Zen Sleeping Bags






Sleeping Bags


One of the larger considerations for backpacking is what type of sleep system to use.  The biggest concern for most is determining how much sleeping bag (blanket, quilt, extra clothing, etc) they really need.  A lighter system means lighter loads and easier walking during the day and a heavier system may give you more of a warm and cozy sleep.  Remember -  travel light...freeze at night.



Down vs Sythetics

Weight is certainly a consideration, but the first consideration should be what system will work.  Down generally provides more insulation per pound than synthetic fills, but looses considerably more insulating power than synthetic if it gets wet.  Synthetic bags also dry out much quicker than down; backpackers might even be able to "dry" out a bag with their own body heat over the course of a single cold night.  A backpacker trapped in the outback of British Columbia or Washington State during the rainy season could die of hypothermia in a wet down bag, but could make it through several nights with a wet synthetic bag.  So, for trekkers in wet and cold environments using tarps or crossing rivers, the first choice in selecting a sleep system might be to reject down completely.  And for trekkers in dryer environments looking to carry the least amount of weight, down is a really good option.



Down is rated by fill.  After down has been processed it is measured by placing one ounce in a container with cubic inch markings.  The higher the fill rating, the greater the loft, the greater the amount of air trapped per pound of down and the better the ratio of insulation potential to weight.  500 cubic inches per ounce is ok, 700 is good and 900 fill is exceptional.



There are several synthetic materials out there.  Synthetics work well in the wet since these fabrics are hydrophobic, shed water and maintain some loft even when wet.


Some of the synthetics used in sleeping bags include:

Hollofil - Heavier and bulkier than newer synthetics and generally found in less expensive bags.

Lite Loft, MicroLoft, Primaloft, Primaloft 2, Thermolite Extreme - Short staple fiber synthetics considered lighter with better compressibility than Hollofil, Quallofil, and Polarguard.  These fills may be softer and warmer than other synthetics per pound but lack durability and may clump, mat and pull apart.


Microfiber - Tightly woven nylon or polyester fabrics which breath well and are lighter, more supple, less expensive and also less water resistant than DryLoft.


Pile/fleece - Can be used for warm weather sleeping.


Polarguard 3D - Continuous filament polyester that is more durable than cut staple insulation (short-staple).  Claims to be 10% warmer and slightly lighter, with better loft and durability than Polarguard Classic.


Polarguard HV - Continuous filament polyester insulation is engineered to provide greater warmth with less weight and increased loft. It claims to provides 25% more loft than Polarguard Classic.

Quallofil - Heavier and bulkier than newer versions and istypically is found in less expensive bags.



Water Resistant Fabrics

Once you determine if you need to choose between down and synthetic, you need to determine if you need a water repellant fabric on your bag or a bivy, since this will limit your choices.


Some water repellant fabrics include:

Dryloft (Western Mountaineering)

EPIC by Nextec (Feathered Friends, Nunatak)

Pertex Endurance (Nunatak) - note: Feathered Friends reports that this fabric delaminates

eVENT (Feathered Friends)

Quantum Pertex (Marmot)

DriZone (Sierra Designs)


Waterproof Bivies -

Montbell U.L. Sleeping Bag Cover Gore-Tex 2 layer 30-denier Ballistic rip-stop nylon 7.2 oz

Montbell Gore. Sleeping Bag Cover 1st generation Gore-Tex 3-layer construction Brushed polyester micro-fiber lining 21.2 oz (1lbs 5.2oz)

Integral Designs eVENT South Col bivy sack 20oz (1lbs 4oz)



Temperature Rating

Temperature ratings are very subjective, and vary between the various manufacturers.  What rating you really need depends on where you are sleeping at night (part of the world, if its by water, etc) and what seasons you want to use your bag.  If you just want a summer bag for the southern Appalachian overnight trips, you can get away with a very thin bag or even just a thin throw.  If you are in Montana, backpack year-round and only want one bag, you'll need a bag with a negative zero temperature rating.


Just as a rough guide, bags may be categorized into the following ratings:

Cold Weather (+10 and Below)
3-Season (+15 to +32)
Warm Weather (+35 and Above)




Backpacking.net Sleeping Bag Comparison Matrix Sorted by Manufacturer


Synthetic bags:

REI Synthetic bags (allows of comparison):

Cold Weather (+10 and Below)

3-Season (+15 to +32)

Warm Weather (+35 and Above)




The following is a brief list of some of the lighter 3 season synthetic sleeping bags available:

Ray-Way Quilt kits 35 kits

hood weighs 3 oz.
hoodless 0.75 oz Ultra quilt 1.25 lb. (1lbs 4oz)
or hoodless 1.1 oz Light fabric is slightly over 1.5 lb. (1lbs 9oz.)

Fanatic Fringe PG Delta 30 Sleeping Quilt 1lbs 6.5oz


EMS Velocity 35 Sleeping Bag, Regular PrimaLoft 1 lb. 8 oz.


Moonstone 3D Stratus 32F 1lbs 11oz


Marmot Pounder Plus +25 Sleeping Bag 2 lbs 2 oz.


Snugpak 2lbs 3oz 23-32 Black 2


The North Face Fission +20 2 lbs 4 oz.


3D Minima 20F 2lbs 7oz


The North Face Cat's Meow +20 2 lbs 13oz.


Integral Designs Renaissance 20 2lb 14oz


Wild Bill 20 Weight: 3 lbs 0 oz.


Big Agnes 15 Polarguard 3lbs 7oz


Wiggy's Ultra Light +20 3.5 pounds (3lbs 8oz)


Kelty Clear Creek Sleeping Bag: 20 Hollofil II 3lb 14oz



30-50 bag 3lbs
-10-30 bag 4lbs
Bivy 2lbs
altogether -30 if you wear thermal underwear



Down bags:

REI Synthetic bags (allows of comparison):

Cold Weather (+10 and Below)

3-Season (+15 to +32)

Warm Weather (+35 and Above)


There are many good quality down bag manufacturers to choose from and the following is just a list of some of the water resistant bags available:

Exped makes truly waterproof Pertex Endurance down bags with welded seams

Ibis WB 9-18 - 2lbs 12oz


Feathered Friends can make you any kind of down bag with eVENT waterproof fabric

Merlin 30  - 1lbs 8oz
Hummingbird 20 - 1lbs 11oz


Nunatak can make a a nice bag and a nice quilt with Endurance.

Arc Alpinist 20 22oz (endurance material) 1lbs 6oz

Moonstone Pertex Endurance 800 PCT 10 - 2lbs 10 oz

Sierra Designs DriZone line of 600 fill bags

Cloudripper: 15F/-9C - 3 lbs 3 oz

Thor 0F/-18C - 3 lbs 13 oz

Sun Ribbon 15F/-9C - 3 lbs 0 oz

Starlight 0F/-18C - 3 lbs 9 oz


Western Mountaineering Dryloft series

Apache Super Dryloft 15 - 2 lbs 6 oz

also: Badger, Antelope, Sequoia, Kodiak, Dakota, Puma, Big Horn and Bison




Please feel free to link to this site so that others can find it.  It's easy to link to this site - simply copy the text below onto your web page.



Zen Backpacking






Copyright 2000-2014