Picking the Best Sleeping Bag For Every Budget


When you’re starting to buy camping gear it can be difficult to decide which products to buy, especially when comparing the costs of something simple, like a sleeping bag. There are dozens of sleeping bag manufacturers, and the retail costs can range from under $100 to well over $200.

If you are looking for a lightweight summer bag, you should expect to spend $50-$100. If you are camping in cooler climates, or possibly backpacking, you should budget about $200 for a sleeping bag with more features. Once you are an advanced backpacker, allow yourself $200-$300 to find the perfect bag. 

Before shopping for a new sleeping bag, determine what activities you plan on using it for, and decide how much you want to spend. Then read through our guide below to find the best sleeping bag for your budget.

Start Off Simple and Build Up Your Gear 

First off, let me just say that getting into camping can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. You don’t have to spend a boatload of money on a fancy sleeping bag to have a safe and fun experience outdoors; in fact, I’d encourage you to go out a few times with a cheap tent, some bedding from your house, and some easy-to-prepare camping meals to see how much you enjoy it. This way, you can decide if camping is really something you want to get into before you start spending your hard-earned money on all types of gear.

After camping with minimal household gear a few times, most people realize that spending time in nature is an inexpensive, rewarding way to unwind. You will likely begin to see how purchasing some basic gear, like a quality sleeping bag, can make that experience simpler and more comfortable, while also hopefully learning that you don’t need to break the bank on a bunch of high-end equipment.

My advice is to start out simple; buy an inexpensive sleeping bag to get you off of the ground, and decide which features you like about it, and which ones you don’t (Pro tip: you should also look for a sleeping pad, which we’ll cover in another article). This way, if you decide to graduate to a more expensive bag, you will be able to make informed decisions and get the best sleeping bag that fits your budget.

Picking the Best Sleeping Bag For Every Budget

There Are Good Bags for Under $100

Buying a quality sleeping bag is one of those decisions that not only certifies that you are officially a “happy camper”, it can go a long way to ensuring you have a warm, well-rested night in the woods.

If you’re planning to camp in warm summer weather, and are looking for a comfortable bag to lounge around in, consider buying a traditional rectangular bag like the Coleman Biscayne. At a price point of $50, you will get a simple sleeping bag that looks great, has plenty of room, and most importantly, holds up to some use and abuse.

I am not endorsed by them, but I can say with confidence that there isn’t much gear that can top Coleman-branded products for their entry-level quality, time-tested features, and pricing. Although most of their manufacturing is now in Asia, they have made steps to preserve their American heritage by keeping a few stateside factories afloat.

Don’t feel like you have to stick with one brand, either, but in my experience it pays off to buy camping gear from a trusted manufacturer or retailer. After all, this is your survival we’re talking about.

If you think you might do some camping in cooler weather, such as early spring or into the fall, search for a budget bag that is rated between 20°F to 30°F. Look for features such as hollow fill insulation, a draft tube along the zipper, and well-placed stitching that prevents the insulation from moving around. Coleman has some good options in this category for about $50-$75. Another solid choice for colder weather is the Teton Celsius, which is rated for 0°F, has similar features, and retails for about $75.

A Packable Bag Will Cost Between $100-$200

After your first couple of seasons camping, you might find that your inexpensive rectangular sleeping bag is looking a little worse for wear; if you were happy with it, it’s perfectly fine to consider buying the same type again.

If you are interested in backpacking or backcountry hunting, however, you will need to graduate to a lightweight, packable sleeping bag with more specialized features. Almost all of these bags are “mummy” bags, or close-fitting cocoons with hoods that cinch closed to conserve every bit of warmth. Bags under the $200 limit will be insulated with synthetic hollow-fill polyester fiber, which does a great job of holding in heat and repelling moisture.

Mummy bags are much more compressible than a rectangular bag, and usually include a stuff sack to make them easier to cram into a backpack or other confined space. They also feature a water-repellent surface coating, an adjustable hood, and well-designed stitching to ensure even coverage of the insulation.

There are many good brands in the $100-$200 category. For a warmer weather sleeping bag that packs small and weighs under two pounds, consider the Marmot Trestles 30°F for men, or the REI Trailbreak 30°F for women. These brands also offer some great bags for cooler weather that are still priced under $200, such as the Marmot Trestles Elite and the REI Trailbreak 20°F.

While it may be tempting to buy a sleeping bag rated for the lowest temperatures, a colder-rated bag will always be heavier because it contains more insulation. Finding the right weight-to-temperature ratio can be tricky, since everyone sleeps differently. I suggest looking into whether you are a “hot” or “cold” sleeper, reading a lot of verified user reviews, and taking the time to try out several bags at your local retailer, if possible.

I should also mention that if you are looking for the best fit for your money, purchase a backpacking bag that corresponds to your gender; women’s bags tend to feature narrower shoulders, wider hips, and more insulation in the upper body and foot box.

Best Sleeping Bag For Every Budget

The Best Bags Are Usually Over $200

I wouldn’t suggest spending more than $200 on a sleeping bag unless you have several seasons of backcountry camping under your belt. At this price point, it’s easy to spend money on features you don’t really need, and it’s actually quite possible to end up with a bag that doesn’t fit well, or doesn’t provide the warmth that you require.

The most common feature of sleeping bags that are priced over $200, and up to about $300, is the replacement of synthetic insulation with duck or goose down. Down-filled bags are lighter, more compressible, and provide a more “cozy” type of warmth.

One drawback of down, however, is that it does not retain heat when wet, while synthetic fill does just fine. Most brands that advertise that they source their down according to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), however, have also developed water repellent coatings that make their down almost as hydrophobic as polyester fill. You can also use a roll-top dry sack to carry your down bag, line your pack with a plastic bag, and take care to only pull out your down bag inside of a dry tent.

Unlike less-expensive sleeping bags, the variety of top-quality down-filled bags on the market is much narrower. You should only purchase a down-filled bag that is manufactured by a well-known brand, and absolutely take the time to stop into a respected retailer to try it out first.

Good examples of down men’s bags include the Nemo Disco line and the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass. Some great women’s down bags include the Big Agnes Torchlight and the female version of the Nemo Disco. These products, or any other from a reputable retailer, will likely revitalize your outlook on backpacking, making the time between your nights spent in the backcountry seem like an eternity.

Summary 

There are three main factors that affect the price of a quality sleeping bag: the design, the packability, and the type of insulation used.

A decent rectangle-shaped camping bag with polyester insulation should cost between $50-$100. A mid-grade mummy bag that compresses for backpacking should cost less than $200. A top-quality down-filled bag can cost between $200-$300, or more.

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