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Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to give up camping: Technology, especially fabric tech, has come a long way, and packing for a cold-weather trip isn’t all bulky wool socks and massive down sleeping bags. Speaking of, nothing is worse than being inadequately prepared for a cold winter night: A good night’s sleep, after all, is what reenergizes a tired brain and body — and if you’re losing heat all night with a poor quality sleeping bag for the situation, you won’t feel rested and up for the next day's physical and mental rigors. If you’re in extreme cold, having the right sleeping bag with proper insulation can even mean the difference between life and death.
The hard part is figuring out which is the right sleeping bag for you. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work and rounded up the best cold-weather sleeping bags out there, from plush down ones to weather-resistant synthetic ones. (All temperatures are listed out in Fahrenheit, by the way — though keep in mind that these ratings assume the sleeper is using a pad under the bag and is sleeping in weather-appropriate attire.) Read on to see which ones made our list.
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If you like to make sure head heat loss is protected overnight by your sleeping bag, Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom Torch 3 is a fantastic all-rounder winter bag — though it’s admittedly a bit pricey. Although it doesn’t excel in any particular category, it does everything extremely well and has six chambers in its hood, so you’re kept consistently warm all night long, and the draft collar helps keep warm air from leaking out of the rest of the bag. It weighs just two pounds, 10 ounces, so you can definitely backpack with it, but the 800-fill-power goose down keeps trekkers warm down to 3 degrees.
If you tend to incur a bit of wear and tear during your expeditions, this bag has you covered: The 10D Bright Filament Cire Plain Weave outer shell is super durable and does a great job of repelling water to boot, keeping sleepers dry even in snowy conditions. It packs down into a nylon compression sack for backpacking and a mesh sack for longer-term storage back at home (the down doesn’t get crushed that way).
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Those who are just starting out with cold-weather camping — or those who just want a bag for a one-off trip — might want to look to budget bags before committing to a more expensive bag (and these bags can get expensive). Kelty is known for high-quality outdoor products at value prices, and the Cosmic fits the bill great with a bag rated down to 5 degrees and a price tag that won’t hurt the wallet.
It’s not going to blow the other bags on this list away, but it does great across the necessary categories (warmth, water resistance, etc.). It might be a bit heavy for some backpackers at a bit more than four pounds, but it’s not impossible to carry around — and so much the better if you’re camping from the car.
We also love the Cosmic’s 550-fill DriDown filling, which is water-resistant (each individual feather is treated to protect against wetness) and super-comfortable to sleep on.
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With 44 ounces of 800-fill-power down, this bag is made for comfortable sleeping — which is critical after multiple long days of trekking in unsavory conditions. Yes, it’s almost a month’s rent, but if you happen to be heading out on a long expedition, it’s worth paying that much for a price this comfortable to lay your head at night. We love how roomy the bag is cut, which allows for tossing and turning as well as layers if you still need a bit extra.
If you happen to like a bit more thickness around the feet, the foot box is plenty cozy. One clever design feature is the glow-in-the-dark zipper pull: Should it happen to get snagged zipping or unzipping, you’ll be able to spot it in the dark relatively easily.
It’s a little bulky, but if it’s packed down well, it’ll easily fit inside a larger pack (around 60 liters) and still have room for other winter clothes and gear.
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Full disclosure: You’ll pay quite a lot for this ultra-warm bag, but it’s worth it if you’re heading into extreme cold. The North Face’s 800-fill-power ProDown Inferno bag is, ironically, rated down to -20 degrees. It’s also full of smart design features — we especially love the interior pocket, so you don’t have to take your hands out of the bag to grab essential items like cell phones or flashlights.
Its trapezoidal baffle is also handy: It’s designed to keep sleepers from scooching down as they sleep. The center zipper is also a unique feature, which makes shimmying in and out of the bag easier for both right- and left-handers, and allows any ventilation via unzippering to be distributed evenly across the torso rather than just drafting in through one side.
We also like that the hood drawstrings are textured differently than other pulls on the bag, so they’re easy to cinch more tightly or loosen in the dark. The bag comes with both a compression and storage sack for when you’re out in the wild — or back home from it.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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If you’re going to be camping in high to mid-winter temps (around 25 degrees or so) and you’re expecting wet weather or taking off to a rainy climate, Big Agnes’ Boot Jack bag is treated for maximum water protection. The water-resistant shell is a hugely effective first barrier to moisture, but that’s not all the company does well. Inside the lining, even the bag’s insulation has been specially treated to keep rain and wetness out: Big Agnes uses a special water repellant so you stay dry inside and out. We also love the mummy shape of the bag — all the better for insulation — and a size that packs down small, so bringing it along is the furthest thing from a hassle.
Sleeping in this bag feels like you’re ensconced in your favorite down comforter, and when you’re back home from the trip, it’s easy to air out thanks to its exterior loops.
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If you’re not heading out on an expedition — and don’t want to drop almost a month’s worth of rent on a sleeping bag for it — but tend to take three- and four-day trips out in the cold outdoors, Rab’s Ascent 900 bag is a solid pick, and it’s rated down to 0 degrees. The price tag is in the middle of the road for cold-weather bags, and the Ascent holds up its end of the bargain when it comes to value.
We like the roominess of the bag — side, stomach, back, and whatever-else sleepers all have room to move about — and the almost 32 ounces of 650-fill-power duck down is toasty without being overbearingly hot. Plus, a trapezoidal baffle design does away with the cold pockets that can pop up in other bags.
This means, however, that the bag is on the heavy side, which is why we wouldn’t recommend it for expeditions or longer trips. But if you’re camping from the car, going on a trip that’s just a couple of days, or staying in a base camp, this is a solid pick.
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This 850-fill duck down bag is designed for super-cold weather — it’s rated to around 0 degrees — but it has a small blessing for those who sleep hot: Nemo’s Thermo Gills zip down to let airflow come in and wash over your core as you sleep. It’s great if you tend to wake up hot in your sleeping bag as temperatures rise around dawn and beyond, keeping you comfortable up to 20 degrees.
The Sonic is also pretty roomy, which is great for those who don’t just sleep hot, but toss and turn as they try to sleep. We also love how small this bag packs down, even if we have to pay a bit more for the convenience‚ and it only clocks in at about 2 pounds, 10 ounces. One extra design feature makes this bag really great: The pulls for the hood drawstrings have a different feel to them, so you can adjust the tightness easily even in the pitch black night.
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If packing light is your ultimate concern — whether you just don’t like unnecessary baggage or are an ultralight backpacker — this is one of the lightest bags for cold-weather camping that exists. It weighs just two pounds, one ounce, which is practically unheard of for a sleeping bag, but it will keep sleepers warm down to 10 degrees. We have to say: The premium goose down this bag uses is one of the comfiest around — it’s hard not to get a good night’s sleep with this lining the bag, and the breathability enhancements (interlocking draft tubes, a genius collar design) help keep air going while backpackers remain warm and cozy inside.
We like the various lengths for this bag, too, which get much more specific than the usual regular and long sizings: Short is for those five feet, six inches and shorter (and weighs less than two pounds); and there are also medium and long lengths. It’s a durable bag, too, thanks to Western Mountaineering’s ExtremeLite shell that uses taffeta inside for a bit more durability.