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Choosing a Winter Sleeping Bag For Camping and Backpacking

One of the best benefits of having a fully dialed-in rig is that it can take you just about anywhere you want to go to do just about anything you want to do. With so many activities at your disposal, there’s bound to be a prodigious amount of gear that you and your truck will need to haul around to get it all done with. We selected a few winter sleeping bags to keep you warm and cozy through the coldest of nights.

Winter sleeping bags are a big investment. Consider the time of year you’ll be using the sleeping bag the most to get your money’s worth. A traditional sleeping bag works well for the spring, summer and fall seasons, but a winter sleeping bag is specialized for the weather and activities in much colder weather. It is much nicer to be warmer than colder, as you can always adjust the heat by ventilating the bag by unzipping and cooling off.

A few things to look for when selecting a new sleeping bag include temperature rating, insulation, shape, size and weight, construction and materials and features. You may still want to test how you fit in each winter sleeping bag prior to purchasing, if possible, as everyone has different body types and preferences, such as purchasing a longer winter sleeping bag to keep extra clothes at the bottom of the bag to sleeping with base layers—or even without any clothes at all.

Marmot
Trestles Elite Eco, 0°F

Marmot Trestles Elite winter sleeping bag red 0 degrees F Marmot Trestles Elite cell phone pocket Marmot Trestles Elite bag case

Highlights: The Marmot Trestles Elite Eco sleeping bag is a sustainable, environmentally friendly bag constructed from Marmot Upcycle PFC-free and recycled 20D polyester ripstop shell, lining and fill. HL-ElixR Eco Micro synthetic insulation uses a unique blend of three fibers for maximum warmth, soft hand feel and high loft. Available in two lengths, various temperatures and in women’s sizes.

Dimensions: Long (as tested) fits 6 feet, 5 inches and under
Weight: 3 pounds, 8.3 ounces
Compressed bag size: 9.5 x 21 inches
MSRP: $179
URL: marmot.com

Tread’s Take: This is a comfortable mummy-shaped winter sleeping bag. For those who practice sustainability, this is a great option. It is a warm sleeping bag and definitely keeps you cozy at night. The sleeping bag is heavier than others, a bit bulky and tough to squeeze it into the included compression sack. The stash pocket comes in handy to keep valuables within a close distance. We also appreciate the ease of use of the zippered draft tube.

Big Agnes
Anvil Horn, 0°F with AXL Air Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Anvil Horn blue 0 degrees F with sleeping pad Big Agnes Anvil Horn winter sleeping bag with sleeping pad Big Agnes Anvil Horn bag case blue

Highlights: The Big Agnes Anvil Horn features a polyester ripstop shell fabric with a water-repellent finish, a water-repellent DownTek insulation that used a PFC-Free, Bluesign-approved chemistry with roomy, rectangle-shaped sleeping space, and an integrated Flex Pad Sleeve on the bottom. It’s designed to be lightweight enough for backpacking, but cozy enough for the campground. Available in regular and long sizes and four temperature options.

Dimensions: Regular sized (as tested) fits up to 5 feet, 10 inches
Compressed bag size: 6.5 x 9 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 15 ounces
MSRP: $349.95
AXL Air MSRP: $139.95
URL: bigagnes.com

Tread’s Take: This is a clever design that allows you to pair with another sleeping bag and also a sleeping pad. We paired it with the Big Agnes AXL air sleeping pad and was impressed with the easy setup and the comfort and warmth the pad was able to provide. The pad packs up very tight and takes about a minute of manually blowing it up to inflate it. The sleeping bag itself has plenty of features from the anti-snag, easy-to-adjust locking zipper to the interior pocket that can fit a cell phone. Overall, the Big Agnes Anvil Horn has an exceptional build quality and provides plenty of warmth and comfort throughout the night.

Outdoor Vitals
Atlas Hybrid, 30°F, Regular

Outdoor Vitals Hybrid sleeping bag red and black Outdoor Vitals Hybrid bag case Outdoor Vitals Hybrid LoftTek Hybrid winter sleeping bag open

Highlights: The Outdoor Vitals Hybrid LoftTek Hybrid Sleeping Bag features new insulation, LoftTek Hybrid, which is an advanced, ultralight and packable synthetic with the benefits of down insulation—lightweight, warm and compressible— but without the downsides in wet conditions. The exterior shell is made with 20 Denier Ripstop Nylon with VitalDry DWR, and the lining is made with 20 Denier Ripstop Nylon. Available in regular and large sizes, two colorways and three temperature options.

Dimensions: Regular (as tested) fits 6 feet and under
Compressed bag size: 11 x 8 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 2.6 ounces
MSRP: $129.97
URL: outdoorvitals.com

Tread’s Take: This mummy-shaped winter sleeping bag is a good value for the sub-$150 range. It is lightweight and portable and packs down well. The bag design is clever with the zipper located in the center, which makes it easy to enter and exit as well as preventing the feel of the zipper when laying on the side. We tested the sleeping bag in dry conditions but did pour some water on it to see the DWR treatment work to prevent the insulation from getting wet. We will take the company’s word that it does provide water-resistant protection. The sleeping bag is comfortable and provides ample warmth. You’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and a down bag.

Kelty
Cosmic Cool, 20°F  

Kelty Cosmic Cool blue winter sleeping bag Kelty Cosmic Cool sleeping bag case Kelty Cosmic Cool cell phone pocket

Highlights: The Kelty Cosmic Cool winter sleeping bag features environmentally friendly PFC-free DWR, quick-drying 600-fill DriDown, and a durable 20D Nylon taffeta shell. Available in three size options: short, regular and long.

Dimensions: Long (as tested) fits 6 feet, 6 inches and under
Compressed bag size: 8 x 16.5 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 2.7 ounces
MSRP: $169.95
URL: kelty.com

Tread’s Take: This is a value-based bargain. It’s not the warmest or lightest available, but it is a solid option for the price. The mummy-shaped sleeping bag is durable and keeps you plenty warm at night. The zipper worked with ease and the draft collar and hood helped to regulate the temperature. The stash pocket is great. The availability of three sizes means there’s an option for almost everyone.

NEMO
Forte, 20°F

NEMO Forte blue and purple sleeping bag NEMO Forte bag case NEMO Forte cell phone pocket

Highlights: The NEMO Forte has a unique spoon shape, adding room at the elbow and knees, which helps side sleepers and allows for the shifting of positions throughout the night. Key features include Thermo Gills that help regulate temperature by venting body heat without letting in cold drafts, and a Blanket Fold that provides tucked-in comfort. An integrated pillow pocket allows a jacket, extra clothes and other items to be stuffed to create an on-the-go pillow. It’s available in regular and long and in two temperature options.

Dimensions: Regular (as tested) fits 6 feet and under
Compressed bag size: 12 x 8.5 inches
Weight: 3 pounds, 1 ounce
MSRP: $189.95
URL: nemoequipment.com

Tread’s Take: This is an exceptional winter sleeping bag for side sleepers. The design allows for movement without sacrificing warmth or comfort. We appreciate the integrated pillow pocket and the zippered stash pocket to keep a phone or other items within reach. This high-quality sleeping bag has a lifetime warranty, which provides peace of mind when putting it through the paces. This sleeping bag has the ability to pair with the NEMO Women’s Viola to create a double bag. The Blanket Fold system is a nice touch with the option to cover your face if it gets too chilly. The Thermo Gills work well to allow some venting when in use. Overall, this is a solid sleeping bag.

NEMO
Riff, 15°F  

NEMO Riff winter sleeping bag NEMO Riff bag case NEMO Riff cell phone pocket

Highlights: The NEMO Riff is a top-of-the-line backcountry ultralight spoon-shaped winter sleeping bag. The outer shell is constructed with 20D Nylon Ripstop with DWR, the footbox fabric is a 40D Nylon Ripstop OSMO with DWR and the lining fabric is 30D Nylon Taffeta with DWR. The shape is designed for side sleepers who prefer space-saving packability. This bag features NEMO’s Thermo Gills to regulate temperature, Blanket Fold for tucked-in comfort and a waterproof/breathable footbox to withstand condensation. It pairs with a NEMO Women’s sleeping bag to create a double bag, and it’s available in regular and long and in two temperature options.

Dimensions: Regular (as tested) fits 6 feet and under
Compressed bag size: 12 x 7.5 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 6 ounces
MSRP: $399.95
URL: nemoequipment.com

Tread’s Take: This a premium sleeping bag that is comfortable, lightweight and portable. The sleeping bag uses high-end fabrics and materials with thoughtful design for side sleeping. The signature Blanket Fold and Thermo Gills help regulate temperatures easily. The footbox is beefed up to withstand condensation and is also breathable. We appreciate the use of the premium 800FP hydrophobic, PFC-free, 100 percent RDS Certified down, which is traceable to ensure humane treatment throughout the supply chain as well as the NEMO lifetime warranty.

The North Face
The One Bag, 5°F / 20°F / 40°F

North Face The One Bag blue winter sleeping bag North Face The One Bag blue orange winter sleeping bag

North Face The One Bag case

Highlights: The North Face The One Bag is an innovative three-in-one sleeping system with interchangeable layers to configure it for 5 degrees F, 20 degrees F or 40 degrees F temperatures. The outer shell and lining are constructed from 20-Denier Nylon. The sleeping bag has a removable mid-layer, which is lightweight, compressible 800-fill-power goose down for warmth down to 20 degrees F. Combine the outer and mid-layer to create a 5 degrees F bag. Available in regular and long lengths.

Dimensions: Regular (as tested) fits 6 feet, 5 inches and under
Weight: Maximum weight: 3 pounds, 12 ounces; minimum weight: 2 pounds, 3 ounces
Compressed bag size: N/A
MSRP: $289.95 – $299.95
URL: thenorthface.com

Tread’s Take: The most versatile winter sleeping bag we tested, The One Bag is perfect for multiple seasons and activities from camping and car camping to backpacking. The clever design is also multi-functional with the bottom layer able to roll up into a pillow for use. The zippers are also easy to use to transition between the various configurations, and the color-coded system makes it easy to add and remove layers. The sleeping bag felt spacious and the hood was plush and comfortable. The price is a value for the options it provides. The only downside is the added weight, and with the various layers, it’s a bit tougher to compress. Overall, this is a great sleeping bag for those who require versatility and value.

Sierra Designs
Nitro, 0°F  

Sierra Designs Nitro black and yellow winter sleeping bag Sierra Designs Nitro bag case Sierra Designs Nitro zipped winter sleeping bag

Highlights: The Sierra Designs Nitro features PFC-Free 800FP Dridown and 15D nylon fabrics. An integrated draft collar, draft tube, sidewall baffles and a foot vent help to regulate temperatures while in use. It’s available in regular and long sizes, three temperatures and options for women.

Dimensions: Regular (as tested) fits 6 feet and under
Compressed sack size: 16 x 9 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 8 ounces
MSRP: $419.95
URL: sierradesigns.com

Tread’s Take: One of the best performing overall winter sleeping bags tested, this sleeping bag stands out for its ultralight weight and performance. The bag is soft and comfortable and has many well-thought-out design features. The self-sealing foot vent is a nice touch for quick and easy ventilation, while the draft collar and tube helped to regulate temperatures. This bag should last a long time and the price can be considered a value.

 

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January/February 2020 print issue of Tread Magazine

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