When you’re camping in the backcountry weather can change on a dime. One minute it’s nice and sunny, the next minute it’s raining cats and dogs and you’re rushing inside your tent. Staying warm during a rainy day means staying dry. For this blog, I’ll be taking a closer look at the best sleeping bags for rainy weather and what makes a sleeping bag great for those damp days on the trail!
The best sleeping bags for rainy weather are water-resistant, durable and easy to dry. The best sleeping bag will vary from camper to camper, depending on the weather, where you are camping and your comfort needs. In general, synthetic insulation tends to hold up better in rainy conditions. However, down treated with a water-resistant coating will keep you dry as well, however, this insulation takes longer to dry.
My Top Five Picks Are:
If you want to skip quickly down to read about the sleeping bags that are my top picks, just click on the below links. Remember if you then wish to get back up to this list click on your browser back button.
- The North Face Hyper Cat 20
- Marmot Never Winter 30
- Ibis Waterbloc
- Big Agnes Wind Lip 28
- Nemo Sonic Down
Wet Weather Camping 101
You know camping in late fall is always a gamble when it comes to the weather. But, you have the itch to get out in the wild- to smell that fresh mountain air, to get away from it all. With every step, you take up that long winding trail, the elevation changes- making weather patterns unpredictable and micro-climates a reality. The weather between one and two thousand feet can vary greatly and that’s why you have to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
If the rain starts to fall, it’s important to stay dry. Water has a sneaky way of stealing body heat, dropping your core temperature and making you vulnerable and putting you at risk for hypothermia. The most important thing you can do when camping in wet weather is to stay dry. A high-quality tent will help keep a lot of that moisture away, but you also need to make sure your sleeping bag and other gear can handle a few raindrops or even a downpour.
Even if the rain stops, the moisture on the ground will be enough to get the bottom of your bag soaked. A sleeping pad or tarp underneath your tent can help keep that moisture from transferring to your sleeping bag. Again, staying dry will mean the difference between being comfortable and shivering and wondering if you will make it through the night.
Most high quality, well-made sleeping bag are made out of polyester or a durable nylon shell. Those materials most often are breathable, waterproof or treated with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating that keeps rain and snow from seeping into the bag and the insulation. You know your favorite raincoat? When the water hit the coat is beads up and it rolls off your arms. This is the same material used in the outer shell of most sleeping bags these days.
When shopping for a sleeping bag, make sure the label clearly states the type of material used in the outer shell of the bag. You’ll likely find more water-resistant bags than waterproof. Water-resistant means the bag will stay relatively dry in light rain and drizzle. Waterproof bags are hard to come by right now. There are only one or two manufacturers in the world making 100% waterproof bags. With that said, water-resistant coating on the bag is the most affordable and readily available option to keep the moisture from penetrating your sleeping bag.
Down vs Synthetic Insulation
When it comes to rain, synthetic insulation wins the gold medal- if keeping you warm was an Olympic sport that is. Synthetic insulation is made out of polyester- down like material, except its man-made. Synthetic is warm and it holds up well in wet weather. You can get a synthetic sleeping bag soaked and it will still retain its insulation value. The best part about synthetic insulation is that dries quickly as well. So, if you tip over in a canoe, land face first in a creek with your pack or the weather suddenly changes, you know your synthetic insulated sleeping bag will be there to keep you warm when you are ready to call it a day.
If there’s even the slightest chance of wet weather on your adventure, opt for a synthetic filled sleeping bag. Plus, in most cases, synthetic sleeping bags are less expensive than down insulated bags. In general, down is great for dry, cold weather. Down works wonders in sub-zero temperatures. However, down loses its insulation value- i.e. doesn’t keep you warm, when it gets wet. That’s a big problem when you are 15 miles away from the nearest cabin and it starts pouring.
Recently, sleeping bag companies started treating down feathers and plume with a water-resistant coating to keep moisture away. If you insist on going with a down sleeping bag, make sure the down is treated with a DWR finish. This finish will keep you warm even when it’s raining outside. Down sleeping bags tend to be more expensive, but they are the number one choice of extreme mountain climbers and arctic explorers.
The North Face Hyper Cat 20
The North Face Hyper Cat is a solid sleeping bag for those days when the clouds roll in. The bag is made with a high-quality synthetic insulation to keep you warm, even when it’s wet outside. As I mentioned earlier, synthetic insulation is the best when you’re camping in rainy weather. The bag is rated to keep you comfortable and cozy when the temperature hovers around 20 degrees. According to the experts at REI, this is one of the lightest synthetic sleeping bags available on the market today.
The bag weighs in at 2 pounds, 1 ounce making it perfect for backpackers who need a durable sleeping bag without the extra weight. The shell of the bag is made with a polyester outer shell treated with a durable water-resistant finish. This finish will allow water to bead up on the surface of the bag and prevent it from seeping into the insulation. The bag features a single zipper to make it easier to get in and out of the bag.
Let’s talk about the insulation. This bag is made out of a Heatseeker one insulation, which is made with a Thermolite fiber. This state of the art material keeps the insulation light and allows it to trap heat to keep your body warm. This insulation Is made to mimic down insulation, except it doesn’t get wet when it rains. However, if the bag becomes fully submerged or it’s a torrential downpour, the bag will dry quickly so you can still comfortably sleep in it at night.
Marmot Never Winter 30
The Marmot Never Winter 30 sleeping bag will never let you down when there’s moisture in the air. This bag is tough, durable and made with a high-quality polyester outer shell. Like the side zipper and hood, make this bag ideal for three seasons. It’s rated to keep you warm in temperatures above 30 degrees. Add a sleeping bag liner and you could stretch this bag through winter too.
Unlike the Hyper Cat, this bag is made with water-resistant down insulation. The bag boasts 650-fill down to keep you warm and comfortable from head to toe when the temperature hovers around freezing. When it rains, this bag is designed to keep you warm and dry. The down insulation is treated with a product called Down Defender. Down Defender is a proprietary product made by Marmot to make its down sleeping bags and other products durable and resistant to all weather conditions. The water-resistant coating also allows the down insulation to keep its loft (puffiness) when it’s wet outside.
This bag weighs in at one pound 15 ounces! IT’s lightweight so you don’t have to sacrifice quality to find a water-resistant bag. The bag also includes extra insulation around the feet to keep your toes nice and cozy even when the mercury suddenly drops during the night. Check the weather. If the forecast includes rain, this is the sleeping bag you want with you.
The Ibis Waterbloc sleeping bag is made by Exped- a Swiss-based company that has invented and patented a new way of making sleeping bags specifically for wet weather. In fact, the company claims it produces the first ever waterproof sleeping bag. The construction of the bag is what sets the Ibis Waterbloc apart from the competition. According to Exped, the company makes its bag using double welded seams. By double welding the seams of a bag, there are no longer small holes in the outer shell of the fabric that typically allow moisture and rain from reaching the insulation.
These special, innovative seams also keep your body heat from escaping. According to Exped, the Waterbloc series of sleeping bags will keep you warm and dry in the worst weather conditions, including rainy days. The Waterbloc sleeping bags are available for a wide range of temperatures to match your adventure. The Waterbloc series of bags are all filled with down insulation to keep you extra warm when there’s a wet chill in the air.
Big Agnes Wind Lip 28
The Big Agnes Wind Lip 29 is made for rainy days. Grab a book and curl up in this sleeping bag when you’re waiting out that storm in your tent. Big Agnes is big on making the best, most comfortable sleeping bags on the market today. The company designs its bags to be more like your favorite down comforter at home. This bag drapes over your body, instead of the restrictive mummy bag shape we’re used to seeing.
The Big Agnes Wind Lip 28 is packed with synthetic insulation, making it a great fit for those mornings when the rain just doesn’t want to let up. Even with the bulky insulation, this bag weighs in at two pounds, six ounces- making it ideal for those long camping trips into the mountains. The bag is rated to keep you warm when the mercury is above 28 degrees. So, it’s the perfect bag to keep you nice and toasty for three seasons. Add a liner to the bag to stay warm during the winter months.
Outdoor Magazine recently tested this bag when it was fully submerged in water and rated it as one of the best bags to keep you warm when its wet. A writer for the magazine soaked the bag in water and then climbed inside while outside in the snow and in the mountains. He lasted about 40 minutes before needing to get inside. I hope you never find yourself in this situation, but if you ever do- you know you’re sleeping bag will keep you warm and alive until the weather clears up.
Nemo Sonic Down
The Nemo Sonic Down Sleeping Bag will keep you warm and dry no matter what Mother Nature throws your way. This lightweight, down-insulated bag is designed for the backpacker and camper who is all about big adventure- and needs a sleeping bag to rise to the occasion. The bag is rated to keep you warm in temperatures above zero degrees. This is the only bag you will need for every season. The outer shell of the bag is made with 20D nylon ripstop, treated with a durable water-resistant coating.
The foot box of the bag is made with heavier nylon- 40D, which makes this zone of the bag totally waterproof. Not sure why the entire bag isn’t made of the waterproof material, but at least your feet and ankles have extra protection from the wet weather. The bag is made with 850 fill power down. It’s designed to keep warm air inside close to your body and keep moisture and cold air from seeping inside the seams and zippers. This bag is made for the mountains. So, if the mountains are calling and you must go- you must take this bag with you.
Nemo is an east coast-based brand, making waves in the sleeping bag industry with its innovative designs. According to the company, this bag is award-winning for its ability to regulate temperatures in various micro-climates on a mountain. The bag comes in two different lengths to give you the extra leg room and comfort if you are tall. Overall, this bag will keep you comfortable and dry when a storm rolls in. Even with the best sleeping bag, you need a waterproof tent to keep the moisture away and allow you to sleep through the night.
See also “Top Sleeping Bag Picks“.