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
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:
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.