Sacks for a comfortable night’s sleep, wherever you lay your head.
Kammok Thylacine ($627)
Gear of the Year
Ten years ago, the biggest difference between sleeping bags was their stuffing: slight variations in synthetic or down insulation. Today things have changed—a lot. Head into a gear shop and the offerings include comforters and oversize down jackets. Zippers run in many directions or are left out altogether. Some bags change shape. Of the 20 we tested in conditions ranging from the beaches of Mexico to early-season snow in Canada’s Coast Range, the Kammok Thylacine proved the most versatile. It was hardly a fair fight, given that this is three bags packed into one. Think of it like a Russian nesting doll. The outer layer is a 1.9-pound, mummy-shaped base bag ($329) stuffed with 750-fill water-resistant down. It’s perfect for 50-degree canoe camping, is roomy enough that you can sleep on your side, and compresses down to the size of a small watermelon. Colder testers called for adding the Thylacine’s down liner ($199) to add 15 degrees of warmth and elevate the bag to a three-season tool. If that’s not enough, an additional mummy-shaped comforter ($99) further boosts heat retention; it should keep you warm down to zero degrees. Call it one bag—in three pieces—to rule them all. Zero degrees; 2.5 lbs
Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 15 ($250)
Best For: Stretching out when it’s chilly.
The Test: Quilt-style bags are our favorites in summer. They allow for stretching, tossing, and turning, and make it easy to adjust the covers. But sealing out drafts is impossible, and quilts lack the hoods of their full-zip brethren, so most don’t play when the mercury drops. This one does. Sierra Designs took a 700-fill down comforter and added a foot box and—most clutch—a hood. When the temperature got close to freezing, they made all the difference.
The Verdict: The first three-season quilt-style sleeping bag. 15 degrees; 1.9 lbs
Kelty Sine 35 ($240)
Best For: Customizable ventilation.
The Test: Kelty left linear thinking behind with this 800-fill, sub-two-pound bag. Baffles are stitched diagonally to help reduce down migration and cold spots. The second and more noticeable deviation: two diagonal zippers in lieu of the traditional side opening. The upper zipper makes for easy entry and exit. The other vents the feet. “The diagonal zip felt more natural and like less of a contortion, especially from inside the bag,” said a tester.
The Verdict: A smart choice for almost everything. 35 degrees; 1.9 lbs
Nemo Disco 15 ($300)
Best For: Side sleepers who like to sprawl.
The Test: In the Disco, Nemo combines two of its award-winning innovations to create a sleeping bag with range—literally. The spoon-shaped design widens at the shoulders and knees, so it doesn’t constrict when sleeping on your side. If things get stuffy, unzip the two gill-like chest vents to cool the bag without drafts. On a 55-degree night, our testers opened the gills and left the bag’s full zip open for maximum venting.
The Verdict: Plenty roomy and always the perfect temperature. 15 degrees; 2.4 lbs
The North Face Hyper Cat ($240)
Best For: Making synthetic insulation great again.
The Test: The North Face brags that this is the lightest 20-degree synthetic sleeping bag on the market. Indeed, the Hyper Cat challenges the weight-to-warmth ratio of down bags by compressing to the size of a loaf of bread yet lofting with featherlike puffiness. “Until I read about it, I thought it was down,” confessed a tester who hauled it along on a backpacking mission. The secret: both long and short synthetic fibers layered into vertical baffles.
The Verdict: If it looks like down and feels like down… well, it’s close. 20 degrees; 1.9 lbs
Big Agnes Hazel SL 15 ($300)
Best For: A perfect fit.
The Test: Women’s bodies tend to run colder than men’s during sleep, and roomy bags with lots of dead space cut down on insulating power. To provide a cozier bag for female campers—or anyone wishing to beat the shivers in the backcountry—Big Agnes’s design team outfitted the Hazel with a series of clips and straps to cinch the bag snug and squeeze out excess air. “On chilly nights I could tighten it up around my legs, and I slept warmer,” said a tester.
The Verdict: A shape-shifting bag for cold sleepers. 15 degrees; 2.8 lbs
Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 19F ($500)
Best For: Taking up peaks and down trails.
The Test: Before founding Patagonia in the seventies, Yvon Chouinard built his own sleeping bag with a two-way center zip. It allowed him to stay tied into his harness while sleeping on big walls, the rope sliding through the bottom of the zipper. Patagonia has resurrected the design but added modern refinements. Stitches puncture the outer or inner fabric, not both, keeping down and heat in. And DWR lends the 15-denier shell water resistance.
The Verdict: Old dog plus new tricks equals a bag for the ages. 19 degrees; 2.1 lbs