winter sleeping bag reviews

Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2023

By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. 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. Yellowstone. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. 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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Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 sleeping bag.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 Sleeping Bag

Winter Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0
$680, 2 lbs. 9 oz./1162g (regular, 72-inch)
Sizes: short, regular, long

The forecast made me sit up and wonder: Will my bag be warm enough? For the three nights in late December that I planned to spend in a tent in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, lows would drop into the teens and single digits Fahrenheit—slipping below the “comfort” rating and approaching the “limit” rating of my Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0. And this on my maiden voyage with the bag; I had not used it yet. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about with this extraordinarily warm and packable, ultralight winter sleeping bag.

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Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0 sleeping bag.

Review: Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0 Sleeping Bag

Winter Sleeping Bag
Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0
$679, 2 lbs. 12 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($644)

On chilly nights of camping, nothing’s more popular than a fat sleeping bag. When sleeping outside in winter—or wintry temperatures—the Snowbunting EX 0 has become my bag of choice. Most recently, I slumbered peacefully and quite comfortably through three December nights without a tent outside a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains—one of those nights dropping into the single digits Fahrenheit, and another featuring several hours of snow falling intermittently directly onto my bag, inside which I remained quite warm and dry. Super warm and well built, at a moderate weight, this bag functions well, depending on the user, for trips in temps from around its 0-degree rating to around freezing.

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Big Agnes Storm King 0 sleeping bag.

Review: Big Agnes Storm King 0 Sleeping Bag

Winter Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes Storm King 0
$380, 3 lbs. 9 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($400)

When is a mummy-style bag too constricting? I’ve used ultralight, three-season bags that felt a little too coffin-like. But in winter—or wintry conditions, such as you encounter when mountaineering in spring and summer—there are more practical reasons to use a bag with extra space, and you get it with the Storm King 0. Beyond its dimensions, the Storm King’s water-resistant down feathers, fairly unique “system” design that requires sliding an air mattress into a sleeve on the bag’s bottom side, and its relatively affordable price for this category of bags merits a close look.

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Gear Review: Big Agnes McAlpin SL Winter Bag

Big Agnes McAlpin SL winter sleeping bag
Big Agnes McAlpin SL winter bag

Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes McAlpin SL (5° F)
$360, $380 long, 2 lbs. 14 oz. (reg)
Sizes: regular and long

What should you look for in a winter sleeping bag? I want it to be warm enough, sure, but I also look for several other attributes, like a little extra space, resilience to moisture, and that it’s not too heavy or bulky and doesn’t cost more than my winter tent. Big Agnes has answered my demands with the McAlpin.

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