Backpacking With A Sleeping Bag: Be Prepared

Backpacking With Sleeping Bag

Lots of people find it fun to go hiking along trails, and then settling down to a camp to enjoy a night in the great outdoors. What’s not fun is when you bring the wrong type of sleeping bag with you. The hike may be excruciating due to the weight, and when you settle down for the night the sleeping bag may be inadequate for the temperature. It may even be too uncomfortable to sleep in. That’s why it’s important that you get the best lightweight sleeping bag for backpacking.

That’s where this guide comes in. We can help you pick the best budget backpacking sleeping bag, or maybe you may want to pair a backpacking sleeping quilt with the best backpacking sleeping pad you can get.

So let’s first check out the difference between a quilt and pad combination and backpacking sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag or Quilt?

When you’re going on an overnight hiking trip, there’s the question of how you will sleep later on during the night. You can always bring along a conventional sleeping bag, but some may choose to go with a quilt instead. A quilt needs to be partnered with the best lightweight sleeping pad you can find, but the combination does have its own advantages. Your choice all depends on your hiking circumstances and your own preferences.

Weight Difference

Many choose a quilt mainly because they’re lighter, and therefore easier to carry. That’s a crucial factor to consider for long hikes, as even a few pounds can be excruciating after hours of hiking. Quilts are lighter because there’s only one side to it, unlike a sleeping bag that covers your whole body.


A quilt is smaller too, so they’re more convenient to lug around. It doesn’t take as much space in your car before you start your hike. After the hike, its smaller size means that it doesn’t take as much time to re-loft.


Here, the sleeping bag is likely the better option. It’s true that a quilt can be just as warm as a sleeping bag for typical environments, although for much colder settings a sleeping bag is much more effective in keeping you warm. Most people also appreciate how you can adjust the temperature inside the so you can feel warmer or colder to suit your preferences.

The problem with quilts regarding warmth is that they’re very dependent on the sleeping pads they use. The quilt will lose its insulation (and therefore its warmth) if the sleeping bag fails.

On the other hand, a sleeping bag also needs a sleeping pad, but it needs the pad to keep you warm only for very cold conditions. Typically, if the sleeping pad fails the sleeping bag can still keep you comfy. That’s why you need the best ultralight sleeping pad—it won’t fail too quickly.


Sleeping bags have an uncomplicated design that resembles a tube. This is why it’s so effective in keeping the warmth in and the cold out. So there’s really no setup needed with a sleeping bag. Just get inside, zip up, and fall asleep snug and warm.

Quilts, however, open flat out. It’s like a blanket, with cords and ties to cinch the bottom and to attach it to a pad or mattress. They don’t generally have zippers and hoods. The cords and ties, however, are a lot fussier to set up especially if they’re designed to keep draft from coming in.

Sleeping Style

Sleeping Bag Backpacking

If you’re a restless sleeper or you sleep on your side, then quilts may be more ideal for you. They offer more movement while still keeping you warm. Sleeping bags may allow you movement only if you keep them open, and that may allow drafts to come in to your bag.

Factors to Consider

Whether you pick a sleeping bag or quilt, here are some factors you need to consider to settle on a particular sleeping bag among numerous options.


If you’re hiking up a cold mountain, then the warmth you get from your sleeping bag is your most important consideration. After all, we assume you don’t want to freeze to death or suffer from frostbite while you sleep.

The warmth depends on the loft or insulation the sleeping bag offers. A bag’s capacity to loft depends on its fill power, although this is negated by a loose-fitting bag. This means that firstly you need something snug so that you can maximize the heating efficiency of your sleeping bag. More volume of insulation (but not necessarily weight) also means greater warmth most of the time.

Many bags may show their temperature ratings. Some state that they’re only for summer, while others rated for winter seasons.

You may also get some accessories to improve the warmth you get from your sleeping bag. You can buy the best sleeping bag liner to add warmth. In addition, after you’ve used the bag you only need to wash the liner instead of the whole bag to turn it back into a fresh bag for you (or anyone else) to sleep in.

Down vs. Synthetic Material

Down has always been the traditional choice for sleeping bags, just as they have been for mattresses and pillows. They offer excellent warmth especially when you consider how lightweight this material is. Down compresses more easily, and they’re also famously long-lasting. You can expect down to last for at least 10 years, and many of the best ones can go on for 15 years.

But synthetic material has become a viable alternative these days due to many technological advances over the years. Synthetic materials use blends of polyester materials and can offer a lot of advantages. They’re cheaper, they dry more easily so they’re better in wet conditions, and they’re non-allergenic too.

Men’s vs. Women’s Sleeping Bags

Despite politically correct claims that men and women are equal, the scientific fact of the matter is that men have different body shapes than women. So if you’re a woman, you’re better off with the best women’s backpacking sleeping bag rather than a generic bag or something designed for a man.

These women’s sleeping bags account for women’s generally shorter heights, narrower shoulders, and more generous hips. That makes these bags a snugger fit. In addition, women are also typically colder sleepers compared to men, and that’s why these sleeping bags for women have come with extra insulation for the upper body as well as a foot box to keep their feet warm.



The nice thing about weight is that it’s a very objective factor. You can even weight the sleeping bag to confirm its stated weight. Its weight, though, is affected by a combination of other factors, such as the insulation it provides, the quality of the materials, the internal dimensions, and even the zippers it uses.

Now you might think that a lighter weight means that you sacrifice another crucial feature like the level of warmth you can enjoy. But the truth is that you can find various sleeping bags that are lightweight and very warm and comfy.

The heavier bags, though, may be weighed down by various extra features, like zippers and extra layers of fabric. That means they don’t use higher quality materials for warmth. The manufacturers instead use lower quality items but just more of them to cut down on costs.

Now what the ideal weight is for you will be subjective. It all depends on what you can carry comfortably. While the weights of sleeping bags don’t seem to differ all that much (they range from about a pound to more than 4 pounds), when you’re carrying them for long distances the extra weight can take its toll.


This is of course another subjective factor. It depends on such factors as the internal dimensions and your sleeping style, as well as the quality of the bag’s internal fabric. If you’re a restless sleeper, then you might need a bag with bigger internal space so you have more room to turn to your side.

But that will require more insulation and material to maintain your warmth. That will then affect its weight, packed size, and even its price.

Packed Size

This refers to the compressibility of the sleeping bag. Obviously, it’s best if it’s not bulky even if it’s not heavy. A bulky bag takes up more space in your car, and it may be more awkward to carry around on your back as you hike for hours.

Season Versatility

This is about whether you can use a sleeping bag for the summer as well as for the winter. Some bags are meant for a single season only, so a summer sleeping bag can keep you cool, but it won’t keep you warm during colder seasons. But other bags are meant for all seasons.


The general rule is that the better ones cost more, so you will need to figure out which offers the best value for your money. You need to set a budget for your sleeping bag, and then find an affordable sleeping bag that suits your particular needs.