The Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bags – Our 3 Favorite

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sleeping bags are a dime a dozen anymore and if you’re trying to cut through all the nonsense, you’ve come to the right place.  That’s because I’m a former US Marine and I like good gear.  I won’t settle for garbage, because I take sleeping bags very seriously.  Spend a few nights on the top of Mount Fuji for Cold Weather Mountain Warfare training, and you’ll have a very specific taste in sleeping bags – warm.

 I’ve heard the “life hack” about peeing in a bottle before bed, then placing that bottle in your sleeping bag for warmth.  Yes, the little hot-pee radiator will definitely supplement your body heat, but what if you wake up thirsty and groggy, reaching for your water bottle?  I know, I know, it’s a really nasty thought – but completely plausible.  That’s why I recommend heating some rocks near(not on) your camp fire, then wrapping them in a towel.  Same concept, less risk.

When you’re talking about cold weather sleeping bags, a quick internet search will confirm that the options available are almost endless.  “polyfill”, “qualofill”, “goose down”, you name it, there’s a sleeping bag that’s stuffed full of it.  Every company and its mother is trying to gain market share, and they all make up materials and terms to describe what’s inside their bags. The fact is, when you are on the side of a mountain and it’s 4 degrees, it doesn’t matter what scientist developed the filament for your bag, or how nature has been providing the “natural insulation” for millions of years.  There are only two things that will matter to you in real life – warm and dry.  As long as your sleeping bag has those features, you’re golden.

This is a chart which shows general temperatures in different areas.  It is meanthttp://ibin.co/2EesK55gJ7td as a gauge, more than a direct reference.  When we talk about the best cold weather sleeping bags, we aren’t talking about 3 season bags, but rather models designed to perform in temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

There are literally thousands of sleeping bags in existence, but we’re going to talk about just (3) of them in this article.  Are these the three best sleeping bags on the planet?  I’m not sure, (although the Military Modular Sleep System is ridiculously amazing) but I can promise you’ll love each and every one of these setups when it matters most.  We tested a multitude of cold weather sleeping bags and wrote a review for each of our three favorites.

The Military Modular Sleep System

Full Disclosure Warning:  This is the outfit we were issued in the Marine Corps and it holds near and dear to my heart.  I’ve ended many days in this bag and it was a favorite of mine, long Military-Modular-Sleep-Systembefore I ever knew I would make a blog like this one – hell, the internet barely existed at that time!  I don’t see it as a conflict of interest however, because as I mentioned in my post about Military Backpacks, Gov-Issue gear is not always the best quality, but it is always the cheapest per million units purchased.  I don’t have a special love for the Modular Sleep System because it’s better than its competitors, I love it because I’ve got skin in the game, and I’ve spent many nights inside one of these.

As you may remember, we reviewed the Military Issue Modular Sleep System, which is a 4 Piece outfit with a waterproof Gore-Tex Bivy Cover and Carry Sack.  It’s a flexible system that when combined, is rated as low as -50° F (-46° F). The combined weight of the entire system is just over nine pounds, and the modular design makes it easy to take or leave components depending on the conditions.  Whether using just a single piece, like the breathable Bivy cover, or combining all three bags together, this system is great for almost all weather conditions.  The set includes one compression stuff sack, an intermediate sleeping bag, a patrol sleeping bag, and Bivy cover.  The stuff sack is made of black nylon and measures 29 inches long and 12 inches in diameter when stuffed.  The intermediate sleeping bag is made of water-resistant, black rip-stop nylon and measures 87 inches by 35 ½ inches by 23 inches, rated to -10° F (-23° C), with additional insulation at the foot area, a quilted chest collar, and an adjustable hood.  The water-resistant patrol sleeping bag is made of rip-stop, olive drab green nylon and measures 92 inches by 37 inches by 24 inches, rated to 30° F (-1° C).  The patrol sleeping bag also features a reversible, double-pull slider to allow airflow from the top or the bottom.  The Bivy cover is made of 3-layer Goretex in woodland camouflage and measures 72 inches by 35 inches by 23 inches, making it breathable but still waterproof.

The components of the entire system are genuine U.S. Military issue from government stock, made in the U.S.A., and they can be used separately for comfort at 50° F (10° C) or fastened together to maximize warmth at -50° F (-45° C). Durable and comfortable without being fussy or overly complicated, this is a great sleep system for people looking to purchase an all-in-one solution without sacrificing on the quality of any one individual component.

Kelty Cosmic 0

When we reviewed the versatile and comfortable Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree Down Sleeping Bag, we discovered that it performs as well in the summer as it will during the winter, with a temperature rating of 0° F (-18° C).  With availability in two sizes, it’s easier to find the size that best suits the user.  One standard size, Kelty-Cosmic-0and one larger size for taller people who need a little extra room or to be able to tuck their extra clothing in at their feet.

This mummy bag includes a thermal-comfort hood that helps hold in extra warmth, especially when considered alongside the draft tube and the dual-sliding and locking zipper that help prevent heat from escaping.  The foot box is natural fit to make sure there’s no cramping, and to give a little extra space for people that stuff their spare socks into their bags with them at night. The regular version of this bag is 72 inches long with a shoulder girth of 62 inches, and the long version is 78 inches long with a shoulder girth of 64 inches.  The regular version can be stuffed down to 9 inches by 17 inches, and the long version stuffs to 9 inches by 18 inches. Both weigh in at less than 4 pounds, so they’re lightweight and easy to carry.

This sleeping bag is constructed to ensure there are minimal cold spots, and the Hydrophobic Dridown insulation means that, unlike natural down, it will still retain the ability to insulate even if it gets wet.  In a stylish, autumnal orange color with a light pattern, this bag is visually attractive as well as functional.  Made by Kelty, a quality and long-standing outdoors company that belongs to the Conservation Alliance, this bag definitely delivers the sturdiness and comfort that is part of this brand’s heritage.

Slumberjack Latitude

Including features like the proprietary Slumberloft™ insulation, a water-repellent shell, and a draft tube along the zipper, the Slumberjack Latitude 20 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag is great Slumberjack Latitudefor cool weather camping. Rated to 20° F (-7° C), this bag comes in three sizes to make it possible to select one that best fits your height, build, and sleep preferences.

The outer shell of this bag is made of diamond rip-stop polyester, and the inner shell is made of polyester taffeta, making it comfortable and cozy. The exterior has a water-repellent finish, and the lining is Slumberjack’s durable, warm synthetic Slumberloft insulation. A two-layer, offset construction with a differential cut, combined with a flip over hood that can be contoured, really helps hold in the heat. The foot box is trapezoidal, providing a little extra space for feet to move around naturally. The interior is a neutral, dark gray color, and the exterior is an attractive combination of dark gray and dark olive.

This bag comes with a stuff sack; depending on the size, the bag stuffs down to about 10 inches by 17 inches, and weighs around 3-4 pounds. The short bag measures 74 inches by 30 inches, designed for a height of about 5’4”. The medium bag measures 82 inches by 32 inches, with a maximum height of 6’. The long bag measures 86 inches by 34 inches, meant for a maximum height of 6’6”. Slumberjack has been part of the outdoor industry for over 50 years, making quality equipment for enthusiasts and sportsmen.

In closing…

If you’re venturing outdoors in cold weather, and you plan on sleeping out there, you may as well plan on being warm.  I’ve spent countless nights under stars and storm clouds alike, and I can tell you from experience that when you wake up freezing and check your watch, all to find out it’s only 22:00(10pm for the non-military folks), that’s a pretty lousy feeling.  I can guarantee you’ll spend the rest of the entire night wide awake, thinking about the new sleeping bag you’re going to buy when you get home, and all the next day you’ll spend dreading the evening to come.  I think the above are some of the best cold weather sleeping bags you’ll find, so have a look at them and think warm thoughts.

Questions?

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Meet the Author

I'm a former US Marine, full-time father and husband, and part-time survivalist. I like old things, like music, furniture and time-tested survival technique, but there's always a place in my heart for new technology such as weapons and sleeping bag fill. I'm here to share my knowledge and experience, and I hope you'll share yours as well.

14 comments… add one
  • Chris Craigie Feb 15, 2016, 8:25 pm

    I am embarrassed about what our military adopts for our Marines and soldiers sometimes. Sleeping bags are no exception. Yes, I spent time in the Intermediate sleeping bag with a goretex bivy bag. I was always damp and cold when the temperature was below freezing. Also, after awhile the sleeping bag would never fluff back up. The loft would just stay compressed, even after putting it in the drier. If it doesn’t “loft back up” it doesn’t keep you warm anymore. The new system is a version of the same old ignorant ideas. I have since gone to Wiggy’s Inc. who truly makes the best sleeping bag for civilians and military alike AND IT IS 100% MADE IN AMERICA OF AMERICAN MADE PRODUCTS!! Most of the other bags are made in China of Chinese made products.

    The Wiggy bag is the light, waterproof, truly breathable (unlike Goretex) AND IT IS WARM. When Wiggy rates his bags at a certain temperature, you can believe they will keep you warm at that temperature. You won’t be damp, cold or clammy in your bag like so many other bags out there. You can climb in the bag wet/damp and wake up dry and warm. This bag works. The military system doesn’t. I know we all have attachments to what we trained with and what we carried, but we have to be objective in our evaluations. We need a better system, not just a rehash of an old system because somebody lobbied for it. If I was currently in the military, I would only carry a Wiggy’s bag because they work, no BS.

    I got so tired of waking up freezing my butt off because my bag didn’t work. I was always damp and clammy unless the temperature was above freezing. The bag was rated at 20˚F… at that temperature, I froze my butt off. You get used to it BUT YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO. Instead, you should have a bag that keeps you warm throughout the temperature range it is rated for no matter what the conditions are. Don’t settle for “status quo”, get what works.

    • Mike Feb 16, 2016, 6:39 pm

      Chris – I’m going to take a look at these bags, and possibly grab one for a review. I’ve always been appalled at the quality of most of the military issue gear, but I will say, they change manufacturers all the time – so the same piece might be better/worse quality than the last iteration(s).

    • Douglas Chase Aug 17, 2016, 4:38 am

      In 1996 my son got the brilliant idea of sleeping outside of the tent in Yellowstone. I was warm all night with my brand new version of an issued Marine Corp sleeping bag. I used the old version in the back of my truck in 1988, stuck in the middle of Nebraska. Worked well.
      In 2003, the power went out in December for three days in Coos Bay. My wife sure enjoyed the Marine Corp bag I once had.
      It’s 2016, I’m driving from Iowa to Camp Pendleton. Had to pull over and sleep in my truck, cramped and towel for warmth, somewhere in the rockies.
      As I write this, I’m stuck in Hesperia above San Bernadino because a fire has closed Interstate 15. Last time this is going to happen without a Marine Corps sleeping bag.
      All the hotels are sold out, I could afford a room, but it’s not happening.
      Won’t be caught again without a new Marine Corps sleeping bag to curl up in no matter where I am.

      • Mike Aug 29, 2016, 12:39 pm

        Douglas – the USMC sleep setup is pretty versatile, and it’s definitely worth having in your truck!

    • Jerry Nov 2, 2016, 2:54 pm

      Regarding the military bag, it will sleep cold of you are over 5’10” because (assuming cold weather, of course, and “cold” being freezing or colder) because as you decompress and elongate in the night, your feet will compress the foot insulation, and your head will compress the head insulation. This creates non-insulated areas directly against the parts of your body that most need warmth – your head and your feet.

      Quality – the bag is excellent.

      Problem – The problem with the intermediate bag being warm is directly related to it being too short. I have slept in that bag in thermals, inside a second bag and froze so badly that I thought I lost my lower legs. Careful with the Tylenol PM 🙂 Conversely, when sleeping in freezing rain on the ground on a bed of dry grass under a tarp suspended over my head with rain dripping right along the edge of the length of my bag (and in the bivy), I had one of the warmest, most comfortable and memorable nights sleep of my life.

      The difference was this: Forget that attached hood on the intermediate bag. If you use it, you will freeze if you are over 5’10” due to elongation of body as you lay prone and subsequent compression of insulation at the head and foot. Use a good knit cap and a good fleece jacket or heavy wool sweater with your head exposed and you will sleep like a baby.

      Jerry – BoerneBushmasters.org

      • Mike Nov 8, 2016, 1:13 pm

        Excellent, and I mean excellent information Jerry – thank you.

  • mack Apr 2, 2016, 12:12 pm

    Great blog. Some prices and availability would help. Thanks

    • Mike Apr 3, 2016, 10:59 am

      Thanks! I’m looking into your suggestion, as it’s a fantastic one.

  • Scott Nov 2, 2016, 5:12 am

    Hello I love the Military sleep system. I’ve used it lots in Alaska when it was below -40 degrees and I stayed warm. But maybe my face and nose was cold. I’ve never had trouble with my sleeping bags at all. Plus I always stayed in full dress when using the sleep system. I’ve seen guys pull the bag over there face & head to keep warm. But that’s a big no no. Only sleeping bags I’ll use is the Military sleep system never let me down and still love mine its had my 6 a many night’s….

    • Mike Nov 2, 2016, 2:04 pm

      I couldn’t possibly agree more Scott.

  • Daniel Jan 14, 2017, 8:47 am

    Definitely an interesting read but if you want something that is bomb proof and for real cold weather get your hands on a Canadian Forces sleep system. It has multiple parts like the MMSS but lets face it in most of Canada -17 Celsius is a warm winter day. My CF sleeping bag is 30 years old and it will do -40 just fine if I had to. This is a system designed for Arctic warfare at the far end. We have vast territory in the Arctic up here so there is no room for guesstimating temperature ratings or “close enough”. And quality of the bags is on par with the best military kit you can buy. They do not come cheap though. I would especially recommend it to any American looking to be spending any kind of serious time out in the bush up in Alaska.

    • Mike Jan 19, 2017, 9:05 pm

      Daniel, thank you for the comment. I’m going to have to check out this sleep system for sure. It must be warm, I mean, we’re talking about Canada here!

  • David Kuehnert Feb 2, 2017, 11:22 am

    Have you had the chance to try a Wiggys sleeping bag yet! They are 100% made in the USA and keep you warm, no BS. I’ve tried several other more expensive bags on yearly trips to Alaska. But after spending a night freezing I always end up in the Wiggys bag.. they have a great product, please take the time to check them out. Wiggys.com

    • Mike Feb 13, 2017, 12:49 am

      David, I will definitely make contact with them and see if they’re interested in sending bag for testing!

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