Thinking of hiking the Appalachian Trail? Then investing in the right outdoor gear is your starting point. Whether you only plan to hike a section at a time (flip-flopping) or want tackle the entire trail in one 2000-mile stretch, packing the right outdoor and backpacking gear is key to your comfort, success, and even survival. That is why we’ve created this handy overview, focussing on an essential piece of backpacking equipment: the Best Sleeping Bag For the Appalachian Trail.
Since the Appalachian Trail covers many different types of terrains and climates, choosing the right sleeping bag can seem like a real challenge. Not only do you need a sleeping bag with excellent insulation properties to keep you warm and comfy at night, but it also needs to be ultralight, compressible, packable, waterproof, durable, and offers easy entry and exit (in case of emergencies).
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
- 800-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down fill retains loft up to 60 times longer than untreated down. Absorbs 90 percent less water and dries 3 times faster without PFCs
And here’s an overview of the best sleeping bags for the Appalachian Trail on the market today:
Though there isn’t a magic one-fits-all solution, there are plenty of sleeping bags that tick most of these important boxes. To help you save time and effort finding the best sleeping bag for the Appalachian Trail, our experts have rounded up our personal favorites.
We’ve included something for every budget, as we know not every hiker has unlimited funds. Fortunately, due to innovations and streamlined production techniques, finding a high-quality sleeping bag doesn’t mean you have to break the band. As you’ll soon discover in our Best Sleeping Bag For the Appalachian Trail overview!
Our top-rated sleeping bags for the Appalachian Trail are:
- Kelty Cosmic 20-Degree DriDown Mummy Sleeping Bag
- Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree DriDown Mummy Sleeping Bag
- TETON Sports LEEF Mummy Sleeping Bag
- Therm-a-Rest Oberon Mummy Sleeping Bag
- Sierra Designs Cloud Zipperless Sleeping Bag
Discover more about each product in the Best Sleeping Bag For the Appalachian Trail Overview below, and explore your perfect fit to start your epic adventure:
Best Sleeping Bag For Appalachian Trail – Overview
Kelty Cosmic 20 DriDown Sleeping Bag
- The Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree sleeping bag is ideal for 3-season backpacking and camping. Water-resistant down insulation and an array of features make this sleeping bag a great combination of value and...
The Cosmic 20 DriDown is one of the most popular styles in Kelty’s extensive sleeping bag line-up, as it combines premium insulation with mid-budget pricing: offering excellent value-for-money. The Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag has a fantastic weight-ratio and is one of the lightest 3-season mummy bags for backpacking you can find. Though lightweight, it’s insulation and quality are heavy-duty – keeping you comfy and warm in all kinds of camping conditions.
Premium Hydrophobic DriDown insulation
The best-selling Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag has a lower limit of 20° / -7°C. We’re big fans of the type of natural down used by Kelty for the bag’s insulation: 600-fill power hydrophobic DriDown™. This natural down has been treated with special polymers, creating a water-repellent/water-resistant finish on each plume. Waterproof DriDown is proven to stay dry longer, loft better, and dry faster than untreated down, which keeps you warm and dry even in damp and wet conditions. (Do note that this doesn’t make the bag 100% waterproof, however, it does make it much more water-resistant than sleeping bags with a synthetic or untreated down fill.)
The outer shell of the Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag is made of soft, butter-like, highly-durable 20D Nylon taffeta. The interior is lined with a 50D polyester taffeta, which has a has a satin-like touch. Other premium perks of the Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag are a quilt-through construction for extra durability and a contoured hood that can be cinched to eliminate cold spots. The silhouette is also equipped with an extra-spacious foot box, a dual-sliding locking zipper with anti-snag design, and a draft collar and draft tube to eliminate cold spots.
If you’re looking for an affordable, lightweight, easily packable, natural down bag with premium properties: it doesn’t get much better than the Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag. Tip: if you like the design and features of this Kelty Cosmic model, but require a 4-season temperature rating, consider the Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag – as listed below in this overview – instead.
- Ultralight (2.6 lbs)
- Fantastic value-for-money
- Superb weight-ratio
- 600-fill power hydrophobic DriDown™
- Durable 20D Nylon taffeta shell
- Satin-like 50D polyester taffeta liner
- Quilt-through construction
- Thermal comfort cinched hood
- Comfy, spacious foot box
- Dual-sliding zipper with anti-snag design
- Draft collar
- Full-length draft tube
- Stuff sack included
- Not recommended for 4-season usage
Kelty Cosmic 0°F Down Sleeping Bag
- Year Round Comfort: The Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree sleeping bag is ideal for 4-season backpacking and camping. Water-resistant down insulation and an array of features make this sleeping bag a great...
The Kelty Cosmic 0°F Down Sleeping Bag has a lower limit temperature rating of 0°F/ -18°C: ideal for 4-season trekking on the Appalachian Trail. The sleeping bag measures 10″ x 21.5″ and weighs just over 4 lbs when packed in its included stuff sack. It’s not an ultralight down-fill bag, such as the Therm-a-Rest Oberon (next in this overview), but we think its warmth-to-weight ratio is still manageable for backpacking and hikers. Plus, it’s affordability compared to high-end models makes the few extra ounces worth the trade-off…
The Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag is not the warmest bag on the market, but its temperature rating of 0°F/ -18°C should be more than sufficient for most cold-weather days on the trail. The design offers adequate protection against the chill, keeping you toasty and comfortable with its high-quality construction and premium design-elements. The Kelty Cosmic 0°F Down Sleeping Bag has a draft tube that runs along the full length of the zipper, preventing warmth from escaping via the anti-snag zipper during the night. The design also comes equipped with a baffle draft collar, helping prevent further heat loss from the top of the bag around the head area.
The Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag is filled with 600 fill power DriDown™, just like the previously listed Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag, with a total fill weight of 33.3 oz. The natural feather plumes of the DriDown have been treated on a molecular level polymer to create a hydrophobic, water-resistant finish.
A soft and comfy sleeping experience
The outer shell of the Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag is made of durable 20D Nylon taffeta. To add extra comfort, the sleeping bag also comes with a 50D polyester taffeta liner that feels smooth and quite luxurious. Other design perks include handy pad loops that allow you to attach your bag to a sleeping pad (like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm), reducing the risk of rolling off and landing on the cold ground in the middle of the night. This 0-degree bag’s hood also has drawstrings of different widths for easy ‘in the dark’ identification: making snuggling up and tucking yourself in a total breeze, even when your flashlight or headlamp is not within reach. Oh, speaking of keeping things within reach: the Kelty Cosmic comes with a handy stash pocket to keep your personal belongings close.
For a 4-season, natural down-fill sleeping bag with a 0°F/ -18°C temperature rating, the Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree model is surprisingly affordable. Granted, it’s still pricey when compared to lightweight 3-season styles such as the TETON LEEF, but for a 4-season bag with premium insulation – it comes with a very reasonable price-tag. Making it one of the best-value deals on the market to conquer the Appalachian Trail, any day of the year.
- 0°F/ -18°C temperature rating
- Great value-for-money
- 600-fill power natural down
- 33.3 oz fill weight
- Water-resistant DriDown coating
- Soft polyester taffeta lining
- Durable 20D nylon outer shell
- Baffle draft collar
- Draft tube
- Anti-snag zipper
- Stuff sack included
- Suitable for 4-season camping
- Not the lightest (4 lbs)
- Not the best warmth-to-weight ratio
LEEF Mummy Sleeping Bag by TETON Sports
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND WARM: Tired of your feet getting cold? This is the sleeping bag for you; Designed with added insulation in the footbox; Exceptionally warm and lightweight for backpacking
The LEEF Mummy Sleeping Bag by TETON Sports has a lower limit temperature rating of 20° Fahrenheit. The bag is more than capable of keeping you comfy in cold weather conditions. The design also features Body-Mapping Technology: a construction technique that puts more padding and insulation in the areas where you need it most. Further insulation perks of the TETON Sports LEEF Lightweight Mummy Bag are an ergonomic 3-piece hood that contours the head, eliminating cold spots and drafts, and a vaulted and padded foot box to prevent cold feet.
Extra-long and extra-spacious
Another perk is that the lightweight LEEF Mummy Sleeping Bag is extra-long, measuring 87 inches in length. This gives you some extra wiggle room and space at night, perfect for taller thru-hikers and backpackers don’t want to feel overly constricted in a mummy bag. The LEEF Mummy Bag is equipped with a full-length zipper draft tube along the length of the anti-snag zipper. The bag also has two interior zippered pockets, ideal for keeping smaller personal belongings – such as your flashlight or phone – within close reach.
Minor cons of the TETON Sports LEEF Lightweight Mummy Sleeping Bag are its fill: synthetic instead of down insulation. Whilst the construction also makes it slightly less breathable than other trekking sleeping bags. That said, the LEEF is one of the most affordable, lightweight, and compressible bags that we deem suitable for the Appalachian Trail, so it could be worth the compromise if your budget is limited.
Also good to know: for those backpackers that want a more impressive temperature rating, the LEEF is also available in a slightly different configuration: the lightweight Adult Trekker (4 lbs), which rates at +5ºF / -15ºC.
- 20°F / -7°C temperature rating
- Compression sack storage
- Packs down super compact
- Extra-long silhouette
- Body-Mapping Technology
- 3-Piece ergonomic contour hood
- Vaulted, padded foot box
- 2 interior zippered pockets
- Synthetic fill
- Not the most durable
- Not the most breathable
Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag
- 800-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down fill retains loft up to 60 times longer than untreated down. Absorbs 90 percent less water and dries 3 times faster without PFCs
The Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag has a temperature rating of 0°F/ -18°C and features 800-fill power down insulation. The specific type of natural down used is Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. This means the down has been treated with a special water-resistant coating, which reduces water absorption. This special down-fill also dries up to 3 times faster than untreated down, ideal for when you encounter damp conditions or on wet undergrounds. The 800-fill power down used in the Therm-a-Rest Oberon’s construction is also responsibly-sourced, as confirmed by its Responsible Down Standard Certification; which testifies that birds in the down supply chain are treated humanely.
Premium insulation throughout the design
In addition to its premium Nikwax Hydrophobic Down insulation, the Therm-a-Rest Oberon 4-season sleeping bag is packed with other insulation design-elements. For example, the bag features zoned insulation of the down, which distributes the fill based on where your body needs it most: 60% of the fill on top, and 40% on the bottom. Furthermore, the bottom of the Therm-a-Rest Oberon model features an ergonomic down-fill foot box. Additional insulation is generated by ThermaCapture Lining: a lining which helps traps radiant body heat to maximize warmth retention.
That’s not all, the Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag is also fitted with heat-trapping draft collars, full-length snag-free zippers, a draft tube, and a cinched hood which helps prevent cold-spots around the head area. This high-quality mummy bag also has a handy external zip pocket, allowing you to keep smaller personal belongings securely within reach. The Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag includes a stuff sack and can be packed down to a compact 10″x 17″ bundle.
If you’re after a superior-quality bag with outstanding durability, warmth-to-weight ratio, comfort, and appeal: this premium design could be worth the splurge.
- 0°F/ -18°C temperature rating
- Lightweight (2 lbs 4 oz)
- Fantastic weight-to-warmth ratio
- Zoned insulation for optimal down distribution
- 800-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down™
- Heat-trapping draft collar
- Down-fill foot box
- ThermaCapture Lining top-layer
- Cinched hood and draft tubes
- External zip pocket
- Stuff sack included
Sierra Designs Cloud Zipperless Sleeping Bag
- Think Outside: A lightweight mummy with some tricks up its sleeve, the Cloud brings the classic mummy shape back at an impressively low weight, with incredible zipperless comfort. With a simple...
The Sierra Designs Cloud Sleeping Bag is more than suited for usage in cold weather conditions and offers 4-season functionality, which is preferable for the Appalachian Trail. The sleeping bag has a lower limit temperature rating of 15°F / -9.4°C, with a comfort rating of 26°F / -3.3°C. The mummy bag is easily packable and includes both a mesh storage bag and a separate stuff sack. When compressed into the stuff sack, the sleeping bag packs down to a 15″ x 7.5″ bundle.
The Sierra Cloud Sleeping Bag features a premium 800-fill power DriDown insulation with a fill weight of 14.8oz. The bag’s down insulation has been treated with a waterproofing technique, giving the plumes a water-resistant coating to make them less prone to retaining water. This helps keep your sleeping bag dryer, even when faced with heavy-condensation of wet undergrounds. The outer shell of the mummy bag is made of 15-dernier ripstop nylon: lightweight yet highly durable and abrasion-resistant.
Innovative zipperless comfort
Though similar in style to other three-season sleeping bags, there is a noticeable difference in the design of the Sierra Cloud 20 Degree DriDown Sleeping Bag: the lack of zippers. This sleeping bag has been designed to offer the ultimate ‘zipperless’ comfort. No risk of waking up with a zipper-impression on your face (yes, we’ve had the pleasure – much to the delight of our thru-hiking buddies). We also like that this high-quality sleeping bag comes with an integrated sleeping pad sleeve (sleeping pad not included). This sleeping pad sleeve helps keep a separate sleeping pad firmly in place, preventing you from sliding off onto cold underground in the night.
Other premium features of the Sierra Cloud Sleeping Bag include a self-sealing foot vent that enables ventilation (enabling better temperature regulation) and a cinch-hood. The sleeping bag also comes with a ‘draft dodger baffle’ construction. This is a type of stitching that prevents the down-fill from sinking to the bottom of the bag or gathering in one place. Ensuring optimal down-distribution in every corner of the lightweight silhouette.
Do note that the superb comfort, quality, and lightweight appeal of the Sierra Designs Cloud Sleeping Bag do not come cheap. But if you’re serious about conquering the Appalachian Trail, it’s a worthwhile investment.
- Ultralight (1lbs 13oz)
- Excellent weight-to-warmth ratio
- 15°F / -9.4°C temperature rating
- 4-season sleeping bag
- Great for side sleepers
- Superior quality standard
- Outstanding durability
- 800-fill DriDown insulation
- Self-sealing foot vent
- Cinch hood
- Draft dodger baffle
- Sleeping pad sleeve
- Stuff sack included
- Mesh storage bag included
- Zipperless design can take some getting used to
When you plan on hiking the Appalachian Trail, whether that’s a section at a time or the full 2000-mile trail in one go, packing the right equipment is key to your success. That is why a high-quality, comfortable, and insulated sleeping bag should be on every thru-hikers gear list. We’re confident each sleeping bag in this overview is a great choice, though finding ‘the best’ out of the 5 depends on where, when, and how you plan to use the sleeping bag.
For example, if you’re only planning on hiking parts of the trail in fair weather/warm weather, summertime conditions, a heavy-duty 4-season bag such as the Therm-a-Rest Oberon or Kelty Cosmic 0-Degree may be too insulating and not worth the investment. That said if you plan on hiking the full trail in one go, or want to go hiking in all seasons, investing in a 4-season bag is a must. Fortunately, you have plenty of great-value options in all temperature ratings: whether you want a 0° Fahrenheit, 20° Fahrenheit, or 40°Fahrenheit sleeping bag, you’ll find a match in this overview.
If you need more information about the temperature rating, R-value, and other buying factors when shopping for a sleeping bag, do check out our handy Buying Guide at the bottom of this post. We’ve listed the most common buying factors to consider, such as insulation, material, weight, and more – helping you make a well-informed choice in the Best Sleeping Bag for Appalachian Trail hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking.
Though there isn’t a sleeping bag that reigns supreme for all scenarios, we do have a clear favorite which we think is most equipped to deal with Appalachian Trail conditions: the Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag. Yes, this bag does cost more than 3-season styles like the Kelty Cosmic 20-Degree Sleeping Bag, but for its 4-season functionality, we think it’s worth the investment.
The Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag is more than capable of keeping you toasty in cold weather conditions, boasting a 0°F/ -18°C temperature rating and an impressive 800-fill power natural down insulation. The down fill of the Therm-a-Rest Oberon comes with a Nikwax Hydrophobic Down coating: which makes the plumes more water-resistant and less prone to soaking up water. Granted, it doesn’t make the bag fully waterproof, but Nikwax Hydrophobic Down won’t instantly lose its insulating properties in damp conditions and dries up to 3 times faster than untreated down. The silhouette of the Oberon by Therm-a-Rest is also enhanced with ThermaCapture Lining: a lining which helps traps radiant body heat to maximize warmth retention.
Additionally, the Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag is packed with other insulating features, such as heat-trapping draft collars, a draft tube, and a cinched hood which helps prevent cold-spots around the head area. The sleeping bag also comes with a handy external zip pocket to keep small belongings within reach, plus has an anti-snag zipper for smooth entry and exit.
Why it’s worth the investment
The Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag also has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, as this high-quality sleeping bag only weighs 2 lbs and 4 oz: lightweight enough for backpacking. The design includes a stuff sack, allowing you to pack it down to a neat 10″ x 17″ inch bundle. Minimum carry weight and packing size: maximum comfort, warmth, and durability, that’s why the Therm-a-Rest Oberon 0°F Mummy Bag is worth the extra dollars.
That said, all 5 sleeping bags on this list tick the box on value-for-money, and we don’t think the other brands/products are inferior. However, if we had to choose which sleeping bag we’d bring on a thru-hiking, long-distance Appalachian Trail adventure, the Therm-a-Rest Oberon would be our go-to option.
Best Sleeping Bag For Appalachian Trail- Buying Guide
With so many options on the market, finding the best sleeping bag for the Appalachian Trail can be a big challenge. There are various buying factors to take into consideration, such as temperature rating, the type of filling, materials, Amazon customer reviews, and – of course – pricing. These buying factors can help you narrow down your search selection, and help determine which bag is your perfect fit. Saving you time and effort when buying the right backpacking gear for your Appalachian adventure. We’ve listed the most important buying factors below:
The temperature rating
The temperature rating is one of the most important buying factors, especially when shopping for sleeping bags. The last thing you want is to spend money on a sleeping bag, only to find out it’s not capable of dealing with low-temperature conditions encountered on the Appalachian Trail. The best way to ensure that a bag matches up to the cold is by checking its temperature rating.
As a general rule of thumb, the temperature rating indicates the lowest temperature that a sleeping bag can be used in, whilst still keeping you comfortable. Do note that a temperature rating is only an indication, not a guarantee. That said, it is a great guideline to eliminate sleeping bags that do not offer sufficient warmth or insulation in cold weather conditions. For example, a 40°F temperature rating means the bag keeps is suitable for conditions as low as 40°F. Whilst a 0°F bag can be used in winter camping or extra cold conditions, as long as the temperature doesn’t dip below 0°F, etc.
Another term you’ll sometimes see when shopping for sleeping bags is ‘R-Value’. R-value refers to sleeping bags that use Thinsulate, a synthetic material, to insulate their bags. Thinsulate is available in different types of thickness and constructions, which also influence how insulating a bag with synthetic fill is. Most brands that use Thinsulate in their sleeping bags generally list the R-value, also known as the thermal resistance. This R-value, also known as R-value rating, specifies the type of Thinsulate used. For example, a bag with an R-value of 1.6 is made of 80-gram fabric Thinsulate. A bag with an R-value of 2.9 contains 200-gram Thinsulate, etc. The higher the R-value, the higher the Thinsulate insulation and heat-retaining properties. Though, generally speaking, R-value is more applicable to thermal clothing than sleeping bags.
Lower limit versus comfort
A word of warning: the temperature rating doesn’t take into account your tolerance to cold, body dimensions, or metabolism. If you’re a camper that’s often cold, or suffer from poor blood circulation and cold hands and feet, a 20°F temperature rating may not be sufficient in 20°F weather. In this case, pick a bag with an even more extreme temperature rating (for example, -20°F) to ensure you stay warm at night. For the best comfort, add an imaginary 20 degrees to the lower rating to find the ‘comfort spot’. So, if you’re planning to camp in 40 degrees Fahrenheit weather, a bag with a 20 degree Fahrenheit rating is better equipped to keep you comfortable at night than a 40 degree Fahrenheit temperature rating. So, if you’re a cold sleeper, check the comfort rating instead of the lower limit.
Do note that temperature ratings on sleeping bags are a guideline, not a guarantee. Also, when a sleeping bag is listed as 3-seasons, it also depends on what region or country it is made for. Because 3 seasons in Florida is a whole different ballgame than 3 seasons in Washington. Therefore, always check the actual temperature rating – not only the seasonal reference by the manufacturers.
The upper limit and extreme rating
It’s also important to understand that there are 4 standard temperature ratings. Though you mainly have to concern yourself with the Lower Limit Rating: the most important of them all, it helps to understand what the other temperature ratings, such as the upper limit and comfort rating, refer to. To put it simply, these are the 4 temperature ratings often used when describing sleeping bags:
- Upper Limit: the temperature where an adult male of the average body build is comfortable without sweating and needing to unzip or open the sleeping bag.
- Comfort Rating: the temperature where an adult female of average build can sleep comfortably without being too warm or too cold.
- Lower Limit: the temperature an adult male can sleep uninterrupted for 8 hours without cold or discomfort
- Extreme Rating: the minimum temperature in which an adult woman can use the sleeping bag for 6 hours without the risk of lethal hypothermia.
Tip: To maximize the warmth a sleeping bag can offer, considering adding an insulated sleeping pad, and/or a sleeping bag liner to your kit. A sleeping pad (for example the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm) can insulate you against the chilly ground, whilst a sleeping bag liner can easily add several degrees of sleeping warmth to your bag. Plus, unlike natural down-fill sleeping bags, a separate sleeping bag liner can be machine-washed easily, making clean-up a breeze.
The type of fill
Sleeping bags can be divided into two types of fill: natural down or synthetic. Each has its pros and cons, and for some, there isn’t a material that reigns supreme: as both can keep you warm, providing the quality of the material is sufficient. For example, sleeping bags with synthetic fill are often extra-durable and more affordable. Sleeping bags with natural down fill like goose down, are superb at insulation and are often lighter than synthetic-fill styles.
Natural down-fill sleeping bags are often considered superior because they offer an outstanding warmth-to-weight and warmth-to-bulk ratio. This means they offer maximum insulation at minimum the weight, whilst the material is also extra-compressible enabling smaller packing dimensions. A con to natural down is that it’s not fully waterproof and often loses its insulation properties when overly wet. This is why you should also choose a down-fill bag where the down has been pre-treated with some type of water-repellent / water-resistant coating. Ensuring the down-fill keeps its insulating abilities, even in damp conditions.
The sleeping bag’s shape
Most sleeping bags come in either two shapes: rectangular-shaped or mummy-shaped. For warmth, we’d recommend a mummy bag, due to the snug and form-fitting silhouette. The better a sleeping bag hugs your body, the better its insulation because it reduces the risk of cold spots. Do note that snug should not mean too tight: you still want a sleeping bag that’s spacious enough to offer a bit of wiggle room. A mummy bag also features a hood, which can often be cinched with a drawstring or velcro closure, that helps prevent cold spots around the head.
Tip: If you do decide on a mummy bag, choose a style with a contoured or vaulted foot box. A vaulted foot box offers a bit of extra space for your feet, ensuring that even though the silhouette is tapered, your feet still have plenty of wiggle room. If you plan to camp in a hammock, a mummy-shaped silhouette can offer a great fit – however, do check the dimensions of your hammock first to ensure the bag is compatible. Also, when hammock camping overnight on the Appalachian Trail, we recommend adding a tarp and/or liner to keep you insulated and shielded from the elements, as weather conditions can quickly change.
The weight and packing size
Another important buying factor to take into consideration is the sleeping bag’s weight ratio. For backpackers and thru-hikers who plan to carry the bag on multi-day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, the weight of the bag should be a key priority. The lighter the sleeping bag, the less it will weigh down your pack.
Besides the weight of the sleeping bag, packing dimensions can also vary greatly. Some sleeping bags can be compressed to tiny bundles, whilst others are still a bit bulky, even when packed. Always check the actual packing dimensions before you buy, as you do want to make sure the sizing of the bundle is compatible with storage slots in your backpack (if already owned). We recommend you also select a bag that includes a stuff sack, as this makes it easier to compress the sleeping bag down to compact dimensions. Plus, a stuff sack protects your sleeping bag during thru-hiking, and can conveniently be clipped to the exterior of your backpack to save on packing space.
Besides the type of fill, the material of the outer shell/silhouette of the bag is also an important buying factor. The outer shell of sleeping bags is most commonly made of some type of nylon and/or polyester. Do note that one type of polyester may be inferior to another type, as there are quality gradations. The best way to check whether a bag is made of quality materials when shopping online via Amazon? Check the customer reviews. Since you can’t feel the thickness of the materials or inspect the stitching on the seams up-close, Amazon reviews are one of your best sources of information on the quality of a product. Review what other campers are saying about the sleeping bag’s durability, quality, and construction: as other outdoor enthusiasts are often the best indication of whether a bag lives up to standard.
Consider what type of zipper you need on a sleeping bag. There are right-zipping bags, left-zipping bags, and even bags without zippers. The location of the zipper determines how to get in, and out, of your bag. Choose a style that feels comfortable to you, as quick access to a bag, is key in cold conditions. Also, check whether the zippers on the bag are high-quality according to user reviews. A flimsy zipper that breaks easily can instantly ruin a trip and heavy-duty hardware is simply a must for the challenging conditions you may encounter on the Appalachian Trail.
Tip: If you choose a sleeping bag with a full-length zipper, check if the product comes with a special draft tube. A draft tube in an insulated tube along the full length of the zipper, designed to keep the heat in, and cold out. A draft tube can instantly improve the insulation fo a bag, and help eliminate cold spots when you’re safely tucked away in your tent at night.
Readers often ask us how important the branding of a sleeping bag is. Though it depends on the specific type of product and brand, buying backpacking gear from established names in the industry is always a solid choice. We’re not saying you should only buy from expert outdoor brands, but this would be our preference if we were shopping for Appalachian Trail gear. Expert brands in outdoor gear have high-quality standards, whilst their products are often covered with product warranties and lifetime guarantees. This means that when you buy from a renowned name, you’re profiting from their expertise, reliability, and service.
Examples of brands that have our expert seal of approval? Brands we trust for our backpacking gear purchases are Big Agnes, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Coleman, NEMO Sonic, The North Face, Kelty, Rei, Katabatic, Zpacks, Western Mountaineering, Teton Sports, Feathered Friends, Sierra Designs, Patagonia, Enlightened Equipment, and Sea to Summit.