Comfort is hard to come by when camping in the best of circumstances. In the winter, with the temperature plummeting and winds howling, it’s even more difficult to get the rest you need to face the frozen landscape before you. You’ll not only need the proper layers to stay warm, but the right winter sleeping bag to ensure you can drift away easily and awaken with all of your toes still attached. You have to get the proper weight for either backpacking, car camping, or more traditional camping, and still have enough room for additional pads to keep the frozen ground at a distance.
The first criteria to consider when picking a year-round bag or one exclusively for winter is what is used to fill it. Standard foam and filling isn’t going to cut it, so we started with those bags that had thermal filling or down so that the insulation could stand up. We also found only those bags properly constructed with tough enough materials so they wouldn’t rip, tear, wear away, or shift their stuffing to create cold spots while you slept. At last, we found the 8 best winter sleeping bags for any snow-covered outing.
Teton Sports Mammoth
Pro: Works for larger campers
Con: Zippers and other parts tend to fail
Family Sized: Lined with flannel and using a polyester shell that resists all the most basic weather, the Mammoth can survive in 0-degree temperatures largely because it is big enough to fit a small family or two full-sized adults. Built in is a mummy-esque hood that helps keep heat in while a full-length zipper will help let it out. Comfortable and cozy, it’s too big for mountaineering and not quite warm enough for solo missions in the absolute dead of winter, but for casual winter campers looking to save money, or those who like to get amorous on their excursions, it’s ideal.
Mountain Hardwear Lamina
Pro: Long and regular versions available
Changeling: This bag has an astonishing price tag for all the features crammed into it. The outside is all nylon treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) while the inside is made with Lamina that helps assist loft and avoids cold spots from developing where the insulation has shifted. A complete face gasket keeps all of the heat from your head trapped and reused where you need it, as a soft polyester interior wicks away any sweat so that your body can’t freeze itself. A full length zipper with dual sliders lets you cool down should you start overheating.
Big Agnes King Solomon
Pro: Dual zipper design
Con: Pad sleeve accommodates only back sleepers
Double Down: At slightly more than 4.5 lbs., this is probably a little heavy to be your mountaineering bag, but if you have a partner who can reduce your pack weight – and one you don’t mind snuggling the whole night through – this bag is shockingly good. With a shoulder girth of 104” there’s lots of space, but the drawstring hood and tight, draft-proof collar don’t let any air in or out. A little extra length in the footbox will accommodate users up to about 6’2”. On the back is a pad sleeve that ensures you never roll off onto the ground, and also don’t need to shove your sleeping mat into your bag, giving you more space.
Sierra Designs Cal 6 DriDown
Pro: Larger bottom for les constraint at your feet
Con: Can easily get too warm
Deep Freeze: Able to handle temperatures from 0 down to 40-below, this is barely going to qualify as a three season bag, since it doesn’t have a setting that isn’t “roasted” or “broiled,” but for those who take their winter camping seriously and like to really get down when the mercury drops, this is a great go-to. 800-fill down with vertical baffles for changing your ventilation situation, an ergonomic design that fits your body snugly without constricting you, and drag-and-snag proof zippers, it’s easy to use and quick to get arranged when you need shelter with a quickness.
Pro: Stretching material at the knees for side sleepers
Con: Bungee around the face hangs awkwardly
A Cut Above: The story with the Sonic isn’t in the 850-fill duck down that can keep you cozy down to 0-degrees fahrenheit, but rather with the breathable baffles that let you cool down as much as 20-degrees during the transitory season or sudden warm snaps. Since they don’t run the entire length of the bag, they’re easier to control and keep the insulation centered over your core, so shifting is less of a problem.
Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0
Pro: High weight to warmth ratio
Con: Hood is undersized and uncomfortable
Impermeable: This is as close as you can come to a full on cocoon when you’re thinking of winter bags. The exterior is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) and made of the Pertex Shield EX water-fighting shield, so wetness needs to saturate the bag to make it inside. Loads of baffles not only hold insulation in place, but let you decide how it’s positioned for a better, warmer fit. Add in draft tubes and zipper guides and this is so good, you’ll never want to get out of it.
North Face Inferno Summit
Pro: Full draft collar
Con: Zipper directly over core
Dry Time: The Inferno does a serviceable job of living up to its name, able to stand up to sub-zero temperatures even when coping with wind and water. Wetness fighting seems to be its speciality with Neovent Air fabric on the hood, toe-box, and the back to promote quick drying at the areas most likely to get hit with moisture and condensation. Tightly packed 800-fill down helps keep your heat in without packing on the pounds. While we have chosen the -20 bag, there’s also a 0-degree bag from the same line for anyone who doesn’t plan on doing serious mountaineering.
Western Mountaineering Antelope GWS
Pro: Heat-sealing 3D collar
Con: Neck baffle breaks open easily
In The Breeze: GWS stands for Gore Wind Stopper, which is what this bag was designed for dealing with. Rather than providing loads of warmth that can be undermined by a bad draft, this prevents condensation and airflow from ruining a good night’s sleep. Comfortable down to approximately 5-degrees fahrenheit it has a wide 62” shoulder width and 7” worth of loft for allowing you space to add that extra layer when the circumstances demand it. The enahnced size can also give you cooling options for four-season usage.