would have believed them .
The interior lining is soft and plush, giving the VOYAGER the comfortable feel of a blanket. However the bag is quite narrow, too narrow in fact for broad-shouldered guys such as myself.
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag for Beginners
ARCTIC MONSOON Ultralight Sleeping Bag
INSULATION RATING: 40 F
FILL MATERIAL: 600g DOWN
WEIGHT: 19 OZ
BEST FEATURE: COMPRESSION SACK
ARCTIC MONSOON is only the latest in a long line of outdoor gear manufacturers that have decided to take a crack at the ultralight affordable sleeping bag game, and if their burgeoning popularity is any indicator, they are doing a pretty good job of it. Their ultralight sleeping bag weighs in at 2 lb 6 oz, which is about in the middle of the spectrum for the ultralight category of sleeping bags.
The compression size might be the real strength of this bag. While the thicker fabrics like Nylon and Pongee lend a bit of extra weight to the bag, the light a fluffy down fill can be significantly compressed for travel. When utilized in tandem with the included compression sack, it is possible to reduce the size of the sleeping bag to only 12.6” X 7” X 7”. Surprisingly enough, the zippers work pretty well on this sleeping bag, which is something that we do not expect to see on a budget-level sleeping bag. It was a nice surprise. Not that there wasn’t a small amount of snagging, but let’s be honest … we’ve never seen a sleeping bag zipper that doesn’t get snagged every now and then.
Best Water Resistant Sleeping Bag for Camping
BLACK ORCA WILD FORTRESS Ultralight Mummy Down Sleeping Bag
INSULATION RATING: 10 F
FILL MATERIAL: 700G DOWN
WEIGHT: 40.6 OZ
BEST FEATURE: WATER & TEAR RESISTANT
Here is a great sleeping bag for larger people like myself who often have a difficult time finding a sleeping bag that has enough room for both my legs and my broad shoulders. While the mummy style sleeping bag is inherently more confined than the rectangular competition, the folks over at BLACK ORCA decided to split the difference somewhat and offer just a little bit more room all around, and it makes all the difference.
What’s really remarkable about the WILD FORTRESS sleeping bag is how plush it is. A generous 700G goose down fill provides one of the most comfortable sleeps that you can get.
Sure, there is a bit of extra weight here. It’s about 2.5 LBS, which, according to the super-snooty ultralighters that we know, does not qualify as an ultralight bag. But since it’s under 3 pounds, it fits our purpose. We couldn’t find a whole lot of information online about the BLACK ORCA brand, only that they do make a few different sleeping bags and even a couple backpacks. Time will tell whether they reach the same level of recognition as some of the other brands we looked into on this list.
Best Marmot Sleeping Bag for Backpacking
MARMOT PHASE 30F Degree Down Sleeping Bag
INSULATION RATING: 30 F
FILL MATERIAL: 850G DOWN
WEIGHT: 1 LBS 1.6 OZ
BEST FEATURE: SMALL PACK SIZE
Even the most finicky of sleepers isn’t going to have a hard time falling asleep in the PHASE sleeping bag by the professionals at MARMOT. These folks have been making some of the best jackets and sleeping bags for decades, and you can safely trust that any product with their name on it is going to provide at least a respectable level of performance.
The PHASE represents one of Marmot’s most popular product lines of all time. That’s because it offers true ultralight performance for a price that isn’t totally ridiculous. It’s true that it’s quite a bit more expensive than beginner or budget level sleeping bags like the NATUREHIKE Sleeping bag, but the extra price is absolutely worth it if you need a warm sleeping bag that is also lightweight and compactible. Seeing as how those are the three biggest things to look for when looking for a new sleeping bag, we can safely say that this is perhaps the finest sleeping bag on our list.
You might be tired of us saying it at this point, but once again we have encountered the fatal flaw of a sticky zipper. And since the outer shell fabric is so relatively thin, it can be easy to rip the fabric if you’re not being careful.
So you’re shopping for a new sleeping bag. Maybe you’re headed out for a 3 month stint on the Pacific Crest Trail. Or perhaps it’s just movie night in the park and your sofa blanket just isn’t going to cut it. No matter what the use, the best sleeping bags of 2019 feature high degrees of warmth retention and more comfort than ever.
We hope it’s not inappropriate to just come out and say it, but for our money, there is no sleeping bag that is more versatile and reliable than the MARMOT PHASE 30. While this particular model isn’t warm enough for winter or high-altitude conditions, (they do make warmer models) it offers a true lightweight construction without sacrificing on comfort.
However not everyone is in the market for a high end sleeping bag. If that’s the case, then we are going to recommend the NATUREHIKE mummy style sleeping bag, which offers the most affordable pricing on the list, but is by no means a bad bag. In fact, we still have one in the back of the adventuremobile just in case.
Features to Look For in an Ultralight Sleeping Bag / How to Choose a Sleeping Bag for You
When it comes to sleeping bags for camping, there are really only two things to think about. If you keep these things in mind, you are highly likely to find the perfect sleeping bag. These things are construction material and construction style. What a sleeping bag is made of and how it’s made are two very good indicators of how a particular bag might perform. However these two indicators can be broken down even further, which is what we’re going to do right now:
Fabric: Inside and Out
There are a number of different fabrics used in sleeping bag construction, each one with its own unique properties, strengths, & weaknesses.
- NYLON is a popular option because of its considerable durability and affordability. In general, Nylon is used as the exterior layer of a sleeping bag because it tends to be more tear resistant. In addition, Nylon is not always the most comfortable option for a liner because it can be rough and coarse.
Nylon is measured on the DENIER scale, which is represented with a number followed by the letter “D”. More specifically, a Denier is a measurement unit that compares mass to length, in other words, grams of mass per section of length. The higher this number, the more sturdy and tear resistant the fabric is going to be.
- POLYESTER is often seen on the interior lining because of its blanket-like feel and overall comfort, however, it is more common these days to see an interior lining that is the same as the exterior shell. Because breathability is important when shopping for a sleeping bag, many manufacturers have kept their products to a single fabric so that the bag itself is breathable in all directions.
Sleeping Bag Fill: The Difference between Down & Synthetic
There is an ongoing debate when it comes to the kind of material that is used in a sleeping bag.
Enthusiasts of down fill sleeping bags will tell you that you will never find better degrees of warmth and lightweight construction. And that’s true; even the most advanced synthetic technologies have had a hard time matching the remarkable natural insulation properties of down feathers.
But they’re getting closer. Synthetic fill bags, while usually not as light or compactible as down bags, have a few advantages of their own that are worth taking a closer look at. For one, they are significantly cheaper in most cases, though there are a few exceptions. In addition, synthetic filled sleeping bags have the ability to retain their insulation qualities even when they get wet, which is something that down fill bags simply cannot do.
How the Shape of a Sleeping Bag Matters
It’s entirely possible that you never put much thought in the shape of a sleeping bag. That’s because they are all basically the same, aren’t they? Just a human-sized tube of fabric, right?
Not right. There are a number of different shape styles of sleeping bags. Each one is designed with specific purposes in mind, and knowing the difference will being you much closer to finding the right one for you.
- TRADITIONAL or RECTANGULAR shaped sleeping bags used to be the standard. That’s because they are really easy to make, and it has the added benefit of being able to be completely unzipped so it’s possible to use the rectangular sleeping bag as a blanket. The extra width available in a rectangular sleeping bag allows for more arm and leg movement, which is incredibly important to people like me who just need to toss and turn.
- SEMI-RECTANGULAR shaped sleeping bags include a whole host of shapes that can neither be defined as rectangular or mummy-style. They are generally wider and roomier than mummy bags but more specially designed for warmth than rectangular sleeping bags,
- MUMMY bags were designed to have less open or negative space inside the sleeping bag, which means more warmth throughout the night. Mummy bags have significantly less leg room than rectangular bags, but they also have less fabric, which often makes them lighter than any other shape of sleeping bag.
Frequently Asked Questions
• Q: What should I look for when buying a sleeping bag?
A: The main purpose of a sleeping bag is to keep you warm when you’re out in the wilderness, or really anywhere where there aren’t any walls to keep the warm air in. For this reason, the most important thing to look for when buying a sleeping bag is how warm the bag is going to keep you.
However, there are a number of factors that go into this kind of determination, and it is never cut and dry.
For instance, a down sleeping bag will be both lighter and warmer than many synthetic-fill varieties; however it is also poorly suited for damp or wet conditions. This is because of the way that down fill loses its insulation capabilities when wet, as opposed to synthetic materials when retain these properties.
For a more in-depth look on the subject, click back on up to our special guide on Features to Look for in an Ultralight Sleeping Bag / Choosing the Best Sleeping Bag for You
• Q: Can Sleeping bags be zipped together?
A: Although it is an awesome feature, there are not many sleeping bags out there that can be zipped together to make an even larger sleeping bag. Largely, this is due to the fact that the wide majority of sleeping bags on the market are mummy style sleeping bags, which pride themselves on incredible warmth retention due to a more refined shape.
However, envelope style sleeping bags are becoming more and more popular. While these rectangular bags cannot compete with mummy bags when it comes to warmth retention, they are particularly well suited to summer applications. They are usually thinner than mummy bags, but the zipper extends all the way around the bag, allowing you to fold it out and use it as a blanket, or, like the question suggests, zip more than one of the same style sleeping bag together to make one big two person sleeping bag.
• Q: How do you sleep in a sleeping bag?
A: It’s pretty simple, really. Just make sure you have a base layer on, see that the zipper is closed all the way around, and snuggle in for an adventurous night beneath the stars.
• Q: Should I get a long sleeping bag?
A: Our professional opinion is that it never hurts to have a few extra inches of space inside you sleeping bag. Some of us get claustrophobic, after all, and being able to turn around inside your sleeping bag is always more comfortable. However, the more unused space you have inside your sleeping bag, the more of your body heat will be required to keep everything nice and warm. Having a well-fit sleeping bag is an absolutely necessity for those who are embarking on a journey into frigid territories.