The 7 Best Sleeping Bags of Summer 2012

REI Igneo

The Igneo has all the features you want in a sleeping bag, and lacks two things you don’t: extra weight and a high price. The 19-degree-rated bag slips under the two-pound mark thanks to premium materials—800-fill down insulation and superlight shell fabrics—and a snug “performance cut.” But the Igneo is no minimalist. Testers from New Mexico’s Jemez hot springs to Oregon’s Cascades appreciated the full-length zipper, the zippered stash pocket, and the comfy yoke-shaped draft collar. The Igneo’s real standout feature was the new waterproof coating from Toyota (yep, they make more than just cars), designed to repel condensation without the weight, bulk, and annoying keep-your-tentmate-up-at-night crinkle of a waterproof shell. More important, it works: it kept our bag dry even in a drizzly Oregon morning fog. For colder adventures, the Magma, the Igneo’s seven-degree brother, offers the same features at a similarly decent price ($379). 19°; 1.8 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 4.5
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 4.5 (OUT OF 5)

Marmot Cloudbreak

BEST FOR: Paddlers, backpackers in wet climes. THE TEST: For the Cloudbreak, Marmot used body mapping to deploy two kinds of synthetic fill that insulate even if wet. The result: a good night’s sleep no matter the weather. The torso and footbox are insulated with loftier, more expensive fill, which ups the R value—a common insulation measure— without adding unnecessary weight (or price). Testers in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness were impressed that the interior stayed warm and dry even on a tent floor puddled with snowmelt and spilled beer. THE VERDICT: Provides the tailoring of a high-end down bag—snug hood, plush draft tubes around the face, ergonomic footbox—in a moderately priced synthetic. 20°; 2.3 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 3
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 3

It’s the little things. The Cloudbreak’s upper cord is smooth and flat, while the lower cord is round. Translation: making middle-of-the-night adjustments no longer requires fumbling around.

Stoic Somnus 15

BEST FOR: Side-sleepers, climbers, iconoclasts. THE TEST: Center-zip bags were designed for climbers, for the ease of threading a rope while zipped up. But even nonclimbing testers loved the simple entry and egress, and side-sleepers appreciated not grinding their hip bones on the zipper all night. Weight savings from the half-zip—combined with top-shelf 850-fill down and diaphanous Pertex Quantum fabric—kept the Somnus’s weight just under the two-pound mark (the four-minute mile of 15-degree-rated bags). And the zippered hot-water-bottle pouch to warm your feet is clever. The downside? The short zipper means fewer venting options. THE VERDICT: A luxurious, incredibly light bag at a great price. 15°; 1.9 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 5
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 5

Columbia Reactor 15 Mummy

BEST FOR: Getting warm quickly. THE TEST: Like a space blanket, the synthetically filled Reactor is lined with metallic microdots that reflect your body’s heat back at you. Columbia claims that the dots make the bag warmer. While that’s hard to verify, we can say for certain that the dots do bring the interior up to body temperature much more quickly. “I was toasty in seconds,” said one colder female tester. The Reactor features a “relaxed mummy cut,” a blessing for the claustrophobic, but a curse if you’re hoping to take it backpacking: it’s about a pound heavier than your average 15-degree bag. THE VERDICT: The space-blanket effect works, but some testers disliked the way it felt. 15°; 3.7 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 2.5
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 3

Sierra Designs Pyro Maniac 15/30

BEST FOR: Keeping your options open. THE TEST: The secret to the Pyro Maniac’s versatility is a half-bag-length, 600-fill down comforter (not pictured). Slipped into its pocket and snapped around your midsection, it adds 15 degrees of warmth and just 10 ounces of weight. What it doesn’t do is insulate the footbox. As a result, on chillier nights, some testers did complain of cold feet, but the general consensus was that it’s a smart, versatile design. Bonus: the handy pocket on the mummy hood keeps a pillow in place. THE VERDICT: If your budget doesn’t allow for both summer-weight and three-season bags, this is a great way to split the difference. 15° to 30°; 2.9 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 4
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 3.5

Western Mountaineering Summerlite

BEST FOR: Ounce-counting summer backpackers and minimalist mountaineers. THE TEST: We love that Western Mountaineering bags are made by a guy named Gary in San Jose, California, and that Gary eschews new designs, instead honing existing ones to perfection. Case in point: the Summerlite. Stuffed with high-end 850-fill down, it weighs just over a pound and packs to the size of a Nerf football. One tester lauded the zipper, which runs almost clear to the toes, for venting on a steamy night on Oregon’s Deschutes River, and another said the construction operated “as snag-free as a SEAL Team Six mission.” THE VERDICT: Light is right. 32°; 1.2 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 5
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 5

L.L. Bean Katahdin

BEST FOR: Bigger guys, restless sleepers. THE TEST: L.L. Bean, which turns 100 this year, knows a few things about durability, so it’s fitting that its bag was the toughest we tried. The interior shell was as buttery as any, but testers above Crested Butte didn’t sweat a few dog claws across the Katahdin’s tough shell. PrimaLoft’s new Synergy fill is water-repellent and offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any synthetic out there. And our beefiest tester loved the generous cut and spacious footbox. Comfort, however, does come at the cost of weight. THE VERDICT: One tester noted, “You don’t have to spend a million bucks for a good night’s sleep.” 20°; 3.2 lbs

COMPRESSIBILITY: 2.5
WARMTH-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: 3

Filed To: Down / Synthetic
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