sleeping bag reviews

A backpacker at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2022

By Michael Lanza

The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. Yellowstone. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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The Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt ultralight backpacking quilt.

Review: Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Ultralight Backpacking Quilt

Ultralight Backpacking Quilt
Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt
$380, 16 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long
backcountry.com

For seven nights in huts on Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails in July—and to fit all of my clothing layers, food for a week, and other stuff inside my 40-liter pack while keeping it as light as possible—I decided to take the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt for its minimalist weight and excellent packability. And it turned out, that hut trek mimicked sleeping outside on mild nights, presenting ideal circumstances for weighing an ultralight backpacking quilt’s strengths and shortcomings.

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A young boy in a sleeping bag while backpacking in Sequoia National Park.

10 Pro Tips For Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag

By Michael Lanza

Head into the mountains in summer, or almost anywhere in fall or spring, and you can encounter nighttime and morning temperatures anywhere from the 40s Fahrenheit to well below freezing. That’s more than cold enough to pose a real risk of hypothermia or, at the least, result in a miserable night for you or a partner or child you’ve taken backpacking or camping—and would like to take more. Here’s the good news: The very simple techniques outlined in this article can turn a potentially unpleasant night into a comfortable one.

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The Sierra Designs Cloud 800 35-Degree sleeping bag.

Review: Sierra Designs Cloud 35 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Cloud 35
$300, 1 lb. 7 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s regular and long (35- and 20-degree), women’s 20-degree (one size)
moosejaw.com

Mummy-style sleeping bags deliver high warmth efficiency for their weight because they trap heat so well—but can sometimes feel like they’re trapping you inside, too. Backpacking quilts mimic the feeling of sleeping under a comforter at home, but may too easily let cold air underneath on chilly nights outdoors. With its zipperless design and integrated comforter in the bag’s upper half, the Sierra Designs Cloud 35 bag achieves the strengths of mummies and quilts without their weaknesses.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail overlooking the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

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