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  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Best Sleeping Bags

    Two factors are driving innovation in sleeping-bag design. One is the price of down skyrocketing over the past six years as supply has dropped (the feathers are a byproduct of the food industry and, worldwide, folks are eating less fowl) and demand has grown. This dynamic has spurred companies to develop more down-like synthetic fills and to combine down and synthetic insulation in the same bag. Meanwhile, designers are making sleeping bags a lot more comfortable, adding room where it matters and moving zippers or nixing them altogether. As for the old down-versus-synthetic choice, almost all down is now treated to be water-resistant, but the fundamental differences remain unchanged: down is more expensive, more compressible, and warmer per ounce, while synthetic filling is more affordable and dries faster.
    Ryan Stuart

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    NEMO Tango Solo

    As much as we love a top-shelf mummy bag, it can be annoyingly constrictive and, on summer nights, too hot. That’s why we’re so smitten with the Tango Solo. Read the full Gear of the Year review.

    Sleep Comfort: 5
    Warmth to Weight: 4.5

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Marmot Electrum 30

    Best For: Efficient warmth.

    The Test: The human body doesn’t lose heat evenly, so Marmot’s designers decided that uniformly insulating a sleeping bag only adds cost and weight. Instead, they used heat-mapping technology to determine where to add insulation (torso and feet). And then, because synthetic fill provides more thermal efficiency than down when compressed, they decided to stuff the Electrum ($159) with synthetic on the back and 650-fill down on the front. Result: the Electrum is toasty and fairly compact, squishing to the size of a cantaloupe.

    The Verdict: A brilliant bag from top to bottom. 30°; 2.5 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 4
    Warmth to Weight: 3.5

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Millet Alpine LTK 800

    Best For: Making camp life easier.

    The Test: So many bags have annoying flaws: zippers that snag, jumbles of cords around your face, clammy linings. Which is why the 700-fill down Alpine ($230) is so refreshing. The hood drawcords are thoughtfully designed—around the chin, over your head—making it easy to cinch, even when you’re half asleep. Testers also cheered the three-quarter-length zipper (it never snagged), the built-in stuffsack (smartly attached to the hood for faster packing), and the extreme compressibility.

    The Verdict: An ideal summer bag when space and weight are at a premium. 32°; 1.8 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 3.5
    Warmth to Weight: 4.5

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    REI Lumen

    Best For: Stretching your dollars.

    The Test: Like the other synthetic bags here, the Lumen ($159) offers a lot of bang for the buck. For $159 you get a contoured foot-box, a face muffler, a full-length zipper, and zipper guards to prevent snags, just to name a few features. Inside, overlapping sheets of synthetic fill lock in warmth, and the mix of hollow and micro-denier fibers boasts an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio: the Lumen weighs the same as the half-down, half-synthetic Marmot but is several degrees warmer and more compressible than the all-synthetic Rab.

    The Verdict: The closest to down we’ve seen. 20°; 2.5 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 4
    Warmth to Weight: 4

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15

    Best For: A mummy bag that’s as comfortable as a rectangular bag.

    The Test: On first glance, the Lost Ranger ($280) looks like a standard mummy bag in a pinstripe suit of 650-fill down. But climb inside and “it’s really roomy in there,” said one surprised tester. That’s because Big Agnes added a couple of extra inches of girth, so the bag drapes over the sides of its integrated 20-inch-wide pad sleeve. Another nice touch is the silky taffeta interior lining. “On chilly nights it felt warm as soon as I crawled in,” our tester said.

    The Verdict: Size matters—even if it’s just a little extra around the middle. 15°; 2.9 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 4.5
    Warmth to Weight: 3.5

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Rab Ignition 3

    Best For: Ninety percent chance of rain.

    The Test: Relentless downpours eventually dampened our tester’s spirits on a trip in British Columbia, but they barely fazed the Ignition 3 ($145): its hydrophobic synthetic fill easily kept its loft inside a soggy tent. On a sun-drenched mission to Baja, it dried quickly after dewy nights under the stars. And when the temperatures dropped to 24 degrees on the Green River, the new-fangled insulation (a blend of hollow and micro-size fibers) was toasty. Our tester was also amazed by its packability: “Impressive for a synthetic.”

    The Verdict: A high-value performer when things get wet. 26°; 3 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 3.5
    Warmth to Weight: 3

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Next Up:The Best Packs of 2015

    The North Face Superlight 15

    Best For: Ounce counters.

    The Test: The name isn’t hyperbole—the 15-degree Superlight ($419) weighs less than two pounds and provides nearly four-season warmth. To make the weigh-in, some conveniences had to be nixed: the cut is pretty slim, and there’s only a half-length zip, which runs down the front of the bag instead of the side. Testers didn’t mind. “The center zip and snug fit made it feel like clothing,” said one. Another was sold by the water-resistant 800-fill down: “Lofty in 100 percent humidity. It’s converted me from synthetic to down.”

    The Verdict: Our favorite ultralight down bag. 15°; 1.8 lbs;

    Sleep Comfort: 4
    Warmth to Weight: 5

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