From frigid winters to balmy summers, these sleeping bags will regulate your temperature.
By Trent Jonas
Camping can be a year-round activity—with the right gear, that is. A good sleep system is a cornerstone of camping preparedness, and a sleeping bag is the primary component. Sleeping bags are rated by temperature, so the season in which you’re camping will often dictate what sleeping bag you use, as will the cost of the bag. We’ve done some research, and we think that we’ve come up with the most comfortable sleeping bag for every season.
Choosing the right sleeping bag for a spring camping trip can be tricky because it is such a fickle season. Many parts of the United States see freezing temperatures and snow as late as May—even later in the mountains. So, for spring camping, you’ll want a sleeping bag that will keep you warm in cold weather but won’t sweat you out on warmer nights. For those who don’t mind dropping almost $300, The One Bag from The North Face makes an excellent addition to a spring sleep system. The One Bag consists of three zippable, down-filled layers, allowing you to change from a 5° F. configuration to a 20° F. setup to a 40° F. arrangement on warmer nights. Although it’s rated for temperatures as low as 5° F., reviewers have noted that 15° to 20° F. is really about the bottom of this bag’s comfort range, so depending on where you live, it may be more of a three-season bag in spite of the manufacturer’s rating.
For those looking for a similar bag at a more budget-conscious price, The North Face makes a recycled-synthetic version of The One Bag for its Dolomite line. The Dolomite bag is rated at 15°, 30°, and 50°, depending on how its configured, and comes in at less than half the price of its down sibling.
For summer camping, you’ll want to prepare for relatively warm nights that can sometimes dip into cooler temperatures. Look for a bag with a relatively high, 40° to 50° F., temperature rating. In summer months, a camping quilt, like the Revelation from Enlightened Equipment is a good option. Camping quilts don’t zip, so you’re better able to regulate your temperature while sleeping. The Revelation comes in at nearly $300, but there are more affordable quilts out there, like Rumpl’s Nanoloft Puffy Blankets which retail at $179 directly from the manufacturer.
Pair a lightweight bag liner, like the Cocoon COOLMAX Travel Sheet, with your quilt. This way you can use the liner to add an extra layer of warmth or throw off the quilt without being completely exposed.
Like spring, fall weather can be a crapshoot, but because you’re coming out of summer instead of winter, it doesn’t tend to get as cold as fast—but it definitely can, especially as you get into November in northern latitudes. For most fall camping, a bag rated at 20° or 30° F. will keep you warm and comfortable. The Riff, from NEMO, is rated at 30° F. It’s a down bag with a hood that you can put under your pillow or use to cover your head on colder nights. The Riff costs around $350 for the 30° version (the 15° Riff is $50 more). A more budget friendly alternative is the Trestles Elite 20° from Marmot, a synthetic bag that’s rated warmer and comes in at less than half the price of the Riff. A bag liner is also a good thing to pack for fall trips in case you need a little extra warmth.
For winter camping, you want a warm sleeping bag. Period. In terms of warmth and loft, the Kodiak MF from Western Mountaineering is just about the best there is. This down bag is rated at 0° F. It boasts a seven-inch loft and 30 ounces of down fill. The continuous baffles and all-down collar ensure that cold air stays out of the bag. The only downside is the price tag, which is over $700 from most retailers.
Those who are looking to take less of a hit to the wallet and still stay warm while winter camping should check out the Cosmic Down 0° from Kelty, which is a down bag, with the same temperature rating as the Kodiak MF, but available at less than a third of the price tag. Regardless of the bag you buy, when winter camping, it’s a good idea to pack a bag liner, like the Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Fleece Liner, which can add up to 32° F. of warmth to your bag.