When it comes to backpacking, some of the most important (and expensive) items you’ll need to pack are your sleeping bag and pad. There is so much choice out there when it comes to sleeping bags in particular, however when it comes to finding one that’s suitable for backpacking, the focus should be on choosing bags that are not only warm, but lightweight and pack down small, so they don’t weigh you down when you’re hiking between campsites or take up too much space in your backpack.
All the sleeping bags in this ‘best backpacking sleeping bags’ list are great for camping and other uses, as well as being light and small enough to carry with you in a pack. We’ve also included the best sleeping pads for backpacking, and a buyer’s guide which explains what to look for when choosing a sleeping bag and pad, which should help you work out what bag and pad are best for your needs and preferences such as overall weight, warmth and budget.
Click here to jump down to the buyer’s guide to choosing the best sleeping bag and pads for camping and backpacking, or keep reading to see our list of recommendations.
The Best Sleeping Bags and Pads for Backpacking – Table of Contents
- Sleeping bags for backpacking:
- Sleeping pads for backpacking:
- READ THE BUYER’S GUIDES:
Overall best sleeping bags for backpacking
1. Sea to Summit Spark Ultralight 18F [Editor’s Choice]
- Choose if: Keeping backpack weight to a minimum is a high priority – this is our top pick of the best ultralight sleeping bags.
- Down or Synthetic: Hydrophobic down
- Price: $480
- Weight: 1lb 8oz
- Temperature rating: 18F
- Dimensions: 72 x 61/53
- Other features: Available in a 5F option costing $550 and weighing 1lb 15oz, or lighter weight summer rated (40F and 28F) versions, all in both regular and long lengths.
This ultralight sleeping bag from Sea to Summit features two sliders on a full-length zipper, giving you options when it comes to ventilation and temperature control if you get too warm.
The 5F rated option would be a great option for colder weather camping or if you tend to feel the cold more than average and still want a lightweight sleeping bag to take backpacking. If you want a summer sleeping bag for less than 1lb, the 40F rated version weighs 12lb.
2. REI Co-Op Magma 15 | RUNNER UP
- Choose if: You want a great balance of comfort, quality and price in a lightweight sleeping bag that weighs less than 2lb
- Down or Synthetic: 850-fill-power goose down
- Price: $390 (15) / $330 (30)
- Weight: 1lb 12.2oz
- Temperature rating (lower limit): 16F
- Comfort rating: 28F
- Dimensions: 72 x 63/57
- Other features: Available in Regular and Long, and Men’s & Women’s versions, and also available in a less expensive (less warm) Magma 30 version ($330).
This classic mummy sleeping bag has a shaped toe box which gives you more foot and knee room while still keeping the bag’s overall volume low (and therefore more efficient to warm up).
The bag’s fill is water-resistant down that is RDS Certified, and this bag is Bluesign approved.
Best budget backpacking sleeping bag
3. Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20
- Choose if: you’re on a budget or want a lightweight down-free option and appreciate the care that’s gone into creating a 100% recycled warm sleeping bag
- Down or Synthetic: Synthetic
- Price: $160
- Weight: 2lb 6oz
- Temperature rating (lower limit): 21.6F
- Dimensions: 72 x 60/56
- Other features: Available in men’s and women’s sizes, and regular, long and extra-wide options.
This is the best 3-season bag you’ll find for under $200 and there are many reasons why it’s such a popular choice. At only 6oz over the 2lb mark, this synthetic fill sleeping bag is a great choice for a lightweight sleeping bag to take camping or backpacking, especially if you’d prefer to not have a down bag.
Plus, you get to feel extra good about taking this bag camping as it is the least expensive option on this list and made from 100% recycled materials.
Best ultralight sleeping quilt
4. Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt
- Choose if: you want more versatility when it comes to sleeping systems and value having an ultra-lightweight quilt for backpacking or hammock camping
- Down or Synthetic: 850 fill power down
- Price: $270 for 30F Regular
- Weight: ~1lb 2oz
- Temperature rating: 30F (other options available)
- Dimensions: 72 x 54/40
- Other features: Choose from temperature ratings between 50F and 0F, and varying lengths and widths. Prices and weights range from $220 to $390 depending on the selected length & warmth rating.
When it comes to ultralight sleeping quilts for backpacking and camping, Enlighted Equipment are true experts. The Revelation Quilt is their original and bestselling design, made with ethically sourced down from an RDS certified supplier. Not only is it available in a range of temperature ratings, lengths and widths, but if you have a specific requirement then you can also order a custom quilt.
Features include a zipper on the footbox and a shock cord that you can use to close the quilt up entirely on colder nights. It also has elastic straps and clips on each side to attach to a sleeping pad and reduce movement.
Best 4-season bag for winter camping
5. Feathered Friends Snowbunting & Murre EX 0
- Choose if: You’re a cold sleeper or plan to go winter camping
- Down or Synthetic: Down
- Price: $670 (men’s) / $600 (women’s)
- Weight: 2lb 13oz (regular)
- Temperature rating: 0F
- Dimensions: 72 x 56/38
- Other features: Feathered Friends offers a whole range of bags designed for different weather conditions as well as long and short lengths, women’s-specific fits and colors including black, red and blue.
Feathered Friends is one of the best brands there is when it comes to down winter sleeping bags for all four seasons. The Snowbunting EX 0 is one of their most popular 4-season bags and comes in regular and long-length options (6ft and 6ft 6, respectively). For the women’s equivalent, check out the Murre EX 0 bag, which is less expensive at $600 and comes in shorter lengths and different widths throughout the length of the bag to reflect the needs of the brand’s female customers.
Overall best backpacking sleeping pad
1. Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe
- Choose if: You value a balance of comfort, warmth quality, weight and packability
- Type: Air pad
- Price: $160
- R-value: 4.3
- Weight: 1lb 9oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3.5
- Packed size: 5 x 8.5
- Other features: Comes with inflation sack, a protective storage sack, replacement valve seal and 3M repair patch. This pad has taller (4.25 inch) outer chambers to keep you cradled in the middle of the pad (and not rolling off the sides).
With a soft-touch, quilted top and quiet ripstop fabric base, this backpacking sleeping pad offers the best of all worlds. Weighing just over 1.5lb, it’s a lightweight pad offering pillowy comfort and a respectable warmth rating that will stand up to most environments across three seasons. For lighter pads that don’t offer as much thickness or insulation, see the options below.
3 new from $159.95
Lightweight ‘luxury’ sleeping pad
2. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Pad
- Choose if: You want a lightweight, yet plush and quiet insulated sleeping pad for backpacking
- Type: Air pad
- Price: $180
- R-value: 3.2
- Weight: 1lb 1.3oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 21.5 x 4 inches (regular)
- Packed size: 4.5 x 9.5
- Other features: Available in a women’s version and comes in long, regular or short lengths as well as mummy and rectangular options. This pad also includes a repair kit and stuff sack.
At 4 inches thick but still packing down small, this Sea to Summit pad is a lightweight option for those backpackers wanting some luxury for camp – if life’s too short to sleep uncomfortably too close to the ground then this is the pad for you! It’s quieter than other pads and we also love that it’s available in men’s and women’s shapes and a range of different sizes so you can get the most appropriate size for your shape and height. If you don’t need as much warmth as the Big Agnes option above but still want comfort, this Sea to Summit pad is a great choice as it’s a few oz lighter.
Ultralight insulated sleeping pad
Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Air
- Choose if: You won’t be camping anywhere really cold and need an affordable, yet ultralight, packable sleeping pad.
- Type: Air pad
- Price: $140
- R-value: 3.1
- Weight: 16.9oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 21.5 x 2in
- Packed size: 9 x 4.
- Other features: Available in men’s and women’s versions, and several different lengths. Comes with a stuff sack (which doubles as a pump), and a repair kit and spare valve.
While not as plush and quiet as the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT insulated pad above, their Ultralight Insulated air pads have a similar R-value, at a similar weight, and pack down slightly smaller. They’re also less expensive! The downsides – the Ultralight pad is not as quiet, thick or ‘plush’ as the more luxurious Ether model – but depending on your priorities, this pad also makes a great choice for backpacking where you need a great warmth-to-weight ratio and don’t need the R 4.2 rating or higher cost of the even more ultralight Therm-a-Rest option below.
1 new from $139.95
Ultralight insulated pad for colder climates
3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
- Choose if: You want an ultralight sleeping pad for cold nights that packs down small for stashing inside your backpack.
- Type: Air pad
- Price: $190
- R-value: 4.2
- Weight: 12oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 2.5
- Packed size: 4 x 9
- Other features: This ultralight mummy-shaped pad comes with its own pump sack.
If you enjoy ultralight backpacking or are aiming to cut down the weight of your gear to the lightest possible without going without essential items, then this Therm-a-Rest pad is an exceptionally lightweight option, while still offering good insulation for cold nights, with an R value of 4.2. Plus, it packs down to the size of a water bottle and will easily fit in a backpack. It does make a noise when you move around, but we assume that with this warmth rating and after a long day of trekking you’ll be crashed out asleep in no time regardless!
Warmest sleeping pad for smaller budgets
4. REI Co-op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Pad
- Choose if: You choose value for money, warmth and a good night’s sleep over traveling ultralight
- Type: Self-inflating open-cell foam pad
- Price: $70
- R-value: 5.1 / 5.3 (women’s)
- Weight: 2lb 8 / 2lb 5 (women’s)
- Dimensions: regular: 72 x 20 x 1.75 / 66 x 20 x 1.75 (women’s)
- Packed size: 6.5 x 20 / 6 x 20
- Other features: Separate, color-coded valves for inflation and deflation, includes a stuff sack and compression straps for easy storing and packing. This pad also comes in men’s and women’s sizes (women’s pictured) of different lengths.
If you’re not concerned about having a bulkier and slightly heavier pad than the ultra lightweight alternatives, then you can treat yourself to the relative comfort and warmth that one of these highly-rated REI sleeping pads offers. For $70, you get an R 5.1/5.3-rated self-inflating pad that should elevate the quality of your sleep on even those colder nights in the backcountry.
ALSO CONSIDER: Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus. The Therm-a-Rest pad packs down much smaller and is a little lighter, however it is more expensive and has a lower R-value.
Durable foam sleeping pad (budget choice)
5. Nemo Switchback
- Choose if: You want a budget-friendly, lightweight and durable pad and are less concerned about comfort and packability
- Type: Closed-cell foam pad
- Price: $50
- R-value: 2
- Weight: 14.5oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 0.9
- Packed size: 20 x 5.5 x 5
- Other features: Textured ‘egg-crate’ foam design helps with comfort and insulation. Sleep with the reflective silver side up to benefit from its heat-reflecting properties. It’s also available in a short length if you want to save space and weight (or don’t need the full length).
Closed cell foam pads like this Nemo option are a great choice if you need some protection from the ground and want a lightweight sleeping mat that won’t be at risk of puncture. Plus, they’re pretty inexpensive so also make a great choice if you’re on a budget. While you are unlikely to sleep as comfortably as an air pad, this foam pad offers durability and simplicity. These pads also help save room inside your backpack as you can carry them strapped to the outside when you’re hiking.
2 new from $49.95
ALSO CONSIDER: The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, which is a similar size, price, weight and R-value, so it’s worth comparing availability and prices between the Nemo pad above, and this one.
Sleeping bag buyer’s guide
- Choosing a backpacking sleeping bag
- Types of sleeping bag
- Comfort ratings and limits explained
- Down vs synthetic
- Lightweight sleeping bag weights
- Shapes and sizes
- Sleeping bags vs quilts
- Other features
- What are the best sleeping bag brands?
- How much should a backpacking sleeping bag cost?
Choosing a backpacking sleeping bag
When looking for a sleeping bag that’s suitable for taking backpacking, there are five main factors to consider, which influence the type of bag which would suit you the best:
- Warmth to weight ratio of the sleeping bag – your bag needs to have enough insulation to keep you warm enough to sleep comfortably in the places you’ll be using it, but not be so heavy that it’s a bulky pain to carry when you’re hiking.
- Choosing a down or synthetic bag – whether it’s filled with goose down or synthetic materials, it pays in many ways to buy a quality sleeping bag that contains materials that have been sourced ethically and responsibly.
- The rest of your sleep system – other elements of your sleep system will have an impact on how warm you are overnight. For example, choosing a pad with a suitable ‘R-rating’ will make a huge difference to your warmth and comfort levels (more on that below).
- The bag’s shape and size – if you are particularly tall, large or short then it’s worth exploring longer, wider or shorter sleeping bag options to help ensure you’re comfortable in your bag. You may also want to consider a sleeping quilt rather than a sleeping bag. Also consider that mummy sleeping bags use less material and cut down on weight and the internal volume of the bag, but are more restrictive for your legs.
- Price compared to your budget – while we don’t believe price should be the number one consideration if you’re serious about buying a quality bag that you’ll enjoy using for many years, some of the most ultralight sleeping bags end up being very expensive, so a happy medium for most people is likely to be a balance between overall warmth, weight and price.
Types of sleeping bag
Sleeping bags are broadly classified in two ways:
- The season they’re intended for use in: summer, 3-seasons or 4-seasons
- Whether they’re filled with down or synthetic materials
Should you choose a summer, 3-season or 4-season bag?
Most sleeping bags for backpacking are classed as 3-season sleeping bags. That is, they are intended for use in most parts of the world for all seasons except winter. You can also buy smaller ‘summer’ sleeping bags, and 4-season sleeping bags that have more insulation and are designed to be useable for camping in the cold of winter.
When choosing a sleeping bag, it’s important to understand the climate of the types of places you will be camping. In many places, it is not uncommon for the temperature at night to drop to, or down below, freezing. This includes places at elevation and desert areas, which may be scorching hot during the day.
For this reason, summer sleeping bags are not particularly versatile or useful for many of the types of places you may be going backpacking. As 3-season sleeping bags tend to indicate their suitability for night-time lows of around 20°F (-7 celsius), they’re better suited for these types of climates. With that said, an ultralight summer sleeping bag could be ideal for warmer climates and endeavors such as fastpacking where you’re only sleeping overnight for one night and want the lightest possible pack.
We’ve included a 4-season sleeping bag recommendation in this list which you should consider if winter backpacking is part of your plan and you need that added warmth to sleep comfortably.
While a super warm 4-season sleeping bag may sound appealing for other seasons if you feel the cold more than others, it’s worth considering whether you really need one of these bags if you won’t be camping in winter, as they tend to be bulkier and more expensive than 3-season bags, so may not work for your budget or be something you want to carry on summer and fall backpacking trips.
There are other ways to help stay warm in your sleeping bag during these seasons, including ensuring you have a good, well-insulated sleeping pad, and are wearing the right clothes to sleep in.
Comfort ratings and limits explained
Once you’ve decided what season sleeping bag you’re going to get, look at the comfort ratings and compare these to the climate of the places you will be backpacking in. You’re aiming to find a bag that has a comfort rating that goes down to a colder temperature than the typical overnight low temperature in your camping destination.
The ‘comfort rating’ of a sleeping bag is the lowest temperature at which it will keep the average ‘cold sleeper’ comfortable. Without getting too detailed, this is often referred to as being the most important figure for women to consider, as we tend to sleep colder than men.
Sleeping bags also have a ‘limit’ rating, which is the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep a ‘warm sleeper’ comfortable – which therefore means that if you consider yourself to be a ‘cold sleeper’ then if you find yourself in temperatures closer to the ‘limit’ rating then you’re in for a cold and probably uncomfortable night! We’ve quoted both limits for each of the bags on this list, but suggest that the comfort rating is given the most weight (pun intended) in your buying decision, as you can always open the bag to cool down if it gets too warm overnight.
It’s worth noting that these limits are only guides, and they also assume the sleeper is wearing long warm clothes and socks insider their bag, and are on a sleeping pad with an R-value of around 5.5, which is probably more than the R-value of most peoples’ sleeping pads, as the more popular pads for backpacking tend to range between 2 and 4.5 (more on pad R-values below).
Down vs synthetic sleeping bags
Put simply, down sleeping bags tend to have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio, and pack down smaller, than synthetic sleeping bags. For this reason, if you’re looking for an ultralight, highly compressible option that will keep you warm on backpacking trips and thru-hiking endeavors, then you’ll probably want to go for a down bag.
That said, down sleeping bags are generally more expensive than synthetic bags, and it’s important to keep them dry as the feathers lose their loft and insulating properties if they get wet, so if weight and compression is less important than budget and performance in wetter (or more humid, warmer) climates then synthetic bags are worth considering.
When choosing a quality, ethically-sourced down bag, look at the fill power (the higher, the better quality) and ensure that it has been made using traceable down and/or the manufacturer is certified as compliant with the Responsible Down Standards when it comes to the welfare of the geese whose down has been used to make the bag.
Some down bags are described as being filled with ‘hydrophobic’ down. This refers to a treatment that is applied to the down to make it absorb less water and dry more quickly if it does get wet. This can be helpful if you’ll be backpacking in more humid climates or wetter conditions.
If you need your sleep system to perform even when wet, and / or you are allergic to down, then a synthetic sleeping bag is going to be a better choice.
Lightweight sleeping bag weights
You may be wondering ‘how light is light?’ when it comes to lightweight bags. Generally, ‘lightweight’ bags weigh less than 2lb, and some closer to 1.5lb. If you need the extra insulation for 4-season sleeping (temperatures less than 20F comfort rating) then the most ultralight (and expensive) bags will weigh around 3lb, depending on the brand, insulation, shape and size bag.
It’s useful to consider not just the bag’s weight but also how small it packs down, as this can make it easier to fit into smaller or heavily loaded backpacks.
Sleeping bag shapes and sizes
The most common shapes are the popular mummy-style bags, which taper towards the foot area. This is to reduce volume inside the bag, which allows your body to warm it up, and for it to stay warm, quicker than a higher-volume bag. Another benefit of a mummy sleeping bag is that it uses less material than a wider bag, which helps keep the weight down.
You can also find rectangular shape options, as well as bags that have been designed to offer a better fit for people who are particularly tall, broad or short. The larger bags will weigh a few oz more than the stated ‘regular’ sleeping bag weights in this guide.
Shorter bags are often marketed as women’s sleeping bags, and may have other features such as being wider in the hip area when they’re designed specifically as women’s versions. These shorter bags use less material and therefore weigh slightly less than the ‘regular’ sized bags, so are good choices if you are smaller and looking to keep your pack weight down – as well as to have a more snug, heat-efficient sleeping system.
Sleeping bags vs quilts
Sleeping quilts are gaining popularity amongst backpackers and thru-hikers seeing to reduce bulk and weight in their pack. These quilts are also popular for people who enjoy camping in hammock tents. If you tend to sleep very warm or find mummy-style bags very restrictive, then a quilt could be an option for you.
With that said, it’s worth also being mindful that you won’t get the same 360 degree insulation around your body when sleeping with a quilt, compared to a zipped up sleeping bag, and as quilts do not have a hood as most bags do, you may find you need to wear a warm hat to bed more often, to help retain warmth on cooler nights.
Compression sack – If your bag of choice doesn’t come with its own compression bag, it’s worth buying one of these to help pack it down small for when you’re hiking, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your backpack.
Zipper length – some bags only zip part-way down (which can be restrictive), whereas others zip all the way down to the feet. You may also be interested to know about sleeping bags which offer the ability to un-zip the feet area (such as the Sea to Summit Spark), in case you want to cool them off or have less restricted movement.
Durability – the thickness of the material used to make the outer shells is typically referred to in denier. If you’re tough on your gear, or camp with a boisterous dog, then you may get more life out of your bag (or at least have to repair it less frequently) if you choose one with a higher denier – although note that this will naturally make the bag heavier than other options.
Pad sleeve – some bags and quilts come with a built-in sleeve that you can slide a sleeping pad in, which helps prevent you sliding off the pad (or it coming out from underneath you) in the middle of the night.
What are the best sleeping bag brands?
When it comes to the more technical, lightweight and packable sleeping bags intended to perform on backpacking trips, the best brands range from well-known outdoor names such as Marmot, Kelty, Big Agnes and REI to more specialist brands which specialize in sleeping bags and related outdoor gear such as Enlightened Equipment, Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering.
With so many companies out there, this can make choosing more difficult – which is the main reason this list exists, to help narrow down the options and simplify the jargon, to help find the bag that is best for you and your needs.
How much should one cost?
Bags can range from under $200 to more than $500, depending on how warm and lightweight you need your bag to be. Generally, the lighter the bag and the more insulation it provides, the more expensive it will be.
Choose a bag: Now you’ve read the buyer’s guide, click here to jump up to see our list of the best sleeping bags for backpacking. As with all of our buyer’s guides, the bags and pads selected for inclusion on this list are our Editor’s choice of the best out there, and we’ve intentionally kept this list short to focus on this selection of the best gear, rather than a list of 20 or 30 options which still leave you with too much choice!
Sleeping pads buyer’s guide
- Why you need a sleeping pad is important
- Types of backpacking sleeping pads
- Sleeping pad features
- Who makes the best sleeping pads for backpacking?
- How much does a backpacking sleeping pad cost?
Why a sleeping pad is important
Correctly pairing your sleeping bag with a suitable pad is really important when it comes to ensuring you have a suitable sleep system that will keep you warm and comfortable when camping. Bag warmth ratings are calculated assuming the bag is used by someone who is (a) wearing warm clothes and socks to bed, and (b) also lying on a sleeping pad with an R-rating of around 5.5, which is a fairly well-insulated pad typically recommended for use when camping in temperatures that drop below freezing overnight.
Types of backpacking sleeping pads
There are three main types of pads to choose from that are sufficiently packable and light enough to be considered for backpacking (as opposed to car-camping, when weight and portability is less of a concern and you can opt for more plush and/or heavier / cheaper options).
These are a comfortable, versatile option, as you can choose the firmness by putting more or less air into them when inflating them. They tend to be the most compact option when packed, although on the downside they can be punctured or rip (especially if you camp with a dog) and tend to be more expensive than closed-cell foam options.
It’s worth getting a separate pump to inflate these pads so you’re not blowing into it and introducing moisture into the pad from your breath.
Self inflating sleeping pads
These pads are made from a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air. Self-inflating pads tend to be heavier and more expensive than air pads, but from a comfort perspective, you may consider it to be worth the sacrifice to achieve a better night’s sleep, in which case a lightweight self-inflating pad is definitely worth considering.
Closed-cell foam pads
These more traditional sleeping pads are light and very durable, however they are also bulky to carry and not as warm or comfortable as other options. They’re definitely a good option to consider if you’re on more of a budget or are thru-hiking and want a simple pad that you can also use as a seat and can carry on the outside of your pack.
A closed cell foam pad can also be paired with an air pad to add extra insulation for camping in particularly cold conditions (add the R-values together to get an idea of how much of a different this will make!).
Sleeping pad features
- Know the R-value – this measures the pad’s ability to resist heat loss (to the ground). Higher R-values will help keep you warmer. For 3-season camping, these pads tend to range from 2 to 5.5+, but you can get pads with higher R-values that are worth considering for colder environments. Generally, we look for R-ratings of between 3 and 4.5 for most cold weather (but not extreme freezing) backpacking excursions.
- Weight and packed size – ultralight sleeping pads will weigh less than 1lb, and the more premium styles will pack down the smallest.
- Comfort – consider not just the thickness but also the pad’s shape and size, and how loud it is when you move – some can be very ‘crinkly’ and make a noise with the slightest movement, which can get annoying if that sort of thing bothers you.
- Extras – For air sleeping pads in particular, it helps to know if it will come with a patch kit or hand/airbag pump. If yours doesn’t, then you may want to get these separately to help care for your pad when you’re on the trails.
Who makes the best sleeping pads for backpacking?
Some of the most popular sleeping pad brands include Therm-a-Rest, Sea to Summit and NEMO, which each offer a range of different styles with varying warmth ratings, weights, prices and levels of packability. Other camping brands such as Big Agnes also sell sleeping pads, such as the very popular Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe.
How much does a backpacking sleeping pad cost?
Pads range from $50 for basic closed-cell foam options to ~$200 for premium ultralight air sleeping pads.
Choose a pad: Now you’ve read the buyer’s guide, click here to jump up to see our list of the best sleeping pads for backpacking.