CAMPING & HIKING

Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bag: Sleep Cozy in The Cold

Best sleeping bags for cold weather
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

The sleeping bag is probably the most important piece of equipment that the camper makes use of, as it protects you during the most vulnerable period, the sleeping time. It’s sometimes the only sheath between your body and the exterior environment and its purpose is to maintain a constant warm and dry interior climate in those moments when your body heat level lowers naturally due to the long hours of inactivity.

That is why when thinking about the best cold weather sleeping bag, one will not only imagine the blissful cocoon that you snuggle in every night at home but mostly focus their attention on the performance and ultimately to the compatibility with their own specific needs.

As with all product updates and innovations that come to respond to different marketing strategies and market segments, the sleeping bags come in a myriad of types, accustomed to meet any requirements.

So, the action of choosing the suitable one, while keeping your mind concentrated on their priorities and avoiding the seller’s usual artifices, is no easy challenge. The good news is that you will find the right one even if you have the most peculiar sleeping habits.

There are two main directions that are being followed when devising the ultimate sleeping bag – one that integrates the practical principles of coming up with best materials and techniques so as to confer the best shelter in extreme weather conditions (low temperature, high humidity); the other one is exclusively concentrated on excessive comfort.

Winter bag for sleeping

The fabrics that are now being utilized to manufacture sleeping bags are highly evolved in terms of technology and implement secure protection in skin friendly textures. One decisive factor is the breathability of the fabric – and this is a must not only for comfort reasons but also as a preservation factor.

Perspiration is accelerated in an enclosed environment as heat accumulates and the body is deprived of the exchange in air flow with the exterior – you can only imagine how it would be to be wrapped up in a plastic bag. In the end, the warm sweat can become a high freezing risk in extremely low surrounding temperature.

On the other hand, the comfort principle has been expanded in such a manner, to whole typologies of products, differentiated by user’s particular preferences, be it trifles or specific necessities. The maximum goal is, of course, to recreate the gratifying feeling of resting in your home bed after a long tiring day, by integrating it into a wilderness experience.

And the result is overwhelming – a wide range of cushioning methods, extended mobility, means of adjusting different segments of the bag according to your body position, easy to use systems of zipping that can please even the restless sleeper who constantly covers and uncovers himself, stretching and turning from one side to another.

Bring your winter sleeping bag

Overpassing the comfort zone, the very low temperature can at one point mean the limit between life and death. Of course, people have been known to resist outstanding freezing even without the proper clothes or equipment. But this is a fragile limit.

If your body temperature drops below 95° F you are at risk of developing hypothermia, which at this point will affect the normal functioning of your organs and exposed tissue will literally freeze – ice molecules will start forming within the cells of the skin area in reaction to the exterior temperature that will, in the end, be transformed in dead tissue.

So sometimes it’s a matter of life and death when it comes to sleeping bags.

What Aspects to Look at When Choosing A Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

The first step – visualize your usual camping scenario and add up the spices, the random surprise that nature can offer. When you prepare for cold weather, might expect it to be colder that the weather girl announced. It can be dry or in can be an incredibly large amount of water in the atmosphere around.

Cold weather bag for sleeping

It all depends in the end, on where you plan to use this sleeping bag, how and how far are you willing to go in your pursuit of finding the perfect outdoor bedding.

  • There are 3 shapes and 4 season types of sleeping bags: this difference marks the temperature resistance levels
  • There are waterproof materials and others that are only water resistant: it remains dry under dew or even if it rains on you
  • Usually, the cold weather sleeping bags are designed to envelop your entire body so as to cover almost all skin area and as the head is the most vulnerable part here: the hoods are projected to block drafts and to be adjusted to suit
  • You can find classic simple tailoring or you can choose from the more advanced anatomically lined models
  • A whole area of zipping, along the length of the sleeping bag or just to separate different segments: like the foot box and of course the type that comes with no zippers whatsoever, but with the comfy familiar blanket
  • There is also variety in terms of body position: the classic mummy style for the most serene sleepers; one that aims at side sleepers; another one that can satisfy also people that sleep on their abdomen; sleepers that move continuously turn around and want their sleeping bag to move along; sleepers that continuously turn around and want their sleep bag to remain fix. And most versatile of all are the sleeping bags that go beyond their original function and be used for sitting, cover and mattress alike.
  • Some manufacturers are very inventive at adding pockets: for stashing whatever few items you need to grab easily during the night; for keeping your hands and arms warm when you use it in sitting position; for foot to be well taken care of during long extremely cold nights

Below you can check out a list that covers most types of cold weather sleeping bags on the market, address main functionalities while exploring their unique characteristics.

Top Products of 2017

Western Mountaineering Antelope MF 5 Degree Sleeping Bag

Western Mountaineering Antelope MF 5 Degree Sleeping Bag

Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz.

Size:

  • Interior length – 6’6”
  • shoulder girth – 62”
  • foot girth – 39”

Material: Microlite XP shell

Special features:

  • Full down filled collar
  • 26’ loft
  • #5 YKK Coil Zipper with two lockable sliders – covering the full length of the sleeping bag

Best use: 3 season camping

Description: Western Mountaineering Antelope MF provides protection for campers who enjoy the fresh freezing air from the high mountains, ensuring comfort even in a mild winter season, till 5 degrees.

This is granted by the 26’ loft, which makes it quite a voluminous sleeping bag, but nonetheless, it can come extremely handy when in the lack of mattress, as its particularly thick loft can offer a convenient replacement to smooth down the ground unevenness.

The Microlite XP shell covers the sleeping bag in a weather protective sheath, that blocks the cold and humidity while maintaining breathability. With so much heat, easy ventilation of the sleeping bag is more than welcomed, therefore the full-length zipper provides easy opening / closing, being assisted in this function by the Dacron stiffening tape, attached to the zipper, averting jams and supplying maneuverability.

The Western Mountaineering Antelope is a 3 season sleeping bag, big and comfy that  can make you feel at home even if you happen to be outside in a crispy cold weather. It is also compact when packed and pretty light, considering its thickness, which makes it easy to handle, pack and carry around.

These sleeping bags come in different sizes so as to suit every member of your family. The interior is very spacious, with a 62” shoulder girth, offering enough room to turn around and feel loose while at the same time warm.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 Sleeping Bag – Men’s

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 Sleeping Bag – Men’s

Weight: 2lbs. 9 oz.

Size:

  • inside length: long – 84” / regular – 78”
  • shoulder girth: long – 61” / regular – 59”
  • hip girth: long – 56” / regular – 53”
  • foot girth: long – 40” / regular – 38”

Material: Q.Shield Down 850-Fill, Filament Weave 10D Leger bag shell

Special features:

  • Mummy design sleeping bag
  • 7” bag loft
  • comfort temperature 15°F, lowest temperature 2°F

Best use: 3 season camping

Description: The Mountain Hardwear Phantom explicitly evinces its name through its carefully cut mummy type design. It can cover you up completely, ensuring constant interior temperature by preventing the heat from escaping out of your cocoon; following naturally the lines of the body and securing vulnerable parts.

Its 6-chamber hood covers one’s head with an even loft, protecting it from drafts and even from the slightest currents of air, as it’s long enough to be pulled over forehead and below.

That’s where it meets the draft collar that encloses your neck section, a 2 piece ergonomic section that also performs the function of a tiny and comfortable neck pillow – successfully fulfilling its role of keeping the heat inside and the cold outside without pressuring or restraining your body. The Phantom’s design follows the shape and position of the body, presenting at its bottom, a foot box tailored under the same concept. Thus it envelopes naturally each foot, providing in this manner a maximum and yet comfortable cover area, that ensures optimum heat.

A draft tube goes along the zipper and protects against cold spots and heat loss.

And then it’s the impressive qualities of the materials used to manufacture the Mountain Hardwear Phantom sleeping bags that make them so accurate in their mission of full body protection – the Q Shield 800 that fills them is treated to retain the loft under conditions of high humidity as well as frequent use, the bag shell, on the other hand, envelopes it in a sheath that blocks cold air and humidity from penetrating into the interior.

When it’s packed, the sleeping bag is incredibly small and light, so it’s a user-friendly, easy to carry and pack option for such gear.

Marmot Col MemBrain Long Down Sleeping Bag, Long-Left

Marmot Col MemBrain Long Down Sleeping Bag, Long-Left

Weight: 3 lbs. 14.59 oz.

Size:

  • interior length – 83”
  • shoulder girth – 63”
  • hip girth – 61”
  • foot girth – 45”

Material: Pertex Shield 30d, 800+ Fill Power Goose Down for insulation

Special features:

  • the special Marmot cross baffle construction design
  • waterproof and breathable material
  • 9” loft
  • minimum temperature -20° F

Best use: 4 season camping

Description: The most outstanding features in Marmot Col MemBrain are the qualities of its constituent fabrics, as they are projected to resist at extreme weather conditions of very low temperatures, as the minimum stated performance of -20°F; as well as high humidity and even excessive dew or rain.

Its design is as remarkable, following the structure of your body for perfect envelopment and intelligently including solutions for casual needs – like the idea of attaching a very useful interior pocket where you can keep a few necessary items.

The Marmot Col MemBrain sleeping bag’s structural components – its Nautilus 6-Baffle hood, Velcro-free collar and face muff, wrap-around reinforced foot box – are all intended to obtain a maximum of interior comfort at a maximum level of weather hostility from the outside.

And one particular catch is the breathability quality that is provided by its materials, that combined with the capacity of maintaining a constant interior climate, make this sleeping bag the answer for most extreme practices. This is also aided by the skin friendly nature of the used fabrics and the smooth wrap around body blueprint.

Valandre Shocking Blue 800 Sleeping Bag – Men’s

Valandre Shocking Blue 800 Sleeping Bag – Men’s

Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.

Size:

  • interior length – 66.9”
  • shoulder girth – 61”
  • hip girth – 52.8”
  • foot girth – 39”

Material: outside 100% Polyamide Nylon, inside 100% Polyester, 800-fill grey goose

Special features:

  • constructed out of 32 sections in an overall anatomically tailored design
  • comfort temperature 12° F, lowest temperature -44° F

Best use: 4 season camping

Description: The Valandre Shocking Blue Neo is one familiar sleeping bag among campers and nature aficionados that most correctly appreciate the qualities of an item that can perform under extreme conditions and that, at the same time, comes packed in the most optimal compact, lightweight object.

The design is shaped in a 3D-baffle framework that unites the constituent sections in a form that follows the general anatomical guidelines of the human body.

It provides comfortable hood, neck and foot sections in an overall ergonomic envelope. It presents also a cord that when pulled, adjusts over the head and across the neck, enclosing it in order to block cold drafts of air. It is projected to ensure full body protection and it succeeds in fulfilling the special needs of the most exposed body part, the head – thus the hood is constructed using a 3D-half-moon technique for optimal cover, including the protection of the user’s forehead.

The Valandre sleeping bag employs a Marie-Antoinette zip-away draft collar that improves its functionality by adding the option of taking advantage of this item not as a sleeping bag but also a cover that permits sitting up, cozy and unrestricted while still protected from the surrounding cold ground or walls.

Nemo Nocturne Sleeping Bag

Nemo Nocturne Sleeping Bag

Weight: minimum 2 lbs. 2 oz.

Size:

  • length: regular – 6’/ long – 6’6
  • shoulder girth: regular – 64” / long 66”
  • hip girth: regular – 60” / long – 62”
  • knee girth: regular – 64” / long – 66”

Material: 20D Nylon Ripstop for shell, 40D Nylon Ripstop for footbox, 30D Nylon Tafetta for lining

Special features:

  • spoon shape design
  • box quilted and box baffled – stitched following a rectangular pattern that displays the thickness of the loft in small segments thus ensuring a balanced distribution of the fabric / the overall construction presents a two-way baffle system that separates segments in order to provide the highest loft
  • stretch stitching – allows the sleeping bag to be flexible and adjust to your body changing positions during the night, without folding under you or restraining your moves
  • minimum temperature 30° F

Best use: 3 season camping

Description: The Nemo Nocturne sleeping bag innovates in matters of design, coming to provide satisfaction to yet another necessity of general comfort, bringing relief to side sleepers. All of its features provide a safe cover for those who are having a more active or even agitated motion during their night sleep.

It provides enough space for the arms to be placed freely as well as for the knees area so you can bend them when sleeping on your side.

It is so anatomically compatible thanks to its structure and smart stitching that when you move, it moves with you readapting naturally to your current position. This extended flexibility enables the sleeping bag to guarantee the protection of all body parts at all time.

The Nemo Nocturne sleeping bag design features a protective comfortable hood and collar, as well as a foot box that is breathable and waterproof – this way you can sleep with your feet out of the tent to breath fresh air through them and not get soaking wet in the process.

One other smart feature addresses the maneuverability while sitting and this one sleeping bag allows you to sit cross legged and meditate while keeping the lower part of your body warmly covered up.

Sierra Designs DriDown Backcountry Bed 800-Fill 3 Season Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs DriDown Backcountry Bed 800-Fill 3 Season Sleeping Bag

Weight: regular – 2 lbs. 8 oz. / long – 2 lbs. 11 oz.

Size:

  • length: regular – 80” / long – 86”
  • shoulder girth: regular – 61” / long – 65”
  • hip girth: regular – 60” / long – 64”
  • foot girth: regular – 42” / long – 44”
  • sleeping pad sleeve width: regular 20” / long – 25”

Material: 800 Fill DriDown

Special features:

  • comfort temperature 31° F, lowest temperature 20°F
  • comforter wraps allows versatility in adjusting to different temperatures and positions of the body
  • hand and arm pockets that ensure insulation when sitting
  • sleeping pad sleeve

Best use: 3 season camping

Description: One significant segment of innovation, when we’re discussing sleeping bags, is the comfort features and when we’re talking about Sierra Designs DriDown Backcountry Bed we are literally telling the story of bringing your home bed into the wilderness.

The aim of this sleeping bag is to recreate the satisfaction provided by the warmth and relaxation that you’re accustomed to – its versatility in position confers protection as well as mobility.

Its original cocoon shape is equipped with an outer shell that envelopes the human body like a natural womb, suited for the most serious drafts. It makes use of blankets and no zippers or Velcro, thus it intuitively adjusts to your moves, freeing you from the need to be careful not to uncover yourself every time you change positions.

Moreover is the type of  bag that you can use no matter what your sleeping habits are – on your side and even on your belly. This makes it easy to adapt to the different temperatures throughout the night – you can wrap the lateral sides of the comforter around or beneath you.

You can comfortably sit inside this Backcountry Bed with now worries that it will fold under you and its loft will function as an impressive mattress. The material that is used to manufacture these sleeping bags is treated with a molecular polymer that makes it resistant to humidity, by maintaining its dryness for longer and shortening the drying process, while keeping the loft in perfect shape.

Sea to Summit Trek Series TKII Ultra-Dry Down Sleeping Bag

Sea to Summit Trek Series TKII Ultra-Dry Down Sleeping Bag

Weight: short – 2 lbs. 3 oz. / regular – 2 lbs. 4 oz. / long – 2 lbs. 7 oz.

Size:

  • interior length: short – 5’5” / regular – 6’/ long – 6’7”
  • shoulder girth: short – 59.05” / regular – 59.84” / long – 61.42”
  • hip girth: short – 58.27” / regular – 59.05” / long – 59.84”
  • foot girth: short – 39.37” / regular – 39.76” / long – 40.16”

Material: 2D PermaShell 33D Nylon, 650-Fill Ultra-Dry Down (85% duck down, 15% feathers) for insulation

Special features:

  • DWR coating for waterproof
  • Comfort temperature 30° F, lowest temperature 18° F
  • Lifetime warranty from manufacturer
  • Full-length zipper on one side, separate zipper for foot box – protected with draft tube
  • Rectangular shape for maximizing interior space
  • Interior pocket with zipper

Best use: 3+ season camping

Description: The Sea to Summit Trek sleeping bag follows the principles of a conventional alpine bag, which means that in integrates intelligent design in the most simple form. The rectangular shape allows freedom of movement, while its interior structure is provided with a differential cut shell and 3D side walls thus maintaining the 60/40-fill ratio.

All of its features present this sleeping bag as a serious item that most of all promise reliability, given the fact that it comes with a manufacturer lifetime guarantee. The PermaShell that’s been improved with DWR finish is water resistant and in the same time breathable.

The foot box is equipped with a separate zipper, this way you can always avoid the accumulation of an excess of heat and invite fresh air in the specific area you need it – this small detail transforms your whole experience letting you use the sleeping bag as comfortably in warmer contexts alike.

The hood is cushioned and furnished with cords that you can draw and adjust it over your head as tight or loose as you want. The Sea to Summit Trek Series is professional equipment that responds to all standard requirements – it even comes in three dimensions (short, regular, long) so as to fit any user preferences.

Marmot Sawtooth 15F Down Sleeping Bag – Long X-Wide

Marmot Sawtooth 15F Down Sleeping Bag – Long X-Wide – Right Zipper – Cobalt Blue/Blue Night

Weight: 2 lbs. 7.5 oz.

Size:

  • Interior length – 83”
  • Shoulder girth – 62”
  • Hip girth – 56”
  • Foot girth – 41”

Material: 30d 100% Nylon Ripstop, 30d 100% Nylon DWR, 650+ Fill Power Duck Down for insulation

Special features:

  • Insulation improved with Down Defender to resist exterior humidity and wet weather conditions
  • Designed to follow the anatomical body shape, including a separate segment for the foot box
  • Full length two way zipper provided with anti-block slider
  • Collar and hood equipped with draw cords to adjust girth
  • Interior pocket and a special warmth pocket inside the foot box for extra cold situations
  • Bag loft 5”
  • Comfort temperature 27.1° F, lowest temperature -17.5° F

Best use: 4 season camping

Description: The Marmot Sawtooth sleeping bag is projected to resist to the most extreme conditions, of cold and wetness. With the capacity of maintaining a comfortable interior climate till an outstanding freezing limit of -17.5° F, this sleeping bag is constructed to secure your protection with a series of draw-cords and the foot pocket is a one-of-kind innovation.

Taking care of your extremities is the most important responsibility of your equipment, as any experienced hiker knows so well – that is why foot boxes have become a standard in sleeping bag design, but this special pocket featured in The Marmot Sawtooth series answers the prayers of all cold feet out there.

The Same function is accomplished by the smart system implemented in the Nautilus multi-baffle hood and the ergonomically fashioned collar. One other aspect that’s been studied and taken care of is the actual packing, this sleeping bag being supplied with the storage sack and two loops that make it easy to hang and attach to your backpack.

Maneuverability is improved in the closing technique by using the anti-snag zipper, covered by the classic protective tube and tucked in the zipper garage so as to stay fixed and out of your way.

Final Words

In the end, almost everybody has found his or her match. Isn’t’ it?

Sleeping bag by patagonia for winter

And if you didn’t then tell us about your needs and desires, maybe your sleeping bag partner is tomorrow’s new product release or why not, the yesterday bought item of one other reader.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Marvin Gomez

    For me, there is no best cold weather sleeping bag. As a camper for several years, I’ve experienced enough to discover that the comfort in sleeping in a cold weather in the wilderness doesn’t fully depends on the sleeping bag but on the mattress, the later between you and the ground. Maybe the quality or brand of the sleeping bag just add a little advantage. But that’s just my opinion.

    • Dennis Owens

      Selecting the best is quite subjective, but we managed to provide choices that can help protect you from the cold and oftentimes harsh climate. Bringing an actual mattress sounds really cozy, but it tends to be too bulky to be carried around.

  • Daniel Hardwick

    Three and four season sleeping bags are certainly not small purchases, with (most) better quality bags costing in excess of $500. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t have that kind of money to spend, so I began researching lower priced bags. After reading tons of reviews, I stumbled across the Nemo Nocturne, I’ll admit, Nemo wasn’t a brand I’d heard off, however, there were a handful of reviews that suggested the bag proved great in the summer and through to fall and provided a generous amount of leg room. Since it was in my budget, I figured I’d give it a try.

    I’m not a small guy, 6ft, 180 lbs, and a side sleeper, so previous experience meant my expectations were not particularly high. I was, however, amazed by the Nemo, I’m able to sleep comfortably on my side, with one leg straight whilst the other is almost fully bent, without any doubt, the most comfortable bag I’ve ever slept in.

    Truth be told, I’ve not yet used it in any extreme weather conditions, I think the lowest so far has been the low 30’s, though I’m confident it will keep me warm as I find myself out in lower temperatures.

    • Dennis Owens

      I think I had a Nemo Nocturne once and what I love about it is its spaciousness to accommodate even the biggest camper in the group. Overall, a really good sleeping bag that can withstand the harsh elements whenever you are camping in a cold region.

  • Larry Simmons

    Last weekend I used for the first time my Sierra Designs bag. We went camping in the mountains where the temperatures were really freezing. I was able to sleep well without many clothes on me, whereas our drinking water froze solid. I like this bag because it has no zippers and has a lot of space. The quilt was excellent and protected me from the cold air.

    • Dennis Owens

      When a sleeping bag got less moving or mechanical parts, it is often the most durable ones. The Sierra Design bag that you got is a good deal already, and does the job in protecting your body against cold draft wind.

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