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Cheap Sleeping Bags Buying Guide

The upscale end of the market is where you'll find sleeping bags by Marmot, REI, Big Agnes, Sierra Designs, GoLite, North Face, L.L. Bean, and Mountain Hardwear. These companies produce some of the most expensive and highly-rated sleeping bags meant for use in extreme cold weather by serious hikers and campers.

If you're planning on sleeping in subzero temperatures or pitching a tent on snowy mountainsides, experts strongly advise that you don't skimp on a sleeping bag: Spend the extra money on a high-end, down-filled bag and protect yourself against hypothermia and sleepless nights.

Mummy Bags, Rectangular Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Bag Weight, Compression Sack
Sleeping Bag Reviews
Best Sleeping Bags

But if Alpine climbs or expeditions to the Arctic haven't been scheduled in, there's no need to spend $520 on the Big Agnes Hahns Peak SL or $700 on the Marmot CWN EQ. Cheap sleeping bags costing less than $40 and suitable for indoor use and camping in less extreme conditions are readily available. One good low-cost brand to look for is Coleman. In addition to making some expensive sleeping bags, Coleman produces some of the cheapest sleeping bags and offers a larger selection than any other producer. The Coleman bag that consumers like this year for its value and comfort is the Clear Lake Warm-Weather Sleeping Bag (starting at $27).

We identified several other highly-rated, cheap sleeping bags, as well. Aside from the Coleman White Water model, our top picks include the Everest Mummy +5F/-15C Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $25), which keeps users snug and warm in cold temperatures. Next on our list are the Coleman North Rim 0-Degree Mummy Bag (starting at $40) and Guide Gear Portage 30 Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $25) for their roomy comfort and price. Given the variety of decent and inexpensive alternatives, two sleeping bags you might want to leave behind are the Wenzel Santa Fe 20-Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $24), mostly because users report it doesn't live up to its cold weather rating, and the Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag (starting at $26) due to quality issues.

If you're shopping for a cheap kid's sleeping bag, you'll find several at prices even lower than what you'd pay for an adult-size bag. Parents posting sleeping bags reviews on Amazon say the Eureka Grasshopper (starting at $30) is a smart choice for youngsters who are outdoor camping enthusiasts. Disney puts its stamp on kids' gear with Fairies and Cars sleeping bags, which start at about $12.

Comparative tests and reviews of expensive sleeping bags by experts and professional hikers/climbers abound, but expert assessments of the cheapest sleeping bags are hard to come by. Luckily, a lot of users post their opinions on a variety of review sites. Cheap sleeping bags made by Everest Mummy and Coleman earn decent reviews, although consumers' experience is mixed, largely because comfort level, perceptions of warmth, and sleeping style vary by individual. So before choosing a discount sleeping bag, consider your own sleep preferences: If you're a "cold sleeper" (you get cold easily while asleep), you'll need a warmer bag than a "warm sleeper" (you get hot easily while asleep). Experts say women usually "sleep colder" than men, and recommend that women choose a sleeping bag with a warmer (that is, lower) temperature rating. If you tend to move and roll around a lot, you might want to avoid a constraining mummy-style bag and instead opt for a rectangular bag. Also, a sleeping pad will help keep you warmer and more comfortable during the night.

Based on the sleeping bags reviews that we read, other features to consider include the zipper, the weight, and the insulation. Sleeping bag zippers take a lot of grief for snagging on fabric and otherwise breaking. Users also comment a lot on a bag's portability -- how heavy it feels and how easy it is to roll up. The accuracy of the stated temperature ratings is critical. Consumers seem less concerned about the synthetic vs down debate than whether the insulation is sufficient for nights when the temperature hits the low point on the rating. But you don't want a bag that will cause you to sweat all night, either. The goal: a cheap sleeping bag you can count on to provide the warmth and comfort under the conditions you're stuck with.

Mummy Bags, Rectangular Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Bags Shape.

Rectangular sleeping bags and mummy bags have their pros and cons. Mummy bags, like the Everest Mummy +5F/-15C Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $25), Coleman North Rim 0-Degree Mummy Bag (starting at $40), and Wenzel Santa Fe 20-Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $24), are wider on top for arms and chest and narrower at the bottom for legs and feet. They're thermally efficient because they hug the contours of your body, which leaves less space between you and the sleeping bag, and they cover your head and shoulders.

Review continues below

But for some campers, a cheap mummy bag is too confining. If you move around a lot while sleeping and need room for your legs, cheap rectangular sleeping bags like the Coleman Clear Lake Warm-Weather Sleeping Bag (starting at $27) and the Guide Gear Portage 30 Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $25) would be better choices. Also, if you're going to be sleeping with a partner, you might want to consider sharing a bag and enjoying the comfort of the bag and each other's warmth; reviewers say the Guide Gear Portage 30-Degree Double Sleeping Bag (starting at $40) is roomy and warm.

Sleeping Bags Fill.

Experts at Outdoorplaces.com and Dick's Sporting Goods say goose down is the best sleeping bag fill material. Goose down is lighter than man-made fibers, lasts longer, and provides the most warmth. But goose down is expensive, and you won't find any in a cheap sleeping bag. What you do get in cheap sleeping bags is synthetic fill, which also is warm and cozy. Moreover, synthetic fill holds up better than goose down in wet weather because down loses much of its insulating qualities when wet, and it dries very slowly.

All the cheap sleeping bags we researched contain synthetic fill. The Coleman North Rim contains 3.8 pounds of fill, the Everest Mummy holds 3.5 pounds of fill; the Wenzel Santa Fe is a comparative lightweight with,2.5 pounds of fill but the hard-to-find Kelty Cosmic 50-Degree Sleeping Bag (starting at $30) beats them all with just 16 ounces of fill made with a lightweight patented product called Thermolite. The low-cost rectangular Coleman Clear Lake Warm-Weather bag has about three pounds of fill and the single Guide Gear Portage bag holds 4.5 pounds; its double version packs in six pounds. In general, users report these man-made materials provide warmth, but add that they can be bulky.

Sleeping Bags Size.

The size of cheap sleeping bags varies, with some styles accommodating people measuring up to 5'11" and others claiming to fit people as tall as 6'6". Descriptions of each low-cost sleeping bag specify height maximums, but what the marketing materials don't say is that people with heavier builds will probably need a bag larger than one that would seem to suit their height. The Everest Mummy is a generous 84"x33"x24", and several users who are taller than six feet comment on Walmart that the bag is a comfortable fit. The Coleman White Water Large Cool-Weather Sleeping Bag (starting at $59) is out of our price range but worth noting because at 84"x39", it's made to fit big and tall sizes; one user posting a review on Amazon notes that her 6"3 husband fit comfortably into this bag. Reviewers also comment positively about the 80"x66" dimensions of the two-person Guide Gear Portage, which enabled a 5'10 female to comfortably share with a 5'11 male. The Coleman North Rim mummy bag is 82"x32" and should fit someone up to 6'2", while the rectangular Coleman Clear Lake Warm-Weather bag and Brazos Cold-Weather bags both measure 75"x33", dimensions meant for people no taller than 5'11".

Sleeping Bag Weight, Compression Sack

Sleeping Bag Weight.

The weight of budget sleeping bags varies significantly. The Guide Gear Double bag weighs in at more than eight pounds, for example, and the Everest Mummy weighs about half that. If you're planning to carry the sleeping bag on your back, you'll want a lightweight sleeping bag, but that quest may push you into higher-priced models filled with goose down. Among the cheap sleeping bags we researched, the Kelty Cosmic 50 Degree and Santa Fe Wenzel mummy bags weigh the least (just under three pounds each). While the one-person version of the Guide Gear Portage sleeping bag is roomy and comfortable, you'll pay for that luxury in its five-plus-pound weight. The discount rectangular Coleman sleeping bags tend to be on the heavy side, as well; the Brazos Cold-Weather and Clear Lake Warm-Weather bags weigh about five pounds each. As the experts at Trails.com explain, bags this heavy are too cumbersome to fold efficiently or carry on hiking trips; they're at their best for indoor or car camping.

Sleeping Bags Temperature Rating.

Sleeping bag manufacturers use temperature ratings to signal that a bag will provide warmth down to those temperatures. If you plan to use your budget sleeping bag for camping trips, pay attention to this number. Experts recommend summer-use sleeping bags should be rated at a minimum of 40 degrees and winter-use bags should be rated at zero degrees or lower. Some cheap rectangular Coleman sleeping bags have temperature ratings that range from 20 degrees to 60 degrees; the Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag is said to keep users warm down to 20 degrees and the Clear Lake Warm-Weather bag should be good down to 40 degrees. Mummy bags often boast lower temperature ratings, although the Kelty Cosmic mummy bag, which holds barely a pound of fill, is only rated at 50 degrees. Among the other discount mummy bags we researched, the Everest Mummy is the coldest-weather sleeping bag with a five-degree temperature rating, followed by the Coleman North Rim bag with its 10-30 degree rating and the Wenzel Santa Fe at 20 degrees. Note though, that some campers say these bags really aren't warm enough for such cold weather.

Indeed, the manufacturer's temperature rating is only an estimate, despite claims about independently certified ratings. Your own sleep preferences must be factored in. As our research found, users don't always agree with the stated temperature ratings of the cheapest sleeping bags.

Sleeping Bags Zipper.

An efficient, no-snag zipper is an essential part of a sleeping bag. If possible, test the zipper before you buy to make sure it zips up and down with ease. This is one dimension in which cheap sleeping bags often fall short; many earn a fair share of user complaints for problems like breakage, misaligned feet and teeth, fabric snags, and generally middling performance. For users of the Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather bag, the zipper proved decisive in their reviews on Amazon, where they say the zipper gets stuck and caught in the nylon shell. The Wenzel Santa Fe bag comes with a self-repairing zipper, which is a stand-out feature in a discount sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag Frills, Compression Sack.

A compression sack, a.k.a. "stuff sack," is especially convenient if you hike with the bag or have limited storage space while on the go. The Everest Mummy comes with a compression sack, although some users say the sack is too small and rips when you try to stuff the discount mummy bag inside. The Coleman North Rim and Wenzel Santa Fe, also discount mummy bags, likewise come with a polyester stuff sack. Both the single and double rectangular Guide Gear Portage bags come with a carry sack. Rectangular Coleman models are usually rolled and secured; the two on our list feature the QuickCord, a proprietary no-tie system.

Sleeping Bag Reviews

Sleeping bags reviews for several of the budget models we researched are largely positive. Despite a few critics who report that the inexpensive sleeping bags on our list of top picks failed to provide the expected warmth, most are satisfied with the bags' performance and appreciate the low prices. That said, few of the sleeping bags reviews that we read were written by serious, all-weather outdoors campers; most seem to come from occasional users who venture into the wilds during spring, summer, or fall. If you plan to do otherwise -- that is, camp out in temperatures in the single-digit or lower range -- sleeping bags reviews generally suggest you choose a bag meant for very cold weather and pack plenty of thermal clothing. Better yet, get hold of a top-rated sleeping bag filled with goose down; it will cost a lot more but will also keep you a lot warmer.

Warm Sleeping Bags, Comfortable Sleeping Bags.

According to reviews, the inexpensive models on our list are quite cozy and comfortable sleeping bags. The Coleman Clear Lake Warm-Weather bag, for example, is pretty basic gear but users assert it provides the warmth they need even in cooler temperatures. Sleeping bags reviews on Amazon talk up the value and comfort of this rectangular model, noting that the 40-60 degree rating seems accurate; one mother and young child shared a bag in freezing temperatures, slept well, and woke up rested, reports her husband. The rectangular Guide Gear Portage bag is rated for 30 degrees and sleeping bags reviews on SportsMansGuide.com; say it keeps users surprisingly warm for outdoors camping and works just as well atop a queen-size bed for indoor cabin camping. Users posting reviews on Walmart say the Everest Mummy's 84-inch length affords sufficient coverage for very tall campers and the synthetic fill and polyester liner provide plenty of warmth in temperatures as low as the mid-20s, although a few campers say the 5-degree temperature rating is over-optimistic. The mummy-style Coleman North Rim wins kudos from campers posting on Campmor.com who have used it for winter camping in the Rockies and Yosemite, saying it's toasty and comfortable, but also suggest springing for a pricier bag if you plan on sleeping where the temperatures dip below 20 degrees.

But not all inexpensive sleeping bags are worth their cost in warmth. The Wenzel Santa Fe 20-Degree bag, for example, is cheap and cozy enough, but several sleeping bags reviews on Amazon report it just doesn't do the job, even in moderate temperatures. One reviewer says he felt cold when using the bag indoors at 55 degrees, and another asserts you should use a pad and wear thermal underwear if you expect to stay warm in mid-40s temperatures.

Best Sleeping Bags

Best Sleeping Bag Storage/Transportation.

Regardless in transit or at rest, even the best sleeping bags have to be stored somewhere and somehow. Cheap sleeping bags filled with fluffy synthetic insulation -- usually mummy bags -- are meant to be stuffed into a sack when on the go; at home, experts advise that you keep the bag loose or hanging so the fill doesn't clump or permanently compress. Although the Everest Mummy sleeping bag comes with a stuff sack, several reviews of the best sleeping bags at Walmart note that even when pressed into the sack it's not particularly compact and thus not ideal for hiking. We noted similar comments about the Coleman North Rim mummy bag, described in some sleeping bag reviews as heavy and unwieldy; one user says it doesn't fit well into a backpack frame and a military reservist who uses the sleeping bag about half the year writes on Amazon; that it's a "pain" to stuff. Opinion about the Wenzel Santa Fe is divided on this issue, with some user reviews on Amazon saying it's the right weight and size for hiking but others asserting it's somewhat bulky; one says it doesn't fit well on a motorcycle. Other inexpensive mummy bags, however, appeal because they pack small and transport easily. Users posting on Campmor say the Kelty Cosmic 50-Degree Sleeping Bag is compact in its sack and a good travel companion.

Inexpensive rectangular sleeping bags, like the Clear Lake Warm-Weather and Brazos Cold-Weather models are bulkier and usually heavier than mummy bags. They must first be folded, then rolled, and then secured; in the case of these Coleman bags, with the company's trademarked no-tie cord. This process has both advocates and critics, according to sleeping bag reviews posted on sites like Walmart and Amazon. Some users say the bags weigh too much for backpacking but are fine for car-camping or as indoor bedrolls. Some say these cheap sleeping bags roll up easily, others say not so much, and a few grumble about struggling to keep them tightly rolled.

Cheap Sleeping Bags Durability.

Durability doesn't seem to be a problem with some of the low-cost sleeping bags we researched. But others garner complaints about a variety durability issues. Several reviews of the best sleeping bags on Amazon report that the fabric and seams on the Wenzel Santa Fe rip and tear easily. The zippers on the Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather bag don't always work (one user says the bag arrived with a broken zipper) and others say it catches on the shell and the zipper seams fray; one user also complains on Amazon about fibers that come loose whenever the bag is unrolled. A few Everest Mummy users, according to sleeping bags reviews on Walmart, struggle with the zipper when they're already inside the bag.

Best Sleeping Bag Maintenance.

Eventually, your cheap sleeping bag will need to be cleaned, especially if you use it in place of sheets and blankets. The best sleeping bags with synthetic fill can be washed in a commercial washing machine; some experts on eHow.com recommend using a milder-than- usual detergent and then putting the bag through a second wash cycle without soap to make sure it's thoroughly rinsed.

All three of the Coleman sleeping bags on our list are machine washable. As for the Everest Mummy, one sleeping bag review on Walmart advises against putting it in the washing machine. In any case, follow the directions that come with the sleeping bag.



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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Sleeping Bags
  2. Discount Sleeping Bags Features Comparison Table
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