One of your most important gear purchases is your sleeping bag. If you’re planning on doing anything more off-grid than car camping, your sleeping bag doesn’t just need to be comfortable– it needs to be able to protect you from dropping temperatures and inclement weather. If you’re an alpine adventurer or do any kind of winter camping, the right sleeping bag is crucial to keeping you alive.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a sleeping bag, These include insulation, budget, and more. One factor that we’ll be discussing today is sleeping bag weight. The good news is that modern insulation and bag materials have made it possible for high-quality sleeping bags to offer great protection and comfort while still being lightweight. We’ll talk about the best options for sleeping bags by weight, but first– how much should your sleeping bag weigh?
Before we talk about the weights for sleeping bags, let’s zoom out and look at how much weight you should be carrying. Experts say that a loaded backpack should weigh no more than around 20% of your body weight. This means that if you’re 150 pounds, you shouldn’t be carrying more than 30 pounds in your pack. You should also consider the weather– it’s better to carry less if you can in hot weather– and trip duration. Longer trips mean packing more food, which takes up a good amount of weight.
It’s also important to remember that your sleeping bag isn’t the only thing you need to carry for sleep. Your sleeping system needs to include a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a pillow. (Some people are fine using their backpack or folded clothes as a pillow– others prefer an inflatable pillow or foam pillow to keep them comfortable.) These can have some weight to them, although it usually isn’t very much. If you have a sleeping pad with a high R-value, you may be able to use a lighter sleeping bag.
How Much Should Your Sleep System Weigh?
Most sleeping bags today weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. You can usually find a pillow that weighs under a half pound, and sleeping pads typically weigh 1 to 2 pounds. For most people, the complete sleep system will weigh between 4 and 7 pounds, and the sleeping bag will be the heaviest component of it.
Average Sleep System Weight
For most people, the complete sleep system will weigh between 4 and 7 pounds, and the sleeping bag will be the heaviest component of it.
Ultralight backpackers tend to keep their entire sleep systems under 4 pounds. When not needing a system for cold environments, or when needing to be ultralight, they will aim for 3 pounds or under.
When all is said and done, weight really is only one component of what goes into choosing a sleeping bag. The most important element of sleeping bag choice is the bag’s performance. Can it keep you safe in the conditions you’ll be sleeping in? If it comes down to saving a couple of ounces or getting better performance, go for the bag that has better performance.
Weight & Relation To Temperature Ratings
It is important to callout, that you need to look for a bag that has the necessary temperature ratings (comfort, not just safety temperatures). Simple put, the warmer the bag, the more insulation it needs, and the heavier it will be. Therefore, if you need a bag that is comfortable at freezing temperatures, know that it will be heavier than a bag rated to temperatures above that.
Sleeping Bag Shape
The shape of your sleeping bag is one of the two major factors that influence its weight. Sleeping bags come in three shapes: Mummy bags, semi-rectangular/barrel bags, and rectangular bags.
Mummy bags are the slimmest and the lightest style of sleeping bag. There’s very little excess material, and the bag fits snugly to the contours of your body. This style of sleeping bag is particularly popular among backpackers and hikers due to its efficient use of space and weight-saving design.
Semi-rectangular bags have a little more space than mummy bags. Also known as a “modified mummy” or “barrel” shape, this designation covers several variations on the theme of a sleeping bag that strikes a sweet compromise between warmth and roominess.
Rectangular sleeping bags offer the most room and are generally the heaviest type of design because of the extra fabric involved in their construction.
Sleeping Bag Insulation
Insulation is the other major factor affecting sleeping bag weight. Today’s sleeping bag market offers two choices: down and synthetic insulation.
Down insulation is the lightest type of insulation, and for a lot of sleeping bag scenarios where weight is the primary concern, down is the best option. Down is extremely lightweight and compresses without compacting too much. While synthetic insulation options are catching up to down, it still remains the finest, lightest insulating material on the planet.
The downside to down is that it performs very poorly when wet. When it’s still on the bird, down is protected by the oily, waterproof outer layer of feathers. The second down gets wet, it stops insulating effectively until it is dry. This is where synthetic insulation gains the advantage– it can still retain some of its insulating properties when wet. If you’re hiking in an area where heavy rain is likely, consider choosing a sleeping bag with synthetic insulation. The extra ounces will be worth it if your sleeping bag gets soaked.
You can find out more about the two insulation types in our complete guide here, and if you’d like even more information, we have a guide to down and PrimaLoft, one of the main down alternatives. But for your convenience, here’s a quick guide to the key differences between down and synthetic insulation.
|Down Insulation||Synthetic Insulation|
|Longevity||Can last 10+ years without losing insulating power||Needs more frequent replacement|
|Packability||Compresses easily and springs back well||Bulkier than down|
|Performance when Wet||Poor– absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry; does not insulate when wet||Provides at least a little insulation when wet; dries quickly|
|Water Resistance||None||Some types water repellent or water-wicking|
|Weight||The lightest insulation||Heavier than down, but can still be very light|
|Price||Expensive||Less expensive than down|
|When to Choose||When weight is the greatest concern, cold weather, high altitudes, winter/4-season sleeping bags||Entry-level gear, 3-season sleeping bags, anywhere wet|
|When Not to Choose||Wet environments||Extremely cold environments|
|Overall Performance||The finest and lightest insulation available.||Versatile, with lots of options and features.|
Sleeping Bag Size
Another important concern is sleeping bag size. Not how big the bag is when you unroll it, but how small you can get it for packing. Sleeping bags that use down insulation or synthetic down insulation can pack down to very small sizes. This is because they’re actually filled with air. See, down and down-like synthetic insulation work by trapping air within tiny fibers. The fibers link and cluster together to form pockets that trap warm air and keep the cold from penetrating through to you. This means that a down or down-like insulation-filled sleeping bag can compress extremely tightly.
However, if your sleeping bag has a different type of synthetic insulation, it may not compress as much. Some synthetic insulation is found in sheets or shaped into cables. This type of insulation has its advantages– it stays in place and is often less expensive– but it isn’t as compressible. If the smallest possible compressed size is important to you, down or down-like synthetic (like PrimaLoft) is the way to go.
Sleeping Bags By Weight
So what does the current crop of sleeping bags look like in regards to weight? We’ve scoured the market for the top 20 lightest sleeping bags and have them here for you, arranged by weight. From ultralight models coming in at a pound and up, here’s your guide to finding the best sleeping bag by weight!
Top 20 Lightest Sleeping Bags
|Model||Weight||Insulation Type||Temp Rating||Price|
|Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 (On Site)||1 lb||Down||32°F||$283|
|Western Mountaineering Highlite (Backcountry)||1 lb||Down||35°F||$405 (6 ft version)|
|Rab Mythic 200||1 lb 1 oz||Down||35°F||$550|
|Sea to Summit Spark 28 (REI)||1 lb 1.3 oz||Down||28°F||$409|
|Montbell Seamless Down Hugger 800 #3||1 lb 2.7 oz||Down||30°F||$339|
|Western Mountaineering SummerLite||1 lb 3 oz||Down||32°F||$470|
|Western Mountaineering Alpinlite 20||1 lb 3 oz||Down||20°F||$645|
|REI Co-Op Magma 30||1 lb 3.8 oz||Down||30°F||$243|
|Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20||1 lb 4 oz||Down||20°F||$549|
|Rab Neutrino 200||1 lb 4.4 oz||Down||30°F||$350|
|Western Mountaineering Caribou MF||1 lb 5 oz||Synthetic||35°F||$425|
|The North Face Gold Kazoo||1 lb 5.2 oz||Down||35°F||$260|
|Feathered Friends Hummingbird 30||1 lb 5.4 oz||Down||30°F||$549.00|
|Rab Mythic Ultra 360||1 lb 5.4 oz||Down||18°F||$740|
|Sierra Designs Nitro 800 35||1 lb 6 oz||Down||27°F||$200|
|Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30||1 lb 6.3 oz||Down||30°F||$480|
|Feathered Friends Swallow YF||1 lb 7 oz||Down||30°F||$479.00|
|Rab Mythic 400||1 lb 7.3 oz||Down||20°F||$420|
|Sea to Summit Spark 18||1 lb 7.5 oz||Down||18°F||$509|
The Lightest Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bags
If you are allergic to down or just don’t want to use it, there are still ultra-light sleeping bags for you. While there’s only one entry in the top 20 (and none in the top 10) lightest sleeping bags, there are several ultralight sleeping bags that are just a little bit heavier. Here are the top X options for you if you want synthetic insulation in your sleeping bag but still want an ultralight sleeping bag.
Top 10 Lightest Synthetic Insulation Sleeping Bags
|Western Mountaineering Caribou MF||1 lb 5 oz||35°F||$425|
|The North Face Lynx Eco 35||1 lb 8.7 oz||35°F||$158|
|Rab Solar Eco 1 (Backcountry)||1 lb 9 oz||35°F||$170|
|Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 30||1 lb 14 oz||30°F||$159|
|Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF 30||1 lb 14.7 oz||30°F||$240|
|Rab Solar Ultra 1||1 lb 15 oz||25°F||$210|
|Marmot Ultra Elite 20||1 lb 15.7 oz||23°F||$199|
|Nemo Forte Endless Promise 35||2 lb||35°F||$170|
|Montbell Seamless Burrow Bag #3||2 lb 0.9 oz||32°F||$169|
|Big Agnes Anthracite 30||2 lb 2 oz||30°F||$130|
Tips For Reducing Backpacking Weight
Some hikers are extremely concerned with sleeping bag weight, specifically ultralight hikers. While many hikers and campers are content with a little wiggle room in their sleeping bag weight, ultralight hikers are watching every ounce to ensure that they’re carrying as little as possible. So if that sounds like you, here are a few things you can do to keep the weight down with your sleeping bag and the rest of the sleeping system.
Forego the Pillow
Even an ultralight hiker will have a change of clothes or two. Bring an extra lightweight stuff sack to act as a pillow case, and put some clothes in it to sleep on. Or you can just pile up the clothes, no stuff sack required.
Use An Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Inflatable sleeping pads (and pillows) are the way to go for ultralight backpacking. High-quality inflatable sleeping pads will be comfortable, supportive, and sufficiently insulating. While they can be a little noisy, today’s inflatable pads are often made with baffles to help cut down on the nighttime noise– and it might be a worthy trade-off to reduce the amount of weight you’re carrying. If you don’t need warmth or comfort, a thin foam pad, or a Therma-Rest-Z lite style pad are ultra lightweight.
Check Out Backpacking Quilts
Backpacking quilts are a newer option that has become a huge hit with the ultralight crowd. Essentially blankets with a foot box, these insulated, lightweight covers are perfect for use in a hammock or with a sleeping pad. Some of these quilts weigh less than a pound, making them a great choice for three-season ultralight backpacking.
Weight is an important factor in choosing a sleeping bag– and everything else you put in your backpack. You have limited space and carrying capacity, and in some situations, even a couple of ounces can count. There are lightweight sleeping bags for any budget (though the ultralight options often come with a larger pricetag), so take advantage of our lists and shop around for the right sleeping bag for your hiking needs.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about