Find Lightweight Sleeping Bags with the features you're looking for.
How Much Lighter are Lightweight Sleeping Bags?Sleeping Bags, together with backpacks and tents, are part of the 'Big Three', the three items that will weigh the most in the typical backpack. Which means that considering lightweight sleeping bags will go a long way towards lightening your load. And as you can see at the list of sleeping bags the average sleeping bag is not the lightest piece of gear. Take for example the Marmot Trestles sleeping bag, which is a bag rated to 0 °F, weighing 2401 grams, or 5.3 pounds. The Mont Bell U.L. Spiral Down Hugger #0 on the other hand is another 0 °F sleeping bag that manages to weigh only 1162 grams, or 2.5 pounds....
- Marmot Trestles - 2401 grams / 5.3 pounds
- Mont Bell U.L. Spiral Down Hugger #0 - 1162 grams / 2.5 pounds
The Features of Lightweight Sleeping Bags
- Down Sleeping Bags - Down is almost always going to be the fill material of choice for lightweight sleeping bags. And there are many different qualities of down, known as the fill power. The Mont Bell sleeping bag I referenced above, for example, has a fill power of 800+, which means that the down in that bag will loft more than say 600+ down, which means you'll be warmer for the same amount of weight. The highest fill power sleeping bags I've seen is 950+ from Nunatak, but perhaps it could go even higher? (genetically modified geese perhaps?)
- Quilt Sleeping Bag - One of the more innovative features of lightweight sleeping bags is the quilt sleeping bag. A quilt sleeping bag is, as you might have guessed, a sleeping bag without a bottom. Either side of the quilt will usually have straps which, in conjunction with your sleeping pad, keep the quilt lashed down and you toasty warm. You can see, for example, the GoLite UltraLite 1+ Season Quilt.
- Clothing as Insulation - Another way to lighten the load is to take a lightweight sleeping bag that has a temperature rating that is slightly inadequate for the weather that you're expecting on your trip. You can then supplement the warmth of the sleeping bag by wearing some or even all of your clothing. You wont smell nice at the end of the trip, but your backpack will be that much lighter.
- Pair with a Bivy Bag - Similar to the clothing idea above, you pair your sleeping bag with a lightweight bivy bag, giving you an extra bit of insulation and raising the temperature inside your sleeping bag.
- Half Length Sleeping Bags - There are a few manufacturers that make sleeping bags that are less than full length. The idea is that you keep your lower body warm with the sleeping bag and wear a well insulated jacket to keep your upper body warm, which makes your insulating jacket a dual use item. There aren't too many of these being made, but to see what's available, check out the list of lightweight sleeping bags.
Drawbacks of Lightweight Sleeping BagsSome of the various features of lightweight sleeping bags have the potential to leave you a little cold at night, should you fail to plan properly. Using clothing as insulation, for instance, means that you have to keep a careful eye on the weather report before you go. If the weather took an unexpected turn someone with a better insulated sleeping bag would be able to put their clothes on to stay warm, whereas you're already wearing your clothes as part of your sleep system, and don't have that extra buffer. Also, down is a great insulator, but when wet performs badly compared to synthetic sleeping bags. When using a down sleeping bag, you have to take extra care to remain dry.
Like most pieces of lightweight backpacking gear, lightweight sleeping bags are less forgiving of mistakes than the heavier sleeping bags. But with a little knowledge and experience, you can avoid the mistakes and enjoy lightweight sleeping bags.