If you’re planning travel and want to throw in some adventures or camping packing a packable and ultralight sleeping bag is an an essential piece of gear.
Heck, maybe you just want to make sure you stay warm or don’t trust the hostels sheets!
I know I’ve certainly came across situations during my travels through 40+ countries that I wish I had a sleeping bag in my pack.
Given that modern sleeping bags are super lightweight and pack down to a small water bottle, they are far from a burden to find room for in your pack. So, let’s get to it and breakdown how to choose the right one.
Finding the Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Ultralight sleeping bags generally come in two types depending upon their insulation fill: natural down fill and synthetic fill. Both insulation materials can be utilized to produce an ultralight, yet warm sleeping bag. It mostly comes down to user preference, weight, performance when wet, and packability.
Down sleeping bags are constructed with natural down feather filling whereas synthetic insulation uses specially prepared material, mostly polyester as filling. There are benefits and drawbacks for each insulation type (see below for which fits your needs best).
Down sleeping bags are suitable for very cold but dry usage. They are warmer than synthetic bags of the same weight, but also have a higher price. Down sleeping bags do not perform very well when they are wet.
On the other hand, synthetic sleeping bags are very versatile and can be used over a wide range of temperature, although not as suitable for super extreme cold. Another benefit is that they perform well even when they are wet. They have a relatively lower price tag as compared to down filled ones as well.
You can also read up here for an overview of the differences between down and synthetic insulation.
Ultralight Sleeping Bag Uses
For travelers, an ultralight sleeping bag is a great thing to have when headed on adventure and outdoor trips. It can come in very handy especially if you plan for camping or even staying in hostels or hotels.
It can keep you safe from the cold and provide you the comfort you need anywhere you want, for which general camping equipment or hotels may not suit your cleanliness or warmth needs.
Moreover, if you go for hiking or camping, a high quality lightweight sleeping bag can give you that extra bit of freedom. You can plan to stay wherever you like without the fear of not having a comfortable sleep.
A well-designed and dependable sleeping bag will keep you warm and comfortable, ensuring that you’re that you stay fresh and fit during your tour and enjoy your tour the way you like.
Some important factors to consider when choosing an ultralight sleeping bag are mentioned below.
Choosing the Right Ultralight Sleeping Bag
The lighter the bag, obviously the easier it is to carry and typically the smaller it packs. Many ultralight sleeping bags weigh under 2.0 pounds, with some even coming in at under 1.0 pound.
Hence, it is recommend to choose a lighter bag as it will be less of a burden carrying it day-after-day on travel. Plus you’ll be able to use it for climbing and hiking without being bogged down.
However, they may be a bit expensive and you may have to trade-off between weight and price.
The material and fill is one of the most important aspects when choosing a sleeping bag. It determines the durability of the bag, the warmth it provides and the overall performance in various conditions. Depending on how you plan to use your ultralight sleeping bag, one insulation type may fit you better.
If you want the lightest possible bag, your best bet is to go with a high-quality down. If you want a ultralight sleeping bag that can keep you warm when you find yourself in wet conditions, a synthetic insulation may suit you better.
A good quality zipper and design can make the bag easier to use (not allowing material to get caught/jammed in the zipper). Also consider a right vs. left side zipper depending on which side you prefer to sleep on.
Two way zippers are an even better option while choosing a sleeping bag since you’ll be able to open the bottom on hot nights to better regulate your body temperature. This can make a bag rated for colder conditions much more usable on warmer outings as well.
The length depends on your height or possibly what you’re comfortable with. It is recommended to buy a bag that is neither too long nor too short for your body, but if you have to decide having one that is slightly long is better than being cramped in your bag.
Having a bag that is wide enough to allow you to turn-over and switch sides can make a much more peaceful night’s rest. If you roll over a lot in your sleep you’ll want to make sure the bag you choose allows enough ‘wiggle’ room and mobility is a must.
While buying almost anything for travel, always looks for portability. The better the packability, the easier to carry along. Many ultralight sleeping bags pack down to a small ball that you can easily find room for in your bag.
The main purpose of the sleeping bag is to provide you a good sleep. Different bags vary in their comfort features. It highly recommended not to lose out on this feature—make sure you’re comfortable in your sleeping bag.
A lot of ultralight sleeping bags come with a water resistant coating, such as DWR. This can be great for keeping your bag dry against small spills or light encounters with water. However, don’t count on it keeping your bag dry in extended rain or wet conditions.
Also, a DWR coating on a sleeping bag (or any gear for that matter) will wear off over time. You can always restore the DWR finish with an easy at home DWR wash or spray.
This one is an extra feature. A few pockets in your bag can be very useful. They can be used to keep important gear stuff near you like mobile phones, watches etc.
Keeping in mind the above features, below are a few possible pros and cons of a sleeping bag.
The bad news is that with most travel and outdoor gear, the lighter weight, the more expensive. This is generally true with sleeping bag models as well, but it doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank to get yourself a high-quality bag.
You can expect to spend anywhere from around $200 a entry-level bag to $500+ on the best ultralight sleeping bag models. With both down and synthetic insulation, the lighter the bag, the more you’ll pay.
Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags for Travel & Outdoors
I’ve put together a curated list of what I think are some of the best sleeping bags available on the market for travel.
The quality of these bags are all excellent regarding construction and material, but always remember to always compare the temperate rating and weight to see what fits your needs the best.
A super packable and ultralight sleeping bag with high-quality down fill insulation. Good for general use, but more appropriate for warmer conditions. Rated at 45 degrees, you won’t want to use it on super cold nights. Easy to carry and has high portability. A 20” bottom insulation pad is required for this bag which is sold separately.
- Weight: 1.4 lbs
- Insulation type: 850 fill power DownTek insulation
- Fabric material: Pertex feather weight fabric
- Zipper: 48 in
- Pocket: 1 pillow pocket (pillow sold separately)
- Other features: Water repellent insulation
Another great choice as far as ultralight sleeping bags go. Rated at 32° F, it is fit for general purpose use. This bag also has a down fill insulation. This mummy style bag is ideal for lightweight backpacking.
- Weight: 1.2 lbs
- Insulation type: 10 oz. down fill
- Fabric material: 120D rip stop nylon
- Zipper: full length
- Pocket: None
- Other features: Simple and warm, designed for least weight
At 1.0 pound, the Mountain Hardwear Mountain Speed 32 Sleeping Bag is the defination of an ultralight sleeping bag.
Very similar to Summerlite mummy sleeping bag with a temperature rating of 32° F. Some differences are that this one has an additional hood and the zipper is half length instead of full. Overall, a good general purpose bag for normal conditions.
- Weight: 1.0 lbs
- Insulation type: 800 down fill
- Fabric material: Whisperer fabric
- Zipper: half length
- Pocket: None
- Other features: Five chamber hood design, comfort footbox.
Slightly heavier than previously mentioned bags but still very light. The fabric is quite good. This bag focuses on design features instead of fill power to generate warmth. This bag also requires a bottom pad. The temperature rating is 30° F.
- Weight: 2.3 lbs
- Insulation type: 700 down fill
- Fabric material: 20D Nylon Ripstop + DWR
- Zipper: No zipper, backless design
- Pocket: None
- Other features: waterproof footbox
This bag is designed for low temperatures, going as low as 20° F which is much lower as compared to others. It has a mummy style with a full length zipper. Ideal for skiing trips and camping in cold weather or snow.
- Weight: 1.8 lbs
- Insulation type: 16 (850+) oz. down fill
- Fabric material: Rip stop Nylon
- Zipper: Full length
- Pocket: None
- Other features: Full down collar
There are tons of great ultralight sleeping bags on the market. Given that most models pack down to nothing more than the size of a small water bottle and weigh close to 1-2 lbs, they are the ideal sleeping gear for adventurous global adventures.
If you think you may be camping or needing your own sleeping material along your travels, packing an ultralight sleeping bag can be a great option.