10 Trail-Tested Gear Picks for Sound Sleeping on the PCT
We’re putting this season to bed with highlights of some of the sleeping gear that we put to the test this summer. Included are a selection of bags, blankets and pads that we sleep-sampled all over Oregon—from various locations on the PCT, to the heights of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, to the wet and windy Columbia River Gorge. We tested bags and blankets for warmth and comfort, pads for noise and ease of use, and all for the usual size and weight considerations. Among this group, we definitely had a few faves. Check out our rundown, then consider what you might need to improve your own sleep kit for next year’s trail adventures.
1. Big Agnes Anvil Horn 30 Bag
The Big Agnes Anvil Horn 30 features 650-fill DownTek hydrophobic down insulation, an integrated Flex Pad Sleeve holder, an adjustable hood with pillow pocket, and a small essentials pocket near the head. We found this soft, fluffy bag to be warm and comfortable on mild nights, but felt the cold start to penetrate once the temps dipped into the low 40s. The Flex Pad Sleeve underneath consists of stretchable fabric pockets at the head and foot ends, which functioned well to keep our inflatable pad in place. We found this to be ideal for back sleeping without sliding off our pad, but less comfortable for side sleeping. We really liked stuffing our puffy jacket into the pillow pocket, which maintained a comfortable pillow shape and stayed in position throughout the night. The bag’s ripstop polyester shell felt durable and not too fragile, and the full-length zipper worked smoothly. We consider the Anvil Horn 30 to be a solid, lightweight bag—even if the temp rating is a little too generous. $250–$270
REG: Length: 70 in. | Weight: 2.1 lbs. | Fill: 12 oz. 650-Fill DownTek | Stuffed: 8 x 17.5 in.
LONG: Length: 78 in. | Weight: 2.5 lbs. | Fill: 14 oz. 650-Fill DownTek | Stuffed: 8 x 17.5 in.
2. NEMO Disco 30 Bag
For side sleeping comfort, we loved the versatility of the NEMO Disco 30. It’s innovative shape, with more space at the elbows and knees, was great for freely rolling and tossing around without getting all twisted up. And while it has a 30-degree comfort rating, its two zippered, Thermo Gill vents made it easy to increase or decrease warmth to adjust to warmer overnight temps—far superior than our usual one-leg-out solution. Additional features we liked were the Disco’s insulation flap that can be tucked in to prevent drafts from the neck down, and its integrated pillow pocket, which made repurposing our jacket—or using an actual pillow—super easy, and holds it in place throughout the night. The footbox even features extra waterproofing for repelling that inevitable condensation that gathers on tent walls overnight. Weighing in around 2.5 pounds, it’s not the smallest or lightest bag out there, but for more comfort and wiggle room, it’s a nice option for a range of camping conditions. $260–$280
REG: Length: 72 in. | Weight: 2.4 lbs. | Fill: 15 oz. 650-Fill Nikwax Down | Stuffed: 9 x 17 in.
LONG: Length: 78 in. | Weight: 2.5 lbs. | Fill: 16 oz. 650-Fill Nikwax Down | Stuffed: 9 x 17 in.
3. Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 Bag
After two of our testers hit the trail with the Hyperion 32, their reviews came back fairly mixed. This ultralight bag got high marks for its impressive warmth and exceptional compressibility, but took a few dings for its claustrophobic size. Stuffed with 900-fill hydrophobic down, and featuring a cinchable hood and zoned insulation baffles, it maintained warmth down to near-freezing temps in moderate to high elevations. The Hyperion’s SynergyLink connectors (two elastic straps underneath) worked well for keeping sleeping pads in place. These worked best for back sleeping; for side sleeping, the straps were easily removed. When it comes to fit however, we found this to be a very snug bag, even with our testers’ smaller body sizes. In the small size bag, the footbox was quite narrow, and one of our 5’ 3” testers was rather cramped—even though it’s supposedly compatible for occupants up to 5’ 6”. Its packed size and weight however, are amazing. Our advice: try before you buy to sample its fit. $340–$390
REG: Length: 72 in. | Weight: 1 lbs. | Fill: 9 oz. 900-Fill Nikwax Down | Stuffed: 5.5 x 6 in.
LONG: Length: 78 in. | Weight: 1.1 lbs. | Fill: 10 oz. 900-Fill Nikwax Down | Stuffed: 5.5 x 6 in.
4. Sea to Summit Adaptor Liner
Constructed of breathable, moisture-wicking CoolMax polyester, Sea to Summit’s Adaptor Liners are available in a standard version, or treated with Insect Shield repellent. We hit the trail with one this summer and found this lightweight liner an ideal bag alternative in hot weather, and good for adding extra warmth to our light summer bag in cooler temps. The soft, CoolMax material is quite comfortable, and the generous size let us roll around without getting all tangled up inside. In some cases when camping with a down blanket, we just slid our inflatable pad into the liner to use it as a pad cover (much more comfortable than lying directly on a plastic pad), and slept on top with our blanket. This was one of our favorite summer sleeping combos. Used as a blanket for hammock napping, the Insect Shield treatment worked well for keeping the mossies away. Stuffed into its own tiny, Ultra-Sil stuff sack, it takes up minimal space in the pack, and offers a lot of versatility for a little weight. $53–$67
MUMMY: Length: 82 in. | Weight: 8.7 oz. | Stuffed: 6 x 4.5 in.
RECTANGLE: Length: 89 in. | Weight: 11.6 oz. | Stuffed: 6 x 4.5 in.
5. Klymit Versa Blanket
Winner of a 2018 Best New Gear award from the Gear Institute, Klymit’s Versa Blanket is a lightweight option for summer camping. Constructed with a soft-touch polyester shell, and filled with Klymalite synthetic insulation, this blanket features a built-in footbox to keep the feet in place, and snaps on the corners to help keep it secured. Combined with its cinch-cord around the head and hand warming pockets, we got quite cozy wrapped up in it. While we found the Versa to be plenty comfortable on warm summer nights at moderate elevations, sitting around the campfire, and sipping our morning coffee, it is not rated or warm enough for lower temps or high elevations. In this case, we feel it serves better as an extra insulating layer to a lightweight bag or other bedding system. A unique feature we liked is its ability to serve as a nice, cushy pillow by stuffing it into its footbox. For PCT hiking, the Versa wouldn’t be our first choice, but we think it’s a fun and versatile blanket for summer camping. $80
Size: 58 x 80 in. | Weight: 1.5 lbs. | Insulation: Klymalite Synthetic | Stuffed: 6 x 12 in.
6. Sierra Designs Nitro 35 Quilt
In recent years, we’ve been really impressed with Sierra Designs’ innovative zipperless sleeping systems, like the Cloud and Backcountry Bed sleeping bags. But with our growing interest in the comfort and versatility of quilts, we took their Nitro 35 blanket out this summer and were equally impressed. This lightweight, hydrophobic down quilt features an enclosed footbox and a wide, fluffy blanket top for curling up in any position. The upper portion features hand/arm pockets for conveniently tucking in and wrapping it around—we found these easier to use from side and belly positions, but not as effective for back sleeping. When the temps dropped significantly, we tucked our noggin into the insulated hood pocket and stayed nice and toasty all night long. The Nitro was the warmest of the blankets we tested this summer. It comes with an ultralight (and slightly oversized) stuff sack for easy packing; we swapped this out for a smaller compression sack for taking up even less space in our pack. $250
Size: 56 x 75 in. | Weight: 1.3 lbs. | Insulation: 10.2 oz. 800-Fill DriDown | Stuffed: 7 x 13 in.
7. Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt
When it comes to warmth-to-weight ratio, the Vesper 32 is an impressive alternative to regular sleeping bags. This 900-fill down blanket employs a variety of features for keeping the heat in, including an enclosed footbox, a snap-close neck baffle, and a SynergyLink Connector for attaching it to a sleeping pad. Despite all these seemingly confining aspects, there’s still plenty of freedom to toss around for side and belly sleeping. On first use at high-elevation, we were skeptical about its 32-degree comfort rating, but actually found ourselves getting too warm over several frosty nights. The only downside to the Vesper is that it doesn’t have a hood, so packing along a good beanie to keep the noggin warm is a necessity. We especially liked this quilt’s versatility when hammock camping. However, almost more impressive than its warmth and sleeping comfort is its packed size, which is accomplished with an included compression sack—a nice touch for minimizing pack space. $320–$340
Size: 58 x 75 in. | Weight: 15 oz. | Insulation: 9 oz. 900-Fill Nikwax Down | Stuffed: 5 x 6 in.
8. NEMO Tensor Insulated Pad
Available in six different size/shape configurations, there’s a NEMO Tensor Pad for any type of sleep kit. We went with the Regular Mummy for our sleeping setup this summer and were quite pleased with its performance. First off, this insulated pad’s 3-inch thickness is quite nice for sleeping comfortably off the ground, and keeping the cold from seeping through. Better yet, its soft, 20D polyester material makes minimal noise when changing position, so we weren’t waking ourselves up every time we rolled over. The Tensor’s multi-function valve makes inflating and deflating quick and easy—and it comes with a Vortex pump sack for even easier inflating. The pump sack also doubles as a stuff sack, and it comes with a velcro cinch strap to help compress it to about the size of a 1-liter bottle. $130–$180
REG. MUMMY: 72 x 20 x 3 in. | Weight: 14 oz. | Temp: 35F | Stuffed: 3 x 8 in.
LONG WIDE: 76 x 25 x 4 in. | Weight: 21 oz. | Temp: 35F | Stuffed: 4 x 10 in.
9. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Pad
With its 4-inch thickness and Thermolite insulation, the Ether Light XT was a very luxurious sleeping pad that kept us well above the cold ground, and warm in near-freezing temps. This comes from its combination of Air Sprung Cell construction and Exkin Platinum insulation that reflects radiant heat and prevents heat loss. Unfortunately, this one didn’t get high marks in the quietness category, as we managed to wake up our tent mate frequently whenever we rolled around on its crinkly, nylon surface. The combo stuff sack–Airstream pump sack made it quick and easy to inflate, while the two-stage valve made deflating and rolling up just as easy. While this might not be the best pad for noise-sensitive sleepers, it’s a great selection for comfortable camping in colder temps. $200–$220
REGULAR: 72 x 20 x 4 in. | Weight: 15 oz. | R-Value: 3.8 | Stuffed: 5 x 10 in.
LARGE: 78 x 25 x 4 in. | Weight: 20 oz. | R-Value: 3.8 | Stuffed: 5 x 11 in.
10. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Pad
Despite the ProLite Apex being the thinnest pad we sampled this summer, it gets big props for being one of the quietest pads we slept on, in addition to its incredible 4-season insulation that kept the cold at bay. This comes from the pad’s StrataCore insulation, which incorporates a layer of thermal foam inside. The ProLite Apex employs Therm-a-Rest’s signature self-inflating feature, which was nice at high elevations for not blowing until we were blue in the face; we just added a little air to get it to our desired firmness. On the flip side, deflating, and rolling and compressing it to its smallest packable size took a little more work than other pads. This is aided partially by its included stuff sack, which comes with compression straps to help cinch it down nice and tight for small packing. $120–$140
REGULAR: 72 x 20 x 2 in. | Weight: 22 oz. | R-Value: 4 | Stuffed: 5 x 11 in.
LARGE: 72 x 20 x 2 in. | Weight: 30 oz. | R-Value: 4 | Stuffed: 5 x 13 in.
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