CAMPING & HIKING

Best Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Comfy Solution for Nights in the Wilderness

synthetic sleeping bag featured
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Finding the best synthetic sleeping bag is not as easy as it might seem. There are quite a few things that need to be factored in and a lot of browsing that has to be done in order to eventually find the right sleeping bag for the job. Because of the overwhelming amount of choice in regards to sleeping bags, it can be a bit confusing to figure out which ones we want.

There is a lot of information that is thrown in front of us and impressive number values that, if we don’t know what they are and what they mean, can throw us off track. With a bit of planning and a bit of patience, however, this issue can be tackled and overcome without much problem.

What is a synthetic sleeping bag

The name in of itself is pretty much self-explanatory, it’s a synthetic bag designed to sleep in, however that is where the simplicity stops.

Our bodies are at their weakest when we are asleep. Besides the fact that we are unconscious half the time we’re asleep, the heart rate slows down, the pulse lowers, the blood flow slows down and our senses become increasingly relaxed.

This means that our immune system is at its weakest and without proper shielding and insulation we are sitting ducks in the face of the elements.Fortunately for us, though, sleeping bags are there to combat this problem.

They come in 3 shapes: Mummy, Rectangular, and Barrel. Out of these 2, the rectangular and mummy are the most popular ones, barrel sleeping bags becoming increasingly hard to find outside of custom designs and orders.

One of the most important things that you will want to look out for are the temperature ratings. There are 3 special ratings that you will have to look for, which are usually presented in both °F and °C.

different sleeping bags

The first one is the comfort temperature. This is how low the temperature of the air directly outside of the sleeping bag can drop before the hiker inside the sleeping bag starts to notice in and starts losing his or her comfort.

The second one is the survival temperature. This is the temperature at which the sleeping bag will help keep you alive and healthy while you sleep, at the expense of comfort and coziness. Anything below this temperature tends to swing the wearer into the danger zone.

Last one, and by far the most confusing one of them, is the cold rating. Things don’t go from comfort to survival in the space of a tenth of a degree. There is a buffer space, usually around 10 – 15 degrees between them.

The cold rating is the average value of the buffer. For example: If a sleeping bag is marked as having a cold rating of 20°F or -6.6°C, then that sleeping bag has a comfort rating of  30°F or -1.2°C and a survival rating of 10°F or -12.3°C.

inside sleeping bag on the snow

It goes without saying that paying close attention to these.Each shape fits a special set of characteristics and is suited for different types of conditions and environments.

The mummy

  • Shaped around the natural sleeping position of the human body.
  • Is made out of a single part, with a zipper that grants access to the inside
  • Lightweight
  • The face is the only thing exposed.
  • Can be a snug fit
  • Is designed to keep as much body heat in as possible
  • Is usually made out of a tough but maneuverable outer shell, a densely packed lining and soft but resistant interior shell
  • Has low comfort temperatures and very low survival temperatures
  • Works best in very cold environments

The rectangle

  • A classic design, shaped like a rectangular bed roll
  • Can be made out of either one part or 2 different parts joined together with a zipper
  • Bulkier and a bit heavier than the mummy
  • The entire head is usually exposed, however, earlier models allow for the head to be tucked in as well
  • It’s a loose and comfortable fit especially around the side
  • They are more geared towards comfort while still being able to provide decent insulation
  • Can be made out of 2 or more layers of fabric and lining, depending on the make and model
  • Has medium comfort temperatures and low survival temperatures
  • Works best in mild and cold environments

What to look for in a sleeping bag

Buying a sleeping bag is not something that you want to rush into. Make sure you set aside the time that you need in order to find the proper one for you and the environment that you are walking into.

sleeping bag in a tent

First of all, look at the average temperatures of the area that you are going into. This will help you eliminate a large portion of potential sleeping bags. Once you have a good idea of the temperatures that you will be facing, allow for an error space of +5 and -5°F.

The final approximation being the comfort temperature that you will be looking for in a sleeping bag. If the final number is lower than 0°F, it becomes the cold rating. Next up, obviously, the size. While it might seem faster and more comfortable to go for the biggest one that you can get, it is actually to your disadvantage.

The size of the sleeping bag should be 1 or 2 inches larger than yours. This is to accommodate for movement during sleep as well as compensate for any kind of shrinking and contraction brought on by the cold temperatures. Not to mention the fact that it will be lighter and it will fit better in your backpack.

Based on your gear, traveling conditions and weather conditions you will have to decide on the shape. While personal preferences can play a role in this decision, it is wiser to go with the data and raw numbers. For more harsher environments go with the mummy and for more mild climates go for the rectangle.

mummy sleeping bag

The weight of the sleeping bag, while it is not always factored in as important selection criteria, can lead to some unpleasant balancing issues with your gear. In order to be on the safe side. Check that the weight of the bag is something that can be indeed added to the backpack and that the size and/ or volume allow for it.

Last, but by n means least, the zippers. Believe it or not, the zippers can be a massive pain in the neck if you are not careful.

Make sure that they are properly insulated and that they are made in such a way that they will not snag onto anything with the first chance they get. It would be preferable if the zippers had small cords on their ends to help open and close them more easily.

These were the important things that you needed to look out for. Anything that comes after that, if the sleeping bag allows for it, is personal preference.

While there is not much to choose from in that regard, it is still an aspect that you should not fully ignore. You are going there to relax and have fun in the first place.

Our Top Picks

Coleman North Rim

coleman youth mummy

Size: 6 feet 2 inches

Shipping weight: 6.1 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature:   0°F or -17.7°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, extreme weather

Right off the bat, we have Coleman, an outdoor products company with a recognizable and respected name in the adventuring community, bringing us a sleeping bag designed for some of the harshest weather imaginable.

Indeed the Coleman North Rim bag is made out of polyester fabric with a polyester fill, however, the offset quilt construction along with the compact insulation layers allow it to help the body retain heat.

So much so that it can easily handle temperatures that are well below freezing. This particular sleeping bag’s temperature rating being 0°F.

One of the things you will notice right off the bat with this sleeping bag is the fact that the filling and the layers of insulation are not evenly distributed.

This is because the bag is designed to insulate and guard against the cold in a smart way, focusing on the vital parts of the body more. This keeps the body nice and comfortable while at the same time keeping the overall weight down.

The drawback of this bag being the fact that it was made for extremely cold weather and it thrives in it. As soon as you start using it in warmer climates, it becomes less and less effective.

Check the price on Amazon

Ledge Sports FeatherLite

Ledge

Size: 6 feet 3 inches

Shipping weight: 3.48 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature: 20°F or -6.6°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, cold weather

One of Ledge Sports FeatherLite strengths is the fact that it is incredibly light. All in all, it weighs in at just over 3 pounds, which makes it incredibly easy to carry around strapped to your backpack.

Something to note, though, although length-wise it’s fine and can fit an averagely tall adult, it can start feeling a bit snug if you weigh more tan 200-210 pounds.

While it has a thin profile, it is still very comfortable to sleep on and easily maintained, the Dobby Diamond 250T Ripstop fabric which makes up the outer shell keeping it from ripping and tearing accidentally.

Another great thing about this sleeping bag is the fact that it comes with a nice travel bag with clamps and straps which can be hooked up to your backpack in a flash.

Perhaps the only drawback of this bag being the fact that it is rather thin. While it can indeed protect you from the cold and be able to withstand temperatures as low as 20°F, it was made in such a way that allows it to be rather thin.

This, while helping it to stay light, can sometimes make you feel slightly uncomfortable. It is recommended that the tent that this bag is used in should have a slightly thicker flooring.

Check the price on Amazon

Nemo Symphony Bag

nemo

Size: 6 feet 4 inches

Shipping weight: 7.6 pounds

Shape: rectangular

Minimum temperature:   25°F or -4°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, cold weather

While the Nemo Symphony Bag is not exactly the lightest, nor the strongest, it is by far one of the most convenient ones.

This is because it was designed to fit with most 25” pads, allowing the bag to stay inserted during storage. This makes things easier to manage and saves a bit of time when going off on your next adventure.

Another one of this bag’s strengths is the fact that, although a traditional rectangular bag, it can still handle temperatures as low as  25°F. This is provided that the hiker either encases himself completely in the bag and zipping it up from the inside or wears a very thick head cover.

The sleeping bag in of itself is very comfortable and cozy, the interior lining being able to keep the body both warm and able to breathe.

The only drawback that this sleeping bag presents us with is its size while compressed. Because of its rectangular design, when compressed it comes in at a respectable 16-liter volume.

While this size will fit the vast majority of sleeper compartments in external frame backpacks, it will leave next to no room for any additional bags. Overall it is a great choice for people that prefer the old-school rectangular shape for their sleeping bags as well as people that prefer a roomier sleeping solution.

Check the price on Amazon

Rovor Couzy

Rover Couzy Cold

Size: 7 feet

Shipping weight: 4.55 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature:   0°F or -17.7°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, extreme weather

Nicknamed “the little bag that can”, Rovor Couzy is probably the lightest extreme weather sleeping bag on the market. It earned its nickname because of one of its main strengths.

When fully packed and compressed, it comes in at a volume of 6-7 liters. This means that, if you try hard enough, you can actually fit 2 of these sleeping bags into one sleeper compartment of an average backpack, and still have a little bit of room left over.

The main way in which this small volume and light weight are achieved is through the 260 thread microfiber that lines the inside of the sleeping bag.

It is one of the lightest and at the same time densest linings out there, allowing thinner and lighter sleeping bags to withstand some of the coldest environments out there.

Another great thing about this bag is its size, being able to fit in a 7-foot tall man snuggly is not an easily achieved feat. This makes the bag a lot more roomy and a lot more versatile than regular bags, being able to fit adventurers that are a lot heavier and a lot more solid than usual.

The last thing to note about this sleeping bag is the fact that the exterior shell is made out of reinforced Diamond Rippstop fabric, making it incredibly tough to damage and rip under normal circumstances.

Check the price on Amazon

Slumberjack Latitude

sluberjack

Size: 6 feet

Shipping weight: 4 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature:   20°F or -6.6°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, cold weather

Slumberjack Latitude is a sleeping bag built for comfort and while it might not be the most outstanding one out there, it is, in fact, one of the most comfortable outdoor sleeping experiences that you can have.

Right off the bat, one of the first things that you might notice is that, unlike most other mummy shaped sleeping bags, this one has a trapezoidal foot box.

This means that your feet are not constricted in any way, allowing you to wiggle them, twist them and adopt any position that you might desire.

Second thing great is the fact that the insulation is made in an off-set pattern, regulating both the heat and the draft around you, while at the same time keeping you nice and warm.

The third thing that you will notice is a draft tube along the length of the zipper. This is to stop any draft from coming in through the zipper and putting your comfort at risk.

One last thing to mention about this sleeping bag is the fact that it comes in 3 sizes. Short which fits people with a height of to up to 5 feet, “regular” for 6 feet and “long” for 7 feet, so figuring out if it will fit your or not is not really an issue.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman Brazos

coleman

Size: 5 feet 11 inches

Shipping weight: 11.73pounds

Shape: rectangular

Minimum temperature:   20°F or -6.6°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, cold weather

The Cloeman Brazos is a sleeping bag that is designed for adults that are on the more shorter side. Each sleeping bag can fit an adult or teen that is up to 5 feet 11 inches tall.

While that might seem a bit limiting, it tends to compensate with one of the more rare features in sleeping bags, interlocking. That’s right, 2 or more of these sleeping bags can actually be connected together in order to form a bigger sleeping bag.

This is mainly due to the patented Coleman double no-snag zippers that allow for these bags to be linked together.One of the bigger concerns that hikers usually have with rectangular sleeping bags is the lining.

In this case, the lining is a polyester and tricot knit lining which is designed to keep the same level of insulation on the interior as on the exterior of the bag. This means that it is essentially using your body heat and making it work against the drafts and the cold air around the bag.

While it is a great and comfortable sleeping bag to have, it does have its fair share of shortcomings. The most important one, besides the size restriction, being the fact that it comes in the classic single side zipper design of old. All in all, it is a good sleeping bag to have if you are looking for more comfort.

Check the price on Amazon

Kelty Tuck

kelty

Size: 6 feet 2 inches

Shipping weight: 3.1 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature:   22°F or -5.5°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, cold weather

Versatility is something that is rarely encountered but highly appreciated, and the Kelty Tuck sleeping bag is by far one of the most versatile on the market.

This is due to its cleverly simple yet effective design. One of the main features being the elastic cords around the zippers which can be connected to each other.

This means that you can connect the main zipper to the foot box zipper and walk around with what is essentially a very insulated blanket on you if you are not ready to crash in yet.

Another great feature is the actual foot box which comes with its own dedicated zipper in case your feet get too toasty.

Inside the sleeping bag, around the chest area, you will find a special pocket. This was designed to hold your phone, mp3 player and other such gadgets with a little vent on the side to slide your headphones through so you can listen to music while you rest.

The insulation itself is made out of ThermaPro synthetic insulation and is specifically geared for the sleeping bag that it is used on. This, combined with the offset polyester knit lining and filling makes it both a warm and comfortable experience, as long as it is not used under the recommended  22°F temperature.

Probably the single biggest letdown of this sleeping bag is the temperature rating, which is not as low as others.

Check the price on Amazon

Suisse Sport Everest

Suisse Sport Everest

Size: 7 feet

Shipping weight: 5 pounds

Shape: mummy

Minimum temperature:   0°F or -17.7°C

Best use: Camping, hiking, extreme weather

The name “Everest” says it all, the Suisse Sport Everest sleeping bag was designed to withstand some of the harshest and most unforgiving temperatures out there.

While it is rated for  0°F, the actual survival temperature is much lower than most other sleeping bags on the market, dropping to as low as -20°F.

This is achieved by virtue of its Hollow blends MicroTekk Z1 synthetic fill, which is dense enough and strong enough to keep the body properly insulated against the coldest conditions, and this sleeping bag packs 3.5 pounds of it.

To make things even more interesting, the sleeping bag comes with full head and chest baffles as well as a full-length draft tube along the inside of the zipper. This makes the sleeping bag so well insulated that it is the preferred choice of adventurers that go on extreme expeditions.

The Siberian Tundra, the Cinquain Tibet plateau, Mount Everest, these are just a few of the places where this sleeping bag shined.

Only one thing to keep in mind, though, there is no added luxury with this bag. There are no special pockets, no foot box zippers, no extra versatility. It was built to withstand the harshest cold and nothing else.

Check the price on Amazon

In conclusion

A synthetic sleeping bag, while it is indeed an item that you simply cannot afford to miss while on a camping trip, a hike or an adventure, it is also not the easiest thing to pick out.

sleeping bag and bicycle on the snow

As you have seen, there are different types of sleeping bags for different types of environmental conditions, that fit the different needs of the different people that browse for them.

It is mostly a matter of figuring out your personal preferences, gathering the data on where you are going and making sure the sleeping bag ticks all the boxes.

All in all, it is far better now than it was 10 years ago, and the fact that we have so much choice is a good thing. Just remember to take the time to browse all your options before deciding which one to go for.

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.

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