Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Picking the right sleeping bag for a shoulder-season camping trip is like walking a tightrope. On one hand, no one wants to carry a bag that’s bulkier and heavier than they need. On the other, a too-light sleeping bag is a recipe for a miserable, sleepless night. Our testers put this season’s most promising bags through their paces, so you can camp with confidence.
Best All-Around: Sierra Designs Nitro 800
On the hunt for a bag that’s toasty, light, and relatively affordable? Look no further: The Nitro 800 is a true triple-threat. While camping in Washington’s Olympic National Forest, we woke up to condensation on the bag but no leaking moisture or cold spots thanks to its hydrophobic, 800-fill down and DWR-treated nylon shell. Buy the Sierra Designs Nitro 800 Now / Read the Full Review
Best Fit for Women: Feathered Friends Egret YF 20°F
We find women tend to run cold in unisex bags; the Egret YF’s female-specific design delivered trustworthy performance every time we slept in it. Buy the Feathered Friends Egret YF 20°F Now / Read the Full Review
Most Weatherproof: Big Agnes Star Fire UL 20°F
The sub-2-pound Star Fire UL punches above its weight when exposed to the elements. When we cowboy camped near a lake outside Leadville, Colorado, a drizzle wasn’t enough to penetrate the bag or impact its 850-fill hydrophobic down. Buy the Big Agnes Star Fire UL 20°F Now / Read the Full Review
Best Value: Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20°F
We slept in the Trestles Elite Eco in just shorts and a T-shirt and were impressed with the interior nylon’s silky feel, especially at this price point. While not as lofty as most bags in the test, the synthetic fibers didn’t migrate between the horizontal baffles. Buy the Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20°F Now / Read the Full Review
Lightest: Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20°F
You might forget you have the ultralight Hyperion in your pack, but you’ll definitely notice its warmth come nighttime. We spent a 23°F night on the shores of Grand Teton National Park’s Leigh Lake and were thrilled to wake up warm despite the snow on the ground. Buy the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20°F Now / Read the Full Review
Roomiest: NEMO Forte
n the shadow of Colorado’s 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert, the second-tallest mountain in the Lower 48, we slept soundly during two back-to-back 29°F nights while curled up in this synthetic bag, even without a tent. Smart design choices also work to conserve as much heat as possible. Buy the NEMO Forte Now / Read the Full Review
How we tested
Every season, new sleeping bags arrive on the scene, older models are retired, and once-trusted staples become obsolete. There are currently more than 150 sleeping bag models on the market, from about a dozen brands, rated for true three-season comfort. We winnowed those down using performance parameters and design benchmarks: Each contender must weigh less than 4 pounds, compress small enough to fit in a pack full of multiday gear, and have a ripstop shell. Special features, like a soft taffeta lining or ventilation aids, are prioritized. From there, we whittled the list down further to 38 bags to deploy in the field with hikers spread across the country. They tested for warmth, comfort, and durability, while also focusing on the details: zippers that were easy to operate with cold-stiffened fingers, lofty insulation that could survive a brush with precipitation. Some bags left testers shivering all night (we instantly nixed those models). Others were so cozy, alpine alarms got snoozed in favor of sleeping in. We selected these winners for excellence in various categories, though overall ergonomics were always weighed in. If two bags performed similarly, we reviewed the more affordable option.
–Emma Athena, Sleeping Bag Category Manager
Want more? Read about the full lineup of bags we tested in our members-only roundup.