Every good adventure should end with a well-earned, restful sleep – not shivering until 3am in a woefully thin quilt, or tossing and turning all night entrapped in an overly-toasty cocoon.
That’s why finding the right sleeping bag is a must before you head off on any adventure, be it wild camping, glamping, a campervan road trip or campsite holiday.
Sleeping bags are graded by season and comfort. A one-season bag is good for summer only, while a four-season bag is suitable all year including in sub-zero conditions.
The often-confused comfort ratings – technically defined as “comfort” (warm enough for the average woman), “comfort limit” (warm enough for the average man), and “extreme” (the lowest temperature an average woman can survive) – specify the bag’s exact temperature ranges. Simply pick one that suits your needs.
Warmth comes from the sleeping bag’s fill, either down or synthetic insulation. Choose down for a superior warmth-to-weight ratio, or synthetic for better value and improved insulation when wet.
Another key decision is shape. A rectangular cut is roomier and comfier, but heavier – the ideal option for glamping, campervanning and campsites. A tapered “mummy” style, conversely, is technical, lightweight and compact enough for off-grid backpacking or wild camping atop a remote mountain.
Sadly, there were no mountains in our field tests. Due to coronavirus restrictions, we camped in (erm) the far-flung wilderness of the back garden. Yet several nights under canvas still enabled us to test a broad spectrum of sleeping bags to suit all needs, whether you’re a beginner with a sub-£100 budget or an intrepid pro looking to splash £500.
Rectangular or mummy-shaped, down-filled or synthetic, for campsite luxury or hardcore winter expeditions, we’ve tested everything out there to identify 13 of the best sleeping bags for when real adventures are back on the menu.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Thermarest questar 20F
Designed for remote and rugged adventures, this is a great all-rounder: technical, lightweight, comfortable and warm at an affordable price. It weighs just 990g and packs away very compactly, yet the 650 fill power down – which is thickest where you need it most – still keeps you warm down to 0C.
The Nikwax hydrophobic down used also absorbs 90 per cent less water and dries three times faster. That’s ideal if you get damp from condensation or (god forbid) a tent leak. The mummy-shaped design is technical but generous, providing a little wriggle room, and everything else you’d expect is present – full-length zipper, adjustable hood, neck baffle and collar drawcords.
But the best feature is the clever sleeping mat connection system, enabling seamless integration of bag and mat. There’s no accidental sliding off your mat onto the cold, hard, unforgiving ground.
Buy now £209.99, Ultralight Outdoor Gear
Mountain Equipment helium 600
Stuffed full of 582g of fluffy duck down, sliding inside this three-season bag feels like getting a big, warm hug. Comfort rated to -1C, with a comfort limit of -8C, it easily kept us warm on a nippy night in northern Cumbria. The baffles in the hood, footbox and body felt thickly-padded, but the real stars were the added extras – the neck baffle, zip baffle and collar’s magnetic snap button – that excluded cold air impeccably at common weak points.
The tapered cut felt snug and cosy, while the snag-free zipper and convenient drawstrings did their jobs admirably. We particularly liked the storage cube too, a handy way to stash the bag at home without ruining the down’s loft. The bag weighs 1,070g and packs away compactly. For off-grid adventures where warmth and comfort are key, this is a safe bet.
Buy now £209.99, Ellis Brigham
Sea To Summit ember ebll -1C
For side-sleepers and those who toss and turn at night, the zipped-up cocoon of a sleeping bag can feel exasperatingly claustrophobic. The solution? A duvet-like sleeping quilt that drapes over your body, rather than 360-degree enveloping it, thus increasing freedom of movement.
With this three-season quilt, you can shuffle to your heart’s content – stick a leg out, emancipate an arm, squirm upside down – anything goes. And breathability on warmer nights is superb, with the quilt’s open structure proving airy and well-ventilated. But all this flexibility doesn’t compromise warmth – the premium goose down and cinched-in footbox feel cosy down to -1C.
A common criticism of quilts is that they’re draughty. Insulation is provided on top only, leaving your body in direct contact with your sleeping mat, risking exposure to cold gusts. Not so with this quilt, however, as a clever clipping system enables flawless quilt-to-mat integration for minimal heat loss. There’s neither zipper nor hood, but the minimalist features ensure a remarkable 600g weight – that’s surely light enough to convince even the most old school of campers to ditch the traditional sleeping bag.
Buy now £266.49, LD Mountain Centre
Mammut protect down bag -18C
Comfort rated from -10C to -18C, this four-season bag will keep you adventuring all winter, whether you’re wild camping in Scotland or mountaineering abroad. The warmth comes from thick layers of duck down, a substantial hood with collar baffle, and cosy footbox, while extra insulation over the zip and a “zip garage” effectively prevent the cold and wind from ruining your sleep. In fact, a good night’s sleep – or “restorative sleep”, as Mammut put it – in extreme conditions is this sleeping bag’s modus operandi.
It worked for us, with the ergonomic design, soft noise-reducing materials and bonus sleeping mask and ear plugs ensuring we got a solid eight hours. But this bag’s pièce de résistance is its two-way, central zipper. We loved the way it enabled fine-tuned climate control, never snagged on the lining and kept the bag centred over the body when unzipped.
Buy now £450.00, Mammut
Mountain Hardwear lamina eco AF -1C
It’s so good for the planet, it’s “eco AF” (yes, it means exactly what you think it means). This cheekily-named sleeping bag has sustainability at its core. The shell and lining are made from 100 per cent recycled nylon and the synthetic insulation, comfort rated from 2C to -4C, is 70 per cent recycled polyester. Most striking, however, is the bag’s almost angelic white colour – an impractical choice for muddy, sweaty adventures, but an eco-friendly move that avoids the dyeing process and saves thousands of gallons of waste water.
The compression and storage sacks are also recycled, ensuring every aspect of this 870g bag has unrivalled green credentials. But what’s it like to sleep in? We snoozed joyously inside its synthetic embrace. Perhaps it was the snug mummy design, tailored hood and contoured footbox that did the trick – or maybe it was the inner peace that comes from helping the planet.
Buy now £169.99, Addnature
You don’t have to be camping in South Dakota’s grasslands to enjoy the Robens prairie. This retro sleeping bag is equally at home in the UK, ideally in a Land Rover roof tent, camping pod or glamping yurt. The classic style, canvas feel and khaki-tartan combo are reminiscent of a 19th century “cowboy bedroll” – and the rolled-up, leather-strapped look is sure to be hipster-approved.
At a whopping 3.5kg with a humongous packed size, you certainly won’t be carrying this two-season sleeping bag very far. It’s much better for road trips or adventures with a single base. Comfort rated to between 2C and 7C, the interior feels far more like a normal bed than most sleeping bags, with the cotton lining proving soft on the skin and the long, wide, rectangular shape providing ample room. You also get a pillow and the detachable headrest doubles as a carry bag.
Buy now £79.99, Leisure Outlet
Haglofs L.I.M down +1
For fast and light adventures where weight is priority number one – anything from mountain marathons to multi-day summer treks – the Haglofs L.I.M (Less Is More) bag is a godsend. If you don’t power through the miles or set a PB with this in your backpack, you’ve only got yourself to blame. It weighs an incredible 473g, easily the lightest on test, and packs down to a remarkably tiny size.
The low weight is achieved through a minimalist design. There’s no zipper, the footbox is open (but can be cinched closed) and the hood is basic. Yet the mummy-shaped interior still feels cosy, courtesy of high quality goose down with a 1C to 6C comfort rating, meaning the “less is more” ethos thankfully doesn’t apply to hours of restful sleep. We slept comfortably in this bag and found the thin, airy design ideal on a stuffy night.
Buy now £279.99, Ultralight Outdoor Gear
Ayacucho sirius 200
This no-frills sleeping bag is a great value option for beginner adventurers or teenagers taking on a DofE expedition. At just £70 it’s a bona fide bargain, striking a good balance between warmth and weight. Filled with synthetic insulation, its comfort limit is 0C yet it weighs in at a respectable 1,380g. Once stuffed inside its compression sack, the 39x18cm packed size is adequately compact too. Despite the low price tag, we found the features pretty impressive.
On a cold, damp night featuring single figure temperatures, we retained heat effectively by cinching the collar baffle closely and adjusting the hood’s drawstring, while the two-way zip was adequately protected by a draft-excluding tube. We loved the handy pocket for stashing a phone (and emergency Twix) and the hanging loops were ideal for airing the bag the following morning.
Buy now £70.00, Cotswold Outdoor
Duvalay comfort sleeping bag
Camping comfort might seem like an oxymoron, but not so with this bag – the undisputed luxury option in this list. Combining a memory foam topper, polycotton sheet and duvet-like quilt into a clever, integrated system, this is actually a sleeping bag and mat in one – and it performs impressively. If you want your sleeping bag to replicate the feel of a real bed, this is the product for you.
It comes in either a 4.5 or 10.5 tog, with three width options, two depths and several colours. At 5.9kg, it’s rather eye-wateringly heavy, but no-one is carrying this in their backpack. It’s designed predominantly for use in campervans or caravans, or possibly a glamping tent, and for that market – campers who don’t like roughing it – it ticks every box.
Buy now £129.95, Duvalay
Coleman basalt double
For cuddling up next to a loved-one, this double sleeping bag fits the bill at a very reasonable price. The long and wide rectangular shape provides ample room for two without feeling cramped, while the polyester materials used are soft and comfy. With an impressive comfort rating of -5C, courtesy of a colossal 2,265g of synthetic insulation, it's reassuringly cosy, but on warmer nights the 360-degree zippers can be opened to increase ventilation.
Other features include two phone pockets, an integrated headrest and anti-odour treatment which, according to Coleman, keeps the bag “feeling fresh” for longer. At 4kg and sized like a huge suitcase when stuffed inside its carry case, this sleeping bag is not made for off-grid adventures – but for campsite breaks, be it a couple’s getaway or family holiday, it's a good choice.
Buy now £55.00, Go Outdoors
Jack Wolfskin re smoozip 0
Made entirely from recycled materials (except for the zipper), this bag is for the eco-conscious adventurer. The synthetic insulation is 100 per cent recycled polyester, the shell and lining are 100 per cent recycled too, and the Bluesign-approved manufacturing process is free of harmful chemicals. A comfort rating of 5C to 0C is suitable for most non-wintry adventures, with the insulation conveniently enhanced around cold-sensitive areas of the body.
There is a unique S-shaped zip and distinctive curved baffles, as well as a minimalist hood, internal pocket and roll-top pack bag. We found the mummy shape and soft materials amply comfortable for a good sleep, with the two-way zip enabling micro adjustments for ventilation around the legs on a warm night. At 1,225g it’s far from the lightest, but who cares when the product is this good for the planet?
Buy now £134.06, Alpine Trek
Vango radiate single
Ever dreamed of taking an electric blanket on your camping adventures? Well, dream no more, because Vango have (sort of) turned this fantasy to reality. The futuristic bag has an integrated graphene heating element. Simply connect any power pack charger to the in-built USB cable, select one of four heat settings, and – is it a miracle? – heat fills the bag. We tested this innovation using a 20,000mAh power bank and, while nowhere near as toasty as a real electric blanket, the 2C heat boost was noticeable.
Not that we really needed it, as the duvet-like bag – comfort rated to 2C – felt both balmy and homely. At a hefty 2,360g it’s not really portable for remote adventures, but for campsites it’s a quirky option. Perhaps this new technology is just a gimmicky sales tactic – but, with a prestigious industry award in its trophy cabinet, maybe this is the future of sleeping bags.
Buy now £85.00, Vango
Alpkit arcticdream 1200
Proof that you don’t have to remortgage the house to purchase an expedition-ready bag, the well-priced sleeper is comfort rated down to -23C, so it’ll keep you warm (and alive) in the most inhospitable of environments. The impressive temperature ratings come courtesy of well-lofted, almost opulent layers of goose down, as well as the insulated hood and generous foot and shoulder baffles.
But, pleasingly, all this warmth won’t break your back, as the 1,700g weight and mid-range packed size are far from daunting. If you’re headed on the adventure of a lifetime to the Arctic Circle or high Himalayas, this is a four-season bag you can rely on. Or, if you’re after something slightly less hardcore, the similar alpinedream 800 is 400g lighter and £125 cheaper with a -17C rating – perfect for a snowy wild camp in the Highlands.
Buy now £424.99, Alpkit
The verdict: Sleeping bags
If your post-lockdown plans include multi-day adventures and off-grid camping trips, then the Thermarest questar 20F will be a reliable companion. It’s a great all-rounder: technical, lightweight, warm and comfortable.
If your plans extend to winter, the Mammut protect down bag -18C will keep you toasty in sub-zero conditions, or for a spot of campsite or campervan luxury the well-priced Robens prairie is indulgently comfy.