There are a lot of reasons to love cold weather camping. You get to experience the same popular places that people flock to during the summer without the crowds. Plus, there’s the quiet covering that snow brings to everything it touches. It seems as if winter brings us a clean slate, and it’s just plain beautiful.
Still, there’s the looming reason not to love it – IT’S COLD. No matter how peaceful and beautiful your landscapes may be, there’s nothing that can put a damper on your experience like a long night spent shivering in your tent.
Luckily, we’re here to help with that! We’ve reviewed our top 9 best sleeping bags for cold weather camping. That way, your research is made easier and you can be sure you’ve invested in quality cold weather sleeping gear.
Best Sleeping Bags for Cold Weather
The North Face Inferno (-40 F°)
Topping out as our warmest and priciest bag is the North Face Inferno -40F. This bag does exactly what it says, keeps you extra warm– just like an inferno.
The Inferno 40 is a safe choice for extra cold winter outings. Its ample insulation and top-notch materials provide warmth for ski touring, mountaineering at the high altitudes, high winds, and even dog sledding in Alaska.
We would classify this as more of an “expedition” sleeping bag than a cold-weather bag, simply due to the 800 fill Pro Down that makes it so warm.
The extreme warmth of the inferno bag surpasses the standardized test for sleeping bag warmth. Because of this, no separate extreme, limit, or comfort temperature ratings are given.
Instead, TNF gives us the general bag rating: you should be comfortable if you reach temperatures of -40°C.
Browning Camping McKinley Sleeping Bad (-30°)
The Browning McKinley is a “heavy-duty” oversized hooded rectangle sleeping bag. It uses a 2-layer offset construction to eliminate cold spots.
Due to its heavy weight and large size, it’s best used as a “car camping” bag. It weighs almost 13 pounds and is bulky, basically eliminating it from any sort of backpacking adventure.
The McKinley series uses TechLoft insulation. This type of insulation consists of multi-hole staple-length micro-denier fibers with a siliconized finish for maximum insulation, floof, and compactness. The size and shape will keep you toasty on those colder nights and provides more “wiggle room” than you get with your mummy bag.
The contoured hood also keeps your warmth sealed in. For transporting, we include a compression stuff sack and roll-up straps. This is a great hunting bag, ice fishing, or to use with a cot.
Therm-A-Rest Polar Ranger (-20°)
The Therm-a-rest Polar Ranger is a cold-weather “expedition style” bag with a trim, efficient body shape to please alpinists, expedition climbers, and skiers out on multi-day tours. Although it falls on the higher end of the price range, this bag certainly lives up to its reputation.
It’s surprisingly light, very compact, and has maximized the modern engineering of hydrophobic down, reflective lining, and a nifty toe pocket that traps heat around your feet. This bag was influenced and designed with input from polar explorer Eric Larson (an alpinist that mountaineer in the greatest extremes of temperatures).
The Polar Ranger incorporates expedition-worthy features like a snorkel hood, central zip, and overlapping side vents for circulation or to use your hands and still keep in the warmth.
Polar expeditions and high-altitude adventures demand uncompromised warmth. This bag was engineered with 800-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic down. The severity of the arctic cold will not be compromised with the performance of the Polar Ranger, it’s truly a lifesaver.
Marmot Col Sleeping Bag (-20°)
The Marmot Col is a mummy-style expedition bag designed for the most extreme conditions. Whether you’re headed into sub-freezing weather or camping next to a frozen lake, you need a bag that can stand up to everything Mother Nature dishes out.
The Marmot Col MemBrain -20F 800 Down Sleeping Bag’s mummy-style will keep you extra cozy. It’s stuffed with high quality 800 fill power goose down. This sleeping bag is both waterproof and breathable to help you sleep warm and comfortable.
An innovative cross-thread construction stops the down from shifting and cold spots from forming. The foot box is reinforced and wrapped around with baffles (a device used to retrain loose materials) that increases warmth at your feet. Also, the advanced layer hood has 6 baffles to keep your head plenty warm and protected.
The down-filled body cylinders and collar provide excellent protection from heat loss, and the draft tube even has a hidden pocket for storing your small essentials. Drawcords make it easy to customize your fit, and zipper guards ensure everything functions smoothly.
The North Face Green Kazoo (0°)
The North Face Green Kazoo is loaded with great extras and a super sleek design. It has a heat-efficient mummy shape and is packed with Hydrophobic ProDown insulation to deliver reliable performance, even if you encounter a bit of moisture during your adventures.
Its 0-degree temperature rating and 650 fill down is ideal for shoulder season backpacking trips, lower altitude winter treks, and mid-summer mountaineering endeavors. It even makes for a great addition for when you’re sleeping in the back of your car up on a snowy pass when you know the powder is going to be prime time first thing in the morning.
The North Face even threw in sleeping pad loops (system bags) to keep your pad beneath you as you sleep. A stuff sack and storage sack are also included.
The North Face Inferno (0°)
The North Face Inferno 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag is an excellent option for hikers and campers new to the joys of cold weather camping. It insulates against below-freezing temperatures so you can enjoy the winter world without freezing or losing sleep.
With the wrong gear, winter camping can bring cold, sleepless nights and downright dangerous situations.
This bag is a great place to start as it is affordable and you can trust it will keep you safe when used appropriately. With its mummy shape for added insulation, 850 fill down insulation, and draft collar, you will be sure to stay warm and cozy while experiencing colder temperatures.
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass Sleeping Bag (0°)
The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass, a 0-degree bag, is great for campers and climbers who are always on the move. This bag is a reliable, all-around down bag that provides comfort and warmth.
Made with a foot box following our natural body position, high-performance insulation, baffle to distribute loft and hold warmth, and reliable materials, it packs versatility and performance into one. Plus, with 650 fill-down, it’s easily compressed and stored for your backpacking adventures.
Regardless of where your season takes you, backpacking, car camping, or bunkering down on a high alpine lakefront, the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass will be up for the challenge.
Marmot Never Sleeping Bags (0°)
This Marmot Never Summer 0°F Mummy Bag hits the mark when it comes to value. It doesn’t compromise with warmth and weather protection like so many other bags do within this price point and description.
It’s one of the best waterproof/breathable winter bags on the market right now, especially at this price. The reason it is so affordable is that the less-compressible 650-fill down packs about 25 percent bulkier than say an 800-fill bag. Luckily you won’t sacrifice the other added features for a slightly bulkier bag. Additionally, it has the smart foot box feature to insulate your toes on cold nights.
Coleman Mummy Sleeping Bag (0°)
On the less expensive end of cold weather sleeping bags, we have the Coleman Mummy Sleeping Bag. A quilted construction helps eliminate cold spots, and this bag can keep anyone toasty, even those over 6 feet tall.
On the evenings that start to warm up, the bottom can be unzipped for ventilation, and it’s safe for the washing machine when you’re done camping. It’s bulky, so not ideal for backpackers, but is a great car camping or ice fishing bag.
With all this in mind, the Coleman is definitely one of, if not the best cold weather sleeping bag under $100.
How to Choose a Cold Weather Sleeping Bag
At the end of the day, the best winter sleeping bags are going to keep you warm and safe throughout the night. That said, how to you choose between various sleeping bags, beyond using their temperature rating?
This section will take you through the ins and outs of choosing a sleeping bag perfect for your needs and requirements.
Sleeping Bag Shape
The shape of a sleeping bag plays a crucial role in both your overall comfort and the thermal efficiency of your sleep system. While the roominess of a wide bag may feel more comfortable, particularly if you toss and turn at night, you’ll lose some of the optimal heat retention that comes with a bag that fits close to your body.
On the contrary, choosing a bag that is too narrow for your body shape in an attempt to shave weight will compress the insulation in your sleeping bag, creating cold spots (usually at the shoulder or hip). Aim for a bag that strikes a balance between comfort, weight, and thermal efficiency.
Choosing between a mummy or a rectangular bag will be a key point to help decide what kind of sleeping experience you want to have.
Material & Weight
Backpackers, more than anyone else, place a high priority on both sleeping bag material and the overall weight. An extra pound or two may not be a big deal when you’re traveling by vehicle, horse, or boat, but when that excess weight has to be carried on your back, it quickly becomes noticeable.
Serious backpackers often favor down-filled, mummy-style bags that provide the most warmth in the smallest package.
Almost all high performance, super-compact sleeping bags use down for insulation. Although newer synthetic materials have narrowed the gap in weight and performance, down still has the advantage. It’s remarkable how small and light a 20˚ down bag can be (2 lbs., 6 oz.). The only downside to down (and downtek) insulation is that they will cost more than synthetic bags and won’t insulate as well if they become wet.
Bags with synthetic insulation are bulkier than down bags for the equivalent temperature rating. However, synthetic bags are the best choice for damp conditions and are more affordable. Synthetic bags are also hypoallergenic, vegan, and dry faster if they do become wet.
Comfort Rating & Seasons
With nearly all major sleeping bag manufacturers adopting European (EN) testing standards in recent years, EN is a reasonably accurate guide to temperature range and comfort ratings.
When looking at temperature ratings, there are two main numbers you’ll want to pay attention to — the EN comfort rating and the EN lower limit rating. The bag’s comfort rating indicates the lowest temperature in which the average person will sleep comfortably in that bag. The lower limit rating indicates the lowest temperature in which the average man will sleep comfortably in that bag.
If your camping adventure involves snow, ice, or you run cold, select a sleeping bag in the -25 range (expedition bag).
When choosing a bag for an excursion, try to get an idea of what kind of temperatures you can expect to encounter. Most sleeping bags are generally broken down into the following ranges:
- Three-season (40°F to 10°F)
- Winter (0°F to -10°F)
- Expedition (-25°F to -60°F)
When shopping for a sleeping bag, you’ll come across some unusual terminology. Terms like differential cut, offset quilt construction, and box baffle construction, to name a few. All of these terms refer to the way the insulation is held in place between the liner and the shell. Your bag needs to have some sort of inner construction to hold the insulation in place. If it doesn’t, the insulation clumps up, and the bag loses much of its ability to hold in your body heat due to the formation of cold spots.
To understand these insulation related terms in better detail, see the definitions below:
- Differential Cut: The inner layer of the bag is cut smaller than the outer layer, creating a constant insulation thickness.
- Offset Quilt Construction: The seams that quilt the liner’s insulation are offset from the seams that quilt the insulation to the shell, thus preventing cold spots.
- Box, Slant, and Baffle Construction (down bags): Keep the down insulation contained in small “boxes” which prevent it from migrating and producing consistent thermal performance.
Other notable design features include draft tubes that prevent heat from escaping through the zipper, baffle collars that keep heat from escaping around your neck, a hood, a foot vent, liner loops, and sleeping pad loops.
Sleeping bags come in several lengths. Regular lengths vary from 75” to 84”, depending on the style, and fit people less than six feet tall. Extended sizes range from 86” to 90” and fit people up to 6’ 6” tall. Women’s bags have a slightly different cut, wider at the hips, narrower at the shoulders, and have extra insulation in the chest and foot areas.
Winter and Expedition sleeping bags now come with features for drawstring hoods, inner pockets, and front zippers. All designed to keep you warmer depending on the climate you’re headed into.
Adventures into the coldest parts of our globe can yield the most beautiful vistas, the most pristine snow-capped views, and feelings of happiness and accomplishment. However, they can turn into a dangerous survival situation quickly if you embark with less than adequate gear.
Your sleeping gear should be designed well enough for the temperatures that you’re able to get a good night’s sleep, not just stay alive through the night. If you’re new to cold weather camping, make sure to do your research and consider going with a partner or tour company that can provide safety tips and gear recommendations.
We hope this list of the best sleeping bags for cold weather camping help guide you in your search for the perfect sleeping bag! When cold weather kicks up, the right sleeping bag is arguably the best ammunition for a good night’s sleep.
Also, if you’re in need of a tent suitable for winter camping, I’d recommend checking out our article on the best tents for cold weather camping for some great options.
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