Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags for Beginners

I remember looking for my first backpacking sleeping bag. There I was, standing in the store, just staring at the wall of bags. With no idea what I was doing, I relied on the advice of the guy at the store and wound up with a 3.5-pound bag that required a lot of work to stuff in the bottom of my pack.

Months later, I was once again overwhelmed trying to replace that bag with a “better” one. With hundreds of choices, new features, and everyone telling me I “had to have” this latest technology, I was just done.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot. As a backpacking guide, I’ve seen many different options and heard the pros and cons about each in the morning. Along with seeing the bags in action, I’ve also seen the struggle most new backpackers face trying to find the right sleeping bag.

You want to balance price and weight. But is $200 too much for a 3-pound synthetic sleeping bag? (Yes – it is). Do you go with a heavier bag and pay less? Should you invest now? Argh!

Don’t worry. I’ve taken my science background (I do love research), paired it with my guiding knowledge, and created a list of the best sleeping bags for men and women new to backpacking.

There are 6 recommendations for each: 3 synthetic options, and 3 down.

Your sleeping bag is one of the most vital pieces of gear in your backpacking arsenal. This isn’t the place to go cheap. It needs to be reliable and do its job keeping you warm.

And let’s not underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than staring at the top of your tent all night and then hiking miles the next day.

Find the right bag and take care of it well.

Looking for More Information on Sleeping Bags?

If you’d like to learn more about what to look for in a sleeping bag (and what all those numbers mean), check out our article on how to find the right sleeping bag here.

Wondering if a quilt is the best way to go? Check out my article and video on top quilts for tent campers for details on how they work for tent campers.

Not sure when or how to wash your sleeping bag? Don’t worry because I have you covered with not only when and how to wash your bag, but how to maintain and keep it safe at home and outdoors.

How to Use the Recommendations

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For comparison purposes, I looked at 30-degree, regular-length sleeping bags, unless otherwise noted.

Many of the bags overlapped for men and women and are only reviewed once. Photos and links are to women’s versions of the bags, however, it should be easy to locate the men’s version on any of the sites for purchase or additional details.

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Table of women’s sleeping bag recommendations

Table of men’s sleeping bag recommendations

Synthetic sleeping bag reviews

Down sleeping bag reviews

Women’s Sleeping Bag Recommendations

Type of Fill Sleeping Bag Weight Price Where to Buy
Synthetic Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 30 2 lb 5 oz $150
Synthetic Nemo Forte 35 degree 2 lb 9 oz $159.95
Synthetic REI Trailbreak 30 3 lb 3 oz $99.95
Down Mountain Hardware Bishop Pass 30 1 lb 15 oz $210
Down Nemo Disco 30 degree 2 lb 5 oz $259.95
Down REI Magma 30 1 lb 7 oz $339
Sleeping Bag Recommendations for Women

Men’s Table of Sleeping Bag Recommendations

Type of Fill Sleeping Bag Weight Price Where to Buy
Synthetic Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 30 1 lb 14 oz $150
Synthetic Nemo Forte 35 degree 2 lb 2 oz $159.95
Synthetic REI Trailbreak 30 2 lb 8 oz $99.95
Down Mountain Hardware Bishop Pass 30 1 lb 13 oz $200
Down Nemo Disco 30 degree 1 lb 15 oz $259.95
Down REI Magma 30 1 lb 4 oz $339
Sleeping Bag Recommendations for Men

Synthetic Sleeping Bag Recommendations

Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 30

Price: $150

Weight women: 2 lb 5 oz

Weight men: 1 lb 14 oz

Type of Fill: Synthetic

One note when looking at this sleeping bag – make sure you’re looking at the Trestles ELITE Eco. There is a basic Trestles sleeping bag that is identical at first glance, but it weighs more. The two are often confused on websites. Always double-check the weight.

Marmot is a well-known brand outside the US that has making headway here recently. They’re a solid company that makes good gear at an exceptional price point.

The Trestles Elite Eco line is made of 96% recycled materials. But that doesn’t mean it lacks performance. The bag has great features and a lot of thought went into the design.

It’s filled with Marmot’s proprietary HL-ElixR ECO 100% recycled fibers. The shell is 20 denier ripstop nylon, also made from recycled materials.

The bag has many features that are now common like an internal pocket for your phone or other items, a double zipper so you can unzip just the bottom to let air in by your legs, and a hood with buffer. It also features a three-dimensional footbed for increased warmth around your feet.

However, it goes a step further with a wave and blanket design. The top of the bag has horizontal baffles allowing the down to create a wave, giving it more loft while underneath is a blanket design. It also features a second zipper at the top that goes down to about your chest. This allows you to unzip the top of the bag completely and fold it down.

Given how light this bag is, and how far it compresses, I’m hard-pressed to find a better sleeping bag in this price range.

You can check out the YouTube video from Snowy River Outfitters for more details.

Check out Marmot’s website for the best price. They often have older models on sale.

Where to Buy

Nemo Forte 35 Degree

Price: $159.95

Weight women: 2 lb 9 oz

Weight men: 2 lb 2 oz

Type of Fill: Synthetic

Nemo is a well-known brand to most backpackers. They offer solid, affordable entry to mid-level gear. The Forte is their signature synthetic sleeping bag.

They didn’t go fancy and instead filled the bag with well-known and respected PrimaLoft which is 80% recycled. The outer shell is 30 denier ripstop polyester with DWR and the inner lining is 20 denier nylon taffeta with DWR to provide some water protection.

Most of Nemo’s newer sleeping bags feature a spoon shape. It’s a bit more forgiving than a mummy but still keeps the streamlined efficiency. Generally, the women’s spoon cut has extra width in the hips and knees. The men’s has extra width in the shoulders and knees.

This is good news for slide sleepers as you can bend your knees without feeling like you’re getting pushback.

Similar to the Marmot, the Nemo also offers a small accessory pocket, however, it’s not large enough for most of the newer phones.

If you tend to overheat in your sleeping bag then this could be a good choice for you. Nemo is known for its gills, two zippered vents built into the outer shell layer that can be unzipped to help shed some warmth. Their bags also all have dual zipper sliders so you can vent your feet or legs without unzipping the entire bag.

Overall, it’s under 3 pounds which I like, and the price isn’t bad. It doesn’t compress down as much as the Marmot and costs more, but the DWR coating provides some extra protection and the spoon shape is more comfortable for slide sleepers.

Where to Buy

REI Trailbreak 30

Price: $99.95

Weight women: 3 lb 3 oz

Weight men: 2 lb 8 oz

Type of Fill: Synthetic

This is definitely the heaviest sleeping bag on the list. It’s actually over my recommendation to stay under 3 pounds for women and 2.5 pounds for men when looking for a backpacking sleeping bag. So you’re probably wondering what it’s doing here.

I included it as a cost-conscious option. It’s a decent introductory level sleeping bag for the price.

If you’re on a tight budget and are willing to accept a bag that’s almost a pound heavier than its competitors and won’t compress down very far then it’s a solid purchase. It saves around $50 and will keep you warm and dry.

The Trailbreak is filled with water-resistant synthetic polyester, and the exterior shell is polyester.

The bag has increased room in the hips and shoulders, yet is a mummy shape to help increase the thermal efficiency. Like most other sleeping bags, it has a zippered stash pocket and DWR finish.

This is on the edge of what I’d define as a backpacking sleeping bag. In full honestly, I’d be more comfortable recommending it for car camping, base camping, or short backpacking trips. As you increase your outings and begin looking at longer mileage or week-long trips, I would definitely upgrade.

But if you’re new to the sport and not sure you’ll stick with it, or want a good backup piece of gear, then this is a solid choice.

Where to Buy

Down Sleeping Bag Recommendations

Mountain Hardware Bishop Pass 30

Price: $210 ($200 for men’s)

Weight women: 1 lb 15 oz

Weight men: 1 lb 13 oz

Type of Fill: Down

You may know Mountain Hardware through their clothing, but they make some great gear. They have one of the top 4-season tents used in mountaineering so it makes sense they would know how to design a great down sleeping bag.

It’s filled with 650-fill-power down certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). The shell is made of 20 denier ripstop nylon and has a DWR finish to help product from moisture and stains.

Mountain Hardware has designed what they call a Performance Plus Mummy which fits close to help maintain thermal efficiency but also gives you a little more room. To help keep your feet warm, it has an anatomically cut footbed, which means it’s a 3-D shape instead of the ends just being sewn together.

Like other models recommended here, it also has a stash pocket and draft collar. In addition, the zipper pull glows in the dark, which you think isn’t important until you need to get out of your bag in the middle of the night.

The 30-degree version doesn’t have a neck baffle, but the warmer bags do. This is likely not a deal-breaker for most people using a 30-degree bag, but be aware if you’re a cold sleeper. One other thing to watch out for is the severe taper in the legs. If you’re a side sleeper or move around a lot, this may not be comfortable for you.

Overall, it’s a decent down bag for the price and would be a great entry to down for most backpackers.

Where to Buy

Nemo Disco 30 Degree

Price: $259.95

Weight women: 2 lb 5 oz

Weight men: 1 lb 15 oz

Type of Fill: Down

Similar to the Forte, the Disco has the Nemo spoon shape design offering additional room in the knees and hips for women, and shoulder and hips for men. It’s great for side sleepers who need extra room around the knees.

The Disco is filled with 650-fill-power RDS certified down certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). The exterior of the shell is 30 denier ripstop nylon and the interior is 30 denier nylon taffeta.

The sleeping bag has been given a DWR coating to help protect against moisture.

Like most of the Nemo sleeping bags, it has an interior pocket, draft collar, and double-zipper for venting. It also has the gills as an additional option to vent some heat. On those colder nights, you’ll appreciate the full-length draft tube that keeps the cold from seeping through the zippers.

Additionally, the Disco has an integrated pillow pocket where you can put a small pillow, jacket, or clothing and it will keep it secured, allowing you to elevate your head all night without having to continually re-jigger everything.

I know many backpackers that have this sleeping bag and they all describe it as cozy, like sleeping in their beds. The soft lining is very comfortable against your base layers or whatever you’re sleeping in.

It’s slightly heavier than you would expect for a down sleeping bag in this price range, but the trade-off is comfort. And that’s something you can’t really put a price on when you need to sleep.

Where to Buy

REI Magma 30

Price: $339

Weight women: 1 lb 7 oz

Weight men: 1 lb 4 oz

Type of Fill: Down

The REI Magma is one of the most sought-after sleeping bags among backpackers.

The bag is filled with 850-fill-power goose down certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) and bluesign approved. It’s also been treated to be water-resistant.

The exterior is Pertex 15 denier ripstop nylon. Pertex shield is a fabric designed to provide lightweight, breathable, water resistance.

Like most of the bags on this list, it offers a dual zipper for venting and a three-dimensional footbed for better warmth around your feet. One unique feature of the footbed is the baffles are designed downward to provide more warmth.

Another feature that makes this bag handy is the zipper design. As the zipper nears the head, it crosses towards the front and ends near the side of the neck making it easier to locate the tab and unzip when needed.

All of this with a weight well below most of its competitors at this price range. While it’s the most expensive on this list, other bags in this range exceed $600, making the Magma an excellent choice for anyone wanting to head to the next level.

While it may be overkill for a 30-degree bag, if you’re heading into colder temperatures the Magma 15 could be on your wish list.

Where to Buy

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