Five on Fridays: Down Sleeping Bags

by Jacob Gordon. 

Earlier in the week, Dave Gantz wrote about how to properly clean a down sleeping bag. Well, I thought it would be appropriate to feature those very same types of sleeping bags for this week’s Five on Friday. Now, you’ll know which bag is right for you and how to clean it between seasons.

For this list, I’ve decided to divide bags based on price points, so if you’re looking for a simple bag for spring trips, or you need a 3 or 4 season bag, you’ll find it below.

Much like its use in your favorite winter jacket, down provides an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, is super compressible, and functions wonderfully within an array of temps. Truthfully, down bags are going to cost a bit more than their synthetic counterparts, but when you factor in the performance of down, it’s well worth the extra dough.

Just keep in mind, with down insulation the number of the fill isn’t indicative of the warmth power of the sleeping bag. A 500-fill down bag can be just as warm as a 900-fill bag; the number just indicates the quality of the down.

1. Mountain Hardwear Ratio 45


The Ratio 45 down sleeping bag from Mountain Hardwear is a great introduction into the world of down sleeping bags. Mountain Hardwear packs the Ratio 45 with 650-fill Q Shield Down which not only works to retain your body heat, but continues heating even if the bag gets a little damp from your sweat or the wet ground; in other words, even if the bag gets wet, you can stay warm and not miserable. For more consistent warmth while in the bag, you’ll be sure to appreciate the unique Thermal Trap Baffle which works to evenly distribute the down and prevent it from migrating around the bag.

2. Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600


Bring a bit of your own bed with you into the backcountry with the Backcountry  Bed 600 from Sierra Designs. The attached integrated comforter wraps around your body and provides some extra warmth and comfort, but more importantly provides excellent versatility for varying temps. Clocking in at about 2.5 pounds, the Backcountry Bed 600 sleeping bag provides excellent warmth without adding too much weight.  It has a unique no-zipper design that ensures heat can’t escape from any opening.

3. The North Face Blue Kazoo


The Blue Kazoo sleeping bag from The North Face is packed with 600+ Eastern European goose down and features a seven-chamber sculpted hood for added warmth around your head. The enhanced internal heat trap lives up to its name, keeping your body heat from escaping in the middle of the night. For those late-night bathroom breaks, you’ll appreciate the glow-in-the-dark zippers that help minimize fumbling around and close (nature) calls.

4. Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600F


Yes, the Backcountry Bed 600 makes another appearance on this list, but this time, it’s been upgraded to the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600F. What’s the difference? Well, the fill weight on this version is a bit heavier (26.5 ounces compared to 17.2 ounces), so while you add a little extra weight, you gain a considerable amount of warmth. This version has many of the same features (integrated comforter, zipper-less construction, water-repellent-treated down), but it only ends up adding about an extra 8 ounces of pack weight, giving the bag an overall pack weight of 3.1 ounces. There’s a reason this bag won awards from both Backpacker Magazine and Climbing Magazine.  The difference in price between the two Backcountry Beds is only $50, but the difference in warmth is something you can certainly feel.

5. Marmot Never Summer MemBrain


For those looking for a heavy-duty bag, look no further than the Never Summer MemBrain sleeping bag from Marmot. The 650-filled Power Fill Down keeps you warm even in temps as low as 0 degrees Farenheit, while the waterproof/breathable construction helps fend off moisture (say from sudden torrential rains). The locking zipper design helps to keep the zipper from moving and the bag opening up, ensuring your heat stays trapped and you stay warm. It weighs in at about 3.5 pounds, but it’s warmth that’s worth the extra bit of weight. Much like the Backcountry Bed, the Never Summer MemBrain is a  Backpacker Magazine and Climbing Magazine award winner.

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