The Best Winter Sleeping Bags for Cold Weather Camping in 2020

Two Campers Sit in Winter Sleeping Bags

Camping in the winter can be cold, very cold.

In addition to a winter tent, no other piece of winter camping gear is as critical to staying warm as a winter sleeping bag.

We’ve reviewed the best cold weather sleeping bags available now. We focus on temperature rating, insulation, comfort, packed size/weight, and durability to narrow down your choices to just a handful of the very best. We then sort down our top choices by best application: winter camping, winter backpacking, mountaineering, and so on.

Here is exactly how to choose the best cold weather sleeping bag for 2020.

Table of Contents

  1. Best Winter Sleeping Bags
  2. Winter Sleeping Bag Buyer’s Guide
  3. Care, Maintenance, and Repair
  4. Winter Sleeping Bag Accessories
  5. Other Ways to Stay Warm

7 Best Winter Sleeping Bags for 2020

Here are the 7 best sleeping bags for winter camping in 2020:

1. Best Overall: Nemo Sonic 0

NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag

$499.95  in stock
Buy Now
Rei.com
as of December 10, 2019 12:33 am

The Nemo Sonic 0 is a full-featured winter sleeping bag that’s so comfortable you’ll think you’re sleeping at home!

This mummy bag features a wide cut, wider than any others we reviewed. The extra space makes this an excellent winter sleeping bag for those that demand a little extra wiggle room at night. The bag is comfortable for side, back, and stomach sleeping. Despite the extra room, the sleeping bag is very lightweight. However, the spacious design does mean that the bag isn’t as well insulated as others in its price range.

The Sonic 0 is rated down to 0°F. It’s filled with 850 powder down. A big hood and tight-sealing draft collars further help increase warmth. Unique zippered vents allow you to better ventilate the bag on warmer nights, thereby increasing its versatility. 40-denier ripstop on the footbox and 20-denier ripstop on the rest of the bag ensure durability.

What We Like:

  • Spacious
  • Very Lightweight
  • Lots of Features

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not as Well-Insulated as Other Models

2. Best for Mountaineers: Marmot Col -20

Marmot Col Sleeping Bag

$699.00  in stock
Buy Now
Rei.com
as of December 10, 2019 12:33 am

The Marmot Col -20 is one of the warmest and most weatherproof winter sleeping bags available today.

It’s rated for temperatures down to -20°F. Yet, it’s not only warm, but it’s also extremely packable. It’s the ideal choice for winter backpacking where space is at a premium. 800-fill down, a draft tube and collar, and insulated hood all provide superior warmth while a waterproof shell keeps moisture at bay.

The Col -20 is also notable for its roominess. Although it’s a mummy bag, it’s very spacious and comfortable. Yet this spaciousness does little if anything to sacrifice insulation. This winter sleeping bag is all but unmatched for long winter camping expeditions.

What We Like:

  • Very Warm
  • Most Weather Hesitant
  • Small Packed Size

What We Don’t Like:

  • Heavy & Expensive

3. Best for Winter Backpackers: Western Mountaineering 10

Western Mountaineering 10 Sleeping Bag

$605.00  in stock
5 new from $605.00
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of December 11, 2019 7:09 pm

The Western Mountaineering 10 is warm, lightweight, and packs down very small.

It boasts 850-fill down for an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. It also compresses easily for superior packing. In fact, this is one of the lightest winter sleeping bags around. That said, it’s still not restrictive (although it is narrower than other models). Additional highlights include a wide raft collar, well-fitting hood with drawstring, and snag-free zipper.

Although this Western Mountaineering bag is a great choice for all winter campers, it’s most ideal for long-distance winter backpacking where lightweight is a prime concern.

What We Like:

  • Lightweight
  • High Warmth-to-Weight Ratio
  • Snag-Free Zipper

What We Don’t Like:

  • Shallow Hood

4. Best for Casual Winter Camping: Marmot Sawtooth 15

Marmot Sawtooth 15 Sleeping Bag

$239.00  in stock
Buy Now
Rei.com
as of December 10, 2019 12:33 am

The Marmot Sawtooth 15 is an excellent winter sleeping bag for casual campers looking for something that is reasonably priced but not lacking in performance.

Although it’s not quite as warm as others on our list, the 650 down powder does a good keeping you warm at night. Throw in a number of features designed to make the bag easier to use and more comfortable, like anti-snag zippers and a wrap-around footbox, and it’s easy to see why this bag is so popular.

Remember that although this winter sleeping bag works well for casual winter camping, it’s not warm enough for serious winter conditions. The trade-off is that you won’t get sweated out nearly as much if you use this bag in spring or fall.

What We Like:

  • Affordable
  • Reasonably Warm
  • Anti-Snag Zippers

What We Don’t Like:

  • Least Warm On Our List

5. Best on a Budget: Mountain Hardware Lamina Z Torch

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch

 out of stock
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of December 11, 2019 7:09 pm

The Mountain Hardware Lamina Z Torch is the best winter sleeping bag for those on a budget.

Not only is this sleeping bag notable for its affordable price, but also for the level of performance it provides at these markdown rates. It utilizes ThermalQ synthetic insulation, zoned insulation, an ergonomic draft collar, well-fitting hood, and mummy bag cut for maximum warmth and insulation. It’s rated down to 5°F.

Despite its low temperature rating, this cold weather sleeping bag isn’t suitable for very cold conditions. It’s best for more casual winter camping more than anything. It’s certainly not suitable for winter backpacking or mountaineering where extreme conditions are expected.

What We Like:

  • Affordable
  • Reasonably Warm
  • Weather-Resistant Exterior

What We Don’t Like:

  • Zipper Prone to Snagging

6. Best Two-Person: Big Agnes King Solomon 15

Big Agnes King Solomon 15 Double Sleeping Bag

$429.95  out of stock
Buy Now
Rei.com
as of December 10, 2019 12:33 am

The Big Agnes King Solomon 15 is a two-person bag that takes the cake as the best double sleeping bag for winter camping.

Although it’s not suitable for backpacking or mountaineering, it’s still quite lightweight for its bulky design. Better yet, it’s very well-insulated and stays warm in temperatures down to 15°F despite its roomy interior. A draft collar and dual hoods with drawstrings kick warmth up another notch.

A double sleeping bag is ideal for couplers that like to sleep under the same blanket or solo campers with a small child. Although there’s not many options available, there’s no denying the King Solomon 15 comes out on top.

What We Like:

  • Fits 2 People
  • Wide & Long
  • Warm & Well-Insulated

What We Don’t Like:

  • Bulky & Heavy

7. Best for Women: Marmot Women’s Ouray 0

Marmot Women's Ouray 0 Sleeping Bag

$309.00  in stock
Buy Now
Rei.com
as of December 10, 2019 12:33 am

The Marmot Women’s Ouray 0 is the ideal winter sleeping bag for women thanks to its smaller size and extra insulation.

Because women are usually a little smaller than men, and also sleep colder than men, this winter sleeping bag is a little shorter, narrower, and better insulated than the men’s version of the same model. It’s cut for a women’s body (narrower in the shoulders, wider in the hips) for the absolute best insulation possible.

The Women’s Ouray 0 utilizes 650-fill duck down with a multi-baffle hood, down-filled collar, and draft tube for even better insulation and worth. Other notable features are the anti-snag zipper and wraparound footbox. Not only is this one of the best cold weather sleeping bags for women, but it’s a good option for smaller men and children as well.

What We Like:

  • Small Size
  • Increased Insulation
  • Snag-Free Zipper

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not As Light as Similarly-Sized Models

Winter Sleeping Bag Buyer’s Guide

Yellow Winter Sleeping Bag on Snow

Cold weather sleeping bags might look all the same, but there are actually a ton of variations between models. That’s why a little knowledge of the key components and features goes a long ways towards making the best purchase for you.

Here’s what you need to know to buy the best winter sleeping bag:

Temperature Rating

A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is the manufacturer’s recommendation of the lowest outdoor temperature in which the bag will remain comfortable for the average user.

It’s important to select a bag with a temperature rating as low or lower than the coldest conditions you’ll encounter while winter camping. Around 10°F lower is a good baseline.

Know that temperature rating varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Although the majority of brands use the European Norm (EN) 13537 Testing Protocol, it’s far from a worldwide standard.

Insulation Type

Your options for insulation for winter sleeping bags include down (duck or goose), water-resistant down, and synthetic insulation.

The insulation is what traps your body heat inside the bag at night. It directly influences temperature rating and warmth. Although each type has its own benefits, water-resistant down is best for winter camping thanks to its excellent warmth-to-weight ratio.

Shape

Unless you’re camping in mild winter conditions, a mummy sleeping bag is the way to go.

The streamlined shape of a mummy bag cuts down on weight while simultaneously adding warmth and insulation. They provide the most heating efficiency of any shape.

Size and Weight

For winter backpacking, and often mountaineering, a lightweight and packable winter sleeping bag is a must.

A winter mummy bag filled with down insulation is probably your best bet for a lightweight sleeping bag that packs down small while still providing great heating efficiency.

Construction and Materials

Ripstop nylon and polyester are the most popular materials for the shell of a winter sleeping bag. High denier fabrics are best. The shell must be waterproof and treated with a DWR finish.

The most common inner lining material for cold weather sleeping bags is polyester (or, sometimes, nylon taffeta) since it is soft and breathable.

Another important factor to consider is insulation construction. Or, how the insulation is held into place between the outer and inner layer. Most winter sleeping bags utilize baffle insulation. These are the seams running across the outside of the bag. The goal is to keep the insulation in one place so it doesn’t shift around at night.

Additional Features

Important additional features that can make a cold weather sleeping bag warmer and more comfortable include:

  • Hood – A hood that cinches up tight around your head for added warmth.
  • Draft Collar – An insulated ring around the opening of the sleeping bag to limit the amount of cold air that enters.
  • Draft Tube – An insulated tube that extends along your zipper to prevent cold air from getting inside.
  • Foot Box – The space at the bottom of a sleeping bag. Look for a more spacious footbox if you sleep on your sides or turn over a lot at night.
  • Zippers – Strong, robust zippers are ideal for winter camping.

Winter Sleeping Bag Care, Maintenance, and Repair

Man in Sleeping Bag Outside in Snow in Front of Tent

Proper care and maintenance greatly extends the life of a winter sleeping bag. Here’s how to care for and maintain a sleeping bag:

On the Trail

Keep your sleeping bag as clean as possible. I typically wear a separate set of socks and underwear in my bag at night. Shake the sleeping bag out each morning. If possible, let it dry for a few moments in the sun before putting it away.

At Home

Completely air out your winter sleeping bag after each trip. Hang it in a cool, dry place like a garage for multiple days until it’s completely dry. I prefer to store my sleeping bag spread out in this same manner. If space is a limitation, try out a special sleeping bag storage bag.

Cleaning

Avoid deep cleaning your sleeping bag unless absolutely necessary. Spot cleaning, on the other hand, is less harmful. Use a toothbrush and a mixture of laundry detergent and warm water to clean any dirty areas.

If you do need to deep clean a sleeping bag, avoid the dry cleaners. The detergents and solvents they use are too strong and might cause damage. Instead, wash your sleeping bag in the bathtub with warm water. Use a special laundry detergent that’s designed for items filled with down. Massage the bag with your hands to clean and then rinse all the detergent away with warm water.

Work out the excess water with your hands in the tub. Once the bag is as dry as possible, hang dry it for a night or two in a cool, dry place like your garage.

Maintenance

Luckily, the majority of winter sleeping bags are designed to stand up to their fair share of on-the-trail abuse.

If yours does break in the field, say a zipper or small tear, you’ll usually be able to ride out the damages until you get home. That said, a few tape patches like those used for bike tires, can help seal up a tear. If you carry a tent repair kit, you probably have a few of these on hand already. Duct tape also does the job in a pinch – but it can easily result in a sticky mess that causes more harm than good once you get back home.


Best Winter Sleeping Bag Accessories

Woman in Winter Sleeping Bag on Snow

A properly-rated cold weather sleeping bag does a lot to keep you warm while camping in winter. But a few additional pieces of equipment will keep you even warmer!

Here are the most important winter camping accessories to consider:

Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad doesn’t just provide more comfort. It also provides an extra layer of insulation from the cold ground at night.

For winter camping, I recommend doubling up on the sleeping pads. Bring a closed-cell foam pad for insulation and an inflatable air pad for cushion. Or, look into a special insulated sleeping pad with a high R-value.

Camping Cot

Like a sleeping pad, a camping cot can help add extra insulation to your sleep setup. A cot also lifts you up off the cold, and potentially damp, ground. The problem is that cold air will circulate underneath you. If you use a cot for winter camping, then you absolutely need to use a sleeping pad on top as well.

Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner helps keep your bag clean. It works much like a set of sheets for your bed. Simply take them out and wash them at the end of each trip to extend the lifespan of your sleeping bag.

Another winter-specific benefit of a sleeping bag liner is extra insulation. The right liner provides an extra layer of insulation to help keep you even warmer at night. The best for winter camping are made from flannel or Thermolite.

Pillow

A pillow makes camping much more comfortable. They also provide extra insulation and warmth for your head at night. A compressible pillow filled with a soft foam material is better for winter camping than an inflatable air pillow.

Tent Heater

Car camping in extreme cold often necessitates a winter tent heater. These devices usually run on propane and are a great way to heat up your tent in the morning and at night. One of our favorite tent heaters is the Mr. Heater Little Buddy.


Other Ways to Stay Warm While Winter Camping

Winter Backpacker Hiking Uphill in Snow

Your winter camping sleeping bag does a lot to keep you warm. But sometimes, especially in extreme cold, you’ll need a little extra help. Here are some additional tips to stay warm while camping in winter:

Insulation is Key

The key to staying warm while camping in the winter is insulation. This starts with your cold weather sleeping bag itself but also extends to your sleeping pad and sleeping liner. And, to a minor extent, it includes your tent. The more insulation you can add to your winter sleeping setup, the warmer you’ll be at night.

Wear Clothing to Sleep

A thin layer of clothing helps provide a warmer night of sleep. Although any type of clothing will do, your best bet is a clean layer of synthetic clothing, such as long underwear.

The catch is that you don’t want to hinder ventilation. If you wrap up with too much clothing on, you might start sweating. That sweat then has the potential to freeze and lead to a night spent shivering. This is actually why you want to avoid cotton clothing if possible in favor of something that will wick the moisture away from your body.

Hot Water Bottle

One of the worst things about camping in the winter is the first half an hour or so after climbing into your sleeping bag. Once it warms up thanks to your body heat, you’re in the clear, but those first minutes can be excruciatingly cold.

A good solution is a hot water bottle – or even a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water – positioned at the bottom of your bag to help raise the inside temperature more quickly.

Eat Right & Exercise Before Bed

Stay warm while cold camping by eating well throughout the day. Your body will work hard to burn off the food, creating extra heat in the process.

The same goes for eating a midnight snack. As long as bears and other wildlife aren’t an issue where you’re camping, keep a few snacks on hand to eat throughout the night for a boost in metabolism.

Exercise is equally important. A few minutes of exercise right before crawling into your winter sleeping bag will warm you up and heat up your sleeping bag faster. A few jumping jacks work well.

Buddy Up

Body heat is one of the best ways to stay warm while winter camping. If you’re camping with someone you feel comfortable cuddling up next to, the shared warmth works wonders at keeping you warm.

Although sharing the same bag, or trying out a two-person sleeping bag, works well, body heat actually radiates through thick sleeping bags. So, all you really have to do is move your sleeping bags close together and sleep next to each other to reap the rewards of your camping partner’s body heat.


Final Thoughts

Winter Sleeping Bag Hanging on Rope

Staying warm at night is a crucial aspect of camping, no matter the conditions. But it can quickly become a matter of life and death, not just comfort, in the winter.

Take your time to choose the best winter sleeping bag for your needs. Most importantly, look for a model with a temperature rating lower than the coldest temperatures you expect to encounter on your trip.

Still not sure which bag is right for you? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us in the comments below with your questions!

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Jake,

    I really appreciate with good contributions to the sleeping bag, it ‘s very important for campers, especially winter. After reading, I have more knowledge for choosing a new sleeping bag

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