(Inga Hendrickson)

The Best Sleeping Bags and Pads of 2018


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Sack out in something snug, breathable, and packable.

(Courtesy Marmot)

Marmot Ultra Elite 20 ($199)

We’d never guess that the Ultra Elite 20 is filled with anything but down—it’s that warm and compressible. But Marmot stuffed the bag with a mix of three cutting-edge synthetic fibers layered together in strips: one thin for thermal efficiency, another thicker for durability, and a third less compressible to preserve loft. Near the top of the bag, the insulation overlaps like shingles to optimize warmth and puffiness. On the bottom, it’s in one big sheet, which minimizes seams and boosts comfort. The Ultra Elite packed down as small (and weighed about the same) as a down bag, but unstuffed it expanded into a pile of fluffy warmth that inspired gear envy in our tent mates. Zipping into it on a near freezing night—the bag is rated to 20 degrees—we felt instantly cozy. The ana­tomi­cal foot box is roomy, the full-length zipper didn’t catch, and the hood sealed out drafts. The Ultra Elite is best in sum­mer, when you’re more likely to en­counter humid or rainy con­ditions that can com­promise down’s ability to insulate. 2 lbs

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(Courtesy Klymit)

Klymit KSB Double Down Bag ($400)

Best for couples

In a totally unscientific survey, no one we asked reported sleeping at the same temperature as their partner. Which is why we love the KSB Double. Each side of the 650-fill bag has its own zipper and draft collar, allowing occu­pants to vent or conserve heat independently. The single large hood has a snap in the middle that eliminates drafts, and baffles on the sides add volume for additional room. The best feature: the top unzips to become a comforter—perfect for cuddling. 4.7 lbs

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(Courtesy Therm-a-Rest)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Duo Pad ($300)

Best for partners who toss and turn

Options are limited when it comes to two-person pads, and some are just plain terrible. In many cases, whenever someone moves, the other person feels it. That doesn’t happen with the NeoAir Camper Duo, a three-inch pad that gives each sleeper their own adjustable air chamber. There’s no gap in the middle to slide into, and your partner won’t get bounced around when you roll over. At 4.1 pounds, it’s great for car-camping or canoe trips. We just wish the pin valves inflated faster. 4.1 lbs

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(Courtesy Sierra Designs)

Sierra Designs Cloud 800 Bag ($300)

Best for backpacking

Jammed sleeping-bag zippers are the bane of weary campers every­where. The Cloud 800 forgoes zips entirely for a large, tuckable insulated flap. At 1.8 pounds, the bag is surprisingly warm, thanks to a sleeve that holds it tight against your sleeping pad. On the weatherproofing front, Sierra Designs used 800-fill feathers treated with hydrophobic DriDown technology. We were initially skeptical of a bag without zippers, but you’ll be so cozy once you wriggle in that you won’t want to get out. 1.8 lbs

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(Courtesy Mountain Equipment)

Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0 Pad ($190)

Best for cool nights

The Aerostat is as toasty as any air pad we’ve ever tested. That comes from the layer of duck down inside and the internal helix structure, which helps stabilize it. The Aerostat’s stuff sack doubles as a pump, which Mountain Equipment calls the Windsock. (You’ll still need to puff some air in yourself to firm the pad up at the end.) We never noticed cold spots, and inflating the Aerostat took only five or six pumps—a welcome relief after a long day of hoofing it on the trail. 1.3 lbs

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(Courtesy Mountain Hardwear)

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 40 Bag ($400)

Best lightweight

Your sleeping bag is typically the bulkiest thing in your pack—unless you brought the Ghost Whisperer 40, which weighs a hair over a pound and compresses to the size of a grapefruit. Mountain Hardwear stuffed the bag with 900-fill down and wrapped it in superlight ripstop nylon. There are trade-offs: the design is narrow, and we felt the middling temperature rating when evenings dropped into the fifties during a trip on Vancouver Island. But if you’re going fast and light, this is your bag. 1 lb

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(Courtesy Klymit)

Klymit V Ultralite SL Pad ($100)

Best for cutting space and ounces

Lighter than 12 ounces and smaller than a pint glass when rolled up, the V Ultralite SL almost seems too minimal, but it earned our trust. Inflated, it’s 2.5 inches thick and 20 inches wide, with V-shaped baffles and side air pods that helped keep us centered and supported. The pad has a low insulation rating, it’s best in mild conditions, and the 20-denier polyester is a little on the delicate side. But when saving space and weight is a priority, the V Ultralite SL doesn’t skimp on comfort. 11.9 oz

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(Courtesy NEMO)

Nemo Cleo 30 Bag ($240)

Best for women

Possibly the most versatile bag here, the Cleo 30 kept us comfortable no matter what the temperature. Two zippers (Nemo calls them Thermo Gills) run vertically down the chest and dump excess heat. The foot box and hood—the spots most likely to come into contact with tent-wall condensation—are protected by a layer of waterproof-breathable fabric, and the 650-fill down has a hydrophobic treatment from Nikwax. When temperatures dipped into the thirties, we stayed warmer than our tent mates. 2.2 lbs

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(Courtesy Big Agnes)

Big Agnes Third Degree Pad ($40)

Best deal

Like the Cleo, the Third Degree will appeal to a range of campers. At $40, it’s a great option for newbies, but the ultralight crowd will love it, too. (It weighs just 12 ounces.) Because foam insulates better than air, it’s a perfect companion in chilly conditions. Big Agnes gave the Third Degree a dimpled pattern at the top to trap air and increase warmth, and the tire-tread design at the bottom boosts cushioning. Unlike an inflatable pad, there’s no risk that it will pop partway through a trip. 12 oz

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From Summer 2018 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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