If you’re not into bugs, mosquitoes, humidity and heat, then chances are your camping season begins when the temperatures start to drop. In short, you are a cold weather camper and depending on how cold it gets in your neck of the woods, you’re going to need a sleeping bag that can stand up to those cold winter nights. In this article, I selected what I believe is the best sleeping bag for cold weather camping, along with a few runners up. Each of these sleeping bags will keep you warm and snug, no matter how low the temperature drops.
All five sleeping bags on our list would make great choices, however there is one that stood above all the rest and that’s the Therm-a-Rest Questar 20-Degree lightweight sleeping bag. The thing that I liked most about this bag is that while it can keep you warm in cold temperatures, it also makes a great sleeping bag for those nights when it’s not so cold. If you would like more information on this sleeping bag, you can read our full review below.
I know how important it is to select the right sleeping bag, especially if it could potentially save your life one day. This is why I not only did a thorough review of each of the sleeping bags that I listed, but also included a buying guide to help you make a more informed buying decision.
Here Are Our Top 5 Picks for The Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bags
Therm-a-Rest Questar 20-Degree Lightweight Sleeping Bag
In my opinion, the Therm-a-Rest Questar is the best bang for your buck when it comes to the other sleeping bags on this list. Notice that I didn’t say it’s the best! That title goes to another one of the bags.
However, if you want some of the features of a more expensive cold weather sleeping bag, this may be just what you are looking for.
It’s a mummy style sleeping bag that’s rated for 20 degree weather. I liked this because it won’t be too warm for camping year round.
The Therm-a-Rest has a 650-fill power of Nikwax-treated Hydrophobic Goose Down. In case you’re not familiar with Nikwax, it’s used to help make sleeping bags water resistant. It also helps treated bags to dry up to three times faster than untreated down.
The regular fit size accommodates campers of up to six feet in height and weighs in at only 2 ½ pounds, making it a great choice for campers of all types, including backpackers and hikers who have to sometimes lug all of their gear to their campsites.
If you would like to find out more about the Therm-a-Rest Questar, you can see more reviews and the price on Amazon
Nemo Disco 15-Degree Insulated Down Sleeping Bag
The Nemo Disco is another cold weather sleeping bag that’s worth taking another look at. It has many of the same features as the Therm-a-Rest, but also has a few unique to itself.
The Nemo is rated for 15-degree weather and is also a mummy style sleeping bag. However, unlike most mummy sleeping bags, it’s unique spoon shaped design allows for a little extra room around the elbows and knees. This is great news if you are like myself and find yourself wanting to sleep on your side rather than your back.
It’s also a down sleeping back that’s been filled with Nikwax Hydrophobic Down and has a 650 fill power and weighs in at just under 3 lbs.
It comes in a regular and long size. The regular size will fit a camper up to 6ft, while the long version will accomodate someone up to 6.5ft.
The Nemo Disco has too many features to list here, but the one feature that I feel that really sets this sleeping bag apart from some of the others is its thermo gills. If you get too hot, the ThermoGills unzip to let out warm air, allowing you to essentially control the temperature in the bag.
Even though the Nemo is rated at 15 degree, because of the ThermoGills, you can get away with using it year round as long as the temps don’t get too terribly hot.
The only thing that I didn’t like about this bag is it has no way to attach to a sleeping pad, but other than that, it’s a winner in my book.
If you would like to find out more about the Nemo Disco, you can see more reviews and the price on Amazon.
Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
If you want a sleeping bag that if taken care of properly could last a lifetime, then take a look at the Western Mountaineering Ultralite.
When it comes to cold weather sleeping bags, you can’t get much better than the Western Mountaineering Ultralite! This is without a doubt the best sleeping bag on our list, however it’s also the most expensive.
While they are on the expensive side, you can ask any experienced camper and they will tell you that they are well worth the money.
This particular model is another mummy style sleeping bag and is rated for 20 degree. It has an 850+ fill down, making it the most insulated bag on our list. It also has full down collar that wraps snugly around your neck to help seal in the heat that your body produces.
The WM has a breathable, water resistant shell that not only protects you, but also the down fill from water and condensation
It comes in several different sizes with the smallest fitting someone up to 5 ½ feet and the largest accomodating a camper up to 6 ½ feet.
This sleeping bag is also pretty light, weighing only 2 pounds. Its lightweight design make it another great option for backpackers and hikers.
If you would like to find out more about the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, you can see more reviews and the price on Amazon.
Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree DriDown Sleeping Bag
Warm, affordable, dry and durable are just a few of the adjectives used by campers to describe the Kelty Cosmic. While it may be the cheapest of all the sleeping bags on this list, don’t let the low-cost fool you.
It has many of the same features of the more expensive brands, including a 600-fill hydrophobic DriDown™ for exceptional warmth. The hydrophobic treated down means more moisture defense and quicker drying in the cold and wet.
The Kelty is rated for 20 degrees and comes with a thermal comfort hood and top draft collar, making it a win for backpackers who love to be outside, whether it’s raining, snowing, or beautiful out.
With that being said, if you are hiking over five miles and you are worried about ounces and grams then you might want to think about another sleeping bag. While it’s not overly heavy, the regular size Cosmic does weight almost 3 pounds.
However, if you want a bag that will keep you warm and not break the bank, then the Kelty Cosmic sleeping bag will make a great fit.
If you would like to find out more about the Kelty Cosmic 20, you can see more reviews and the price on Amazon.
Big Agnes Dream Island 15 Degree Double Sleeping Bag
Last but not least is the Big Agnes double sleeping bag. I chose this particular bag for two reasons. One, it’s made by Big Agnes, a name that all campers will know. Two, I’ve never used a double sleeping bag and wanted to find out what they are all about.
The thing that got my attention is that this is a 2-person mummy style cold weather sleeping bag. My thinking is that since the way you stay warm in a sleeping bag is through your body heat, wouldn’t two campers generate even more warmth?
Not entirely sure about that, but I do know that the Big Agnes is rated for 15 degree weather, making it a great sleeping bag for those cold wintery nights. However, like all the sleeping bags that we’ve reviewed, you can use it for warmer temperatures, making it pretty much a year round sleeping bag.
The Big Agnes is the only synthetic sleeping bag on our list! It incorporates a treated nylon shell to help repel moisture, as well as a soft, breathable nylon lining with a stain resistant finish.
The Big Agnes Dream Island could make a nice sleeping bag for couples, but it probably won’t work if you’re hiking to your camping destination as it weighs almost 10 pounds and doesn’t compact very well.
However, if you are driving up to your campsite and don’t mind sharing a sleeping bag, then I recommend that you check the Big Agnes out!
If you would like to find out more about the Big Agnes Dream Island, you can see more reviews and the price on Amazon
Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Cold Weather Sleeping Bag
How Cold Will The Weather Be
One of the first things that you need to take into consideration before deciding on cold weather sleeping bag or any sleeping bag for that matter is what type of weather will you be camping in. Will you be sleeping in temperatures that rarely dip below 30 deg in the winter, or will you be needing a sleeping bag that can withstand freezing temperatures?
This, in my opinion, is the most important factor to consider because it will determine which bag is the best fit for you.
Most sleeping bags should have something stating how cold of weather they are rated for. However, this number is sometimes not accurate. The ratings are typically based on extreme scenarios and not comfort, meaning how cold of weather would you be able to survive while in the bag, not how comfortable will you be.
How Much Should You Pay
Obviously cost is something that most of us will need to take into consideration, especially if you are on a budget. How much you pay for a sleeping bag really depends on the type of sleeping bag you choose.
If you require something that can keep you toasty in sub-zero temperatures, then you’re probably going to want a down sleeping bag, which usually costs more than the synthetic alternatives.
However, unless you are an extreme cold weather camper, who has to hike miles just to get to their campsite, which just so happens to be on the face of a mountain at 10,000 feet, then you can more than likely get away with a bag that’s in the $100-$200 range.
Down vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags
Besides the cost (down costs more), there are several differences between down and synthetic sleeping bags. The most notable difference is probably how warm each one is. Down sleeping bags will definitely keep you warmer than synthetic sleeping bags, but there are some drawbacks.
Synthetic sleepings bags, while not as warm as down, are more resistant to moisture. So if you plan on doing any camping in areas that prone to rain, fog, and snow, a synthetic bag is probably a better choice.
Also, synthetic bags are usually a little heavier than down sleeping bags, making them less appealing to hikers and backpackers. However, although they are lighter if your down bag gets wet, it’s pretty much useless.
As you can see there is a bit of give and take when it comes to selecting a sleeping bag.
Quilts vs Mummy Sleeping Bags
Quilt sleeping bags are essentially cold weather sleeping bags without a zipper, hood. They are more comfortable in my opinion due to the fact that you have more room to move around. You can also put a mattress, sheet and pillow in them to make a complete sleeping system.
They are also much lighter and more compact than your standard sleeping bag.
One of the biggest differences between the two is that with a regular sleeping bag, you have fill on the top and bottom of the bag. With a quilt sleeping bag you only have it on the top.
The thought behind this design is that when you are lying down in your bag, you are pressing the fill flat, which takes away it’s insulating values. By eliminating this design flaw, you are creating a sleeping bag that’s more manageable and lighter.
As far as warmth goes, if you are camping in really cold temperature, a quilt sleeping bag is not going to keep you warmer than a mummy sleeping bag! The biggest reason that you would want to choose a quilt over a mummy bag is purely for comfort and manageability.
What’s The Temperature Rating
When comes to the manufacturer’s temperature rating of their sleeping bags, take it with a grain of salt. There are so many variables when it comes to how warm a sleeping bag will keep you.
Some variables include:
- How much do you weigh?
- What did you have for dinner?
- What are you wearing?
- Are you a warm or cold natured person?
While the different brands do their best to accurately measure how warm their sleeping bags will keep you in cold weather, it’s really just an educated guess.
Also keep in mind that sleeping bag manufacturer’s goal is to sell sleeping bags, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they fudge the numbers a hair.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a sleeping bags that is rated for 10-15 degrees colder than what you’re planning on using it for. So if you will be mostly camping in 40 degree weather, I would select something that is rated for at least 30 degrees.
How Much Does it Weight
Another aspect of a sleeping bag that may play a role in your buying decision is its weight. While how much your bag weighs won’t really be a concern if you’re driving up to your campsite, it can really be a determining factor if you are a backpacker who likes to hike to their camping spot.
When you’re hiking several miles with everything that you will need to survive in the wilderness for a few days or even longer on your back, every little ounce can quickly become an issue!
For this type of camping, you’ll need a bag that’s not only rated for cold weather camping, but it also lightweight and compact.
Is Bigger Better
When it comes to comfort their may be an argument for “bigger is better.” However, when it comes to keeping warm in the cold, then a more compact sleeping bag will almost always win the day.
That’s because the less unoccupied space that their is in a sleeping bag, the less heat is required from your body to heat it. After all, it’s not the sleeping bag that’s actually keeping you warm. It’s the heat from your body! All the sleeping bag is doing is providing you with insulation to help keep the heat from escaping.
With that being said, there are some campers who like a little more room in their bags, so they will opt for a larger bag. With a larger bag you can wear more clothing to bed and also have room to place hot water bottles, heating pads and so on inside with you.
Does it Pack Well
If you’re a backpacker who’s hiking for miles just to reach their campsite, having a sleeping bag that is compact and easy to carry is essential.
However, if you are a weekend warrior who’s idea of roughing it is to drive for miles to your campsite, having a sleeping bag that packs well is probably not much of a concern.
Generally speaking, a down filled sleeping bag will pack much better than a synthetic one.
Is it Comfortable
Besides how warm your bag will keep you, this is probably the most important factor that you need to think about before purchasing a sleeping bag!
After all, if you can’t get a good night’s sleep in your bag, what good is it?
In most cases, this is a matter of preference. Some campers are willing to sacrifice a little warmth to have a little more room to move around, while other prefer to be snug and toasty.
Also, you remember earlier when I was comparing the quilt sleeping bag to the mummy bags? I mentioned that the quilt doesn’t have fill on the bottom. Even though having fill here may not do much in the way of keeping you warm, some campers like it for the extra padding.
Also, if you are the type of person who likes to move around from side to side while sleeping, a mummy sleeping bag may not be what you want.
Is the Sleeping Bag Weather Resistant
By weather resistant, I’m referring to its ability to repel water. Most all sleeping bags come with some form of water resistant coating. However, some brands do a better job than others!
You can also buy waterproofing sprays that can add an extra layer of protection to your bag.
If water resistance is a primary concern for you, then I would definitely go with a synthetic sleeping bag. While a down bag is water resistant, if you have even the tiniest of tear in the fabric, moisture could enter and ruin the feathers, making the sleeping bag virtually useless.
Is it Easy to Take Care of and Maintain
Something else that you may want to consider is how easy it will be to wash and maintain your sleeping bag.
Most of today’s sleeping bags advertise that they are machine washable, however what you may not know is that you can’t wash them in a regular top loading washing machine. The agitator will ruin the filling, regardless if it’s synthetic or made from a down filling.
Unless your sleeping bag is just disgusting, I highly recommend that you only hand wash it in a tub with a mild soap and water, or better yet, simply spot wash it with a rag.
Also, never put your sleeping bag in the dryer! Always hang it out, preferably outside in the sun to air dry.
While I feel that we did a pretty good job at selecting some of the best sleeping bags for cold weather camping, I know that there are plenty more that could have easily made it on our list. Like all things in life, what’s good for some may not be good for the rest, which is why we would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a favorite cold weather sleeping bag? If so, let us know what it is and why. You can leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comment section below.