Alan is our resident expert on all things wild camping. He loves nothing better than to get out of the house with just his ex-Army sleeping gear and a stove, and head off to the remotest spot he can find near his home on the south coast of the UK.
2020 has seen a rise in popularity of all things outdoors. With movie theaters, restaurants and other indoor venues closed, and without the option of attending large gatherings, more and more people have opted to head into the great outdoors. Camping, hiking, and water sports have become the go-to activities for people from all walks of life.
Now, as summer is coming to an end, and social distancing guidelines don't appear to be ending with it, you may find yourself wondering what you can do to stay outside and active as the temperature drops and the seasons change.
One of the best options for getting outside in cold weather is winter camping. If you've made your way to this page, it's likely that you've already considered this as part of your winter plans and are looking to explore the gear you'll need to stay safe and warm on your adventures. In this article, we'll explore the best winter sleeping bags on the market today, so you can make an informed decision and get the gear you need to experience the outdoors no matter the weather.
So you want to camp in the cold...
There are a lot of pros to winter camping. The crisp, cool air is invigorating, the landscape is beautiful, and the cooler temperatures mean that typically crowded locations see significantly less traffic. Winter camping is truly one of the best ways to experience nature.
But the cold can be intimidating to less-experienced adventurers. When you're out in the elements, how can you be sure you're protected? While there's a lot of gear to consider when preparing for your first winter camping experience, one of the most critical items is a good winter sleeping bag. These bags are specifically designed to keep you safe, warm, and comfortable in all cold-weather situations.
If you're planning to "splurge" on any one winter camping item, it should be your sleeping bag. However, new and evolving technology has made it possible to find cold-weather sleeping bags without cost-prohibitive price tags.
How do I choose a winter sleeping bag?
As with any major purchasing decision, choosing the perfect sleeping bag can be intimidating, especially when the stakes are so high (choosing a less-than-optimal winter sleeping bag can literally be a life-or-death situation once you're out in the wilderness). Here are a few key things to pay attention to when researching the best bags:
- Temperature rating
- Warmth-to-weight ratio
- Fill power
- Size (and packed size)
- Water resistance
It's a lot to consider.
Luckily, we've done the groundwork for you. To help you find the best sleeping bag to fit both your adventure AND your budget, we've compiled a list of the six highest rated winter sleeping bags on the market. These sleeping bags have been tested, tried, and thoroughly vetted, so you can rest assured that your selection will keep you warm and protected wherever your adventure takes you.
An Important Note About Temperature:
Before we dive into this discussion, it's important to remember that temperature ratings are typically survival ratings, not comfort ratings - make sure you consider whether you typically sleep warm or cold in addition to considering the conditions you'll be camping in. If you're planning an adventure in temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and you sleep HOT, it might be good to find a bag with a slightly warmer rating (maybe high 30s, for example) - this will prevent you from overheating and sweating through your bag.
The same can be said if you sleep COLD - search for a bag with a colder rating, so you don'd find yourself shivering throughout the night.
We'll include temperature ratings with all of our recommendations, but this is a crucial "sleeping bags best practice" to keep in mind. Only you can recognize whether you sleep hot or cold. If you're unsure, try playing around with the number of blankets on your bed at home; do you typically need more blankets to sleep comfortably through the night, or do you tend to kick the covers off as you sleep? Knowing whether you sleep hot or cold will greatly increase your chance of finding the perfect sleeping bag for YOU specifically.
And with that in mind, here is our list of the best winter sleeping bags of 2020.
Sleeping Bags Included On This List:
- 1Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine 15F/-9C
- 2Fjallraven Polar -30
- 3Browning Camping Denali 0 Degree
- 4Therm-a-Rest Polar Ranger Minus 20-Degree
- 5Snugpak Special Forces Combo System
- 6Military Outdoor Clothing Previously Issued U.S. G.I. Modular Sleeping Bag System
|Product||Price||Best For||Temp rating (F)||Weight (lbs)||Link|
|OVERALL BEST - Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine||$$||Camping in moderate climates||15||2.75||Check Price|
|Fjallraven Polar||$$$||Serious winter expeditions||-22||4.73||Check Price|
|Browning Camping Denali||$$$||Winter car camping||0||6.31||Check Price|
|Therm-a-Rest Polar Ranger||$||Winter backpacking||20||3.44||Check Price|
|Snugpak Special Forces Combo System||$$||Those who want a sensational four-season sleeping bag||-4||7||Check Price|
|Military Outdoor Clothing Previously Issued U.S. G.I. Modular||$$||All-season adventurers||10||9.4||Check Price|
- Weight: 2.75 lbs
- Dimensions: 29 X 17 X 11 inches
- Fill: 850-fill power goose down insulation.
- Outer lining: 10D ripstop fabric.
Mountain Hardwear is one of the most trusted names in winter sleeping bags, and the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine is no exception to their reputation for excellence. This stylish bag features 10D ripstop fabric and 20 D Pertex Y-Fuse fabric in high-wear areas, making it durable and long-lasting, even for the hardest-working of individuals. It's ultra-light and compressible, so you can literally keep its warmth with you wherever you go. The 850 fill power ensures you stay warm as you get a good night's sleep, making it one of the most comfortable sleeping bags on our list.
These Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags come with glow-in-the-dark, dual-sided zipper pulls, allowing you to free your arms and move around even in the dead of night. The down-filled face gasket acts as a draft collar, blocking cold air from entering in through the bag's opening. Further, these bags feature a close-fitting, high-performance mummy cut with a contoured foot box and a draft tube, so you'll stay warm all night.
The 850-fill power goose down insulation is RDS certified, meaning you can get a good night's sleep knowing that the down in your winter sleeping bag is ethically sourced.
Perhaps the best feature of these sleeping bags from Mountain Hardwear, however, is their weight. While they're not quite rated for sub 0 F temperatures, they are highly packable and compressible, making them a perfect addition to cold weather backpacking excursions.
Anyone who wants to backpack or car camp in average winter temperatures. These winter sleeping bags are perfect for camping in the Pacific Northwest or in any other moderate climates. Its packability makes it the best 15 sleeping bag (in terms of temperature) we've seen.
- Weight: 4.73 lbs
- Material: 100% polyamide 20D
- Fill: 95% goose down, 5% feather
- Fill power: 800 CUIN
- Temperature rating: -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 degrees Celsius)
- Lining: 100% polyester
When it comes to quality outdoor gear, Fjallraven is a classic name that can't be beat. If you're looking to invest in long-lasting products that are built to withstand the harshest conditions, this is the brand for you.
It is also the most expensive bag on our list, for good reason.
This winter sleeping bag is meant to provide warmth and protection in sub-zero arctic temperatures. It is built for EXTREME cold and is constructed with the highest-quality down filling in box channels to prevent cold spots. This gives it excellent fill power, which means it provides excellent warmth. Its fur-lined hood acts like a draft collar, is detachable, and is designed specifically to move with the head as its user sleeps. This limits the volume of air flow in the bag, reducing the amount that needs heating up throughout the night.
This ultra-warm bag is also constructed with two dual-action zippers: the full-length zipper on the left side of the bag has two-way motion, so ventilating the bag on a warmer night is a (literal) breeze. On the right side of the bag is a shorter, one-way zipper that allows you to unzip and free your arms while still keeping most of your body insulated. Both zippers are covered by a down-filled protective flap to act as a draft tube and prevent cool air from robbing you of warmth. These can be closed with press buttons in case a zipper breaks. This provides additional peace-of-mind on longer winter trips in cold conditions.
This sleeping bag comes with a waterproof roll-top compression sack that will keep it protected as you travel from place to place, making it the perfect addition to your cold-weather expedition gear. It's an investment that is worth the price for any serious winter adventurers.
Serious winter expeditions. This sleeping bag is made for the COLD and is constructed appropriately. If you'll primarily be camping in cold (but not below-freezing) temperatures, this bag might be a little too warm for you.
- Weight: 6.31 lbs
- Dimensions: 13.5 X 38 X 86 inches
- Pack size: 14 X 24 inches
- Fill weight: 80 oz.
- Outer lining: 210T nylon diamond ripstop
- Temperature rating: 0 degrees Fahrenheit
The next sleeping bag on our list of winter sleeping bags come from Browning Camping. Their Denali 0 Degree bag is made to withstand harsh temperatures while keeping you comfortable on all of your winter adventures. It's the perfect addition to your winter camping supplies.
This bag features a 2-layer construction design to eliminate cold spots and prevent draft. Its Techloft insulation (standard in Browning's Denali bags) provides fluffy and soft support as you sleep, so you'll barely realize you've left the comfort of your own bed. This technology features multi-hole, staple-length micro fibers that are siliconized for maximum insulation, loft, and compactability, making this a truly multi-functional bag.
The bag's chest is insulated and it features a zipper baffle, which keeps your body heat trapped inside with you as you sleep. The hood of this winter sleeping bag acts as a draft collar, preventing the cold from getting inside. The 2-layer construction ensures that no heat escapes in the night, meaning you'll never wake up shivering in the night.
With a slightly smaller price tag than the Fjallraven, this sleeping bag is perfect for more casual camping trips in the heart of winter. While this bag is by no means a four-weather sleeping bag, it will do the job of keeping you safe and protected in winter months. Plus, while Browning Camping doesn't get the recognition of big-name brands like Fjallraven or Patagonia, their products are consistently high-rated among their users. With a 4.6-star rating on Amazon, the Denali 0 Degree is no exception. Users are thrilled by its comfort level and by its ability to keep them warm when other bags have failed. Plus, it's so cushy that some users found an additional sleeping pad unnecessary to their overall comfort (although we still recommend one for insulation purposes).
Winter car camping. This bag will keep users warm and protected in the coldest of temperatures, but it might not be the best option for backpacking. If you're the sort of adventurer who likes to toss your gear into the bed of your 4X4 and hit the wilderness on four wheels, this is the perfect bag for you.
- Weight: 3.44 lbs
- Dimensions: 78 X 65 X 12 inches
- Pack size: 22 X 14 inches
- Temperature rating: 20 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fill: 800-fill power Nikwax Hyrdophobic Down
Founded in 1972, Therm-a-Rest is a company built with one goal in mind: to revolutionize the way humans sleep outside. Their mission is to help you rest better so you can play better. Their Polar Ranger Minus 20-Degree Expedition Sleeping Bag is a prime example of their dedication to produce some of the best winter sleeping bags on the market today.
This bag was designed with the help of seasoned explorer Eric Larsen to ensure it could stand up to even the harshest of conditions. It's stuffed with 800-fill Nikwax Hyrdophobic Down, which repels moisture and stays warm in damp conditions. It's water resistant and dries three times faster than untreated down, is free of PFCs and other dangerous chemicals, and is certified by the Responsible Down Standard.
Overlapping side vents on this sleeping bag allow users to free their arms and control their own temperature, so you'll never have to worry about overheating in the night. A Snorkel Hood covers your face as you sleep, acting as a draft collar and controlling the amount of frost produced by breathing and eliminating cross drafts. In addition, the tops of these sleeping bags are lined with ThermaCapture Lining, which traps radiant body heat and maintains warmth without adding bulk. A draft tube ensures cool air doesn't rob you of that warmth as you sleep.
The Polar Ranger Minus 20 Sleeping Bag is designed with Zoned Insulation to maximize warmth, placing fill where you need it most. 60% of the fill is in the top of the bag, and 40% is in the foot box. Plus, this sleeping bag is designed with an ergonomic foot warmer pocket that rapidly warms cold feet, so you can get some toasty relief after playing in the snow all day.
This bag comes in two sizes: regular (which fits anyone up to 6' tall) and long (which fits anyone up to 6'6" tall). It comes with a storage sack and compression stuff sack, so you know you can travel with ease. Finally, the 800-fill Nikwax Down makes it one of the warmest AND lightest bags on this list; its warmth to weight ratio is nearly unbeatable.
Winter backpacking. This sleeping bag is the lightest on our list so far. Its 800-fill down makes it compressible and packable, so it can be added to a backpack easily. This would be a perfect addition to everything from a weekend snowshoeing expedition to an attempt to summit Mount Hood
- Weight: 7 lbs
- Temperature Rating: -4 degrees Fahrenheit
- Dimensions: 87 X 32 inches
- Pack Size: 12 X 11 inches
- Outer lining: Partex Steelplate shell fabric
- Fill: Synthetic Insulation
This unique sleeping system is actually a 2-for-1 deal. It's a modular set of sleeping bags that allows you to customize your sleep experience to fit your exact needs. The Special Forces 1 Bag is lighter. Alone, it has a temperature rating of 41 degrees Fahrenheit (perfect for balmy summer camping). The Special Forces 2 Bag is denser, with a rating of 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The Combo System features a center zipper baffle so the two bags can be layered and zipped together. When combined, their rating is -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like Therm-a-Rest, Snugpak has long been a trusted name in outdoor equipment, even boasting long-standing contracts with government defense agencies, so you know their stuff is built tough. This mummy-style sleeping bag is water resistant and breathable, so you won't have to worry about dampness ruining your night of sleep. It's also windproof, protecting you from any draft.
This bag features Softie Premier synthetic insulation, which traps warm air and retains heat even when soaking wet. This signature synthetic insulation system is durable and will not lose thermal properties over time. Its extra-tough outer shell is constructed with Paratex Steelplate fabric, making it breathable, water resistant, and and windproof. It truly is one of the best winter sleeping bag options.
Each individual sleeping bag comes with its own compression sack, and together they pack down to approximately 12 X 11 inches. Available in multiple colors, the Snugpak Special Forces Combo System might just be the perfect 4-season sleeping bag.
Those who want a truly sensational four-season sleeping bag. While we've included it on our list for its low temperature rating, the beauty of this "winter" sleeping bag is that it can be truly customized for your specific needs. Alone, the Special Forces 1 Bag is the perfect option for summer camping, while the Special forces 2 Bag can see you through spring and fall. Together, they make the perfect addition to your cold weather camping accessories.
- Weight: 9.4 lbs
- Dimensions: 19 X 17 X 14 inches
- Temperature rating: 10 degrees Fahrenheit
With a name like "Military Outdoor G.I. Modular Sleeping Bag System," you know this is a tough winter sleeping bag. This sleeping bag is actually four pieces in one, with each piece able to function on their own or together, giving this bag an extremely wide temperature rating of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to -30 degrees Fahrenheit and ensuring you stay warm and safe no matter the outside conditions. This bag will truly take you all the way from summer to below 0 F temperatures with ease.
These sleeping bags feature reversible double-pull zippers, allowing you to open them at either the top of bottom, customizing your ventilation preferences and giving you the ability to make sure you're always comfortable. A draft flap along the top of the bag ensures that you don't lose warmth while sleeping. The bags come with a sewn-in, quilted chest collar, which prevents air drafts up and down through the hood. Further, the insulation won't migrate as you sleep, keeping you free from cold spots.
The bevy cover for this winter sleeping bag is made with waterproof, moisture-vapor-permeable material and heat-sealed seams. It comes with a compression stuff sack that is also water resistant. The sleeping bag is compressible to one cubic foot, making it highly packable.
All-season adventurers who want a truly customizable winter sleeping experience.
Conclusion: What are the Best Winter Sleeping Bags?
Ultimately, this is a question you'll have to answer for yourself. There are a lot of considerations to make when you're looking to get a good sleeping bag. We've compiled a list of the six best winter sleeping bags, and now it's time to peruse our reviews and make the best choice for YOUR specific needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Look for something geared towards your desired activity. If you'll be backpacking or mountaineering, look for something water resistant, durable, packable, and LIGHT. If you're car camping, these things aren't as necessary.
- Double-check each bag's features. Does it have a draft collar to trap in warmth? Most do, but not all, and this can make a significant difference if you're on the side of a mountain looking to get warm.
- What other gear will you need? A Sleeping pad can help provide additional insulation if your bag won't completely do the trick, but it means shoving additional gear into your backpack, which might already be stuffed with winter clothing.
At the end of the day, the best winter sleeping bag will be the one that best fits your personal needs. The list we've compiled here are the six best winter sleeping bags we've seen this year - hopefully one of them will aid you in your future adventures.
Happy camping, and be sure to check back here for all your wilderness needs.