Winter is coming — literally. That’s the cue for some of us to stow the hiking boots and pack up the three-season tents until next year. For others, it means busting out the cold-weather gear. If you’re a year-round hiker looking forward to brisk hikes and snowy camping, here are the best sleeping bags for your cold-weather adventures.
If you appreciate camping in the absolute dead of winter, you need a high-performance bag purpose-built for brutally cold weather. The aptly named Inferno series of sleeping bags by The North Face is one of the warmest we’ve ever tested. In addition to the high loft down, a half-length two-way zipper is the secret to keeping its occupant roasting in all but the coldest weather. For most campers in the United States, the Inferno -20F is more than adequate for winter camping just about anywhere in the lower 48. If more extreme adventuring — think mountaineering and overnighting at Everest Base Camp — is in the cards, check out the flagship .
If your winter adventuring is decidedly less extreme, the Cotopaxi Sueno sleeping bag is a versatile, lightweight alternative to more traditional (read bulky) cold-weather bags. As with most of Cotopaxi’s products, the 800-fill duck down is responsibly sourced. At just 2 pounds, 13 ounces, it’s surprisingly lightweight yet plenty warm down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoughtful features include a built-in pillow pocket and media pocket, plus the two-way zipper configuration allows for completely unfolding the sleeping bag to use as a camping blanket. Plus, at around $350, it’s one of the most affordable cold-weather sleeping bags available.
Sierra Designs has fast become a favorite outdoor brand here at The Manual. Like most of the company’s products, the Nitro 800 sleeping bags are well-made, lightweight, and, most importantly, affordable. The series includes 35-, 20-, and 0-degree temperature varieties. We found the latter perfectly suited for just about any winter camping expedition. Every Nitro bag boasts a classic mummy shape with a number of clever, cold-weather-friendly features. A draft-dodger collar, as the name implies, helps eliminate drafts, while anti-snag zippers keep the zippers gliding smoothly. One of the most useful features is a self-sealing foot vent. Raising your knees opens the vent, allowing you to poke your feet through the bottom to better regulate the temperature.
There’s no shortage of sleeping bags on the market designed for mountaineering and extreme outdoor adventure. Like most, Nemo’s Sonic -20 boasts 800-fill down for increased packability and warmth down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. At 3.5 pounds, it’s surprisingly lightweight for a cold-weather bag of this caliber. A number of features set the Sonic series apart, however. Integrated Thermo Gills allow for venting heat at your body’s core without having to unzip the bag. Stretchy construction at the knees increases versatility and volume — great for sleepers who like sleeping on their side or with knees bent. The breathable, reinforced footbox is even durable enough to stash water bottles, boots, and wet clothes overnight.
Although REI touts it as a “three-season bag,” the Igneo 17 is a worthy budget alternative for most cold-weather campers even when the temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. At about two pounds in any size, the mummy-style bag is an extremely lightweight winter camping solution. Water-repellent down fill and a breathable, waterproof shell minimize frost and water retention to help keep you dry. A double-protection design adds a polymer-coated down fill to the sides, hood, and footbox to reduce dampness. Plus, the sub-$300 price tag makes this one of the most budget-friendly cold-weather bags we’ve ever seen.
Looking for a little extra warmth around the campfire this winter? Check out our roundup of the best, most versatile camping quilts. We’ve also got sleeping bag recommendations for the rest of the year.
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