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Best Deals on Sub-Zero Winter Sleeping Bags

January 31, 2017

A sufficiently warm sleeping bag is one of the most important items you can buy for a winter camping adventure. But this crucial piece of gear doesn’t come cheap, with many high-end models running well north of $500. If you are thinking about expanding your outdoor overnight adventures to include the winter season—or are just interested in upgrading your current winter sleeping bag—here’s a quick run-down of the best deals available today.

First a word on temperature ratings. Here in the mountains of the Northeast, where winter temperatures routinely dip into the single digits and below zero, I strongly recommend investing in a bag rated for sub-zero temperatures, ideally one rated for between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives you both the flexibility and peace of mind to head out—and sleep warm and comfortably—in just about any winter weather conditions you’re likely to experience in the Northeast.

rei expedition -20 sleeping bagYes, zero-degree winter sleeping bags can work for many winter conditions, especially if you layer up and dress warmly inside them, but in my experience they just don’t provide the cozy warmth and comfort I desire on cold-weather adventures. (For more on choosing a winter sleeping bag, see my recent AMC Outdoors article Sleep Tight, All Winter Night.)

So here are three of today’s contenders that won’t break the bank.

REI Co-op Expedition Sleeping Bag

This is hands-down the best deal of the moment: a minus-20-degree down-filled winter bag for a clearance price around $300. (It’s the only down-filled option I could find at the moment that sells for less than $500.)

Stuffed with more than two pounds of 700-fill water-repellent duck down, it is available in three sizes: short (up to 5 feet 6 inches; 3 pounds, 11 ounces; $287), regular (up to 6 feet; 3 pounds, 13 ounces; $299), and long (up to 6 feet 6 inches; 4 pounds, 2 ounces; $317). Among other features, the bag includes an unusual double-zipper system allows you to adjust the amount of space and warmth inside. A great buy.

the-north-face-aleutian-sleeping-bagThe North Face Aleutian

The price is low ($189) for this synthetic-fill option, but the weight (nearly 7 pounds for the long version) and bulk (stuffed size is 1 foot 3 inches by 2 feet 2 inches) are not. To paraphrase Martin Brody of Jaws fame: You’re going to need a bigger pack if you want to carry this beast.

It’s a good potential option, however, for winter car camping or cold-weather campers dipping their toes in the frozen water of winter for the first time. Like all synthetic-fill bags it will lose some of its warmth over time and use, though the synthetic “Heatseeker Eco synthetic insulation” is composed of 30 percent post-consumer recycled material and provides the bag with some laudable green cred.

mountain-hardwear-lamina-bonfire-bagMountain Hardwear Lamina Z Bonfire -30°

This a slightly lighter (around 5 pounds), warmer, and more compressible (10 inches x 18 inches stuff size) synthetic-fill option than the Aleutian for about $100 more ($289 for the long version).

The bag contains Mountain Hardwear’s “Thermal.Q insulation” within its “Lamina” construction, which features welded (glued) rather than stitched seams on much of the bag. This provides more even loft throughout the bag, helps minimize cold spots, and slightly increases warmth.

 

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.