Most people put their camping and backpacking gear away when the weather starts to turn cold, but there’s no reason to avoid the outdoors in the winter, provided that you have the proper gear. One of the more important items to have at your disposal are cold weather sleeping bags. They have a lower minimum temperature, ideally close to the average temperature for the area and season you plan to go backpacking or camping in. That way, you stay warm, even in cold weather.
Cold Weather Sleeping BagsFeatures to be aware of when shopping for cold weather sleeping bags.
- Insulation Type – When it comes to cold weather camping you always have to worry about the wet conditions that so often accompany the colder months of the year. Down is a fantastic insulation, but its one weakness is that it performs very poorly when wet. If you can keep down dry then it’s the best choice, but if not, synthetic insulation is the next best thing.
- Minimum Temperature – The last thing you want to have to go through when backpacking or camping is a night spent shivering inside a sleeping bag that isn’t warm enough for the conditions you are in. There are things you can do to add warmth, like a sleeping bag liner or extra clothing worn to bed, but nothing beats a sleeping bag with a proper temperature rating.
Best Cold Weather Sleeping BagsA few of the better cold weather sleeping bags, at a few different temperature points.
- Rab Expedition 1200 Sleeping Bag - The Expedition 1200 is the lightest sleeping bag at the -40 temperature mark, at 70.5 ounces, or 2 kilograms, and a fantastic sleeping bag for when things get really, truly cold. It uses 850+ fill down, and plenty of it, along with a draft collar, a drawcord around the face and a few other features to keep you warm. It's a fairly tight fit inside the bag, but there is enough room for most people to wear a few extra layers, should the temperature get even lower.
- Mont Bell U.L. Super Spiral Down EXP - With a minimum temperature of -20, this is a fantastic sleeping bag for very cold conditions. The bag uses 800+ fill down and a big, thick draft collar, among other things, to help keep all the warm air inside the sleeping bag. The outside of the bag is also water repellent, so that you don't have to worry about the down inside getting wet. Mont Bell also employs a diagonal cut on their sleeping bags, which helps them to coil around you, adding even more warmth. The bag weighs 3 pounds 7 ounces, or 1.55 kilograms, making it one of the lighter sleeping bags at the -20 temperature mark.
- Mountain Hardwear Phantom - The Phantom is one of the lighter sleeping bags at the very popular 0 degree minimum temperature. It uses 800+ fill down for insulation, and has all the usual features, like a draft collar and zipper insulation tube, that you would expect on a cold weather sleeping bag. And at 2 pounds 10 ounces, or 1.2 kilograms, it's lighter than many other, much colder sleeping bags.