Do not be confined to your home just because it is winter. Cold season hiking gives you the opportunity to appreciate Mother Nature at her coldest. During this time, you can practically have the trails and the camping sites to yourself since very few people go hiking. You just one of the best winter sleeping bags. The market will spoil you for choice and indeed, regardless of your budget, there is a sleeping bag for everyone. Some are big, some are small, some are light, some heavy and so on.
- 1 Before you go hiking in winter
- 2 Buy your cold sleeping bags online or from specialist stores
- 3 Down or synthetic fill?
- 4 Important cold prevention features
- 5 Five of the best winter sleeping bags
- 6 Conclusion
Before you go hiking in winter
This is only common sense, but you have to know just how low the temperature drops in the places where you are going hiking. That, way you will be amply prepared for the cold. If winter days are cold, the nights are much colder. So have an ear to the ground for the weather forecasts. Listen, and do the math. Is it plausible for you to go hiking in winter? If it is not, then you can avoid it and wait for spring and summer.
How deep is the snow? What is the condition of the trails? Most of the trails with a rating of extremely strenuous will be many times more extreme in winter. The ice will make them slippery. In fact, many hiking trails that get a good depth of snow are closed in winter. So you will have to find out from the park management whether the trails are open. Backpacking in winter is no joke, so you had better be amply prepared for it.
Buy long underwear. You should wear layers, starting with the lightest layer to the heaviest on the outside. That way, when it comes to sleeping time, you will just peel off the layers and remain with your long underwear and socks.
Buy your cold sleeping bags online or from specialist stores
Sure, you could order one from Wal-Mart, but that may not do you much good even if it saves money. You need to buy from an outdoor specialist store. This does not mean that you will have to walk into a brick and mortar store. Just order your sleeping bag online. While at it too, do not order blindly. Rather, read a few cold sleeping bag reviews. These can be professional or user reviews. User reviews give you unbiased information about the actual usability or lack thereof, of the sleeping bag.
Down or synthetic fill?
The word “down” or “down fill” is usually very confusing for new buyers. They do not know what these terms mean. Down fill means that the inside of the sleeping bag, or the insulation is filled with the soft plumage that is found under a goose’s feathers. These soft downy feathers keep a goose warm as it wades in cold water. That probably explains why down fill sleeping bags are so expensive. You can imagine gathering enough of the fluffy undergrowth of duck or goose to fill a sleeping bag. Yet, these bags offer the best insulation but this depends on the circumstances. If they are not 100% waterproofed, they do not perform well when used in wet conditions.
Synthetic fill on the other hand comes in two types mostly. One of them is made of short fibers, which forms a good compress but they do break down with time and from continued rolling/unrolling and stuffing of the sleeping bag. The other version of the synthetic fill is the long filaments, which last much longer but may not compress as well as the short staple fiber filling. This is why it is important to read reviews before buying.
When you are going backpacking in winter, buy the synthetic fill sleeping bag. It is made to withstand the wet conditions since synthetic fiber does not absorb water. It has the ability to keep the user warm even when they are soaked wet. The more expensive down fill sleeping bags cannot achieve this feat. However much you try to keep your sleeping bag dry, on snow, this might be impossible. Thus, you need a sleeping bag that can resist getting wet as much as possible.
One more benefit of the synthetic sleeping bag is that it dries faster. This is very important when you are using it in snowy conditions. It may not fold as well as the down fill bag, but hey, that is compensated for by many other benefits.
One disadvantage though is that synthetic fill sleeping bags will not last as long as their goose down fill sleeping bags, but then, that is why they are less expensive.
Water repellent fill
This kind of fill is a natural down that has been specially treated with chemicals to make it 100% waterproof. Although it is a new entrant in the market, it is becoming increasingly popular with campers and hikers. The chemical treatment ensures that the fill retains its shape and compression even when it is used in wet conditions. Granted, you will pay a higher cost for this bag, but it will reward you with warmth, comfort, longevity and many more features and benefits.
Important cold prevention features
Winter hiking is already too tough, and therefore you need a winter sleeping bag that you can crawl into and rest fully at night. If you catch your beauty sleep, you will feel rejuvenated for the following day’s hike or trek.
Sleeping bags have cold spots, which if not kept to the minimum or eliminated completely may let in too much cold air from outside, which would then cause discomfort and loss of sleep. Besides, if you sweat and the snowy cold air from outside creeps in, the sweat may freeze. You do not want that now, do you?
A good sleeping bag must have protection against the cold in the most vulnerable places. The zips, for example, should have baffles. A zip baffle is a tube found on the inner side of the zip to prevent the heat that you generate from escaping.
Another area where warm air may seep into the bag is through the neck. To counter this, buy a sleeping bag that has a baffle/a tube that is added to the neck area to prevent warm air from escaping. It also prevents cold air from getting in.
Zips are also a very important consideration. Some sleeping bags have zips that can open full length, some zips run three-quarter way and some run even halfway. The three-quarter and the full way zips are better because they allow you to vent from the top or the bottom, and getting into the sleeping bag is much easier. However, that is likely to raise their cost a bit.
This is another of the most important considerations when buying the best winter sleeping bag. Since you are going hiking in icy and probably wet conditions, you will be looking for a shell that is treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishing. This ensures that your bag is not soaked.
Is the shell rip-stop? That means whether the shell is able to resist grazes and abrasions from pebbles, rocks and sticks. Even if it is, it does not mean that you do not need to take care of your sleeping bag. However, it should be able to resist tears from the ground where you will sleep.
While this is not a must-have for sleeping bags, it is continually becoming a very common feature. This is just a space specially designed to allow your feet to stay in a natural position when you sleep. This means that you can have enough space for your feet to stay pointed upwards without feeling constricted.
This is just that – a hood that wraps around your face as you sleep. It will have cords that you can use to pull the hood closer to your face. Sleeping bags meant to be used in warm weather camping or backpacking are not going to have the hood. It is meant for extra insulation around the face for cold sleepers or for camping in the cold areas.
Should I buy a gender-specific sleeping bag?
Most definitely, you should. The male body frame is way too different from the female body frame. Even a real large woman will never have the physique of a man. Men are broader around the shoulders while women are broader around the hips. Therefore, when a woman uses mens sleeping bag, she will leave a lot of space in the shoulder area, which may cause under-insulation. A man using womens sleeping bag may find it too narrow on the shoulders and the extra space the sleeping bag leaves around the hips will cause under-insulation. Besides, you will not look good in your sleep if you use an ill-fitting sleeping bag. There is a reason it is called beauty sleep, you know.
Just because the seller or manufacturer says it is a winter sleeping bag does not make it good enough, until you read the temperature rating. Thankfully, today, there is a standard for rating sleeping bags. You do not have to rely on what marketers say. Today, the standard method adopted for this is called the European Norm (EN), which is regarded as the most reliable rating system in the world.
Here, we are only interested in the temperature rating for cold weather sleeping bags. This is determined by a few things like:
- The actual temperature of the place where you will be camping
- Whether you are a woman, (women become cold easier than men)
- Whether you are a cold or a warm sleeper. Cold sleepers may need sleeping bags rated for winter even when they camp in 40° F areas.
- If you will buy a double sleeping bag to share with your partner, two people get warmer faster
- If you will need to dress and undress inside the sleeping bag, then you may buy one rated for lower temperature since it will have more room meaning lots of cold air to heat up
Sleeping bags for winter could have a temperature rating of up to -10°C. However, some places where you may go for winter camping may have temperatures even lower than that. This would then require you to get sleeping bags rated for extreme weather.
A few important things you ought to know:
- The temperature ratings are given considering that you sleep with your long underwear
- Women should always get sleeping bags that are about 10 degrees warmer than those of men.
- Sleeping bags for extreme weather are rated with the assumption that you will be wearing your socks and you will use a sleeping pad.
- Most of the time, users say their winter sleeping bag was 10 or so degrees warmer than the rating
- Extremely rated sleeping bags are made to keep you alive than very warm
- Down fill sleeping bags come with different ratings for fill. Higher value fill means minimal filling yet very effective and very light too
- Very high quality synthetic fill sleeping bags are easier to fold and are light in weight
Considering the above-mentioned few points, you may want to sleep in your long underwear to enjoy comfort and warmth in winter. If you have guests at home in winter, you can use the sleeping bag as an extra bed.
Five of the best winter sleeping bags
Coleman North Rim Sleeping Bag Extreme Weather
This is a mummy shaped sleeping bag with 100% polyester fill. It is made for large people as it can fit a person who is 6 feet 2 inches tall. The cover is diamond-rip stop polyester, very enduring and usable under different conditions.
Coleman North Rim Sleeping Bag is made with the patented ComfortSmart Technology that ensures maximum comfort when sleeping in the cold. Rated for temperatures of 0° F to 10° F (-17°C to -12°C), that pretty much covers most of the trails that you may find open and usable in winter. When you are camping on warm nights, you can unzip the bottom for ventilation. It has a foot box for maximum feet comfort- sleep with your feet pointing upwards comfortably.
This is the best sleeping bag as it is constructed in such a way that it has no cold spots. In addition, the draft tube that is built over the zipper prevents heat loss through the zip and keeps the cold air from seeping in. the zipper is a two-way anti-snag, built in the best technology.
You can machine-wash. It is lightweight, it is perfect for trekking, backpacking, hiking and even biking. It is the kind of sleeping bag that you want whether you will sleep in a tent or outside under the open, starry winter skies.
To show the manufacturer’s confidence in this product, it is covered by a limited 5-year warranty and it comes with its own stuff sack for portability and storage.
TETON Sports Mammoth Queen Size Sleeping Bag
As its name suggests, this is a huge sleeping bag. If you have been hiking, trekking and camping for some time, you know that the TETON Sports name is big in all matters outdoor and adventure. Their Mammoth Queen Sleeping Bag does not disappoint and considering all its features and benefits, we can say that it is the best winter sleeping bag.
Measuring an impressive 94 by 62 inches (239 by 157 cm) when spread out, that alone makes it bigger than a queen size mattress.
- SuperLoft Elite fiberfill
- Canvas shell for a hardy exterior
- It measures 28 by 16 by 16 inches (71.1 by 40.6 by 40.6 cm) when packed.
- It has a temperature rating of 0° F (-18° C).
- The inner flannel liner is indeed comfortable to the skin, you can sleep naked if you like.
- For accessibility by both users, it unzips on both sides. It can also be unzipped at the bottom for ventilation when the night gets warmer.
- Has a limited lifetime warranty – that is awesome!
- Great for car camping, too bulky for hiking
This sleeping bag will not be as snug as the mummy sleeping bags since it is rectangular. It is also a bit weighty at 16 pounds (7.3 kg) and is therefore not usable for hiking or trekking.
TETON Sports Regular -18° C Sleeping Bag
This is another of the TETON Sports sleeping bags. It has a temperature rating of 0°F (-18°). Thus, it is not the kind of women’s or men’s sleeping bag that you would like to use in extreme conditions. It is a good looker too if that matters to you and you can use it at home when you have guests.
With an anti-snag zip that is insulated against the cold with a Thermolock tube, this is a rectangular sleeping bag, but it is almost as snug as a mummy sleeping bag because of its construction and design. It can house a large person comfortably.
Here are some of its features and benefits:
- Measures 80 by 33 inches (203 by 83.8 cm)
- The fill is SuperLoft Elite 4-Channel Hollow Fiber
- Can be zipped to a left or a right zippered bag to form a double sleeping bag
- It comes in a double-layer construction meaning that it has double fill thus more warmth
- The interior is made of flannel lining which is very cozy on the skin
- Has a half-circle hood with drawstrings
- Exterior is made of a durable taffeta shell
- It is covered by a limited lifetime warranty and the best thing yet is that when you buy it, some of the proceeds go to supporting Breast Cancer.
- It weighs 5 pounds (2.3 kg only)
- It is sold with its stuff sack (no extra cost)
Coleman Brazos Sleeping Bag Cool Weather
This winter sleeping bag is made for use in close-to-freezing temperatures. You can use it under 30° to 60°F (0° to 15° C) and with its waterproof polyester cover. This is a real lightweight sleeping bag weighing only 2.8 pounds/1.3 kg, making it perfect for hiking and biking.
Here are a few more features and benefits
- Measures 90.5 by 32.6 inches (230 by 82.8 cm) large enough to fit a 6 feet 5 inches tall man
- Polyester pongee lining that is very friendly to the skin
- The filling is 100% spinning cotton
- Side draft tube for the zipper insulation
- Has anti-snag zip
- Shell is made of waterproofed Polyester
- Measures 7.9 by 7.9 inches (20 by 20 cm)
- Sold with stuff sack for storage and movement
Coleman Big Basin Sleeping Bag
Another one of the most impressive, best winter sleeping bags from Coleman, you are going to love this one for its features, benefits and the innovative design. You can now sleep comfortably even if you are large framed as it can fit people who are up to 6 feet 6 inches tall. It is called an extreme weather sleeping bag because of its temperature rating of 0° F to 20° F (-18° C to -6° C).
Here are some of its features and benefits:
- It has ThermoLock draft tube for baffling the zipper to prevent heat loss or entry of cold air
- It is built with quilt construction to remove all cold spots
- Has a two-way anti-snag zipper
- Sold with 5 year warranty
- Unzips at the bottom when you need more ventilation on warm nights
- Diamond rip-stop Shell is 100% polyester
- Fill is 100% polyester
- Although it is a mummy sleeping bag, it is wide at the bottom for more foot room
- Has a semi-sculpted hood for heat loss prevention
- Sold with its stuff sack
You have seen a lot of information about the best winter sleeping bags. There are many more men’s and women’s sleeping bags in the market, but we just happened to choose these because they are highly rated on Amazon. The most important thing to consider is the fill, the shell and the size. However, before you buy, remember to look for sleeping bag reviews to see what other people say about the one you intend to buy. Hiking, trekking and camping are so much more fun to be left to summer and spring only. With the right gear, such as I review for you here, you can go hiking anytime of the year, and enjoy yourself tremendously.