Cold Weather Sleeping Bag: A Guide

Extreme Cold Weather Sleeping Bag: A Guide

11 Oct 2022 Chandra Gurung

If you’re going on a cold-weather hiking trip, you’ll have to have a sleeping bag that can withstand the elements. Being unprepared for a freezing night might be depressing. In freezing conditions, having the correct cold weather sleeping bag with adequate insulation is critical. At the very least, a good night’s sleep helps re-energize a weary body and brain, which is essential for a cold-weather adventure.

The problematic aspect is determining which sleeping bag is best for you. Temperature values and materials should be taken into account. Wherever you explore and camp is equally essential. Will you, for example, primarily use the bag on high mountain nights? Or in humid winter climates such as the Midwest? We’ve compiled a list of the top alternatives available right now, keeping price, form, and warmth rating in mind.

Regarding warmth rating, be sure you are aware of the expected low temperatures before setting up camp. Remember that temperature values are for survival, not for comfort. If in doubt, use a lower thermal rating. Alternatively, camp 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the bag’s temperature rating.

What sets winter temperatures sleeping bags apart from other types?

You already know a portion of the response: it must keep you warm. You and your comrades are in grave danger if you become chilly. And once you’re chilly, it’s challenging to regain body temperature. Unless you want to spend an hour doing jumping jacks every time you get a cold.

The essential factors to consider while choosing sleeping bags for freezing weather should be based on three critical factors. Which are discussed below.

  • Insulation
  • Fill power
  • Fill weight 

What does this signify, though? Here is a summary without the technical panic that typically happens when you initially start your search for a sleeping bag.


Types of cold weather sleeping bag

A sleeping bag’s design incorporates the following two elements to create insulation:

Fill Power

The down quality of a sleeping bag or jacket is rated using this scale (or any other down-filled garment or piece of gear). How fluffy is it another way to think about fill power?

Since greater fill power can trap more air, more fluffiness equates to more loft and better insulation. An excellent cold-weather mattress will have a minimum fill power of 650 and increase from there.

Fill Weight

This function is simple to comprehend. More down is packed into the product as fill weight increases. You end up with even more down, which traps more air pockets between the feathers and maintains more heat.

I hear a lot of folks discussing high-fill weight, three-season sleeping bags. It is OK if you plan a vacation to a region with a moderate climate, but a 4-season backpack is necessary for freezing climates. With an enormous fill weight!

Range of Temperatures

Each sleeping bag has a rating for the temperature range, frequently visible on the top inside of the zipper. The temperature range for every specific sleeping back is displayed on a gauge known as the European Norm (EN). An example of a technical standard is EN. Ranges include:

  • Upper
  • Comfort
  • Extreme

Therefore, each of those scores represents relatively minor on its own. The good news is that each is broken down for you here.


It is the temperature range where a “normal” lady feels cozy and at ease. Although nothing prevents her from sinking further inside the sack, she shouldn’t be coiled up. She needs to unwind. Since this example emphasizes a woman, I must admit that I am baffled by this.


This time, the EN rating centers on a man curled up and “fighting against the cold.” The bag is now operating at its maximum capacity.


A man or woman feels piercing cold at the end of the temperature rating system. Now, dying from hypothermia is a possibility. Only use the bag in an emergency at these temperatures.

What exactly does it mean? Select a bag that will keep you warm in the coldest conditions you’ll encounter. When selecting a cold-weather sleeping bag, I consider the following factors: 

  • Weight
  • Resistance to Weather
  • Design/Durability


Frankly, I am often ready to sacrifice a little warmth and comfort in exchange for a lighter load. Many rock climbers often divide a sleeping bag with their hiking companion to reduce weight. Talk about giving up some comfort! (Of course, this is dependent on your companion.) I’ve also seen top athletes having their sponsors create personalized bag designs specific to their style and demands.

The lower weight is always desirable, but it frequently comes at a cost. Lighter, colder sleeping bags will necessarily lack the durability and construction of a heavier sleeping bag and will be more costly. On the other hand, a “burlier” bag will not be as packable or compact as a lightweight bag, limiting what you can load into your pack.

In essence, the stakes increase the lighter you go. A quick and light attitude might be essential for your work. Alternately, it can be a little pointless, and even if you succeed in the weight department, you might fail in other areas.

Resistance to Weather

A weather-resistant sleeping bag is essential since the down fill has to be protected from moisture. Although it should not be completely watertight, it must be as weatherproof as possible.

Today’s sleeping bags are frequently filled with hydrophobic down. The feathers are coated with a water-repellent substance, such as Nikwax’s DWR, making them impervious to moisture absorption. In turn, this coating aids the down’s ability to maintain loft, which is necessary for securing air and preserving your body heat.

The artificial hollow fiber fill is naturally moisture-resistant.

The sleeping bag’s shell serves as yet another barrier against moisture entry. Select a bag with a Pertex exterior or one that has been DWR-treated. I frequently get asked if there are sleeping bags that are entirely waterproof. Vapor barrier layers (VBLs), sometimes known as human-size plastic bags, are what they are named. Furthermore, they are uncomfortable sleeping in.

A VBL inside a sleeping bag keeps moisture and sweat from getting to the down filling.

I’ve never found an utterly waterproof sleeping bag for cold weather. I would use it even if it existed since you need a mechanism to dry your bag out if moisture gets inside it. It is a challenging task because watertight shells are involved.


Blue and yellow cold weather sleeping bags

I once purchased a sleeping bag since it met all the criteria and was attractive. However, I never had the chance to try it out in the shop. Yes, one might feel a bit funny resting in your sleeping bag on the ground of your neighborhood outdoor equipment store, but it’s better to look foolish than not!

I’ll explain.

A sleeping bag has to fit correctly, just like any other quality outdoor accessory. If it’s too short, you’ll become chilled. If you wait too long, the extra room in the bottom of the bag will cause you to become cold. You won’t enjoy a decent night’s sleep if the fit is too tight across your shoulders and chest.

My own experience has shown that the ideal fit should resemble this:

  • The bag has to be six inches longer than you are tall. It will enable you to bury yourself in the ground and keep warm during freezing weather.
  • A couple of inches broader than your shoulders is also ideal. In this manner, you won’t feel restricted and may wear more clothing for warmth.
  • The heel of the backpack, like the breadth, must allow space for tent boots and ease of mobility for your feet. Even though I’ve used bags with ratings as low as -45C, I’ve still had to put on a pair of down boots at night to keep my feet warm. Proper doze comes from warm feet.


Summary of our article on cold weather sleeping bags.

It may seem challenging to pick a sleeping bag for really chilly conditions. There are so many options and essential features. The basic fact is, though. Choose a bag that:

  • It is considered as pleasant, given the surroundings.
  • That suits you.
  • Features a waterproof shell and dry-down fill.
  • Offers a way to keep heat in and breezes out (main zipper and neck baffles).
  • It is portable and lightweight, especially if you want to take it in your rucksack.

Frequently Asked Question:

Q: When does a sleeping bag not need to be used?

If the temperature is 64 degrees or above when camping, you don’t require a sleeping bag and can get by with only a few blankets.

Q: How should I lie in a sleeping bag to be warmest?

There are three primary methods you may use to conserve heat in your sleeping bag: Protect against the direct heat loss sources by The heat-sucking effects of radiation, conduction, and convection may be lessened with the use of a bag liner, an insulating pad, a tent, and a well-selected campsite, allowing you to retain body heat while you sleep.