March 2008 Sleeping Bag Review: Winter Sleeping Bags

Best All-Around

Marmot Lithium
This high-lofting 850-fill down bag packs so small and weighs so little for a 0°F sack, our tester admitted to a moment of fear when packing the Lithium for a trip above timberline in late November. Rest assured, you can trust the Lithium's rating. It's magically warm for the packed size, and kept even our resident popsicle happy on frigid nights. The shell is wispy and weather-resistant, yet tough. The full-length zip runs freely, and the generous down-filled draft collar snaps easily around the neck. It also has a muff around the inside of the face opening that seals out drafts. Bottom line: Get toaster warmth without the bulk or weight of a typical winter bag. $429; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; 0°F

Top Ultralight

Exped Swan
Our tester had problems mustering field notes here: He couldn't stay awake once he crawled inside this super-plush, 800-fill mummy. High notes: Enveloping hood with cozy face ruff. Pertex Endurance cover with welded baffle construction for near-total rainproofing. Plus-sized dimensions for extra winter layers. Low notes: Less down underneath saves weight, but can be chilly for rollers. $300; 2 lbs. 8 oz.; 0°F

Best Buy

Kelty Light Year 0°
Been on the fence about adding a winter bag to your gear closet? End the debate with this sweet deal. "It's so warm and poofy I can't believe this is a 650-fill down bag," one tester commented after several chilly nights in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness. And there's nothing cheap about the construction: The tight-weave shell fabric didn't leak a feather, it repels moderate condensation just fine, and the hood closed down without bunching or gaps, thanks to a muff around the face perimeter. The foot has a zip-vent for warmer conditions. Big-guy warning: The cut is a little tight around the shoulders. Seal the deal: It comes with an ultralight compression sack. $240; 3 lbs. 11 oz.; 0°F

Big Agnes Pomer Hoit SI 0

This 0°F sack kept our cold-sleeping tester snoring on a frigid bivy where 20-mph winds raked his overlook above Calf Canyon in southern Utah. "Normally I'd freeze, given that wind chill," he reported. "But the microfiber cover held the cold at bay, and this bag is luxuriously overstuffed." Tightly spaced baffles keep all the 800-fill down precisely in place. Big Agnes shaves a pound off comparable mummy bags by eliminating insulation on the bottom in favor of a pad sleeve. Even with the strong side wind, our tester never felt drafts coming through the junction. The layout works superbly for back-sleepers, but it's less functional for side-sleepers, restless snoozers, and camp lounging. Tip: Works best with a 2.5-inch-thick insulated air mattress. $426; 2 lbs. 6 oz.; 0°F

Sherpa Adventure Gear Pertemba

Extra large and extra cold sleepers agreed: This 0°F bag is both roomy and warm. The one size is easily long enough for someone 6'2" but it's so overstuffed with 700-fill down that a 5'5" tester declared it plenty warm. "This is the best-fitting hood I've ever used," he wrote. "You can cinch it easily around the face, yet it sits comfortably just below the chin rather than making you fuss to keep your mouth clear." The bag also sports a very effective draft collar that cradles the back of your neck, and a waist-level "collar" to seal beneath a down parka in below-zero temps. It's not ultralight, but we're not complaining. $349; 3 lbs. 7 oz.; 0°F

Sierra Designs Nahche*

We were leery of an eco-synthetic bag that promises winter warmth, but the Nahche delivers insulation for near-zero temps. It's an affordably priced bag made with PrimaLoft Eco synthetic insulation (50-percent recycled), a 100-percent recycled shell, and a Cocona fabric lining. Our tester reported total warmth in the low teens, and suggested that it should be adequate for all but the coldest sleepers in the single digits. Warmth is boosted by a full draft collar and a unique draft tube that runs around the inside of the hood. On mild nights, the cottonlike Cocona liner kept the bag from feeling sticky. Downside: It's heavy. $269; 4 lbs. 1 oz.; 0°F