By Michael Lanza

Finding a sleeping bag that’s right for you may be the most confusing gear-buying task. Getting the right one is critical to sleeping comfortably in the backcountry—and in an emergency, your bag could save your life. But with the myriad choices out there, how do you tell them apart, beyond temperature rating and price? This article will explain how to evaluate the key differences between bags to make your choice much more simple.

I’ve slept in many, many bags of all types over more than a quarter-century of testing gear—formerly as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for about 10 years and even longer for this blog. I’ve zipped inside bags in all seasons, in temperatures from ridiculously warm to -30° F. (Ridiculously warm is more tolerable.)

In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about picking out a sleeping bag—or more than one bag—that will be ideal for your body and your adventures.

I’d love to read what you think of my tips or any of your own. Please share them in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

General Tips For Buying a Sleeping Bag

•    Know your own body. Do you get cold easily or are you a furnace? Women tend to get cold more easily, and this is a simple function of physics: Women often have a higher ratio of body surface area to mass compared to men, so their bodies lose heat more readily. Those women are more comfortable in a bag made for women, which is shaped differently than a men’s bag and typically has extra insulation in areas like the feet. However, it also comes down to body metabolism.
•    If you get cold easily, get a bag rated 20 to 25 degrees colder than the coldest temperatures you plan to sleep outside in.
•    People who don’t get cold easily will be more comfortable in a bag rated to within five to 15 degrees of the coldest temperatures you plan to sleep outside in—and possibly even a bag rated right around the coldest temp you’ll encounter, provided you have extra clothing to put on, just in case. (I’ve spent many nights around freezing perfectly warm enough in a bags rated 30-32° F.) Being too hot is not really any more comfortable than being too cold, and having a bag much warmer than needed means you’re carrying superfluous weight and bulk. (See “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.”)

See “10 Pro Tips for Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”

Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30 sleeping bag.
” data-image-caption=”The ultralight and warm Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30 sleeping bag, with 950+-fill down.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Feathered-Friends-Hummingbird-UL-30-lead.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Feathered-Friends-Hummingbird-UL-30-lead.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Feathered-Friends-Hummingbird-UL-30-lead.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30 sleeping bag.” class=”wp-image-40490″ srcset=”https://i2.wp
Did you miss our previous article…
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