Choosing a new sleeping bag is harder than you’d think. All those different brands, styles, and features can be downright confusing. When you think about all the different options it’s overwhelming.
The one thing that always seems to confuse new backpackers is bag weight. You have to drop some serious cash to get an extremely lightweight sleeping bag. So how much should a backpacking sleeping bag actually weigh?
As a general rule, my sleeping bags all weigh less than 40 ounces. For 3-season camping, you should purchase a bag rated for 20 degrees. In warmer weather you can save some weight by choosing a quilt over a sleeping bag.
A Few Lightweight 3-Season Sleeping Bags
I understand that most people won’t be able to afford a 500 dollar sleeping bag. Problem is lightweight bags are almost always expensive. Here are a few of my favorite lightweight bags at various price ranges.
- High-Quality: Western Mountaineering 20 Degree Bag
- High-Quality: Feathereed Friends Ultralight
- Mid-Range: Outdoor Vitals 20 Degree Bag
- Mid-Range: Therm-a-Rest 20 Degree Lightweight
- Budget Pick: Marmot 20 Degree Bag
- Budget Pick: Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Bag
Sleeping Bags are Heavy
The three heaviest items in your pack are your backpack, sleeping bag/pad and shelter. By dropping the weight of your 3 heaviest items you can significantly lower the weight of your pack. Personally, I like to get my pack, bag/pad, and shelter to be less than 9 pounds.
How Much Should Your Sleeping Bag Weigh?
As always there’s no one size fits all solution that will work for every backpacker. It’s going to depend on what time of year you’re camping, your individual needs and what kind of budget you have.
So how much should your sleeping bag weigh? An acceptable sleeping bag weight is one that will keep you warm for those conditions. So you have to first consider your conditions. First, you have to consider the type of season you’re backpacking.
A 40-degree sleeping bag will obviously be lighter than a subzero sleeping bag. You can’t figure out the weight of your bags without knowing your actual temperature needs.
Figuring Out Your Sleep System
Most backpackers use the term “sleep system” when referring to their bag and pad. To lower your bag weight you need to reduce the combined weight of both your bag and pad.
When choosing gear my goal is always to keep my pad/bag under a combined weight of 3lbs. Obviously, these recommendations might not work in extreme cold.
Sleeping Bag Weight
When choosing a sleeping bag you need to consider the seasons you’ll be camping. In this article I’m assuming that you aren’t camping in extremely cold weather.
Personally, I like to keep both my sleeping bag and pad pretty close to 3lbs. This is tough if you don’t have a huge budget. It’s tough to find a bag that weighs less than 2 pounds and costs less than $300.
If you’re on a budget I would highly recommend the Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Bag. It’s a little heavier than I’d like, but at less than 2.5lbs it’s not that bad.
Keep Your Bag Under 2lbs
For 3-Season camping, I really recommend that you purchase a bag that’s rated for 20 degrees. In extreme cold you can add a bag liner like this Sea to Summit Liner.
If your bag weighs more than 40 ounces, you should probably replace it. Try to aim for the 32oz mark for the bag and 16oz for the pad. Going over/under won’t make much of a difference.
Choose Down Over Synthetic
Down sleeping bags will almost always be lighter than synthetic bags. They are lighter and way easier to compress. Being able to compress your bag is huge, because you can get away with carrying a smaller pack.
Just make sure you don’t get your down sleeping bag wet. Once wet they lose their loft and get much heavier.
Experienced Backpackers Want Expensive Bags
Most experienced backpackers will tell you that Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends make the best sleeping bags. These bags normally cost well over $400. There are a few lower-cost options on the market from companies like Marmot, Kelty, Montbell and Therm-a-Rest.
Try to remember that buying a sleeping bag is a major investment. They should last well over ten years if taken care of and stored properly. If you can’t afford a high quality bag check second hand markets like eBay, craigslist and backpacking forum classified ads.
Quilts are Lighter Than Sleeping Bags
If you plan on camping in warm weather(over 40 degrees) you should seriously consider a quilt and sleeping bag liner. Quilts and hoodless sleeping bags will be much lighter than a traditional bag.