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The Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags


There are many more options for lightweight sleeping bags than in the past, but we are all so different. Some can't sleep in a mummy bag. Others can sleep in anything that is enclosed. Some won't be gentle enough to use a fragile high-tech bag, while others seem to make their gear last forever. Ray Jardine swears by his hand-made quilts, but many of us don't have the time nor skill to sew.

There is no one answer to which lightweight sleeping bag is best. Some of us will need two or three different ones for different situations. One of the big choices is whether to go with a down or synthetic bag. You'll find pages with more information on both types listed at the bottom of this page. Of course, until I get that bag-testing gig (any offers?) I can't personally try out too many sleeping bags. I have used the Western Mountaineering HighLite, which I highly recommend.

There are many places in the U.S. to buy good sleeping bags and pads, and you'll find my recommendations scattered throughout the pages of the site.

Lightweight Down Sleeping Bags

Down is lighter as an insulation. People have been speculating for decades that we are just about to see a new synthetic material that, ounce-for-ounce, insulates as well as down, but it hasn't happened yet. Down bags are much more compressible than the synthetic ones, so they take noticeably less space in the pack. They also can be rejuvenated by throwing them in the dryer with a shoe. This "fluffs" up the down. I have seen 30-year-old down sleeping bags that have virtually all of their original loft after a treatment like this.

You might think now that a down bag is the ultimate lightweight sleeping bag. Well...maybe. The primary problem with down is that it is worthless when wet. This can be a serious problem. I have been through a week of rain, camping under a tarp, and managed to keep my down bag dry. But I had to be very careful. Also, down will sometimes leak out, especially if you tear a seam.

Lightweight Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Good lightweight synthetic sleeping bags take abuse well, and they keep insulating even if they are wet. The well-designed ones are getting very close in weight to down bags. They still take a lot more space in your pack, however, and the insulation always breaks down after a few years. They are so worry-free while they are relatively new, though. It is a tough choice.

Here are some related pages that you might find useful:

My Ultralight Sleeping Bag - What I'm using now, and what is available out there. There is actually a synthetic summer bag that weighs only 17 ounces. That's lightweight.

My Five-Ounce Sleeping Bag - My story of a cold night in a warm 5-ounce sleeping bag.

Sleeping Pads - Options, and how to go without, if you are traveling really light.

Sleeping Bag Ratings - Temperature ratings by manufacturer? Is there a better way?

The Secrets of Staying Warm - Knowing how to keep yourself warm keeps you safe and lets you go with even lighter lightweight sleeping bags.

Lightweight Backpacking Equipment - A 2011 update on the lightest backpacking gear, including some information on a 12-ounce bag.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Lightweight Sleeping Bags