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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.

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.

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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.

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