November 2017 Update
We updated our review with notes from this summer and fall's camping trips. While the award winners stay the same, we note some new discoveries for some of our favorite bags. In addition, we now have a budget sleeping bag review that includes lighter options from $80-180.
Toasty and roomy
Extremely plush and comfortable
Rugged exterior lining
Soft flannel interior
Perfectly doubles as a quilt or ground cloth
Heavy and bulky
Not appropriate for warm or wet weather
Somewhat difficult to roll up
Hats off to the Wenzel Grande
- the first bag in a long time that we feel had the brawn to edge out the Slumberjack Country Squire
. One of the largest models we tested (and by far the coziest), the Grande
is the warmest bag we reviewed and the most comfortable
kind of like being rolled up in a heated cinnamon roll. What it may lack in fancy features, it makes up with its hardcore warmth and comfort capabilities. When it came down to it, we felt warmth and comfort were by far the most important features of any bag. After all, you're not going to care too much about an interior pocket or an over-sized, industrial zipper when you're snuggling down for a long night in the mountains and the temps are starting to plummet. When you combine its incredible warmth and absolute comfort with its pricetag, the Wenzel's wins.
Read review: Wenzel Grande
Best Bang for Your Buck
Kelty Callisto 20
: 20F | Weight
Adjustable top opening
Full synthetic construction
Large and roomy
Thick pillowy insulation
Not as comfortable as wider bags
Thin zipper baffle
With a price tag of $80, the Callisto 20
is not the cheapest bag we looked at, but its combination of comfort and warmth in a fairly compact design make it the best value of the bags we tested. This bag is lighter than traditional flannel bags, but its roomy design along with its thick, pillowy insulation, make it one of our favorite general-purpose bags. We found the silky interior of the Callisto easy to move around in and feel its overall construction and size make it a definite good bag for your buck.
Read review: Kelty Callisto 20
Top Pick for Overall Luxury
Slumberjack Country Squire 0
: 0F | Weight
Massive, luxurious bag
Several unique features
Removable cotton liner
Convenient zip-on duffel bag
Not water resistant
Cream-colored interior prone to stains
Let's face it, if price isn't a factor, the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
still sets the bar for the most luxurious camping bag on the market. It's massive, warm, comfortable and rugged with a zip out liner that makes doing a quick washing easy and gives you the sensation of being snuggled up at home in your bed sheets. This bag is chuck full of unique features, including a zip-off storage bag that can be used to carry tons of camp items from the car to the tent or trailer. The Slumberjack's overall quality and construction, including its 12oz Cotton Duck rugged exterior, makes this a bag that could last a lifetime.
Read review: Slumberjack Country Squire 0
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
: 20F | Weight
Warmest bag for the price
Patented zipper system reduces zipper snags
Not very roomy
Catchy/scratchy interior lining
At a price tag of just under $35, we didn't expect much from the Coleman Brazos
. However, although cheap, this bag pleasantly surprised us when it outperformed more expensive bags during two of the most extensive, side-by-side warmth tests we've ever done. When it comes to keeping your piggies (and the rest of you) warm, this bag does the trick. The Brazos is a great grab if you're looking for a bargain bag that gets the job done. One thing to consider: This bag is one of the smallest bags we tested, so if you're over 6 feet tall and have a larger than average frame, you'll still hit your budget, but you're going to be uncomfortable.
Read review: Coleman Brazos
Top Pick for Best Multi-Purpose Bag
REI Siesta 30
: 30F | Weight
Lightest bag we tested
Chocked full of features
Fits in a backpack
Doesn't stand up to colder weather
Love the conveniences of front-country campgrounds but are curious at trying your hand in the backcountry? The REI Siesta 30
is the lightest bag we tested and could be argued to have the most design features of all the bags we looked at. The Siesta is a perfect warmer weather bag that could easily be shoved into a compression sack or bag compartment of most backpacks. While heavier than many backcounty bags, the Siesta is still light enough to allow you use it on a multi-day, summer backpacking trip. Of all the traditional, rectangle designs we studied, the Siesta is the perfect multi-purpose bag.
Read review: REI Siesta 30
Analysis and Test Results
Zipper draft tubes, 12-ounce duck cotton, shoulder baffles, multiple-layer off-set construction, continuous-filament insulation, cotton-poly flannel liners
blah, blah, blah. Yes, all of these features (and many more) are important things to consider when purchasing a sleeping bag. But when it all came down to it, we mostly cared about two things when the sun went down and the cool mountain air began to settle: will it keep me warm and is it comfortable? In the end, a bag can have a zillion bells and whistles, but if it doesn't swallow you up like your favorite down comforter, and if it doesn't keep you warm, what's the point of forking over your hard-earned cash to buy it?
How did each bag stack up against each other? We committed hours and hours testing each bag to find out...so you didn't have to.
For this very reason, we weighted warmth as the highest priority when it came down to our scoring, followed closely by comfort. But we just didn't do a few subjective, personal opinion tests. We took each bag and got an idea of how we felt about it, and then compared our opinions to basic science. And we weren't nice. We were tougher on these bags than ever before, and we were even harder on the few bags that we were testing for the second and third time in the last few years.
Have you ever heard of a homeowner changing the insulation in their home as the weather changes? For instance, Summer is over, so the insulation that was keeping your home cool needs to be swapped out for different insulation that will keep your home toasty on cold Winter nights. Does that sound right to you? Of course not.
When it comes to thermal insulation, it doesn't matter whether it's keeping something cool or something hot, it all works the same way — by trapping temperature in dead air space.
Whether it's goose down or synthetic material, thermal insulation all does the same thing: It has millions upon millions of tiny pockets of dead air space, which traps holds in temperature... cold or warm.
Of course, with the sleeping bags we looked at, we only cared about how warm they kept us — especially when we visited Bryce Canyon National Park, where the nighttime temps were still nearing the teens.
In Bryce Canyon National Park, we left the bags stacked outside on a picnic table for several hours until the outer temperature of the bags were below 20 degrees. Then, we conducted an extensive warmth test. We used this laser thermometer in several of our warmth tests to help us determine if our subjective feeling of warmth corresponded to the bag's actual ability to insulate.
To get our results, we ran the bags through several tests to determine their ability to retain temperature, and then we compared these results to what our guts told us. In one specific test, we left the bags outside to cool down to 19 degrees and then got inside each one for 10 minutes. During this test, we rated based on how warm they felt to us and compared that to the actual interior temperature of the bags that we obtained with our laser thermometer. Then we combined our results for an overall warmth score. Our warmth scores accounted for 35 percent of each bag's total rating. For more on this test, check out our How We Test
A block of ice was placed into each bag for one hour. Based on our results, we feel the Wenzel Grande kept in the chill better than any bag we tested.
To double check our warmth tests, we decided to try a little reverse psychology on each bag. We figured if they could keep things (us) warm, then they should be able to keep things cold. If our theory proved to be correct, the toastiest bags should also keep a massive block of ice the coldest
our hunch was right. Check out more about our ice test in our How We Test
For us, the Wenzel Grande
handily outperformed the all the rest in all of our warmth tests, followed closely by the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
. If all the elements of the perfect cup of hot chocolate became a sleeping bag, the result would be the Wenzel Grande
. Its overstuffed design proved to be incredibly cozy and warm. In fact, we found it a challenge to want to unzip and get up for the day after sleeping toasty in the Wenzel all night.
Once we snuggled into our Editor's Choice Winner, the Wenzel Grande, it was really hard to find the desire to get back out. We loved its soft flannel interior and its over-stuffed design.
The bag that surprised us the most was the Coleman Brazos
. Tipping the scales at just under $35, we were prepared to be underwhelmed. Boy were we wrong. While not the warmest bag we tested, the Brazos
warmth ratings outperformed several other bags that cost three times as much, like the REI Siesta
, Kelty Callisto
, and The North Face Dolomite
, while going head to head with the TETON Sports Celsius XXL 0
Did you ever play with those balsa-wood, rubber band airplanes when you were a kid? Remember winding up the propeller until the rubber band was in a myriad of knots?
Have you ever felt like that rubber band after trying to get a good night's sleep in a sleeping bag that's the size of a shrunken wool sock and has the surface friction of sandpaper? Maybe we're erring on the side of dramatic, but you get our drift, right?
Morning stretching on the soft linings of the Wenzel Grande. The Grande and Conquest complement each other well, and in addition to making great blankets, can be zipped together to make a giant flannel-lined mega bag.
When you're already far from the comforts of home — camping in a trailer, tent, or car — nothing's worse than being trapped like a buried mummy all night. That's why we tested all of our bags for more than one type of comfort. Yes, bigger bags offer more roomy pleasure, and the Wenzel Grande
, Slumberjack Country Squire 0
and the Teton Sports Celsius XXL all took the gold
in this measurement. But size isn't the only thing that matters. A bag can have enough room for two people, but if the interior lining is grabby, tossing and turning during the night may turn into a never-ending wrestling match with a life-size cocoon. For this reason, we decided to squirm back and forth, over and over, in each bag for what seemed like an eternity to find out which allowed us to toss and turn with the most ease.
Have you ever felt like this after spending an entire night wrestling a your sleeping bag? We thoroughly tested each bag on our list to find out which one allowed for the easiest tossing and turning.
The Slumberjack Country Squire 0
scored the highest in our twisting-turning test. Its bed-sheet-like interior allows for ease of movement even with clothes on. Which one performed the worst? The Coleman Brazos
. We found its interior to be extremely uncomfortable, which is not what we're looking for when trying to get the best night's sleep for the early next day start.
Letting our feet air out while testing for comfort.
Another area of comfort we tested was each bag's overall thickness and loft. To us, puffy, thick bags just felt better on cold nights. They also offer more natural padding. To determine which bags were "full of it," we spent a considerable amount of time inside each bag, lying around on hard, flat, bare sandstone rock. Trust us, we now know which bags have the most natural padding, and we have the hip and shoulder bruises to prove it. In this area, the Wenzel Grande
and the Kelty Callisto 20
scored the highest for their overall coziness.
If you strip away all of our differences, most people are like cats. We like to be doted on and tend to whine until someone takes care of us; we hate getting wet (swimming and skinny dipping aside), and we like to be clean — at least most of us do.
In all, there were 11 features we explored with each bag. For a list of all of them, stop by our How We Test
area to read more. Out of all 11, we felt there were three that were the most practical and important; we are going back to the cat thing here.
While the sleeping pad sleeve on the NEMO Loft is a nice feature, it won't fit large deluxe pads like the Therm-a-rest Luxury Map.
- We like to be taken care of when we buy something. The Kelty Callisto 20
, The North Face Dolomite 20
, Teton Sports Celsius XXL
and the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
all boast limited lifetime warranties. The Wenzel Grande
has a 10-year limited warranty, while the Coleman Brazos
has a 5-year limited warranty. The REI Siesta 30
is believed to have some warranty, but when we checked their website, the warranty information was vague. REI's standard return policy is one year, to our knowledge.
- Nothing is worse than sleeping in a wet sleeping bag. Outside water sources like a downpour can make for a miserable night. A leaky roof or trickling groundwater can lead to being cold and wet.
We doused each bag with 16 ounces of water and let it sit for 5 minutes to see which bag had the best water resistance.
We found the synthetic bags, the Kelty Callisto 20
, The North Face Dolomite 20
, REI Siesta 30
, and Teton Sports Celsius XXL
performed brilliantly in our water tests. Left way behind in the pack were the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
, the Wenzel Grande
and the Coleman Brazos
, with the Slumberjack
showing virtually no resistance to water (at least in the tests we did).
Ease of Cleaning
Most synthetic bags really hold their own when it comes to repelling water. The REI Siesta 30, seen here, didn't let a drop penetrate after a full five minutes.
- We won't sugar coat it for you
we were disappointed pretty much across the board. The instructions on every bag we tested said they had to be washed in a front-loading washer. Almost all the instructions said that both the washer and dryer needed to be commercial grade, which means you're headed to the laundromat every time you want to clean your bag. No dry cleaning allowed either. We figured that since this was the standard for most, that it wasn't that big of a drawback. Just a little time-consuming. The bag that we gave the worst score to in this area was the Teton Sports Celsius XXL
. Its instructions specifically detail washing the bag by hand and laying flat to dry. Its instructions also state that machine-washing the bag voids its warranty.
The Slumberjack Country Squire 0, seen here, along with the Wenzel Grande offer virtually no resistance to water. A common issue with natural fiber bags.
There were many other features we looked for in each bag. Some of them are zipper function, interior pockets, and adjustable shoulder baffles. Our How We Test
section further details the steps that we took when comparing the contenders side-by-side.
We were the most disappointed with washing instructions for the Teton Sports Celsius XXL.
Traditional sleeping bags are known for being a little "big-boned," so packed size was not a complete deal-breaker for us. However, whether your backpacking in the Tetons or Car camping through Yellowstone, space still comes at a premium, so we still rated each bag according to its stowed size
but we investigated a little further for you.
Traditional bags are known for being large and roomy. The second largest one we tested, the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
, comes in at a whopping 84 inches long and 42 inches wide. And of course a bag this size isn't going to conveniently slide into a dainty, compression stuff sack.
Simply ranking each bag according to its packed size wasn't enough for us. We also took the time to see how easy the fit into their stuff sacks, and whether they could fit into a backpack.
We asked, "Does the bag fit in its designed storage bag?" And even more importantly — "Does it fit easily
into its storage bag?" There's nothing worse than when stowing your bag has more action than an MMA fight. Most of the bags fit effortlessly into their storage bag, and surprisingly, the most enormous bag, the Slumberjack Country Squire 0
, was one of the easiest to stow. Testing determined that the Wenzel Grande
and the Teton Sports Celsius XXL
the most difficult to store, but with a little elbow grease, we were able to get them back into their storage devices.
When stored, the Strato Loft is 1/4 the size of the Country Squire. With a compression sack, it would be half again the size.
When it came to packed size, a third thing we looked at was the question of whether any of the bags had a small enough packed size, meaning that they could double as a backcountry bag on a multiple-day backpacking trip. And we found a few that legitimately could fit the bill. The best of which was the REI Siesta 30
. Weighing in at 3 lbs. 9 ozs., the REI Siesta
is not the lightest bag on the planet, for this, check out the Backpacking Sleeping Bag
or Ultralight Sleeping Bag
reviews. However, we feel the REI Siesta 30
would do the job in a pinch or for someone who is trying backpacking for the first time and doesn't want to invest a lot of money on new gear.
We felt that packed sized was important, but we also took it a step further and found out which bags actually fit into their stuff sacks with ease. The REI Siesta 30, pictured here, almost fell into its sack! The Northface Dolomite 20 and the Slumberjack Country Squire 0 were also very easy to stow.
The REI Siesta 30
and the The North Face Dolomite 20 pack up tight enough
that they both can comfortably fit into the bag compartment of nearly any backpack (we stuffed them into several, all the way down to a 58-liter pack). Of course, the one thing you will sacrifice with these smaller, lighter bags is warmth. However, for most late Spring and Summer camping and backpacking, a 20 to 30-degree bag will suffice.
Throughout our review, we didn't give these bags any leeway. Regardless of price or prestige, we held all of the bags to high standards, and we were not afraid to score them according to their performance. We researched everything we would want to know if we were buying these bags for ourselves. In the end, we hope our efforts will benefit you in your decision making.
The Grande (on the ground) is perfect for just about anything. We used it as a ground cloth as much as we used it as a sleeping bag. The Kelty Callisto 20 (around the shoulders) came in second for having that nice, puffy, overstuffed feel.
There's a lot to consider when buying a traditional sleeping bag. Hopefully, you've gained an insight into what we felt were the most important features of any conventional sleeping bag. When the rubber hits the road, the two most important considerations are warmth and comfort. The bags we liked the most were the ones that swallowed us up and kept us toasty all night. If you'd like to view a more detailed overview of each bag, we've done that for you too. All you have to do is click on each bag for more individual details.