The freedom to spend the night everywhere while you are in the mountain is sweet, unique, and exciting. You don’t need to worry about reaching a hotel, lodge, or shelter before sunset. The only thing you have to prepare is your special gear, particularly, your camping equipment. Its main accessory is the tent, although there are safe and comfortable ways to sleep even without a tent. But one of the things that you need is a sleeping bag. And this is a guide about the 10 best mountain equipment sleeping bags for 2021.
Sleeping bags for hikers and mountaineers
When the weather is cold, you would need something to provide warmth, comfort, and protection at night. And it becomes cold after sunset in most of the places on the Earth, even in the mountains of the tropics. So, here is where the sleeping bag will help. It is much better and convenient than a normal quilt that you use in the city. And like many other important accessories, sleeping bags are different, with several criteria you have to have in mind when you make your choice. Let’s get into detail.
Important criteria of a good sleeping bag that you have to consider
Like every product, there is not a perfect sleeping bag. There are several criteria- features of the sleeping bags that you have to consider when you make your choice. Then, it depends on your travel style, places of travel, body condition, and personal preferences. And of course- price. Let’s see these features:
- Shape. Sleeping bags come in several different shapes, each with its pros and cons.
- Material. There are two basic materials- down and synthetic.
- Temperature lower limit. The temperature lower limit is about the ability of the sleeping bag to keep your warm in the coldest temperature.
- Weight. Of course- the lighter, the better.
- Price. It is important for everybody, but sometimes life-saving in extreme cold conditions is more important than the money.
Now, let’s see more of the above.
Sleeping bag shape
There are several sleeping bag shapes, designed for different purposes. But nowadays, if you a looking for the best sleeping bags, there is one kind of shape which is on the highest level- mummy shape. So, let’s start with it.
Mummy shape sleeping bags
Mummy shape sleeping bags are designed especially for cold conditions, to provide as much warmth as possible. They are tight at the feet and shoulders, and wider at the hips. In other words, they are made to stick to your body. Besides, they are usually lighter than most of the other sleeping bags.
But these features make them less comfortable, especially for those who often turn and wriggle at night. Also, they are more expensive. Nevertheless, many good brands today try to improve these disadvantages, using various methods.
Spoon shape sleeping bags
This is another innovative shape, offered by some brands, of which the best one is NEMO. It has two wider zones- at the shoulder and the legs, thus providing more space for moving, making it more comfortable for side-sleepers. But the more inner space, the more difficult warming is. So NEMO and some other brands try to increase warming by other methods- better material, foot box, etc.
All other shapes are lower-class. The presented best sleeping bags for 2021 are designed only in mummy and spoon shapes. But let’s mention the other shapes anyway.
Other shapes sleeping bags
There are several other shapes and kinds of sleeping bags, which are cheaper and more traditional, or just are designed for a different purpose:
- Rectangular shaped sleeping bags. They are rectangular, as their name suggests, and they are easy to fold and unfold, but the space inside is an issue, making warming much more difficult.
- Barrel-shaped sleeping bags. These bags are something “in the middle” between rectangular and mummy-shaped sleeping bags. They are wider around your shoulders and narrower around your feet. Warming is better (but still far from the “mummies”), and they are a bit more expensive.
- Double sleeping bags. This type of sleeping bag is designed mainly for lovers. Its shape is mostly rectangular, and they are made with two zips. Thus, they can be used as one sleeping bag, but at the same time, they can be divided into two single sleeping bags.
- Elephant’s foot sleeping bags. This is a special lightweight sleeping bag without a hood. It provides some warmth, but since it is something like a “half-bag”, it is proper only for warmer nights.
- Quilts. Finally, some people would prefer to bring just a quilt. Again, it is only for warmer nights. Some of the quilts can be clipped to the sleeping pad below.
Temperature rating is concerning the low-temperature limits of warmth that a sleeping bag can provide. Although it depends on many factors, there are accepted standards (after performing tests) that are applied to the sleeping bags. Most brands follow EN (European Norm) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization), although there are brands which don’t follow these standards, but still apply their own temperature considerations.
There are three ratings of temperature limits, used for sleeping bags:
- Comfort rating. The lowest temperature at which a woman (or a cold sleeper) can sleep comfortably for at least 8 hours.
- Limit rating. The lowest temperature at which a man (or a warm sleeper) can sleep comfortably for at least 8 hours.
- Extreme rating. The lowest temperature at which a woman (or a cold sleeper) will remain alive for at least 6 hours. Needless to say, the last one is for extreme conditions and should be considered only by extreme mountaineers, hikers, alpinists, or explorers in the polar regions of the Earth.
However, these ratings are not perfect. They can be applied only if you use a good sleeping pad and wear proper clothes. Besides, everybody’s physical conditions are different- the division between women and men is not absolute. Some women can feel comfortable on a cold night while some men can wake up at night feeling cold.
Yes, there are some ways to increase the warmth, mainly by wearing more layers of clothes, including a polar jacket and a hat. But the best thing you should do is to apply at least 8-10°C/F of temperature buffer. For example, if you start feeling cold below 15°C, buy a sleeping bag with a comfort rating of 5°C. And if the night is too warm and you feel hot, you can just unzip your bag, or take off your clothes. Hot is better than cold.
Sleeping bag material
There are two types of material used for sleeping bags- down and synthetic. Both of them have their pros and cons. Let’s see more about them:
This is the natural insulation of the baby birds. It is fluffy, lightweight, more durable, and provides better insulation and warmth, compared to the synthetic. But its main problem is moisture. If the down-made sleeping bag becomes wet, it loses its insulation features and dries much slower. Besides, there is an ethical side, related to live-plucking of geese in some parts of the world, to provide down material for products like sleeping bags.
Synthetic is actually a kind of polyester. It is heavier and more difficult to compress but still can provide good insulation. Also, it doesn’t lose its insulation feature when it is wet, and it dries much quicker. You can just put your sleeping bag in the washing machine, and there would be no problem with it. Besides, its price is lower.
Having in mind all these criteria of the sleeping bag as a part of the mountain equipment, let’s see the 10 best sleeping bags for 2021 in the table below:
|Kelty Cosmic 20||Mummy||Comfort: 30°F/-1°C|
|Down (83%) + Polyester (17%)||2 lb 63 oz||$$|
|NEMO Disco 15°||Spoon||Comfort: 25°F/-4°C|
|Down||2 lb 3 oz||$$$|
|NEMO Forte 35||Spoon||Comfort: 35°F/2°C|
|Synthetic Primaloft RISE||2 lb 12 oz||$$|
|Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20||Mummy||Comfort: 20°F/-7°C|
|Synthetic||2 lb 9 oz||$$|
|Western Mountaineering MegaLite||Mummy||Comfort: 30°F/-1°C|
|Down||1 lb 5 oz /0.68 kg||$$$|
|Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 0||Mummy||Comfort: 13°F/-10°C|
|Down||3 lb 2-8 oz||$$$|
|REI Co-op Magma 15 & 30||Mummy||Comfort: 28°F/-2°C|
|Down||1 lb 1.5 oz||$$$|
|Terra Hiker Down||Mummy||Comfort: 45°F/7°C|
|Down||2 lb 56 oz||$|
|North Face Inferno -20||Mummy||Limit: -21°F/-29°C||Down||3 lb 9 oz||$$$|
|Western Mountaineering Bison GWX Expedition||Mummy||Comfort: 45°F/7°C|
|4 lb 10 oz||$$$$$|
The 10 best mountain equipment sleeping bags for 2021
Below are the 10 best sleeping bags for 2021, as a part of your mountain equipment, based on their product features and details, brand’s positions and quality, and customer reviews. As you can see, these sleeping bags belong to various shapes, material, and temperature limit groups.
Kelty Cosmic Down 20°
For its price, this is an excellent sleeping bag, with great insulation features. It is also cozy and fluffy. Although mummy-shaped sleeping bags don’t have too much space inside, this one is a little bit wider, so it can be comfortable even for those who often turn and wriggle in the night.
Kelty Cosmic Down 20° comes in 4 sizes- for men: long, regular, and short, and for women: female size. Besides, its material is not 100% down, but it has some polyester implant. And the down type is DriDown, treated specifically for quicker drying.
But its main disadvantage is its weight. Yes, it is not very heavy but compared with most of the other sleeping bags, it is not lightweight. It is also a bit bulky due to its low compression features. But again, for its price, it remains really excellent, and such a compromise should not be a problem.
Pros: cheap, with good insulation, cozy, fluffy, quick-drying.
Cons: a bit heavy and bulky.
NEMO Disco 15°
This is one of the best 3-seasons sleeping bags. It is made of quick-drying down, with good compressing features. Its main advantage is its spoon shape, specially designed to provide comfort for those who move more when sleep, or for side-sleepers. At the same time, its excellent warmth insulation keeps you warm, despite the larger space inside.
NEMO Disco 15° comes with several extras to contribute to temperature regulation, keeping dry, and convenience. First, you can see its two zipped Thermo Gills. By zipping and unzipping them you can regulate the inner temperature. Then, you can see the different layers on the foot. It is designed to increase protection from wetting, which is important for your feet. Finally, there are additional pockets in convenient places, where you can keep warm small things and easily reach them.
The main disadvantage of this sleeping bag is that it’s a bit bulky and heavy. It’s normal, since it is supplied with so many extras, and since it is spacious, it needs more material. Also, it is a bit expensive, although there is a good rate between price and quality.
Pros: spacious, comfortable for side sleepers, excellent insulation, functionality.
Cons: bulky, heavy.
NEMO Forte 35°
This is another NEMO sleeping bag, with the brand’s unique features. Like the Disco 15°, it has a spoon shape and is supplied with the same Thermo Gills and an inner pocket. So again, it is an excellent choice for side-sleepers.
But unlike Disco, this one has a higher temperature rating. The material used for the filling is synthetic, Primaloft RISE type. That’s why it is cheaper. One of its main advantages is its hood- it is wider than the average sleeping bags’ hoods, and the purpose is to be able to input a pillow inside. Thus your pillow would not move while you sleep.
Forte’s main problem is the warmth. Although it is rated a 35F for Comfort, and 26F for Limit, many hikers feel it too cold. According to their opinions, it should be rated at least 45F for Comfort, since many of them feel cold.
Pros: wider hood, good functionality- Thermo Gills, inner pocket, comfortable.
Cons: not enough warm on cold nights, should be higher temperature rating.
Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20°
This sleeping bag is designed in a mummy shape, thus increasing the warmth inside. It is made with synthetic material, with increased warmth-keeping features, thus made it with a lower temperature rating, although still 3-seasonable.
Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20° comes with men’s and women’s versions, as the main difference is the size. Some extra features include an additional zipper for warmth regulation, as well as a 3D hood, and an inner pocket.
Its main disadvantages are again the warmth. According to many hikers, it should be rated for at least 10F higher temperatures. Another weak part is its zippers- some hikers find them inconvenient.
Pros: good functionality, relatively lightweight, 3D hood.
Cons: not as warm as it is rated, zippers a bit inconvenient.
Western Mountaineering MegaLite
This is one of the best 3-seasonal sleeping bags, confirmed and witnessed by many hikers. Its main advantage is its weight- only 1,5 lb (680 g). It is so light that you almost can’t feel it in your luggage. Besides, it can be well-compressed.
Its insulation is also great. Many users witness that its temperature rating is correct and they sleep comfortably even in the temperature limits. At the same time, it has good ventilation, so you would not feel hot. The sleeping bag comes in a mummy shape, but it is still more comfortable than the other average mummy-shaped sleeping bags.
The only small issues with this sleeping bag are the zippers (not enough versatile) and the hood. It doesn’t mean they are bad, just not the best as the other features. And finally- the price. No wonder that such a good sleeping bag is relatively expensive.
Pros: super lightweight, excellent insulation and ventilation, comfortable.
Cons: zipper and hood not so perfect, expensive.
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 0
This sleeping bag is 4-seasonable (although it would be not proper for winter in Antarctica, or for other extreme cold winter places). It comes with mummy shape, and there are men’s and women’s versions, different mainly in size and appearance.
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 0 is comfortable, even for its shape, and its insulation is excellent. It has a foot box for additional warmth to your feet and an internal pocket. Besides, it has a good zipper design- with an anti-snag feature and glowing in the dark for convenience.
Its main disadvantage is its weight. Although it is normal for 4-season sleeping bags, this one is relatively heavy and you can feel it, with its 3 lb 2 to 7 oz (depending on the gender and the size). But nevertheless, it remains a great option for those who like hiking in winter.
Pros: excellent insulation, warmth, comfortable, good zipper design.
Cons: too heavy.
REI Co-op Magma 15
This is another super lightweight and warm sleeping bag. It is 3-seasonal, mummy-shaped, and comes in men’s and women’s versions. Again, its lightweight is one of its best advantages. Its insulation is made of down and is excellent. Although it is mummy-shaped, it still provides comfort for side-sleepers.
Another version of this sleeping bag is REI Co-op Magma 30- again for men and women, designed for a bit warmer weather, and a bit lighter than Magma 15. Both versions have a simple design with a good anti-snug zipper, passing side-to-chest. However, it lacks internal pockets, which can be a (small) issue for some users. Besides, it is a bit expensive.
Pros: first- ultralight, then- comfortable, warm, simple
Cons: no inner pockets, a bit expensive.
Terra Hiker Down
Let’s see one of the best budget sleeping bags. This is Terra Hiker Down- a 3-seasonal mummy-shaped bag with 2 lb 56 oz weight, and with good warm insulation for its temperature rating. Yes, it can be uncomfortable for most sleepers if the temperature drops below freezing, but this is its quality-price ratio.
The sleeping bag’s foot box is relatively wide- it provides comfort, and don’t affect feet warming much. As a whole, it is roomy, so side-sleepers and those who move often during sleep wouldn’t have a problem. Its down fill is protected from wetting by a good nylon shell, which is also quick-drying.
Yes, it’s features are beyond the high class of NEMO, REI Magma, or Western Mountaineering, but for its price, it is still excellent.
Pros: roomy, comfortable for side-sleepers, warm, and cheap.
Cons: a bit heavy, and a bit slow-warming due to space.
Now, let’s go to colder and winter areas.
The North Face Inferno -20
This is a 4-seasonal sleeping bag, filled with down. With it, you are ready to attack high mountains with glaciers and eternal snow, as well as to go to the polar regions on the Earth (yet not in the winter). The bag is supplied with one central zipper, an internal pocket, and trapezoidal side baffles to prevent down migration. It is also covered by a hydrophobic finish against wetting, and for quick drying of the surface.
The North Face Inferno -20 is designed in mummy shape. One of the problems is that the company doesn’t offer women’s size (or just shorter size), which creates a space inside the sleeping bag. This can be a problem for faster warming.
Pros: excellent insulation, excellent anti-wet features.
Cons: no smaller size, a bit heavy, and a bit expensive.
There are two other versions of this sleeping bag, with different temperature ratings. A 3-seasonal version (The North Face Inferno 0) is a bit thinner, proper for soft winter. The other version (The North Face Inferno -40) is for more extreme cold, thicker, and heavier. But if we talk about really extreme cold, let’s take a look at the last of the best sleeping bags for 2021, a Western Mountaineering product.
Western Mountaineering Bison GWX Expedition
This is a sleeping bag for extreme explorers, who reach the coldest, wildest, and most remote parts of the world, and of course for those who attack the not-so-remote mountains, but in the coldest winter. At the same time, it is too hot for summer, even for spring or autumn. This is for extreme cold.
Western Mountaineering Bison GWX Expedition is a thick mummy-shaped sleeping bag. It has a massive Reverse Differential Hood which perfectly keeps warmth around your head. There are V side block baffles are designed to increase warming inside the bag.
This bag is a bit heavier but is a very important accessory for surviving the conditions in the coldest regions on Earth. Also, it is very expensive, but again- life-saving.
Pros: great insulation for extreme cold, comfortable.
Cons: heavy, very expensive.
These are the best sleeping bags for 2021, according to my research and opinion. Of course, there are many other good sleeping bags, for the different environments- hot, cold, extreme cold, dry, or wet. But of course, it is also important how you use your sleeping bag- do you sleep directly in the open air, do you use a sleeping mat, a tent, or another kind of shelter? And also- what do you wear while you sleep?
Everything around your sleeping bag
The warmth of your sleeping bag depends on where you set your sleeping bag. Although it can be enough warm inside, the ground under you can be freezing cold, so it is important what do you put to insulate it.
Yes, sometimes, in extreme situations, it may happen to sleep directly on the ground. In such a case, to decrease cold, just try to find some place with grass, at the same time as dry as possible. Another option is to find something wooden and sleep on it. Yes, they can be uncomfortable, but you have to decide- do you want to wake up at midnight from cold, or from uncomfortable bumps. So, a necessary thing that you have to prepare is a sleeping pad.
The most important function of the sleeping pad is to provide insulation from the ground. Thus, you can feel warm above and below, and the sleeping bag can properly present its good warming features. Many hikers don’t use tents or other kinds of shelter and sleep directly under the stars. It not only can decrease the weight of your luggage, but you can also enjoy fantastic views of the night sky and the space above you. But if it becomes cloudy and rain or snow begins to fall, it would be trouble.
Along with insulation, the sleeping pad gives you comfort. The good sleeping pad provides a soft and smooth surface below you. The only other thing you would need is a pillow. As you can see, there are some sleeping bags in which you can put the pillow inside the hood. But even without it, most people would feel very uncomfortable without a pillow.
Sleeping bag liner
Another accessory you may need is the sleeping bag liner. It is a thinner clothed bag that you can put inside your main sleeping bag, and it serves like a “bedsheet” for it. Its main purpose is to provide more warmth flexibility, more comfort, as well as hygiene. Washing a sleeping bag is a big problem, but when you use such a liner, you can easily wash only it. For more information about the sleeping bag liners, see here.
Sleeping bag waterproof cover or bivy sack
If you still want to sleep under the open sky, even in wet conditions, a waterproof cover or a bivy sack can be very useful. Even in dry weather, you can often wake up in the morning covered by dew. And it is where the cover or the bivy sack helps.
The main difference between waterproof cover and bivy sack is that the latter has a hood, while most of the waterproof covers don’t have. So, it is useful, but if there is rain the whole night, it is better you still bring a better shelter. Yes, the cover or the sack can help partially, but at least your face will be wet, and the rainwater can enter inside from there.
This is something like a hybrid between a sleeping bag and a tent. In fact, it is a shelter like a small simple tent, where you enter with your sleeping bag. Now, let it rains, it would be not a problem anymore. It can provide much more protection from outside- from cold and wind. Bivies are lighter than tents, higher above your head, and lower above your feet.
Tarp, fly, loue
This is another kind of shelter, still not so popular, but can be very practical. If you are not familiar with it, it is a kind of shelter, or a minimalist type of a tent, like a tent without walls, a tent-hammock, or just a “half-tent”, designed to protect from wind or rain. Since it is usually lighter than a normal tent, it is used by some hikers, thus providing more comfortable conditions. Particularly when we talk about a fly (tent-hammock)- its main purpose is to separate you from the ground- for air insulation, or for protection against animals, water, etc.
This is the most popular shelter in the mountain (and not only there). There are various kinds of tents, and their main purpose is protection from winds, cold, rain, and some animals, as well as giving a cozy feeling of a “house”, although they are not. We can say a lot about the tents, but from a sleeping bag’s point of view, a tent can “help” a sleeping bag a lot. For example, there are 4-season tents, which can significantly increase the inner warmth, and you would need a sleeping bag for the inner temperature. For more information about tents, look at the best tents for 2021 here!
Finally, this is what more you can do to regulate the warmth of your sleeping bag. Sleeping with a thick jacket and pants is not the same as sleeping naked. If you feel not enough warm, you can add more clothes for sleeping. Or if you feel too hot, besides unzipping, you can also put off some of the clothes. Read here for more tips on layered clothing.
So, a good sleeping bag, with all other additional accessories can be very crucial for your hiking trip, especially if you go to more extreme places. From providing cozy comfort to saving a life, it is important what kind of sleeping bag you will choose. Yes, it needs money, in some cases- a lot of money. But if it is your lifestyle, such an investment is worth for your great and safe experience in the mountain, and in the wildest places on Earth.
Get some additional info from the video below:
Disclaimer: Journey Beyond the Horizon is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites at no additional cost to you.