Choosing a bag for the trips you most often do is all about finding the Goldilocks zone: a bag that’s not too hot and not too cold.
This is directly related to the warmth and weight of a sleeping bag. The higher the fill power, the more air – warmth – an ounce of down can trap. A high number also suggests the bag will be lighter because less down is needed to keep the user warm. Sleeping bags typically have a fill power of between 500 and 900.
Water-resistant or hydrophobic down is common and promises to insulate in wet conditions, or at least dry more quickly than untreated down. All down is compressible and lightweight, with goose down being of higher quality than duck down. Synthetic insulation is comprised of layered sheets of man-made fibres. These bags are affordable, durable and maintain their insulating properties when wet. They also tend to be bulkier and heavier than down bags.
Multi-baffled, anatomically-shaped hoods enclose the head and work with neck baffles to minimise heat loss. Cheaper models lay flat but will still have drawcord closure to improve warmth.
Mummy-shaped bags reduce dead air volume and are the warmest. They taper at the foot and can feel quite restrictive. Rectangular bags can be opened out like a blanket on warmer nights. A trapezoid foot box allows feet to rest in a natural upright position. Anatomic shapes are lighter and more compact when packed.
Three-quarter length zips reduce heat loss and weight. Two-way zips that run the length of the bag – or combine with a zip at the foot – allow for ventilation options on hotter nights.
These are designed to hold down over key areas of the body, maximising loft and minimising air movement through the seams. Synthetic bags rely on offset sheets of fill, tuck stitching and other techniques to hold the insulation in place and prevent heat loss.
Lightweight ripstop nylon and polyester fabrics, many with durable water repellant (DWR) coatings, are common. Down bags utilise fabrics with high thread counts to prevent down poking through the fabric. These also provide greater burst resistance to trap warm air.
This is made from soft-touch nylon taffetas and polyesters. Linings help reduce clamminess by wicking body oils and moisture.
Neck muffs and draught tubes
Neck muffs pull up around the neck and shoulders, preventing warm air escaping through the hood opening. Draught tubes behind zips prevent air passing into and out of the bag.
Sleeping bags should be hung or kept in their storage bag in a dry and well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight.
Pick a bag that best suits the majority of trips you will be doing (or get multiple bags). You can always increase the temperature rating of your bag by using a sleeping bag liner.
Most bags in this feature are tested to the European temperature ratings standard EN13537 or the more recent EN13537:2012 or 2016. The standard was devised to regulate sleeping bag manufacturers and provide an easily understood rating system for users.
The EN13537 temperatures shown on the following pages are:
- Comfort: The temperature an adult woman could expect a comfortable night’s sleep
- Limit: The temperature at which a standard man can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking
- Extreme: The minimum temperature at which a standard woman can remain for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia (though frostbite is still possible)
Responsible Down Standard
Most down sleeping bag manufacturers adhere to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) administered by the nonprofit Textile Exchange.
The standard ensures:
- Any removal of down and feathers from live birds (live-plucking or moult-harvesting) is prohibited
- Force-feeding is prohibited
- Holistic respect for animal welfare of the birds from hatching to slaughter
- Each stage in the supply chain is audited by a professional, third party certification body
- Only products with 100 per cent certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo
Rab Mythic 600 $1299.95
Tapered mummy-shaped bag with Chevron-shaped chambers to stabilise the down, three-quarter length
two-way zip, down-filled neck-baffle, angled footbox, RDS-certified. EN13537:2016 rated. Fill 600g of 900-fill power European goose down with Nikwax hydrophobic treatment Shell Pertex Quantum 7D Lining Pertex Quantum 7D Temperature rating -5°C (comfort), -12°C (limit), -32°C (extreme) Weight 885g.
Therm-a-Rest Oberon $999.99 (reg)
Zoned insulation, removable SynergyLink straps connect to mattress, draft collar, foot warmer pocket, differential cut, full-length zipper draft tube, snag-free zipper, hood drawcord, external zip pocket, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 790g of 800 fill Nikwax hydrophobic goose down Shell 20D polyester ripstop with DWR Lining 20D polyester taffeta Temperature rating -10°C (comfort), -18°C (limit), -40°C (extreme) Weight 1105g.
Big Agnes Hitchens UL $879 (reg)
Mummy-shaped bag with body mapped baffle construction, 3D anti-snag draft tube, vertical side walls, contoured hood, oversized draft collar, ergonomic footbox, nylon stuff sack. Fill 510g of 850-loft DownTek water-repellent goose down Shell Nylon ripstop Lining Nylon ripstop Temperature rating -6°C Weight 765g.
Big Agnes King Solomon 15 $779.99
Two-person rectangular-shaped bag with removable sleeping mat sleeve, Free Range Hood for freedom of head movement, pillow pocket, draft collar, double zippers for left or right side entry, interior fabric loops for sleeping bag liners. Fill 907g of 650-loft DownTek water-repellent goose down Shell Polyester mini ripstop microfibre Lining Nylon taffeta Temperature rating -9°C Weight 2040g.
Macpac Epic Hyperdry 600 $799.99 (std)
Alpine bag with water-resistant down, laminated draft tubes reduce snagging, mummy shape, 3D footbox and hood, box wall baffles, articulated knees, waterproof compression sack, mesh storage bag, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 600g of 800 loft 90/10 HyperDRY goose down Shell Pertex Quantum nylon Lining Pertex Quantum nylon Temperature rating -4°C (comfort), -10°C (limit), -30°C (extreme) Weight 1040g.
Rab Neutrino Endurance 600 $1299.95
Mountaineering bag with a water-resistant shell, mummy shape with 3D neck baffle, proportionally-assigned differential cut, trapezoid baffle champers and angled foot box, RDS-certified. EN13537:2012 rated. Fill 600g of 800-fill power European goose down with Nikwax hydrophobic treatment Shell Pertex Quantum Pro Lining Pertex Quantum with odour control Temperature rating -3°C (comfort), -9.5°C (limit), -28°C (extreme) Weight 885g.
Rab Ascent 700 $739.95
Wide mummy shape, internal stash pocket, wide angled foot box,three-quarter-length side zip, internal collar and hood drawcord, trapezoidal baffle chamber design, RDS-certified. EN13537: 2012 rated. Fill 700g of 650+ fill power European duck down with Nikwax hydrophobic treatment Shell Pertex Quantum Lining Pertex Quantum Temperature rating -2°C (comfort), -8.5°C (limit), -27°C (extreme) Weight 1270g.
The North Face Blue Kazoo $600
Mummy-shaped bag with anti-compression pads for even down distribution, fitted hood, zipper baffle, draft collar, sleeping mat loops, vaulted footbox, compression sack and storage bag, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 700-fill ProDown water-resistant goose down Shell 20D nylon ripstop Lining 20D nylon taffeta Temperature rating -3°C comfort), -9°C (limit), -28°C (extreme) Weight 1000g (m); 1030 (w).
Marmot Sawtooth TL $699
Mummy-shaped bag made with recycled materials, anatomical footbox, multi-baffle hood, adjustable drawcord, insulated draft collar, full-length, two-way, snag-free zipper, insulated draft tube, stash pocket, stuff sack and storage sack included. RDS-certified. EN 13537. Fill 666g of 650-loft water-resistant duck down Shell 30D nylon ripstop Lining Nylon Temperature rating 2.7°C (comfort), -9.1°C (limit), -27.5°C (extreme) Weight 1150g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Rab Summit 600 $699.95
Wide mummy-shaped bag with a water-resistant shell, internal stash pocket, wide angled foot box, three-quarter-length side zip, internal collar and hood drawcord, trapezoidal baffle chamber design, RDS-certified. EN13537: 2012 rated. Fill 600g of 650+-fill power European duck down with Nikwax hydrophobic treatment Shell Pertex Quantum Pro Lining Pertex Quantum Temperature rating -0.5°C (comfort), -6.5°C (limit), -24°C (extreme) Weight 1270g.
Macpac Latitude XP 500 $599.99
Water-resistant shell, radial chest baffles, semi-rectangular shape, full-length side and foot zip, twin chamber directional draft tube, inside zip pocket, drawcord hood, waterproof compression sack, mesh storage bag, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 500g of 700 fill power 90/10 goose down Shell Pertex Quantum Pro Lining Nylon taffeta Temperature rating 0°C (comfort), -6°C (limit), -23°C (extreme) Weight 1100g.
Therm-a-Rest Questar 20 $549.99 (reg)
Zoned insulation, ThermaCapture seams trap radiant body heat, SynergyLink straps connect to mattress, foot warmer pocket, toe-tilt, oversized zipper draft tube, snag-free zipper, external zip pocket, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 540g of 650-fill Nikwax hydrophobic down Shell 20D polyester with DWR Lining 20D polyester Temperature rating 0°C (comfort), -6°C (limit), -23°C (extreme) Weight 1038g.
Big Agnes Wiley $519 (reg)
Mummy-shaped bag with removable sleeping mat sleeve, vertical sidewalls, vaulted footbox, contoured hood, oversized draft collar, mesh storage sack, nylon stuff sack. Fill 425g of 650-loft DownTek water-repellent goose down Shell Nylon ripstop Lining Nylon taffeta Temperature rating -1°C Weight 794g.
Exped Lite +1 $499.99 (med)
Heat-retention comfort hood, 3D draft collar, differential cut prevents elbows and knees from compressing the down, high-thread-count fabrics, anatomical 3D footbox, reinforced stress points, inner pocket, chin guard, full-length draft tube, RDS-certified. EN 13537 rated. Fill 290g of 800-loft 90/10 European goose down Shell 20D ripstop nylon with DWR Lining 20D nylon Temperature rating 6°C (comfort), 1°C (limit), -15°C (extreme) Weight 780g.
Macpac Overland 400 $499.99 (std)
Water-resistant shell and down, full-length zip, draft tube, drawcord hood, articulated knees, mummy-shape, waterproof compression sack, mesh storage bag, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 400g of 650 loft HyperDRY duck down Shell Pertex Quantum nylon Lining Nylon taffeta Temperature rating -4°C (comfort), -7°C (limit), -24°C (extreme) Weight 1080g.
Marmot Never Winter TL $499
Mummy-shaped bag with recycled materials, anatomical footbox, multi-baffle hood, insulated collar, full length locking YKK two way zipper, draft tube, stash pocket, stuff sack and storage sack included. RDS-certified. EN 13537. Fill 650-loft water-resistant duck down Shell 30D recycled polyester ripstop Lining 30D recycled polyester Temperature rating 3.6°C (comfort), -1°C (limit), -17.8°C (extreme) Weight 850g.
Macpac Escapade 350 $399.99 (std)
Travel bag with semi-rectangular shape, side and foot zippers, compression stuff sack, RDS-certified. EN13537 rated. Fill 350g of 600 loft 80/20 duck down Shell Pertex Microlight nylon Lining Pertex Microlight nylon Temperature rating 11°C (comfort), 5°C (limit), -11°C (extreme) Weight 995g.
Therm-a-Rest Space Cowboy 45 $299.99 (reg)
Mummy-shaped bag with zoned insulation, SynergyLink straps connect to mattress, snag-free zipper, hood drawcord. EN13537 rated. Fill 270g of eraLoft 3D hollow polyester fibre Shell 20D polyester ripstop with DWR Lining 20D polyester Temperature rating 11°C (comfort), 7°C (limit), -6°C extreme) Weight 545g.
Kiwi Camping Tawa $139
Mummy-shaped bag with a Silvertherm thermal lining to reflect body heat, adjustable shaped hood, draft strip, zipper snag guard and offset construction, compression cram bag. Fill Maxotherm 7 synthetic fill Shell 210T diamond ripstop Lining 300T soft polyester Temperature rating -5°C (comfort), -10°C (limit) Weight 1440g.