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.
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 meant 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 before 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, and 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.
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 for 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.
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.