Backpacking Sleeping Bag Reviews

A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.

5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

Are you in the market for a new backpack, boots, tent, sleeping bag or other backpacking gear or apparel? How do you find something that’s just right for you? What should you be looking for? How much should you spend? These are questions I’ve heard from many friends and readers over the years as they’ve waded through the myriad choices out there. This article lays out five simple but helpful tips to keep in mind when buying gear.

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The Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15° F/-9° C sleeping bag.

Review: Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15F/-9C Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy
$319, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s regular and long ($290) and women’s ($300)

Stepping out of my tent on our first morning in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon in the first week of April, I was greeted by an air temperature barely above freezing and a steady wind sailing through our camp at about 20 to 30 miles per hour. So I reacted in the only way that made sense: I wore my sleeping bag in camp. And I could do that and walk around easily (while my friends assumed postures of cold discomfort wearing their down jackets outside—or simply stayed in their tent) because my bag was the Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15° F/-9° C.

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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

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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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)

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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The Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 sleeping bag.

Review: Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32
$400, 1 lb. 9 oz. (regular)
Sizes: unisex small, regular, and long

It was an amazing spot to sleep under the stars for our last night on an early-April backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon: perched on a plateau high above the Inner Gorge of the Colorado River, gazing across the canyon at the Tonto Plateau and South Rim. We waited until dusk had nearly faded to darkness to lay out our sleeping bags atop our completely exposed, flat cowboy-camping ledges, hoping the relentless, strong wind would abate with evening’s arrival and not threaten to launch our bags to New Mexico—but it didn’t. So I burrowed inside my Therm-a-Rest Parsec 32 for warmth—and only opened my eyes once or twice briefly during the night, enough to glimpse the brilliant glow of the Milky Way.

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