Ask Me: What Lightweight Sleeping Bag Do You Recommend for Desert Trips?


Can you recommend a desert sleeping bag for a several-night stay. I have a regular bag, but it is for cold weather (0 degrees). We are starting to do some desert backpacking trips and I don’t see much information on the type of bag that would be comfortable in that type of weather.

Thank you.

West Hills, CA

Hi Kevin,

How warm a bag do you need? That depends on what time of year you’re going, the lowest possible temps you’ll encounter, and whether you get cold easily in a bag.

Is price your primary issue, or quality and low weight?



Down to 40 degrees. Quality and low weight. Most bags are V-shaped. I prefer something that provides a wider area.



The first bag that comes to mind that meets your description—especially extra room—is the MontBell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger no. 3 (which appears to have been replaced this spring by the Down Hugger 800 #3, with the price knocked down to $299). The name’s a mouthful, but it’s light and compact, warm for the weight and rating, and has a unique design that stretches with you as you shift position. MontBell just introduced this spring a new ultralight bag, the Down Hugger 900 #2, with exponentially more stretch, but it’s significantly pricier at $519, too.

For much the same reasons, but also because the center zipper is nice for a side sleeper like me, I also like the Stoic Somnus 30.

If you want a lot more space than most mummy bags offer, you might look at a bag from Big Agnes, which has a reputation for designing more spacious bags, such as the Pitchpine SL 45.

For the desert, and even for most backcountry trips except where you’ll be out for many days in sustained wet weather, I’d go with a down bag. Not only are they lighter and more compact than most synthetic bags, but most synthetic bags are built to be affordable for entry-level buyers; so they don’t always have the same high-quality construction and features of a good down bag, and they’re usually not as warm as a similarly rated down bag. The exception is bags made with Primaloft synthetic insulation, which is impressively warm for its low weight and bulk and is used in high-end bags. I’m consistently pleased with the warmth of anything I have that uses Primaloft insulation, from puffy jackets to winter gloves. Still, I often use a down bag even in wet weather; with a good tent and a dry bag-style stuff sack (I use the Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sacks), you’re bag isn’t likely to get wet.

Personally, I almost always use a bag rated around 30 degrees for three-season trips, because the good ones at that rating keep me warm in temps near freezing, which means I can use them all summer in the mountains and in spring and fall in the desert—in other words, for basically most of my backcountry trips. I don’t get cold easily, but for me, 40-degree bags often require wearing extra layers while sleeping, so they’re less versatile than 30-degree bags without being much lighter.

You might find some useful info in my article “How to Choose a Sleeping Bag.”

I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have other questions.


Thanks Michael,




Note: In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.

I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza


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