How to Choose the Right Hiking Sleeping Bag


Your next hiking trip won’t be complete without the right hiking sleeping bag.

Though what bag you sleep in may seem trivial when compared to the other factors you must consider when going hiking, the truth of the matter is that there’s little more important than getting a good night’s sleep. If you’ve ever gone hiking with the wrong sleeping bag, you already know this to be true.

Simply put, the right sleeping bag not only helps you get those needed z’s at night. It also makes it easier for you to carry and pack. With the right bag, you never have to worry about staying warm or comfortable during the night, and you never have to worry about unnecessary or excess weight keeping you down as you walk.

For this reason, it’s absolutely crucial that you find the right hiking sleeping bag if you plan on going hiking any time soon. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about choosing the right hiking sleeping bag so you can make the best purchase when the time comes. In general, choosing the right sleeping bag is determined by three factors: temperature rating, weight, and functionality.

Knowing this, let’s take an in-depth look at what you should look for in your next hiking sleeping bag.

Why Should You Invest in a Hiking Sleeping Bag?

You may be wondering, “Do I need a hiking sleeping bag? Won’t a regular camping bag do?”

The answer is, “Not always.” In general, sleeping bags designed for hiking offer a few additional perks when compared to your general camping sleeping bag. Specifically, hiking bags tend to be lighter in weight, which makes them easier to carry. They also tend to be warmer, making them ideal for hiking trips to a variety of places.

This means that if you already have a camping bag at home, it’s likely that you want to make further investments if you plan on going hiking any time soon. Doing so can help you get the most comfort and enjoyment out of your upcoming trip.

What Makes a Good Hiking Sleeping Bag?

So you’ve decided to forgo your regular camping bag and invest in a quality hiking sleeping bag. Smart decision. Let’s take a moment to break down the three most important qualities you should consider when buying your next bag.

  1. Temperature Rating

The best hiking sleeping bag is one that will keep you warm no matter where you go. In general, hiking sleeping bags are designed with extra protection to keep you safe from outside temperatures. When you purchase your sleeping bag, you should notice a printed temperature rating on the outside packaging. This rating tells you the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep you warm.

When you are purchasing your sleeping bag, you should make sure to choose a bag with a temperature rating lower than your expected temperature. This means that even if you plan to hike an area with 50 degree temperatures, you should purchase a bag that can withstand 35 degree cold.

This will help you stay warm throughout your trip and keep you prepared in case of the worst. If you’ve ever gone shopping for a new sleeping bag, though, you might have noticed various types of temperature ratings. This means that finding a bag with the right temperature rating may not be as easy as it sounds.

For this reason, let’s go over a few specifics. When you shop for a hiking sleeping bag, you will notice two types of ratings: ISO and EN. Both ISO and EN rating systems can be compared against each other. This means that if one bag has an ISO of 35 degrees and the other has an EN of 50, you can reliably state that the ISO bag will keep you warmer in colder temperatures. Don’t get too bogged down in the technical terminology, as it ultimately doesn’t make a difference on the warmth of your sleeping bag.

What’s more important are the different types of temperature ratings: comfort and limit. Comfort ratings are generally included on women’s sleeping bags and provide the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep “cold sleepers” comfortable. In this context, cold sleepers are those who sleep in colder temperatures.

Men’s bags generally include “limit” ratings. Limit ratings indicate the temperature in which a bag will keep a “warm sleeper” warm throughout the night. Understanding what type of sleeper you are, then, plays a crucial role in which bag you ultimately choose.

Keep in mind, however, that no matter what the rating of your bag says, you may need a bit of extra padding to stay warm. As such, always bring with you extra clothes or sleeping pads to help you stay warm on your hiking expedition. And remember: sleeping in a tent can add up to ten degrees of warmth to your bag’s temperature rating.

  1. Weight

Another important quality of your next hiking sleeping bag is weight. In general, you want to find a sleeping bag that isn’t too heavy. Hiking sleeping bags are designed to be carried in your hiking backpack as you travel. For this reason, you want to find a bag that is comfortable to carry.

In general, bag weight is determined by two factors: shape and insulation type. Certain sleeping bag shapes and insulation types are heavier than others, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to detail when purchasing your next sleeping bag. Sleeping bags come in three general shapes: mummy, semi-rectangular, and rectangular (in ascending weight order).

In terms of insulation, down-insulated bags tend to be lighter than synthetically insulated ones. Specifically, down-insulated bags with higher fill powers (which indicate the concentration and quality of down) are lighter and offer the best carry. No matter whether you choose down or synthetic insulation, your bag should come with an insulation fill weight on the outside packaging that tells you the weight of your insulation.

Understanding your bag’s insulation type and shape goes a long way to finding the bag that’s right for you. Remember that you want to find a bag that’s comfortable to carry but that doesn’t sacrifice any warmth.

  1. Functionality

Every hiker is different.

Take it from personal experience—some like to bring fancy goodies and really deck it out inside their tents. Others take a more minimalist approach and bring only the bare minimum.

Depending on what type of hiker you are, you may require more functionality out of your sleeping bag. While many hikers are satisfied with a bag that keeps them warm and comfortable, others go all in on fancy bags with additional perks.

Some sleeping bags, for example, allow you to create your own pillow with “pillow pockets.” Others have “stash pockets” where you can store your accessories and other small goodies. Some of these functions are more necessary than others, but it really depends on you and what you are looking for in your hiking trip as to what bag is right for you.

Keep in mind, however, that bags with extra features usually come at a heftier price. This means that if you are looking for bags with “anti-snag” zipper features or extra padding, you may have to spend a bit more money.

Qualities of a Good Hiking Sleeping Bag

Now that you know the basics of finding a good hiking sleeping bag, let’s take a moment to examine some of the specific features a good bag offers. To make the most out of your camping trip, pay careful attention to these features so that you can make the best purchase when the time comes.

  1. It Has an Ideal Warmth-to-Weight Ratio

You already know that down bags offer a lightweight alternative to bulkier synthetic bags. Perhaps more importantly, however, these bags offer a better warmth-to-weight ratio. Warmth-to-weight ratio indicates the degree to which your bag will keep you both warm and comfortable during your hiking trip.

If you’ve got extra money to spend, you can’t go wrong with a bag made from high-fill power down material. Keep in mind, however, that these bags can often be more expensive. In general, you can find great down and synthetic bags for affordable prices—just aim to keep the bag you purchase around two pounds or less. Doing so will help you find a bag that’s not only comfortable to carry but warm to sleep in, as well.

  1. It’s Got Draft-Blocking Features

Draft blocking refers to the features that allow warm air from your body to stay inside your sleeping bag. Generally speaking, your sleeping bag works by trapping your body heat, and draft blocking goes the extra mile to make sure you are warm.

If you plan on hiking in colder or even frigid temperatures, it would behoove you to find a bag with the proper draft-blocking features. Some bags include draft tubes that are located next to the zipper and help keep warm air inside the bag. Others include draft collars that trap warm air inside.

No matter what type of draft-blocking bag you choose, you can’t go wrong with one of these high-powered bags if you’re hiking in the cold.

  1. It’s Got Great Compressibility

Outside of weight and temperature, compressibility is one of the most important factors to consider when examining the functionality of your future sleeping bag. Compressibility refers to the ability of your bag to fit into small spaces.

You’ll notice that the more expensive the bag, the higher the compressibility—and thus, the greater the ease of carry. In general, you should shoot for a bag that offers high compressibility so that you aren’t uncomfortable as you hike.

  1. It Has Extra Zipping Features

Whether you are hiking alone or with a partner, you’ll want to find a bag that offers the best zipping features for you. Fortunately, there are a number of such features that you can take advantage of.

For starters, you can choose a bag with anti-snagging technology that prevents your bag’s zipper from catching or snagging when you zip or unzip your bag.

What’s more, if you’re traveling with your spouse or partner, you can choose bags that have couple zipping features that allow you to connect your bags and sleep together. For many, this proves to be a better alternative to more expensive couple bags that may not provide the best fit for each individual.

  1. It Comes with Extra Storage

The best bags come with extra sacks so that you can store and carry them with more ease. Many bags come with smaller stuff sacks that allow you to compress your bag to a small size and pack them more easily. Make sure to check the packaging on your bag, however, as certain bags sell stuff sacks separately.

Other bags come with large mesh or cotton storage sacks that allow you to store your bag in a safer way. These larger storage sacks are recommended for storage, as they allow your bag to maintain its functionality for longer.

Are you looking for the best sleeping bag for your next hiking trip?

If so, use this guide as your ultimate resource. By following the information contained in this piece, you will know exactly what to look for in your next hiking sleeping bag.

In general, you’ll want a bag that has the perfect warmth-to-weight ratio, draft-blocking features, and extra zipper and storage features that can keep you comfortable and allow you to store your bag more properly.

Finding the right hiking sleeping bag can take your next hiking trip to the next level. As such, it’s important that you find the bag that’s right for you. This means that that old camping bag you’ve got in your closet likely won’t cut it.

It also means that you should know exactly what you are looking for before you make your purchase. As such, feel free to use this guide whenever you need a new hiking sleeping bag.

We have researched some great Hiking Sleeping Bags for you to review:

Hyke Byke 650 Fill Power Down Sleeping Bag Review

Marmot Trestles 15 Cold-Weather Mummy Sleeping Bag Review

Outdoorsman Lab Mummy Sleeping Bag Review

Whitefang Sleeping Bag Review

Winner Outfitters Mummy Sleeping Bag Review

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