Ultralight backpacking has been growing in popularity over the last decade. Hikers are realizing that light weight gear allows them to enjoy their hikes more by covering more distance while not expending as much energy.
The best way to cut weight is by reducing weight in what are called “the big three”. The “three” being the pack, the tent or shelter, and the sleeping bag, which account for a majority of the overall pack weight.
Sleeping bags come in two main materials, down and synthetic, which describe the sleeping bag’s insulation. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages with the biggest advantage of down being its super lightweight.
So if you are trying to cut overall weight, a down sleeping bag is a great way to start. This article will cover some of the things you should look for in a down ultralight sleeping bag and will provide you with our recommendation for the best ultralight down sleeping bag.
Our Top List: The Best Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
- Archer Outdoor Duck Down Ultralight Bag
- Sea to Summit SPI
- Hyke & Byke
- Aektiv Outdoors Mummy Bag
- Mountaintop Lightweight Bag
Scroll down to read our detailed reviews on each of these items, but you can check out the current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon by clicking the links above.
Ultralight Down Sleeping Bag Buying Guide
Safety is of the utmost importance when backpacking, so start here to determine your needs. Know the weather conditions you’re likely to face, particularly the temperature at night. Lots of popular backpacking destinations tend to vary drastically in their day and night temperatures. This is especially true when hiking in the American southwest where the desert conditions can be extremely hot during the day, but dangerously cool at night.
It’s important not to sacrifice warmth for lightness, but overdoing it can add unnecessary pounds to your pack.
It’s important to know that most temperature ratings tend to be a little aggressive. So a 0 degree bag likely won’t actually be good down to 0 degrees (consider adding a sleeping bag liner to pick up a couple extra degrees). We’ve found that you should add between 10 and 20 degrees to the manufacturer’s claimed temperature rating. This seems to be a bit more accurate, but it can vary widely depending on your own personal preference.
While cost is a factor in most buying decisions we make, be prepared to pay for high quality and ultralight weight.
Here is where you really need to assess how you intend to use the bag. If you’re just starting out in backpacking, you’re probably not going to go too extreme, and can maybe spend a little less. You don’t need to spend a fortune on your bag, but you should be honest with yourself about what you need it for, and make sure the bag you choose will fit those needs.
Weight is an important factor for those who plan to wear their bag on their back and backpack into the wilderness overnight or longer. Insulation, materials, and overall design determine how heavy a bag is, and it can be dangerous to go to a smaller, more lightweight bag if you don’t carefully examine how it’s rated. Don’t be afraid to pack a heavier bag if it’s going to keep you from losing too much body heat at night.
That said, if you’re an experienced backpacker and know your conditions, and the bag you’re considering meets your needs, a downsize might be in order for you. While there’s no shame in hauling around 30 pounds of gear on a hike, if you are ready and know the terrain well, you might be able to ditch the heavier bag for something a little more portable. Here it’s important to weigh your desire for comfort with the need for safety.
Some ultralight sleeping bags boast that they pack down very small, and indeed some do–but some of them seem impossible to get back in the bag once they’re out. If you’re new to backpacking, keep in mind that a tiny bag may not be right for you until you’re used to it. The materials used in modern sleeping bags are getting lighter and lighter, so even if you’re really new, you can find a bag that suits your needs without having to try to stuff it into a pocket-sized pouch.
If you’re experienced and looking to lighten your load, an unwieldy but light bag may not be super helpful, especially when you’re looking at cutting major weight from your pack. If you’re capable of choosing a small-packing bag that will be sure to meet your needs for comfort, safety and warmth, you can easily pack a smaller bag down into a very portable size.
This article is specifically about down sleeping bags, but it’s worth mentioning your other options.
Down has always been the go-to for warmth. but it does have two main drawbacks. The first being that it’s more expensive than other options. And the second being that if it gets wet, it pretty much stops retaining heat.
Your other option is synthetic down. Synthetic down is currently being produced that mimics down almost exactly, eliminating the need to consider the humidity of your prospective climate. It packs down down, but not as small as down. Synthetic does weigh a bit more than down, but it’s price tag is a good bit lower.
Some people also have ethical concerns over using down as it is duck feathers, so synthetic could be a good option for those who want to do their part.
Modern ultralight bags contain the newest, most up-to-date technology in weight versus size versus warmth. Whether you choose down or synthetic material, it’s important that the individual bag you choose be rated for your surroundings and protected from the elements while not in use. The contents of your bag won’t matter as much if it gets sodden and wet throughout the day as you hike, and material is often a personal preference. That said, you should carefully consider the conditions you’ll be backpacking in when deciding which material you want in your bag.
Best Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
If you’ve chosen to go with a down sleeping bag, there are several options out there for you. Here are several that are readily available for a variety of uses.
This bag boasts a rating of 22F, meaning you can comfortably use it in temperatures down to 22 degrees Fahrenheit; however, it can be used for even lower temperatures down to -5F. It’s hooded, so your head can stay warm and cushioned, regardless if you decide to bother with a pillow.
This bag weighs about four pounds and is reasonably priced, so it’s a great choice for beginners and intermediate campers alike. This bag packs a little bulkier than some of its warmer-rated counterparts, because the extra down fill needed to keep you warm at sub-freezing temperatures can be a little bulky. However, on a really cold night, you’ll find it’s worth any extra bulk and weight it may come with.
Even though it’s on the heavier side of ultralight bags, it’s still only four pounds. This is a great option for people hiking in cold weather.
This Sea to Summit bag is an intermediate level bag. It also has a survivability rating of -5F, with a comfort rating down to 22F. This goose-down bag is highly rated and you can expect it to stay in good condition for a long time.
The price tag is hefty, but it’s very light weight, around two pounds, and fairly compact. This bag is an excellent choice for hikers who regularly camp in sub-freezing temperatures and need something to keep them safe.
It packs down easily and compresses well enough for carrying on long hikes. If you’re planning on camping in cold weather often, and are willing to pay a bit extra for higher quality, this may just be the bag for you.
One of the more popular sleeping bags available, t will keep you warm and dry down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a compression pack that will help you keep the air squeezed out of it so it will stay small for transport.
In addition, the lightweight bag weighs less than 2 pounds, so it’s very portable. It’s made from water-resistant materials so it’s easier to keep dry if you get caught in inclement weather.
For only a couple bucks more, you can get twice the duck down fill and stay warm down to 15F. This will make the bag a little heavier, but if you’re going to be in freezing temperatures, it’s worth every penny and every ounce of weight.
This is one of the best choices for novice or intermediate hikers.
Another great reasonably-priced option is this mummy bag from Aektiv Outdoors which is rated down to 22F. It also comes with a compression bag to help you keep the mummy bag contained for hiking, transport, or storage.
Filled with goose down and weighing less than four pounds, it’s a good option for those who are just starting out or with some experience in hiking and backpacking. It will keep you warm without weighing you down or setting you back too far financially.
This bag is a bargain and is very popular among users. For the price, though, you may sacrifice some versatility. It’s rated down to 32F, but the comfort range is above 40F. So you won’t freeze to death if it’s below freezing, but you may be a little uncomfortable.
The natural goose down filled bag packs down easily to fit into an average-sized backpack and weighs only about two pounds. It also boasts a little extra foot space for comfort.
This may be a bag for more casual campers, but it will absolutely suffice for those who are going on an overnight trip in cool but not freezing weather.
You can’t beat the price, and it’s clearly popular among buyers, but it’s not for the extreme mountaineer.