When I started backpacking I bought a $45 synthetic down bag from Amazon and was quite content.
Then I went to Colorado and spent a few nights near 30 degrees and realized that's about as low as my sleeping bag can go before I get too cold at night. So if I want to upgrade now, where do I go? What's the next step up?
After looking all over the internet I couldn't find a reliable guide so I'm going to make one. I'm going to cover the best sleeping bag for every price range and give you a clear upgrade path from entry level to top of the line sleeping bags.
A quick warning before we get into this guide. There are 3 factors that go into a sleeping bag:
You can pick any 2 that you want but you won't get all 3 :)
Finding the right bag for you is figuring out which of these you'll compromise on.
Best Sleeping Bag Under $50
Let's start at the very low end of the spectrum. If you're looking for the cheapest possible sleeping bag that will still keep you warm, you can actually get a pretty solid sleeping bag for less than 50 bucks.
The Coleman 0°F Mummy bag is incredibly warm and will keep you warm in freezing temperatures. The trade off is that this sleeping bag weighs almost 6 pounds and is pretty bulky.
Coleman 0° F Mummy Sleeping Bag
Obviously at this price point you're going to be getting synthetic down which is fine for most people. In fact, synthetic down does a better job of staying dry when it gets wet so the only drawback is that it's bulkier and heavier than real down.
Best Sleeping Bag Under $100
Moving up to the sub-$100 tier, the best bang for your buck is still going to come from a synthetic sleeping bag. The Kelty Tuck 22 offers a nice balance of temperature rating and value.
So what do you get if you upgrade from the entry level Coleman to this Kelty bag? Since it's rated for 22 degrees instead of 0, it has less insulation. This means it weighs almost half as much (just 3 lbs) and compresses down to about 75% of the size of the Coleman.
Another perk to this sleeping bag is if you're tall like me (over 6'0"), you can still snag the tall version of this bag without breaking the $100 mark.
Kelty Tuck 22° F Mummy Sleeping Bag
If you're looking to upgrade to real down, you can keep an eye out for the Kelty Cosmic Down 20. It's a little more expensive than the Tuck so you'll need to pick it up used or on a special sale to get it below $100.
As an owner of the Cosmic Down 20, I wouldn't recommend shelling out the extra money for it. It's a little bit smaller but overall isn't worth the increased cost compared to the Tuck.
Best Sleeping Bag Under $200
Going up from a $100 limit to a $200 limit will get you a couple things. First, we're going to stick with Kelty because their quality to price ratio is still the best in this price range.
The extra cost on this bag will get you a bump from synthetic down to real 600 fill power down. This means you'll get a temperature rating of 0 degrees instead of 22 like you'd get with the Tuck.
Kelty Cosmic 0° Sleeping Bag
Stepping your budget up from $100 to $200 brings you into the world of real down. However at this price point the fill power is going to be around 550-650. If you really want to save weight and space you'll need to either go with a higher temperature rating or spend the extra money to get a higher fill power which is what we'll check out next in the sub-$300 price range.
Best Sleeping Bag Under $300
Instead of beefing up the specs of temp, I'm going to go a different route in the $200-$300 price range. The Nemo Disco is one of the most unique sleeping bags out there. Nemo ditches the standard mummy shape to make one of the most comfortable sleeping bags out there, especially if you're a side sleeper.
This sleeping bag is extra roomy and has tons of cool, unique features like the zippered vents that let you cool down and the crazy spoon shape that lets you toss and turn in your bag without feeling constricted.
Nemo Disco 15 °F Mummy Sleeping Bag
Normally when you spend more money on a sleeping bag you're just going to get a higher down fill power which means smaller sizes and warmer sleeping bags.
The Nemo Disco bucks this trend by giving you more room inside your sleeping bag while also reducing the weight below 3 pounds.
If you've ever felt constricted by traditional mummy bags, the Nemo Disco is the solution you've been looking for.
Best Sleeping Bag Under $500
Going up to the sub-$500 price range means you're getting into the best of the best. At this level you can expect top of the line performance/temperature ratings as well as small sizes.
Western Mountaineering is well known in the backpacking/hiking world for their high end sleeping bags. These sleeping bags are made in the United States and have 850 fill power down to insulate them. This means they weigh less than 2 pounds and compress down to just 13" x 7" in diameter. These sleeping bags are truly top of the line.
Western Mountaineering 20° F Mummy Sleeping Bag
Best Sleeping Bag Over $500
We're going to stick with Western Mountaineering in the over $500 price range but we're going to take a step up to their high end model, the Kodiak MF. This bag is rated for 0 degrees. It uses 850 fill power down and weighs 2 lbs 14 oz.
You'll notice this bag actually weighs more than the sub-$500 WM bag and that's because there isn't much more compacting you can do past 850 fill power down. If you want to get lower temperature ratings, your only option is to put more down in the bag which increases the weight.
Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF 0° F Sleeping Bag