If you’re brave enough to camp in the winter, having the right winter camping sleeping bag can make all the difference. Finding a sleeping bag that is durable, portable, and most importantly, warm, is essential for getting a good night’s sleep outdoors.
Quite a few factors determine whether or not a sleeping bag is desirable for winter. When you’re shopping for winter camping sleeping bags, you’ll see terms like temperature rating, shoulder girth, and down insulation. We’re here to walk you through what these terms mean.
Keep reading to learn all about what you should consider when buying a new sleeping bag for cold-weather camping. At the end of this post, we’ll share a few of our top winter camping sleeping bag picks, and we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about these products.
Winter Camping Sleeping Bag Buyer’s Guide
The first number you should look at when shopping for a new winter camping sleeping bag is its EN (European Norm) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization) ratings. These are the standardized methods for rating the warmth of sleeping bags.
Many sleeping bag listings have a comfort, limit, and extreme rating. Winter camping sleeping bag temperature ratings fall between 0 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Learn more about sleeping bag temperature ratings and all the specifics you need to consider when deciphering them.
The most important takeaway from temperature ratings is they’re not foolproof–you also need to consider your internal body temperature because everyone’s different. Several variables can make a winter camping sleeping bag comfortable or uncomfortable, such as clothing or blankets.
Choosing a winter sleeping bag that fits your body type is crucial to ensuring a good night’s sleep. Sleeping bags come in different sizes and shapes, so always check the bag’s measurements before making your purchase.
A sleeping bag’s length should be a little longer than your height. You want five to eight extra inches because when we lay flat, our spines decompress and cause our bodies to spread out. It’s also nice to be able to stretch in your sleeping bag.
You don’t want your sleeping bag to be too long, because heat will escape—and that’s the last thing you want in winter. You also don’t want a sleeping bag to be too short because you’ll compress the insulation, so it won’t be as effective.
The shoulder is the sleeping bag’s circumference across the shoulders. Women’s sleeping bags tend to be narrower than men’s.
Men’s sleeping bags usually range between 58 and 66 inches, and women’s sleeping bags usually range from 56 to 60 inches.
Hip girth is the sleeping bag’s circumference across the hips. Women’s sleeping bags tend to have larger hip girths (around 60 inches) compared to men’s sleeping bags (around 58 inches) to accommodate the female body’s wider hips.
Winter camping sleeping bags tend to be heavier than summer sleeping bags to account for the extra insulation required to keep warm. If you are backpacking in the wintertime, you will have to consider this.
Ultralight sleeping bags designed for backpacking tend to be narrower and less insulated. If you decide to buy a lighter-weight sleeping bag, you could bring extra blankets and wear winter layers. You could also backpack with a hot tent.
Sleeping bags can be insulated with either down or synthetic materials. Here’s an overview of the differences between these insulation types.
Down is created with the feathers of a goose or duck, and it is the warmest insulation material available. Down-insulated sleeping bags are durable, lightweight, and compressible.
The biggest problem with Down-insulated sleeping bags is they do not insulate well when wet, which can be a problem in snowy or rainy environments.
Some winter sleeping bags are treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) to offer water resistance. These sleeping bags are treated with a water-resistant coating that prevents the bag from clumping. It does help, although it’s not going to be as good as a wet synthetic-insulated sleeping bag.
Another drawback of Down is some people are allergic to it. If you’ve ever experienced itchiness after using a sleeping bag, it was probably a down sleeping bag, and you likely have a down allergy.
Synthetic sleeping bags are usually made from polyester and dry quickly. These sleeping bags insulate well even when wet. They are also hypoallergenic and less expensive than down.
The biggest drawbacks of synthetic insulation are they are heavier and bulkier than Down, and they are less durable. Their insulation wears down each time the back is stuffed into its stuff pack.
Synthetic/down blends are offered in some winter camping sleeping bags. This assembly provides the sleeping bag with the benefits of Down’s warmth and synthetic water resistance.
These insulation blends are warmer than synthetic alone and more water-resistant than Down alone. However, they are not as water-resistant as synthetic alone. They’re also heavier and bulkier than down alone.
A sleeping bag’s shape can impact how warm it is and what kind of night’s sleep you’ll get while winter camping. The sleeping bag’s weight is also impacted by its shape. These are the four basic sleeping bag shapes.
Rectangular sleeping bags, as the name suggests, are shaped like a rectangle from head to toe. These sleeping bags are roomy and allow plenty of room to stretch. They also tend to be the most budget-friendly shape of sleeping bags.
The mummy shape is what we see most commonly in winter camping sleeping bags. This is because of its narrow shape designed to retain more heat. Mummy sleeping bags are also lighter-weight and more packable, so they’re a good choice for backpackers and hikers.
Sometimes called the modified mummy or barrel shape, a semi-rectangular sleeping bag offers a mix of a rectangular room and mummy warmth.
If you’re winter camping with a partner, a double sleeping bag is a great choice for snuggling (and there’s no better way to stay warm than to borrow a partner’s body heat). You could also buy rectangular sleeping bags that are designed to zip together.
Some single campers prefer double sleeping bags because they offer more room to stretch and move around. Double sleeping bags are also ideal for campers who are too large to fit in a standard-sized sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags all have different features. Review the following features when selecting your new winter camping sleeping bag.
Winter camping sleeping bags often have hoods, which are designed to retain more heat around your head. Hoods usually have a drawcord so you can tighten or loosen it as needed.
Number of Zippers
Some sleeping bags have multiple zippers, and these sleeping bags make it easier to ventilate the bag as needed. Since winter temperatures can fluctuate quite rapidly in places, having a sleeping bag that allows for ventilation can come in handy.
If you buy a sleeping bag with just one zipper, pay attention to its location (especially if you’re a side sleeper). Side sleepers who sleep on their right should choose a right-sided zipper, and those who sleep on their left should choose a left-sided zipper.
If you’re someone who sleeps on your back or sits up before you get out of your sleeping bag, you won’t care which side the zipper is on.
Zipper guards to prevent snagging can also come in handy because there’s nothing more annoying than a stuck zipper.
You can never have enough pockets when camping. Many sleeping bags come with stash pockets, so you can secure your phone, tablet, or other small items while you sleep. You can also use stash pockets to store extra items if you’re backpacking.
Winter camping sleeping bags often come with draft collars, a tube of fabric filled with down. They are located just below the hood of a sleeping bag and designed to wrap around your chest and shoulders like a collar to prevent warm air from escaping.
Stuff Sack or Storage Bag
Most sleeping bags come with some kind of stuff sack or storage bag. It’s worth paying attention to the quality of this bag or sack since some can be flimsy and that can make putting your sleeping bag away a challenge.
The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass is the most inclusive winter sleeping bag on the market. It’s also available in a Women’s variety. Both the men’s and women’s sleeping bags come in regular and long options, so everyone’s taken care of with this winter camping sleeping bag!
- 0 Degree Fahrenheit Temperature Rating
- Lengths ranging from 68 inches to 78 inches
- All the best winter sleeping bag features—draft collar, Mummy cut, down insulation
- Bulky and heavy for backpacking
Best Double Sleeping Bag
If you’re looking for a double sleeping bag with your partner, look no further than the TETON Sports Tracker. This sleeping bag is easy to compress and comes with zipper draft tubes with added insulation in the footboxes. It also comes with a durable compression sack for stuffing your sleeping bag.
- Five Degree Fahrenheit Temperature Rating
- Soft and comfortable
- Double zippers, so each partner can vent their side as needed
- Small zippers
- Weighs eight pounds—heavy for backpacking
Best for Backpacking
You don’t have to sacrifice portability for warmth with the Sea to Summit Spark Ultralight 5F Sleeping Bag. This unisex winter sleeping bag comes in regular and long options, weighing between one lb 15 oz and two lbs three oz. Its down insulation has baffles to keep it in place to prevent it from bunching up.
- Five Degree Fahrenheit Temperature Rating
- Packs up small
- Lightweight compression bag and storage cell included
- Not as durable as other winter sleeping bags
Cold Weather Camping Sleeping Bags Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between men’s, women’s, and unisex winter camping sleeping bags?
A men’s sleeping bag is the same thing as a unisex sleeping bag. They are also sometimes simply referred to as adult sleeping bags.
Women’s sleeping bags are typically shorter than men’s. They’re also narrower in the shoulders and wider in the hips than a men’s or unisex bag.
How does the shell of a winter sleeping bag impact its durability?
Cheaper winter sleeping bags are often made with nylon or polyester, which are breathable but not durable alone. Sleeping bags designed with ripstop fabric—a combination of nylon and polyester—add durability to the bag. Ripstop shells are usually treated with a DWR finish.
Dryloft, Pertex, and Membrane are also durable shell materials, which include microfiber and waterproof and breathable components.
Wrapping up the Best Winter Camping Sleeping Bags
You’re ready to brave the cold weather with any of these sleeping bags. If you’re looking for the most versatile bag, so the whole family can be warm and cozy, buy the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass. However, all three of these winter sleeping camping choices are fantastic choices.
Looking for more cold-weather camping tips and tricks? Check out our Winter Camping section.
- About the Author
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Nicole Kinkade grew up in campgrounds in the Midwest with her family in their RV and has many fond memories around the campfire. She and her husband took many tent camping trips at the beginning of their relationship, and she looks forward to sharing the outdoors with her young son as he gets older.
She loves discovering new camping techniques and sharing them with the world. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Media Communication, she is a passionate writer who loves sharing her knowledge online.
Nicole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org