For backpacking, a certain kind of sleeping bag is definitely advisable. A backpacking sleeping bag should be, first and foremost, a lightweight sleeping bag. You have to remember that when you’re backpacking you are carrying everything that you’re using on your back, sometimes for long stretches of time. Most backpackers resign themselves to the huge, 40 pound plus backpacks that seem to be common, but it doesn’t have to be like that. There are many backpackers that get the total weight of their backpack down below 10 pounds, minus the food and water, and they do that by getting lightweight versions of their gear, like a lightweight sleeping bag, for instance. You might end up spending a little more, but your legs and back will be thankful you made the upgrade after a long day of backpacking.
Backpacking Sleeping BagWhat to look for when you are shopping for a new backpacking Sleeping Bag.
- Temperature Rating – You should always pay attention to the kinds of temperatures that you will be backpacking in, and plan accordingly. Ideally, your sleeping bag would be the perfect temperature rating for the conditions you’re going in to, but it never quite works out like that. Better to go with a sleeping bag that is a little too warm, and then if it gets cold, you can throw on a few layers to stay toasty warm.
- Down Quality – You always have the choice of using synthetic insulation for your sleeping bag, but when it comes to backpacking a big consideration is weight, and a down sleeping bag is almost always going to be lighter than a synthetic sleeping bag with the same temperature rating. But even within the world of down sleeping bags, higher quality down gives more insulating power than lower quality stuff, meaning you save on weight in the end.
Best Backpacking Sleeping BagThe very best backpacking sleeping bags, across a range of temperature ratings.
- Western Mountaineering HighLite Sleeping Bag - Starting at the warmer end of the spectrum, there is the HighLite, with a minimum temperature rating of 35 degrees. It's an ideal temperature rating for summer camping or backpacking, but probably not any other season. It uses 850+ fill down, which is a very high quality of down, and the medium weighs exactly 1 pound, or 453 grams. A great sleeping bag and a great weight for summer backpackers.
- Marmot Plasma +30 Sleeping Bag - With a slightly warmer minimum temperature of 30 degrees, the Plasma is more of a 3 season sleeping bag, provided the falls and springs in your area aren't especially cold. It also won the 2011 Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice award, in part because of things like 900+ fill down, which is the really high quality stuff. The lightweight, high quality down is offset by a few extra features, like a draft collar, so that the weight balances out at 1.38 pounds, or 630 grams, which is lightweight, but not amazingly so.
- Mont Bell U.L. Super Spiral #1 Sleeping Bag - Another sleeping bag, this one with a minimum temperature rating of 15 degrees, making it ideal for cooler summers, spring, fall and even mild winter temperatures. The outer material is nylon with DWR treatment, to help protect the 800+ fill down from moisture. One thing that stands out about Mont Bell's sleeping bags is their unique, coiled construction technique, which helps to add a bit of warmth without adding weight. The bag weighs 2.25 pounds, which is 1020 grams.