backcountry bed

Following on the heels of our tent roundup, we also sampled a few new sleeping bags in those tents. We’re also including a couple bags that aren’t new, but have proven to be solid performers for catching good trail ZZZZs. We also tried a few puffy blankets and insulated liners this summer as alternatives to traditional sleeping bags, but we’re saving those for a separate roundup to come soon. If you’re in need of a new bag, or are gearing up for a PCT hike next year, consider one of these trail-tested options. You’ll likely love them as much as we did!

Big Agnes Skeeter SL 20

Where to begin with mummy bags? There’s a million of them out there. As a section- and thru-hiker, I’ve used and tested more than I can count. They all generally function as they should—zip up, stay warm. Some performed better than others. The first features I’m usually looking for are weight and compression size—the lighter and smaller the better. That’s followed by fill material and temp ratings, which determines whether the bag will be for summer use only, 3-season use or winter use. Next I’m looking at volume, as in how much space I’ll have for moving around inside. (I prefer wider, roomier bags.) After that, additional features like draft tubes and pad sleeves are all gravy.

This summer, the mummy I worked with most was the Skeeter SL 20, and was pretty pleased with its performance. The two features on this bag I liked the most were its vaulted footbox and ample-sized hood. This gave my feet more wiggle room and my head more coverage when fully cinched. The bag’s volume is good, allowing for some space without feeling cramped, while keeping empty space to a minimum. While I didn’t spend any 20-degree nights to test its lower comfort range, I did get in a few low-30s nights and stayed plenty warm and cozy. A cool feature on this bag is its pad sleeve which inverts to become its storage sack—clever! This bag may be a little too warm for summer trekking, but perfect for shoulder-season outings. Review by Eli.

Temp rating: 20°  •  Weight: 2.2 lbs.  •  Compressed size: 6 x 8 in.  •  Fill: 650 DownTek  •  Price: $290

down hugger 900Mont-bell Down Hugger 900 #2

I’m personally not a fan of narrow, constricting mummy bags, so when I was handed the Down Hugger 900 #2 I thought there was no way this bag would work for me. This is, until I zipped into it. This bag is deceptively roomy, thanks to its unique spiral baffling and stretchy stitching. That innovative construction helps eliminate cold air pockets by moving with and hugging to the body—but without feeling too cramped and clingy. This let me easily and comfortably roll from my back to my sides without getting all tangled up. This body-hugging feature (combined with its 900-fill down insulation) also makes this bag incredibly warm.

Almost too warm. On balmy summer evenings at Oregon’s moderate elevations, I found myself unzipping the bag and using it as a blanket instead. On cooler summer evenings at California’s higher elevations, and during colder shoulder seasons, this bag was nice and toasty-warm. Plus, it’s ridiculously lightweight and compact, so it doesn’t weigh down my pack or take up too much space. The price tag is steep, but for a bag like this it’s worth the investment—especially if you plan on lots of trail time in a variety of seasons and environments. Review by Eli.

Temp rating: 25°  •  Weight: 1.5 lbs.  •  Compressed size: 6 x 12 in.  •  Fill: 900 Power EX Down  •  Price: $560

backcountry bedSierra Designs Backcountry Bed Elite 850

A couple years ago, Sierra Designs’ innovative Backcountry Bed made a big impression when revealed to the outdoors community. It even earned Backpacker‘s coveted Editor’s Choice Award. Deviating from the traditional sleeping bag design, this zipperless bag employs a large upper opening with an attached quilt-like blanket. Combined with its roomy cut, this allows the user to move and turn more freely inside the bag, and use the blanket in much the same way as in a regular bed—curl up on cold nights, throw it open on warm ones. I was able to get my hands on an early sample and it has since become one of my favorite sleeping bags.

Since that initial release, Sierra Designs has expanded their Backcountry Bed (BCB) offerings, with just about each new iteration improving on the last. At the top of the line is the Elite 850. This hydrophobic DriDown bag weighs in at less than 2 pounds and is rated comfortable to near freezing temps. Beyond that are a variety of men’s and women’s BCBs with a variety of fill and temp ratings, including a few synthetic options. There’s even a Backcountry Bed Duo designed for two occupants. I’ll eventually upgrade to a newer, lighter model, but am still plenty happy with my original BCB after three hiking seasons of sound and comfy sleeping. Review by Eli.

Temp rating: 39°  •  Weight: 1.7 lbs.  •  Compressed size: 7 x 15 in.  •  Fill: 850 DriDown  •  SALE: $375

questarTherm-a-Rest Questar HD 20

There’s a lot to like about the Questar HD 20 sleeping bag: it’s toasty warm, super soft and roomy. The warmth comes from the water-resistant 650-fill down and an internal coating that reflects radiant heat back to your body. There’s even a foot warmer pocket to stick your feet in for extra warmth. The softness is in the fabric, which feels like a cozy sheet and less like the slick material found in most bags. The fit is roomy enough to toss and turn without feeling claustrophobic, yet not so roomy that you lose warmth.

Speaking of tossing and turning, two elastic connector bands fit around the pad to keep the bag in place so you won’t fall off the pad or get the bag twisted. Additional features include a heat-trapping draft collar, full-length zipper draft tube, snag-free zipper, cinchable hood and external zip pocket. For backpacking, the bag compresses well and at just over 2 pounds, won’t put a ding on your overall pack weight. Review by Lisa.

Temp rating: 20°  •  Weight: 2.3 lbs.  •  Compressed size: 9 x 14 in.  •  Fill: 650 Nikwax Down  •  Price: $250

sentinelBig Agnes Sentinel 30

If your idea of a perfect night in the backc0untry is curled up with your partner, this is the bag you’re looking for. My wife and I spent several nights cuddling in the Sentinel 30 and it’s pretty darned nice. This wide, 2-person bag sports a center snap-flap for using it with one large head opening, or two individual openings. It also has two side zippers and individual hood cinch cords so each occupant can choose how much to bundle in. An especially nice feature is the hood pillow sleeves, which keep each person’s pillow item of choice (e.g., pack pillow, puffy jacket, etc.) in place. The integrated full pad sleeve (we used two Q-Core SLX pads) helps keep the bag’s form in place so you can roll and move around without it turning into a jumbled mess.

The only downside we discovered is that we felt the temp rating may be a little too generous—especially since the underside of the bag is just liner material and not fully insulated. Through several nights in the low 30s, we felt a little cold, especially in the lower portion of the bag where, if you’re cuddling closely or shorter in stature, it leaves a large air pocket open. (We remedied this by inserting a down blanket between the pads and the bag sleeve.) Despite this one hitch, this bag was a luxurious upgrade in comfy camping. And it’s even light weight and compact enough to pack along on section- and thru-hikes for cuddly camping night after night. Review by Mitzi and Eli.

Temp rating: 30°  •  Weight: 3.6 lbs.  •  Compressed size: 7 x 9 in.  •  Fill: 600 DownTek  •  Price: $370

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These reviews are based on the individual experiences of PCT: Oregon’s gear team. Reviewers include hiking guidebook authors Lisa Holmes and Eli Boschetto. All items were tested in a variety of weather and temperature conditions. Personal results may vary. For more information on PCT: Oregon gear reviews, click here.

Product specs are based on standard/regular bag sizes. Temp rating is based on median “comfort” range.

This post contains affiliate links. All purchases made through these links help support the costs and operations of PCT: Oregon.

Main photo: The user-comfy Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed.

1 thought on “ROUNDUP: 5 Bags for Sound Sleeping”

  1. Hi, Eli! Yet another great article I really enjoy reading! This is a very useful guide for both experienced campers and beginners. I appreciate how you write everything from your experience, that can really make a difference with making a choice.

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