Sleeping in the outdoors is one of life’s great pleasures. After stargazing and watching the campfire die down we slide into a comfy sleeping bag for the night. That said, choosing the best backpacking sleeping bag for us can make or break a trip in the backcountry.
What I am looking for in a sleeping bag
The sleeping bag needs to be packable which ideally is lightweight. Who wants to carry around a bulky heavy bag all day? Providing a good night of sleep in the backcountry means a 3-season bag with good down fill for cold nights.
Sleeping bags can be one of the most expensive items we take which means durability is a key feature I am looking for a sleeping bag. I do not want to be second-guessing my sleeping bag choice once I hit the trails.
Similar to searching for a tent the options available were a bit overwhelming at first. 3 sleeping bags stuck out to me in my research. My 3 picks consistently rated high in reviews and comparison charts.
Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag Reviews
1. Feathered Friend Swallow Nano 20
From Seattle based Feathered Friends this American made bag had my eyes popping for two reasons. The most goose down and a weight of 1lb 15oz equates to a very warm and lightweight bag. Rated to 20° F we know this bag will keep us cozy on cold nights.
Another chart topper for me is the 20D water resistant shell, which rates higher than the other choices. The likelihood of encountering moisture while backpacking is high no matter if it is rain, snow or morning dew. A dry bag is a warm bag and I sleep better in a warm bag.
This is a traditional mummy bag style with a side zip and roomy shoulder area. There is enough feet space at the bottom of the bag, which will not compress feet and allow for natural comfort. Older bags forced the feet to be compressed against the bag, which meant cold feet. Allowing the feet room allows for more air and warmer feet.
In the Feathered Friend Swallow Nano 20 we have an ultralite sleeping bag under 2 lbs. We have the best down fill at 900-fill goose down and the best shell at 20D. Adding the temperature rating of 20°F we have my top ultralite backpacking sleeping bag for backcountry adventures.
Unfortunately the Feather Friend Swallow Sleeping Bag is no longer available.
2. Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20°
This Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bag is the lightest of the 3 sleeping bags.
Another American made product, the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20° comes in at number one for me. 850-fill goose down and weighing 1lb 13oz this 3-season sleeping bag would do well for most backpackers in the backcountry. It is the lightest of the 3 sleeping bags I selected.
There are minor differences to the Feather Friend Swallow. But this bag is the lightest of the bunch.
- The 850-fill goose down puts it below the Swallow Nano 20 in terms of fill. But I’m convinced I’ll be just as warm with the Western Mountaineering sleeping bag.
- The 12D shell is not as durable as the water resistant 20D shell in the Swallow Nano 20. If I were to encounter wet weather would I regret not having a 20D water resistant shell?
Western Mountaineering are known for making quality sleeping bags and the Ultralite 20 is another fine product offered. I see a place for this quality 3-season bag for most backpackers. The price tag may be higher then others but the reputation and quality from Western Mountaineering may be worth it in terms of longevity.
3. Kelty Cosmic Down 20
The Kelty is perfect for the budget backpacker or beginner. Although it is slightly heavier.
The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 came up again and again in research as a quality bag with a far lower price tag. Yes, it is heavier at 2lbs 13oz, which is 1lb more than the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20°.
The bag does have a comfort rating at 30°F but a lower limit at 19°F. Add to that 600-fill hydrophobic down which does better in wet conditions. Overall, in most 3-season backpacking I could use this bag and be reasonably comfortable while saving money.
This bag may the appropriate option for a beginner or budget conscious backpacker. I could accept the added weight considering the lower price of this bag if I fit the above conditions. For more advanced backpackers this may not be an option.
All 3 of these sleeping bags have quality built into them. I have to consider what type of backpacker I really am.
If I wanted to make sure I as warm as possible at night I would be in line to purchase the Kelti Cosmic although it is slightly heavier, I can live with that.
Looking at backpacking long term I would be more inclined to pick up the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20°. The brands reputation for durability and quality push me to feel the higher price tag is more of an investment for an ultralite sleeping bag.
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