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The Best Men's Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2017

The Best Backpacking sleeping bag review
By Ian Nicholson
Wednesday November 15, 2017
If you're seeking the best backpacking sleeping bag for your needs, we've got you covered. We researched 80+ models before testing the top 15 competitors head to head. Our experts hit the John Muir trail, the Sierras, the Cascades, and the Washington Coast throughout the extended testing period, packing, unpacking, zipping, and unzipping each model. Key aspects were scrutinized through field experiences and direct testing, such as temperature regulation when wet and dry, the level of comfort offered, and how versatile each one is. We also measured the weight and packed volume of each bag ourselves. Your backcountry needs determine which type of backpacking sleeping bag you require, and our in-depth review guides you to your ideal model.

November 2017
This fall and early winter, we've updated our review to include previous top scorers as well as two new award winners, the Marmot Phase 30, and the new Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed. We've included the brand new release of Patagonia's bag, and an updated REI Co-op Igneo 25, as well as The North Face Hyper Cat and other budget-friendly options. This review focuses primarily on backpacking models. However, several of the bags proved to be well-suited for car camping, summertime mountaineering, and late spring ski-touring. They tagged along on several road trips throughout our testing too. Also, our women's backpacking bag review got a light update.

Best Overall Model


Western Mountaineering MegaLite


Western Mountaineering Megalite 30
Editors' Choice Award

$449.95
at MooseJaw
See It

Spacious and comfortable cut
Lightweight
Compressible
Made in the USA
Versatile
Best feeling fabric in our review
Stuff sack is not very efficient
Expensive
If we could only have one sleeping choice for backpacking and 3-season camping, it would be the Western Mountaineering MegaLite. The MegaLite was among the lightest and most compressible in our review (and on the market). Weighing in at half the weight of several bags we tested, it still offers roomy enough dimensions to be comfortable for car camping or for side and tummy sleepers to enjoy on extended outings. The materials are top notch and felt the best against our skin. The icing on the cake is Western Mountaineering is a small California-based company that manufactures all of its sleeping bags and garments in the USA. Plain and simple, the MegaLite is rad. From single overnights to the John Muir Trail, this contender is among the most versatile in our review, thanks to its weight and dimensions. It's worth noting that it's only two ounces heavier than our Top Pick for Light and Fast Long-Distance Trips but offers a full-length zipper, as well as more internal space.

Read review: Western Mountaineering MegaLite

Best Light and Cozy Design


Marmot Phase 20


Marmot Phase 20
Top Pick Award

$367.16
at MooseJaw
See It

Extremely lightweight
Very compressible
Silky feeling internal fabric
Extremely versatile
Side zipper catches
Expensive
When Marmot re-designed their element-themed performance backpacking sleeping bag line with the new Phase series of sleeping bags, they did not hold anything back as far as quality was concerned. The result produced some of the highest quality and overall performing bags currently on the market. Both the Marmot Phase 20 and Phase 30 are top-notch models. The Phase uses high-quality down fill and some of the lightest weight shell fabrics you can find, which equates to one of the lightest and most compressible bags (for their warmth) currently available. A bonus is that the bag offers an exceptionally well-designed hood and sports some of silkiest feeling internal fabrics we've tested.

Read review: Marmot Phase 20

Best Bang for the Buck


REI Co-op Igneo 25


REI Igneo
Best Buy Award

$269.00
at REI
See It

Fairly light and compact
Solid quality for the price
Descent hood design
Versatile
Average warmth
Not super warm for its temperature rating
Loose cut comfortable but not very efficient
The REI Co-op Igneo 25 wins our overall "Best Value" award, as it offers the best performance for the cost. It's a superb balance of quality, low weight, packability, and performance for a pretty unbeatable price. The Igneo isn't the best price pointed bag, as the $150 Kelty Cosmic Down wins in that category. However, for $260, the Igneo is a stand-out backpacking sleeping bag, offering solid materials, specs, packed size, and a respectable 700 down-fill; it's nearly half the price and only a few ounces heavier. The Igneo is close in compressed volume to some of our award winners, like the Western Mountaineering MegaLite ($470) and Sea to Summit Spark III ($440).

Read review: REI Co-op Igneo 25

Best Buy on a Tight Budget


Kelty Cosmic Down 20


Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Best Buy Award

$112.46
at MooseJaw
See It

Affordable
Great value bag
Inexpensive
Light and compact for its price range
Heavy
Not super warm
Too roomy
The affordable, yet reasonably lightweight and compressible Kelty Cosmic Down 20 takes our Best Buy Award. While hardly an overall top performer, this is the best down bag we've ever seen by a significant margin, especially for its $150 price. Cold sleepers and backpackers who frequently extend their three-season trips into lower temperatures will want something warmer, but everyone else on a budget should consider the Cosmic Down 20 (and pocket the several hundred dollar savings). This bag is far more durable and compressible than its similarly priced synthetic insulated counterparts and offers beginning or budget-conscious backpackers an exceptional value. If you are backpacking in warm summer conditions and want to shave a few more ounces, check out the Kelty Cosmic Down 40.

Read review: Kelty Cosmic Down 20

Top Pick for Cold Temperatures


Western Mountaineering UltraLite


Western Mountaineering UltraLite
Top Pick Award

$484.95
at MooseJaw
See It

Warmest bag in our review
Very lightweight
Great no-catch zipper design
Excellent compressed size
Expensive
Very warm for mid-summer
Weak velcro closure for draft collar
Slightly tight dimensionally
The Western Mountaineering UltraLite is an extremely toasty bag. By far the warmest model in our review, it was noticeable toastier than the other contenders we tested that were also rated to 20° Fahrenheit. Even more impressive is that despite being notably warmer than other similarly rated models, it was incredibly lightweight and compressible. The only thing worth noting is this award winner might too warm for mid-summer backpacking; but for those that get cold easily or plan to adventure in colder than average conditions, the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is tough to beat.

Read review: Western Mountaineering Ultralite

Top Pick for Wet Conditions


The North Face Hyper Cat 20


The North Face Hyper Cat 20
Top Pick Award

$238.95
at Backcountry
See It

Small packed size
Lght for a synthetic bag
Center half-zipper
Cozy interior fabric
Synthetic insulation isn't super long lasting
Lower warmth
The North Face Hyper Cat 20 is our Top Pick for wet conditions. During our water saturating testing, the Hyper Cat, like other synthetic-fill bags, dried in roughly 20% of the time as treated water-resistant down, making it a much more ideal bag for wet conditions. However, what truly sets the Hyper Cat apart from most other synthetic bags is how incredibly small it packs down and how lightweight it is (1 lbs 14 ozs) for its temperature rating. It's lighter and more compressible than several down bags we tested, and it even offers roomier than average dimensions. All of our testers loved its half-length center zipper that still allowed plenty of ventilation on warm nights; it was also just plain easier to use. If you're looking for a synthetic bag, whether for wet conditions, animal rights, or you have allergies to down and want one of the highest performing synthetic bags out there, the Hyper Cat is your bag. It is worth noting that the Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 is another fantastic option that, while not as warm; is more packable and slightly lighter (1 lbs 12 oz).

Read review: The North Face Hyper Cat 20

Top Pick for Light and Fast Backpacking and Mountaineering


Marmot Phase 30


Top Pick Award

$335.16
at MooseJaw
See It

Lightweight
Smallest packed size in our review
Nice interior fabric
Accommodates light down jackets
Slightly tight internal dimensions
Expensive
If you're on a trip where weight and pack space are your highest priority, but you need or want something more significant than an ultralight quilt, the Marmot Phase 30 is hard to beat. It was by far the lightest and most compressible model we tested. It's a half-pound or less than most with a similar temperature rating. While it's warm enough for most backpackers and summer-time mountaineering, it isn't a toasty 30° F bag. With that in mind, if you get cold easily or embark on outings with overnight temperatures regularly below 30-35° F, we'd recommend the Sea to Summit Spark III, which carries a legit OutdoorGearLab tested rating for 25° F.

Read review: Marmot Phase 30

Top Pick for Exceptional Comfort


Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700


Top Pick Award

$186.49
at Amazon
See It


Incredibly comfortable
Ideal for side and tummy sleepers
Excellent price for a down bag
Versatile
Surprisingly low weight (sub-two pounds)
Not a super warm 30°F bag
Inefficient stuff sack
The 3-season Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 bag offers a unique design, creating one of the more comfortable and bed-like feels of any sleeping bag we have ever tested. This 35-degree contender does not have any zippers or Velcro flaps; instead, it offers a huge "U"-shaped opening covered by a down flap, which acts as a quilt. This quilt/flap is a cozy way to close your bag, and it helps regulate temperature well, particularly on warmer nights. The best part is the unmatched freedom of movement for your upper-body extremities, making tummy or side sleepers, who may tuck their arms under a pillow or jacket, about as comfy as possible.

Read review: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700

Ideal for Tummy Sleepers


Nemo Salsa 30


Nemo Salsa 30
Top Pick Award

$240 List
List Price
See It


Very comfortable
Best bag for side and tummy sleepers
Great price for a down bag
Versatile
Above-average packability
Average weight
Inefficient stuff sack
The Nemo Salsa 30 wins our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick Award for being the most comfortable sleeping bag for tummy sleepers. While the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 is slightly more luxurious and offers unencumbered movement in its upper areas, the Nemo Salsa is ideal for tummy sleepers. Why? The Salsa provides the most freedom of movement in the lower portion of the bag. Our tummy and side sleepers appreciated the Salsa's stretchy stitching and spacious "spoon" shaped design. Our testing also determined that the Salsa was warmer than the Backcountry Bed 700 and still lighter than many bags in the 30F temperature range.

Read review: Nemo Salsa

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
95
Western Mountaineering MegaLite $470
Editors' Choice Award
If you're looking for one bag to do it all, this is it.
94
Marmot Phase 20 $459
Top Pick Award
Warm, compressible, and lightweight, this is our Top Pick for a light and cozy design.
91
Western Mountaineering UltraLite $500
Top Pick Award
The warmest 20F bag in our test, this model also shines in weight and compressibility.
88
Marmot Phase 30 $399
Top Pick Award
The Phase 30 was our Top Pick for Low Weight; while it certainly isn't the warmest 30° bag out there, it's close, and is a pound lighter than its closest competition.
88
Sea to Summit Spark III $469
A high-performer in weight and packed volume, this model is for minimalists.
87
Nemo Salsa 30 $240
Top Pick Award
A top performer in comfort, this model also proves to be compressible enough for week-long missions.
86
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 $250
Top Pick Award
If you want the lightest and most compressible sleeping bag for backcounty outings but struggle with the sometimes claustrophobic feel of traditional mummy bags, the Backcountry Bed 700 should be on your radar.
85
Patagonia 850 Down 30 $400
Top-of-the-line materials and high performance make this bag a good choice across the board.
81
The North Face Hyper Cat 20 $240
Top Pick Award
Compressible and lightweight, this bag offers the best in these metrics for a synthetic 20F bag.
81
REI Co-op Igneo 25 $270
Best Buy Award
Close in weight and packed size to many more expensive bags, this model is a good, inexpensive option.
78
The North Face Cat's Meow $169
While it isn't the highest performer, this model is still a good option for a do-it-all bag.
78
Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35 $220
A 35F synthetic bag that barely tips the scales, this model is the lightest in its class.
76
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season $300
A unique model that offers a ton of comfort, this model is a bit heavier and bulkier.
74
Kelty Cosmic Down 20 $160
Best Buy Award
If you're looking to save cash and want a bag that lasts, this is a good option.
65
Kelty Tuck 20 $90
With a price tag under $100, this model is the best choice for an inexpensive 20F bag.

Analysis and Test Results


Your sleeping bag is likely the most important insulating layer that you carry on any overnight wilderness excursion. Sleeping bags provide a better warmth-to-weight ratio than anything else in your pack.

If on a budget  try not to skimp too much on quality - look for a bag that suits your needs  and balances warmth  weight  and versatility. If possible  consider two bags  a lower priced sleeping bag for car camping and a lightweight option for backpacking and mountaineering. Photo: Sunrise on Mt. Baker  Shannon Ridge  North Cascades  Washington.
If on a budget, try not to skimp too much on quality - look for a bag that suits your needs, and balances warmth, weight, and versatility. If possible, consider two bags, a lower priced sleeping bag for car camping and a lightweight option for backpacking and mountaineering. Photo: Sunrise on Mt. Baker, Shannon Ridge, North Cascades, Washington.

Investing in a quality backpacking sleeping bag that is suited to your needs will help you get a more comfortable night's sleep, save weight and space in your pack, and keep you warm when the sunsets and the temperature start to drop. Besides backpacking and mountaineering; sleeping bags are also the bed of choice for car campers, travelers, and couch surfers.

One of the most important factors when purchasing a sleeping bag is insulation type  as it has the biggest impact on the overall performance characteristics of a sleeping bag.
One of the most important factors when purchasing a sleeping bag is insulation type, as it has the biggest impact on the overall performance characteristics of a sleeping bag.

We rated each bag on its warmth, weight, packed size, features, and versatility. You can see overall metric comparisons below; you'll find a more in-depth analysis of each product in the individual review. We updated our existing review to include several new, innovative, and popular models and styles and compared them to previous award winners.

Warmth is an important factor when buying a sleeping bag. All the bags we tested were rated to between 20°-35°  with most of them being closer to 30° F.
Warmth is an important factor when buying a sleeping bag. All the bags we tested were rated to between 20°-35°, with most of them being closer to 30° F.

Warmth


Warmth is more-or-less directly related to the amount of loft (AKA insulation) a bag has, measured in the thickness of the insulation between you and the external environment. Except for loose fitting bags, more volume of insulation (not necessarily weight) equals more warmth in the majority of cases.


Fit or the cut of the bag is the next most important factor in determining warmth. Models that are too tight or too short won't allow the insulation to loft up properly, and as a result, you may feel colder when pressed against specific areas. Similarly, a bag that's too large will have drafty dead air spaces that are too far from you to properly heat up. These spots make the bag thermally inefficient even though it may have enough loft for the conditions.

The WM MegaLite features 13 ounces of high quality 850+ fill and was one of the warmest 30F bags we tested.
The WM MegaLite features 13 ounces of high quality 850+ fill and was one of the warmest 30F bags we tested.

Some bags tested in this review, such as the Western Mountaineering UltraLite, Marmot Phase 30, and the Sea to Summit Spark Spark III have tighter interior dimensions, resulting in slimmer feeling cuts. Not to fear, most broad-shouldered folks can still at least wear a lightweight jacket while sleeping inside these bags. The rest of the bags we reviewed are wider dimensionally speaking, and a majority of people could wear a mid-weight jacket or more to boost insulation on colder nights. It's worth noting that Western Mountaineering sleeping bags are available in multiple lengths and widths, which is a huge advantage because you can get a bag that fits your body well. Look at the foot, hip, and shoulder circumference to compare dimensions for unisex bags. We've included these measurements in the specification tables found in each review when available from the manufacturers.

Shown here are the European ratings  which are printed on the inside of a sleeping bag. These ratings are slightly more objective than the typical US ratings but do have some inconsistencies. In theory  the EN lower limit is a rating for men and the EN Comfort Rating is a rating for women.
Shown here are the European ratings, which are printed on the inside of a sleeping bag. These ratings are slightly more objective than the typical US ratings but do have some inconsistencies. In theory, the EN lower limit is a rating for men and the EN Comfort Rating is a rating for women.

The warmest contenders for their respective temperature rating were the high-quality down bags from Western Mountaineering, particularly the Western Mountaineering MegaLite and the Western Mountaineering Ultralite. The Marmot Phase 20 followed closely behind the Ultralite. All three of these bags have 850+ fill power down and plenty of it; 13, 14, and 16 ounces respectively. The MegaLite is a 30F bag and is roomier than the Ultralite, which is a 20F model.

The Phase 20 was easily one of the warmest 20° F bags we tested. The only model that was warmer was the Western Mountaineering Ultralite  though it's worth noting that the difference in warmth between these two bags was minimal. The Phase is slightly lighter and more compressible.
The Phase 20 was easily one of the warmest 20° F bags we tested. The only model that was warmer was the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, though it's worth noting that the difference in warmth between these two bags was minimal. The Phase is slightly lighter and more compressible.

The least warmest bags based on their given temperature ratings were the Marmot Phase 30, the Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 and the Patagonia 850 Down 30. The thinner insulation and sewn through design of the Patagonia 850 offers less protection from the elements. The lack of a draft tube allows more cold air inside the bag, leaving it less toasty than others. That said, both of these models will be excellent options when sleeping at 40°F and above.

To provide a better review during our testing phase  we performed several directly side-by-side tests. We compared each bag's warmth in relation to other bags of similar ratings. We also analyzed and contrasted each model's EU ratings  quality and volume of fill  and dimensions.
To provide a better review during our testing phase, we performed several directly side-by-side tests. We compared each bag's warmth in relation to other bags of similar ratings. We also analyzed and contrasted each model's EU ratings, quality and volume of fill, and dimensions.

It's worth noting that warmth is also heavily influenced by conductive heat loss to the ground. Choosing an appropriate sleeping pad is essential, especially in colder conditions or when sleeping on snow. Our Best Sleeping Pad Review will point you in the right direction for a warm, comfortable pad. Choosing the right backpacking tent or ultralight shelter for your trip will also influence the perceived warmth of a sleeping bag. OutdoorGearLab also has an excellent Backpacking Tent Review and Ultralight Backpacking Shelter Review, where you can finish out your research on the best sleeping/shelter kit for your next trip.

The backpacking sleeping bags in the review were tested in single wall tents, under tarps and mids, and under the open sky during open bivies above tree-line. See the Buying Advice on how standardized testing has helped (or hurt!) companies decisions on what temperature rating to give a sleeping bag.

In climbing and mountaineering  and perhaps even more than long-distance hiking  weight is an important factor. You may have to make challenging technical moves with the weight of your sleeping bag on your back. Photo: An open bivy with the MegaLite under the stars while climbing the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak.
In climbing and mountaineering, and perhaps even more than long-distance hiking, weight is an important factor. You may have to make challenging technical moves with the weight of your sleeping bag on your back. Photo: An open bivy with the MegaLite under the stars while climbing the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak.

Weight


Weight is a function of insulation type and amount, shell material, and features.


In general, heavier bags use either synthetic insulation or lower fill-power down (500-700). Many of the highest performing bags we tested use the best down (800-850+ fill-power) and lightweight, expensive shell fabrics. A bag's cut and its overall dimensions also play a major factor in the weight, as a slimmer cut bag has less overall materials.

The Spark III is on the more expensive side ($440)  but if you want a 3-season bag on the warmer end of the spectrum and still want the lightest and most packable sleeping bag you can buy  this model is hard to beat.
The Spark III is on the more expensive side ($440), but if you want a 3-season bag on the warmer end of the spectrum and still want the lightest and most packable sleeping bag you can buy, this model is hard to beat.

At 1 pound 1.6 ounces, the Marmot Phase 30 is the lightest bag in our review. While it wasn't the warmest 30F bag in the sleet, it's suitable for most backpacking and summertime mountaineering trips. If you run on the cold side or want something you can regularly use below 40F, consider the 1 pound 6 ounces Sea to Summit Spark III, which was the next lightest down bag we tested.

The Phase 30 offers a low weight and excellent compressibility. While it certainly wasn't the warmest 30F bag out there  it wasn't far off and was almost half-a-pound lighter than its closest competition. Photo: Tracey Bernstein wakes up in Red Rocks Nevada after a cold Fall night.
The Phase 30 offers a low weight and excellent compressibility. While it certainly wasn't the warmest 30F bag out there, it wasn't far off and was almost half-a-pound lighter than its closest competition. Photo: Tracey Bernstein wakes up in Red Rocks Nevada after a cold Fall night.

It's no surprise the Spark III features high quality 850+ fill power down, sports the tightest cut, lightest 10D shell fabric, and the shortest (1/3 length) zipper. What is impressive is both the Marmot Phase 20 and the Western Mountaineering MegaLite are less than two ounces heavier and are still warmer. The Marmot Phase 20 is unbelievably light for its temperature rating (20F), featuring top quality 850+ down and a similar 10D shell. The MegaLite (1 lb 8 oz) offers a full-length zipper, is comparable warmth to the Spark III but is much more spacious (but still efficient) dimensions.

The longer and more ambitious your backpacking objective is  the more important spending a little extra to buy a lighter weight sleeping bag becomes. Here  two lightweight backpacking bags out for a side-by-side comparison along the John Muir Trail.
The longer and more ambitious your backpacking objective is, the more important spending a little extra to buy a lighter weight sleeping bag becomes. Here, two lightweight backpacking bags out for a side-by-side comparison along the John Muir Trail.

While the Marmot Phase 20 was light, it's worth noting that the Western Mountaineering UltraLite was warmer and among the lightest in our review (at 1 lb 13 oz). In addition to being incredibly lightweight, all of these models also scored a 10 out of 10 for warmth.

The Phase 20 is one of the best 20°F bags on the market. While expensive  it lives up to its price point  offering top-notch materials  insulation  and design - at a very light weight.
The Phase 20 is one of the best 20°F bags on the market. While expensive, it lives up to its price point, offering top-notch materials, insulation, and design - at a very light weight.

Among synthetic bags we tested, our testers were very impressed with The North Face Hyper Cat. While it's super warm for its temperature rating, at 1 pound 14 ounces, it was warm enough to be used to 20-25°F while wearing a layer or two. It's an exceptionally light synthetic option and is a pound+ lighter than a majority of synthetic models - it was also lighter than several 30°F down bags.

Weighing sleeping bags for our OutdoorGearLab's best backpacking sleeping bag test. There was a pretty big range in weights  with some options weighing half of what other models weighed.
Weighing sleeping bags for our OutdoorGearLab's best backpacking sleeping bag test. There was a pretty big range in weights, with some options weighing half of what other models weighed.

Comfort


Comfort is a subjective category that primarily depends on internal dimensions, sleeping style, and interior fabric. Increasing the size of the bag's internal dimensions (to a point) allows for a "more comfortable" bag for most, as the user has more room to move around within a bag. This becomes even more important for users that sleep on their side, tummy, and/or with their knee slightly out to the side.

Three of the most comfortable and roomiest backpacking sleeping bags in our review. From left-to-right: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600  Nemo Salsa 30  and Western Mountaineering MegaLite.
Three of the most comfortable and roomiest backpacking sleeping bags in our review. From left-to-right: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600, Nemo Salsa 30, and Western Mountaineering MegaLite.

A disadvantage of making the bag bigger is not necessarily worth it, as the manufacturer will need to add more material and insulation to maintain the same warmth; this often comes with a weight and packability penalty.


You can see the flap-style closure design featured in this bag. This flap acts like a comforter  letting its occupant tuck themselves in as if they were in a bed. It also allows its users to sleep in most positions comfortably but still wraps around efficiently enough to maintain a comfortable amount of warmth. This flap features two handwarmer sleeves to help keep its user warm.
You can see the flap-style closure design featured in this bag. This flap acts like a comforter, letting its occupant tuck themselves in as if they were in a bed. It also allows its users to sleep in most positions comfortably but still wraps around efficiently enough to maintain a comfortable amount of warmth. This flap features two handwarmer sleeves to help keep its user warm.

In addition to having the space for sprawling and thrashing, our ratings focus on which features will contribute to or detract from comfort. Insulation type influences comfort; all of our testers agreed that sleeping in a high-quality down bag is like floating on a super light cloud while zipping into a synthetic model is okay, but less heavenly.

Another cool feature that affects the comfort of a bag is having a single half-length zipper in the center of the bag. This design is featured on the North Face Hyper Cat (shown here) and the Patagonia Down 850 30 F sleeping bag. While this design isn't quite as functional for regulating temperature  our entire testing team loved it. In fact  cooking while still in your sleeping bag made for a great morning of hanging out and drinking coffee.
Another cool feature that affects the comfort of a bag is having a single half-length zipper in the center of the bag. This design is featured on the North Face Hyper Cat (shown here) and the Patagonia Down 850 30 F sleeping bag. While this design isn't quite as functional for regulating temperature, our entire testing team loved it. In fact, cooking while still in your sleeping bag made for a great morning of hanging out and drinking coffee.

The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 3-Season, Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700, and the Nemo Salsa 30 were the most comfortable bags in our review, with the Western Mountaineering MegaLite being a very close fourth. What makes the MegaLite unique is it's significantly lighter and more packable than the two contenders above, but nearly as comfortable.

Tracey Bernstein taking advantage of the Backcountry Bed 700 comforter style flap while side and tummy sleeping in the Nevada desert.
Tracey Bernstein taking advantage of the Backcountry Bed 700 comforter style flap while side and tummy sleeping in the Nevada desert.

Because we all vary on what makes something comfortable, we chose a handful of bags that all tested enjoyed logging the most time in. Cue the Sierra Backcountry Bed 700, which offers a unique design. So unique, in fact, that we felt like we were sleeping in a bed. It's without zippers or Velcro flaps of any kind, instead offering a large "U"-shaped opening. That opening is covered by a down flap that acts (and feels) like a quilt. This not only helps regulate temperature exceptionally well but also offers unmatched freedom of movement in the user's upper extremities. Best of all, this model weighs a respectable 1 pound 15 ounces. While we loved the Backcountry Bed 700 and founds that it offers a mega comfort-oriented design, its lower dimensions were average and not as spacious as the WM MegaLite or Nemo Salsa 30. The inner fabric of the Backcountry Bed was also not quite as comfortable as those found on the Megalite and Salsa.

The Backcountry Bed 600 3-season offers pretty unbeatable upper body movement. Its unique design allows the user to sleep in pretty much any position they desire for their upper body.
The Backcountry Bed 600 3-season offers pretty unbeatable upper body movement. Its unique design allows the user to sleep in pretty much any position they desire for their upper body.

The Nemo Salsa 30 was our side and tummy sleepers favorite bag. We were able to sleep in those positions more comfortably compared to any other bag in our review. We were also able to have our knees extended nearly straight out from our hip level while sleeping.

The Phase 30 featured one of our favorite all-around hood designs. The hood wrapped comfortably around our heads without making us feel claustrophobic and did a top-notch job of trapping heat.
The Phase 30 featured one of our favorite all-around hood designs. The hood wrapped comfortably around our heads without making us feel claustrophobic and did a top-notch job of trapping heat.

What we also really liked about the Salsa 30, when compared to the Backcountry Bed 600 (3 pounds 1 ounce), is that it was still a reasonable weight (2 lbs 1 oz) and a respectable packed volume. In fact, we would even consider bringing the Salsa on a week-long backpacking trip.

The spacious cut Cosmic Down (right) offers above average leg room and is an excellent option for tummy and side-sleepers of for folks who just want a little more room. Shown compared to the Western Mountaineering MegaLite (left) and Western Mountaineering UltraLite (center).
The spacious cut Cosmic Down (right) offers above average leg room and is an excellent option for tummy and side-sleepers of for folks who just want a little more room. Shown compared to the Western Mountaineering MegaLite (left) and Western Mountaineering UltraLite (center).

Lastly, it's worth noting that it is important to consider total comfort throughout a trip, not just when you're inside your sleeping bag at night. A bag that's slightly more comfortable to sleep in may be far heavier and bulkier, and therefore less comfortable to carry. Weigh both factors and keep them in mind when searching for a new bag.

Comfort is not only represented when you are inside your sleeping bag.Because you're carrying your pack most of the day  weight and packed size also play a huge role in your comfort during the day.
Comfort is not only represented when you are inside your sleeping bag.Because you're carrying your pack most of the day, weight and packed size also play a huge role in your comfort during the day.

If you spend more time carrying the bag than you do inside of it, we suggest prioritizing weight and bulk (comfort while in your pack) over comfort while sleeping. The Marmot Phase, Patagonia 850, REI Co-op Igneo 25, and Kelty Cosmic Down were also top scorers for the comfort metric. We especially enjoyed how both of the Marmot Phase models provided an excellent hood design, which allowed us to stay cozy without feeling claustrophobic.

The Nemo Salsa 30  with its roomy "spoon" shaped dimensions and stretchy seams  enabled stomach sleepers to lay with their knee nearly straight out to the side. This  coupled with being a pound lighter than the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed  helped the Salsa to win our Top Pick for Tummy Sleepers.
The Nemo Salsa 30, with its roomy "spoon" shaped dimensions and stretchy seams, enabled stomach sleepers to lay with their knee nearly straight out to the side. This, coupled with being a pound lighter than the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, helped the Salsa to win our Top Pick for Tummy Sleepers.

Packed Size


Packed size is how compressible a given model is, which is heavily influenced by down fill power or type of synthetic insulation, shell fabrics, and features. Higher quality down, lighter fabrics, and simple features create the most compressible bags.


Everyone wants a more compressible bag, as it either gives us more room in our packs, or lets us take a smaller, lighter weight pack for a given objective.

The Spark III in the lightweight Black Diamond Betalight shelter on a trans-Sierra backpacking trip. The longer the trip  the more important weight and packed size becomes.
The Spark III in the lightweight Black Diamond Betalight shelter on a trans-Sierra backpacking trip. The longer the trip, the more important weight and packed size becomes.

The most compressible bag in our review is the Marmot Phase 30, closely followed by the Sea to Summit Spark III. Both are 10-15% smaller than the Western Mountaineering MegaLite, Western Mountaineering Ultralite, and Marmot Phase 20, which did compress impressively small for 20°F bags. The REI Co-op Igneo 25, Kelty Cosmic Down, The North Face Hyper Cat 20, and the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark provide a budget-friendly option while remaining compressible.

To make a more accurate comparison between the bags  we compared each bag's compressibility  both in its included stuff sack and in an (often better-fitting) aftermarket compression sack  since that's the route most people are going to take.
To make a more accurate comparison between the bags, we compared each bag's compressibility, both in its included stuff sack and in an (often better-fitting) aftermarket compression sack, since that's the route most people are going to take.

Versatility


Three-season models are meant to be used in a wide range of conditions. They must function on warm summer nights at lower elevations, as well as when the temperatures drop below freezing near treeline in the fall. Versatility across environments, elevations, seasons, and temperatures is an important consideration when assessing a bag's performance and value.


The Nemo Salsa 30 is incredibly versatile  as the backpacker can sleep in many different positions  ensuring comfort and a comfortable night's sleep. It's cozy and light weight enough for all sorts of backpacking or car camping trips.
The Nemo Salsa 30 is incredibly versatile, as the backpacker can sleep in many different positions, ensuring comfort and a comfortable night's sleep. It's cozy and light weight enough for all sorts of backpacking or car camping trips.


Some of the bags tested here, such as the Western Mountaineering Ultralight and WM MegaLite have continuous horizontal baffles that allow you to shift down from the top to the bottom of the bag, increasing comfort in warm conditions and warmth in cold conditions. We find these lightweight bags to be the most versatile in our test.

There is a lot of debate about goose down versus duck down. While goose down generally offers a higher quality because it often comes from older  larger birds  this isn't necessarily always the case. You just don't see it as much because there just isn't as much high-quality goose down out there as duck down. Photo: The Western Mountaineering UltraLite out for an extended early season trip in the High Sierra.
There is a lot of debate about goose down versus duck down. While goose down generally offers a higher quality because it often comes from older, larger birds, this isn't necessarily always the case. You just don't see it as much because there just isn't as much high-quality goose down out there as duck down. Photo: The Western Mountaineering UltraLite out for an extended early season trip in the High Sierra.

Other features that increase a bag's versatility is an ability to vent on warmer nights, meaning a longer zipper offers more versatility than a 1/3 length one. A little extra shoulder room to facilitate adding one (or more) layers can also be helpful on those colder adventures.

When assessing each bag's versatility  we gave higher scores to bags that allowed for better ventilation on warm nights and enough space to add layers on colder evenings.
When assessing each bag's versatility, we gave higher scores to bags that allowed for better ventilation on warm nights and enough space to add layers on colder evenings.

The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season and Backcountry Bed 700 incorporate a built-in quilt that enables you to sleep as you would with a comforter. It also regulates temperature fantastically when compared with a traditional side zipper. The quilt can be tucked away wholly, engulfing its occupant when temperatures near the bag's comfort limit. Plus, there is ample room to layer up in both of these models, and you can open the bag up for warmer nights.

Rebecca Schroeder testing 3-season bags over a wide range of conditions on Mammoth Terraces  El Captain Yosemite CA.
Rebecca Schroeder testing 3-season bags over a wide range of conditions on Mammoth Terraces, El Captain Yosemite CA.

The North Face Cat's Meow is a budget-friendly bag that offers an exceptional amount of versatility.

Generally speaking  we have a slight preference for down for most backpacking and mountaineering trips as it is often lighter  more compressible  and offers superior longevity. However  we frequently reach for a synthetic bag for wet coastal hikes  kayaking adventures  and big wall climbing. So while we have a slight preference for down  a synthetic bag could be better for the climate/conditions you're traveling in  or if you want to support ethical animal rights or have allergies to down. Testing a Cat's Meow and a Hyper Cat while kayaking in Washington's San Juan Islands.
Generally speaking, we have a slight preference for down for most backpacking and mountaineering trips as it is often lighter, more compressible, and offers superior longevity. However, we frequently reach for a synthetic bag for wet coastal hikes, kayaking adventures, and big wall climbing. So while we have a slight preference for down, a synthetic bag could be better for the climate/conditions you're traveling in, or if you want to support ethical animal rights or have allergies to down. Testing a Cat's Meow and a Hyper Cat while kayaking in Washington's San Juan Islands.

It excels at shorter trips in the backcountry and is a great option for car camping, kayak or rafting trips, or any occasion in which versatility is essential.

Despite its overall pretty minimal design  the Phase features a small internal zippered pocket. While this pocket was too small for a smartphone  it was a great place to keep a watch or a headlamp to help keep these items from getting lost in the dark.
Despite its overall pretty minimal design, the Phase features a small internal zippered pocket. While this pocket was too small for a smartphone, it was a great place to keep a watch or a headlamp to help keep these items from getting lost in the dark.

Features and Design


We assessed the quality of each of the bag's features and attempted to quantify how well they contributed to the overall performance of the bag. This variable encompasses shell fabric, zippers, draft tubes, neck baffles, and stash pockets.


Traditional bags with snag-free zippers, easy-to-use hood adjustments, and hoods that don't come undone at night scored higher in this category, such as the Marmot Phase 20, the Western Mountaineering Ultralite, and the WM MegaLite. The Nemo Salsa scores exceptionally high in this metric thanks to its numerous sleeping position capabilities.

The Western Mountaineering MegaLite (right) compared with the other widest/comfort oriented bags in our review: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 3-Season (left) and the Nemo Salsa 30 (center). All of these bags were far more spacious than most and while they are fairly comparable in the torso area  you can see that the Salsa 30 offered the most room.
The Western Mountaineering MegaLite (right) compared with the other widest/comfort oriented bags in our review: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 3-Season (left) and the Nemo Salsa 30 (center). All of these bags were far more spacious than most and while they are fairly comparable in the torso area, you can see that the Salsa 30 offered the most room.

Like many things in the outdoor world, not all bells and whistles are in our best interest. They add weight, and in some cases, more features or more complicated features can reduce performance.

Our testers assessed how useful and the quality of each bag's features and attempted to quantify how well they contribute to a bag's overall performance.
Our testers assessed how useful and the quality of each bag's features and attempted to quantify how well they contribute to a bag's overall performance.

Besides adding weight, complexity, and the possibility of failing faster, they also often cost more. In the world of sleeping bags, we think that its drawbacks rarely offset any potential benefits that a given feature has on warmth, comfort, or convenience.

Some small features can be convenient  like The North Face Cat's Meow's zippered pocket; it's big enough for a smartphone or a watch  which is helpful in keeping it near your head for setting alarms.
Some small features can be convenient, like The North Face Cat's Meow's zippered pocket; it's big enough for a smartphone or a watch, which is helpful in keeping it near your head for setting alarms.

The Sea to Summit Spark III was a high scorer in the features and design metric; the hood, compression sack, and overall design were impressive, though this model does not necessarily come with many "extras." Back to its design, it is super light and was an honest 25F bag, unlike our Lightweight Top Pick winner, the Marmot Phase 30. While it is lighter and warm enough for most backpackers, it does not provide the most warmth in our fleet.

The Spark III features a well-designed hood that helps capture heat with 14 ounces of 850+ fill power down. This bag is rated to 25F.
The Spark III features a well-designed hood that helps capture heat with 14 ounces of 850+ fill power down. This bag is rated to 25F.

Take stash pockets on sleeping bags, for example. It can be helpful to keep your watch with an alarm in the pocket, but it can be hard to hear the alarm through the down. If you roll in your sleep, waking up on your watch isn't exactly comfortable. In general, when it comes to features, smart designs scored well, and generally, less is more.

Most 3-season bags are designed to offer features intended to be used over a broad range of conditions  from hot coastal hikes to summer-season above treeline adventures. Photo Day-3 of the Ptarmigan Traverse at White Rocks Lake Glacier Peak Wilderness.
Most 3-season bags are designed to offer features intended to be used over a broad range of conditions, from hot coastal hikes to summer-season above treeline adventures. Photo Day-3 of the Ptarmigan Traverse at White Rocks Lake Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Important Accessories


Unfortunately, very few bags come with decent quality stuff sacks and many bags come with downright terrible stuff sacks. An exception is the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35; in general, to maximize the compressibility of your bag, we highly recommend purchasing one separately. See our Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack Article for our recommendations for specific applications.

Most sleeping bags don't come with a very efficient compression or stuff sack. Because so much space can be saved in your pack (or allow you to take a smaller pack)  we'd recommend buying an aftermarket one.
Most sleeping bags don't come with a very efficient compression or stuff sack. Because so much space can be saved in your pack (or allow you to take a smaller pack), we'd recommend buying an aftermarket one.

Other Sleeping Bag Reviews


We also offer an Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review, which compares hoodless options, weighing only 31 ounces or less. If you're looking for a lightweight bag that will primarily be used for overnight trips where weight is a concern, we highly encourage you to consider one of the models found in the Ultralight Bag Review. Lastly, we offer a general Camping Sleeping Bag Review that compares large and luxurious rectangular bags that are too heavy to carry backpacking. These offer much more comfort than any model tested here and cost as little as forty dollars!!

The Sierra Designs Women's Backcountry Bed 800 (left) has more room for your arms to move around  whereas the Kelty Ignite is a more traditional mummy shape. Like unisex bags  women's bags come in many styles and configurations.
The Sierra Designs Women's Backcountry Bed 800 (left) has more room for your arms to move around, whereas the Kelty Ignite is a more traditional mummy shape. Like unisex bags, women's bags come in many styles and configurations.

Ian Nicholson
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