You’re preparing for a thirty-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail and you don’t want to be lugging around a heavy pack for two weeks. To lighten the load, you need to start with your essentials: sleeping bag, tent, and provisions. An ultralight sleeping bag is a great way to drop the pounds in a pack without compromising quality and comfort. For this article, I’m going to take a closer look at the best ultralight summer sleeping bags and explain the ultralight movement.
The best ultralight summer sleeping bag for you depend on where you are camping, the weather and how far you are traveling into the back-country. Thanks to advances in sleeping bag manufacturing and design, you no longer have to sacrifice weight for quality and comfort. In general, the best ultralight summer sleeping bags are down insulated and weigh under two pounds.
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- Ultralight Sleeping Bags 101
- The Best Ultralight Summer Sleeping Bags Are:
Ultralight Sleeping Bags 101
Ultralight sleeping bags, such as this ECOOPRO Warm Weather Sleeping Bag pictured to the left, are lightweight. While there isn’t a set weight that defines ultralight sleeping bags, in general, you will find bags in this category are under two pounds. If you’re really serious about cutting down the weight, you can easily find quality ultralight sleeping bag tipping the scales at just 12 ounces. The best ultralight sleeping bags are down insulated. Down is lightweight and has an incredible ability to keep you warm- no matter what the temperature.
Let’s take a closer look at down insulation. The best ultralight summer sleeping bags will typically have a fill power count. According to REI, “fill power is the term used to measure down’s ability to loft, and thus trap heat. It is calculated by how many cubic inches 1 ounce of down can fill in a testing device. Higher-grade down, taken from more mature birds, requires fewer plumes to fill space and achieve a certain temperature rating. So, a 700-fill-power down bag rated +20°F will be lighter than a 600-fill-power down bag rated +20°F,” -REI.com.
Down insulation is best in dry conditions and cold weather. Don’t worry about getting too hot in a down sleeping bag while camping in the summer months-there are ultralight bags rated just for summer-like temperatures. In general, summer rated sleeping bags will keep you warm and comfortable in temperatures 35 degrees and higher. Ultralight down sleeping bags compress easily, making it easy pack in a stuff sack and in your pack. Down isn’t down with wet weather, so it’s best to choose an ultralight bag with insulation treated with a water-resistant material. This special coating prevents down feathers from getting wet and loses its ability to keep you warm on those brisk late summer mornings.
Synthetic insulation also works well in sleeping bags, however, it tends to be heavier and bulkier than down. If you are serious about cutting down the weight of your pack, stick to down. Mummy shaped sleeping will give you more warmth than other shaped bags. Mummy shaped bags keep the insulation and warmth right next to your body. However, mummy shaped bags can make you feel like, well, a mummy. They are restricting and if you toss and turn in your sleep like I do, you’ll be counting stars until the sun comes up. Relaxed mummy shaped bags will give you a bit more room in the feet and hips, however, you may lose out on the precious heat with too much open space inside the bag. The best ultralight summer sleeping bags will keep you warm, but not too warm and comfortable all at the same time.
Summer backpacking and camping are all the rage right now for those who love the great outdoors but don’t enjoy lugging around 75 pounds of gear. Ultralight is well, packing ultralight gear. It’s more of a mindset and a philosophy then it is an actual weight limit. It’s about packing only the absolute necessities for your particular adventure and leaving everything else behind. The ultralight movement is catching on and outdoor gear companies are responding. It seems like you can buy ultralight versions of everything: tents, sleeping pads, packs and sleeping bags.
Ultralight camping/backpacking will look different for everyone on the trail. Ultralight maybe 25 pounds of gear for a three-day backpacking trip for one person and 10 pounds of gear for another person. Ultralight is relative. There’s no one set weight your pack should weigh when you start your trip. If you need toilet paper, a cooking stove and a bottle of wine- that may be your version of ultralight. However, your friend might just need a sleeping bag, tarp and water filter. That’s their own version of ultralight camping.
When your ultralight camping, you should never go without the basic essentials for survival: tent, sleeping bag, and food/water. A first aid kit, whistle, and compass should also be added for safe measure. It’s amazing how quickly even a small amount of gear can add up on the scale. Toss in a few freeze-dried meals and a can opener and your pack is suddenly heavy. Everything you take with you, right down to the sleeping bag and candy bars should be weighed and analyzed. Try on your pack before you leave on your trip. Is it comfortable? Can you carry this pack for hours on end? An ultralight sleeping bag is a great way to reduce weight yet maintain a high level of comfort when it’s time to rest.
Let’s talk about insulation before I get into the best sleeping bags for summer camping. Down insulation is made with duck or goose feathers. Down works wonders to keep you warm even in subzero temperatures. Down is down with the extremely cold weather. This natural insulation is also expensive and unless the feathers have been treated with a water-resistant product, it loses its ability to keep you warm in wet weather. Down is a great choice for winter and fall camping.
For summer camping, you can get away with synthetic insulated sleeping bags. Synthetic insulation mimics down feathers, except its man-made polyester. Synthetic insulation keeps you warm, it’s water-resistant and it’s budget-friendly. As you’ll see you can get a high-quality sleeping bag for under $100. When you’re camping in warmer temperatures, a synthetic filled sleeping bag is the way to go. Plus, after you buy that sleeping bag you’ll have enough money left over to treat everyone to s’mores around the fire.
The Best Ultralight Summer Sleeping Bags Are:
Sea to Summit Traveler
The Sea to Summit Traveler is an ultralight sleeping bag and down quilt all in one. This high quality, lightweight bag boasts 750 loft RDS certified Ultradry duck down. This bag is specifically made exploring Zio National Park in August! It’s made for hot summer nights under the stars. The bag is rated to keep you comfortable at 50 degrees or warmer. The stuff sack transforms this power sleeping bag into a compact unit (about the size of a water bottle), making it easy to throw it in your pack without much thought.
The bag weighs in at 13.7 ounces. According to the company, that’s lighter than a roll of paper towels. The large sleeping bag weighs about the same as a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. The XL version of this bag is the same weight as that half-gallon of milk carton you just lifted to pour yourself a bowl of lucky charms. This bag is lightweight, no matter what size you go with.
The bag is basic, yet it can be used in a variety of ways to match your needs. If it’s an extra hot night, unzip the bag and lay it over you- just like your favorite blanket at home. If the mercury unexpectedly dips, as you’re searching for the big dipper, zip up the bag and it will keep you warm until sunrise. Nothing different happens at sunrise other than the temperature will rise. I realize that sounded a bit ominous. This bag can also be zipped together with another Traveller for extra room and extra warmth. This bag retails for $260.
Marmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag
The Marmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag keeps you warm, comfortable and cozy without all the extra weight. With 850-fill goose down, this bag tips the scales at 1 pound 12 ounces. It’s rated to keep you warm in temperatures above 30 degrees. I would say this could be used during the summer and fall. Add a nice sleeping bag liner and you may be able to push the bag through the winter.
This bag is designed with the ultralight backpacker and camper in mind. It features high-quality goose down that’s treated with a moisture resistant coating. This coating will help the down stay drier longer and retain the loft you love. The water-resistant coating also helps the bag dry out faster if you encounter a freak snowstorm or spill your water bottle in the middle of the night.
Because this bag can be used for both summer and fall, it features a hood and other details you would expect to see on a cold weather bag. The outer shell of the bag is made of heavy duty nylon-making it difficult to snag or puncture. Nothing worse than a hole in a down bag-feather everywhere. That’s not going to happen with this bag! It can keep up with all your summertime adventures. The Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag retails for $329.
Sea to Summit Spark
The Sea to Summit Spark is lightweight and heavy duty all at the same time. How can it be? This bag tips the scales at just 12.3 ounces, about the weight of two tubes of toothpaste. It’s so small, when packed in a stuff sack it can fit in the palm of your hand. This bag is available for three different temperatures. The summer rated bag will keep you comfortable in weather above 46 degrees.
The bag boasts 850 premium goose down. The box waffle construction keeps all that insulation where it needs to be. Box waffle quilting keeps insulation from shifting while you’re busy exploring and hiking to that perfect vista point. The outer shell is made with heavy duty nylon and the inside is nice and soft with high-quality liner. If you are looking to cut the weight in your pack and don’t want to sacrifice warmth, this is ultralight sleeping bag is what you need. This bag retails for $300.
Feathered Friends Flicker 40
Feathered Friends is a Seattle based sleeping bag company making the warmest down products available. The Feathered Friends Flicker 40 is packed with a whopping 900 fill power goose down. This down insulation is also treated with a water-resistant material to keep its insulation value even if you run into a random rainstorm while on the trail. Even with all that goose down insulation, this bag only weighs 21.07 ounces or 616 grams. The longer version of the bag (made for campers 6’6”) weighs in at 23 ounces.
Even though this bag is lightweight, it’s heavy duty outer shell makes this bag tough and durable. The shell is made with 100% nylon Pertex Quantum. This special nylon makes the bag water resistant, even after washing it for years. The center zipper on the bag makes it easy to open the bag up and make it a quilt for those hot summer nights where sleeping fully encased in down is just too much. Sleeping quilts are also a trend right now in the ultralight community. This bag is rated to keep you warm in temperatures above 40 degrees. If you like this style, it’s also available in 20 degrees and 30-degree ratings. This bag retails for $329.
Marmot Always Summer 40
It always feels like summer when you climb inside the Marmot Always Summer 40 sleeping bag. It’s cozy, warm and keeps you comfortable while sleeping under the stars. This bag is made for spur of the moment camping trips. It’s made for those jump-in-the-car-and-let’s-see-where-we-end-up kind of summer days. It’s made for star gazing at the top of a mountain and the bottom of a valley. It’s made for your summer! The bag is packed with 650 fill power down and treated with a water-resistant material. The water-resistant coating helps the insulation maintain its insulation value even when it gets wet. You could take this bag with you on your next rafting adventure and still be warm at night!
This is a mummy shaped bag, with extra room at the bottom of the bag to keep you comfortable throughout the night. This bag is rated to keep you warm when it’s more than 40 degrees outside. So, unless you are climbing some serious elevation, this bag can keep up and keep you warm in just about any summertime adventure. The anti-snag zippers and ground-level side seams make it easy to get in and out of this bag. Plus, if you ever get too hot, just unzip a side of the bag to cool off in a jiffy.
It’s always a good time to head into the mountains and camp with this sleeping bag in your pack. The Marmot Always Summer 40 Sleeping Bag is another great choice for summer camping. This is another down-filled sleeping bag. With 650 fill power down, this bag is designed to keep you warm when it’s 40 degrees outside. If you are exploring higher elevations, this is the bag for you. However, if you are camping along the beach in Michigan, this bag may be too hot. It all depends on where you are camping and how hot or cold your body runs at night.
The always summer bag is mummy shaped. In fact, the feet area of the sleeping bag is referred to as a footbox. The footbox is a wraparound design and construction to keep you extra warm at night. Again, unless you are at higher elevations where it’s chilly- the footbox may be too much. Even so, this bag is warm and well made.
The Marmot Always Summer 40 is lightweight, warm and doesn’t take up much room in your pack. The baffling construction makes it so you can hike near or far without worrying about the insulation moving around. This bag is made for all your ultralight adventures. An internal stash pocket makes it easy to store your cell phone, headlamp, and other gear while sleeping. The bag has draw-cords, making it easy to tighten or loosen the hood of the bag during the night as the temperature changes. This bag rings in at $180.
REI CO-OP Helio Sack 55
The REI CO-OP Helio 55 sleeping bag is one of the best sleeping bags for summer camping on the market today. This bag is rated to keep you warm and comfortable at temperatures above 55 degrees. If you’re backyard camping or sending your kiddo off to summer camp by the lake, this sleeping bag will do the trick. The bag is made with synthetic insulation and weighs just 1 pound 11 ounces. It’s lightweight, so you could take it backpacking with you too!
The bag is fairly basic, which is why I love it. It comes in two different lengths, a relief to those tall folks who always feel cramped inside a sleeping bag. The Helio 55 is a relaxed mummy shape. The mummy shape is designed to fit the contours of your body. But, this bag is not a true mummy- it’s more relaxed giving you plenty of wiggle room in the night. Mummy bags tend to feel a bit claustrophobic for me- so, I appreciate the relaxed version. I imagine this style of the bag makes it easier to fall asleep at night. The shell of the bag is treated with a durable water repellent finish. This kind of finish keeps moisture away! Even in the summer, you can wake up to dew in the mountains.
This sleeping bag also features a small hood, which can also double as a pillow. The bag also comes standard with a sleep sack for easy storage. Take note: there isn’t a whole lot of insulation in this bag which means you may need to bring a sleeping pad with you for added comfort. This bag rings in at $60. If you tend to get chilly at night, add a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth. A liner easily fits inside most sleeping bags for another layer on a chilly night.
Kelty Cosmic Down 40
The Kelty Cosmic Down 40 is another favorite sleeping bag for summer camping. This bag is filled is packed with 600 fill DriDown. The DriDown means the down feathers are treated with a water-resistant material to keep wet weather away from you and your sleeping bag. This bag is rated to keep you warm at temperatures over 40 degrees. This sleeping bag looks like a cold weather bag, without all the frills. This bag is probably the most basic down insulated bag you can find on the market.
Down is incredibly comfortable to sleep in, making this bag a great choice when you need to rest after a long day of river rafting, hiking and cliff diving. Okay, maybe not that last part. I’m not so sure about cliff diving. How about huckleberry picking in the North Cascades? Even though this is a summer rated sleeping bag, there is a draft collar to keep your body heat where it belongs and prevent any midnight breezes from seeping inside. In all, the bag weighs in at 1 pound 15 ounces. So, it’s easy to carry to the campsite or pack up a mountain in July. This bag rings in at $120. For the quality and durability, this is an excellent summer sleeping bag for the price point.
Marmot NanoWave 55
The Marmot NanoWave 55 is made for bike riders, kayakers and other summer enthusiasts on the hunt for extreme adventure when the mercury rises. This bag is basic and lightweight. It’s packed with a high loft polyester synthetic insulation that keeps you warm and cozy on those breezy summer nights. This bag well made, durable and water resistant. The bag keeps its insulation value even if you tip over your kayak while making your way to camp on that beautiful island in the middle of Priest Lake.
The NanoWave is a relaxed mummy shape, which will keep the bag and insulation wrapped around your body, even as you shift a move around at night. The bag features basic quilting construction to keep the polyester insulation from moving around while you explore. If it gets a little chilly while outside, you can zip up the bag around your head for added warmth and comfort. However, this bag is pretty thin- so again, throw in a sleeping pad for more cushion and support. For $69, you can’t beat the price or the quality.
The North Face Homestead Twin 40
The Homestead Twin 40 is an excellent summer sleeping bag if you are heading to a lake cabin or sending the kids off to their first overnight camp. The bag comes in three distinct and fun patterns, making the camping adventure even more fun. The Peyote Beige Birding print is on back-order, but the watercolor and flaming red geography inspired print are available. The bag is bulkier and heavier than the Helio, weighing in at about three pounds.
The bag is packed with synthetic insulation, making it the perfect choice for temperatures above 40 degrees. The insulation is made with Heatseeker an eco- synthetic recycled material. The bag is designed to fit on a twin mattress. Who says you can’t camp in style and comfort? This bag is also made to zip together with another bag to share the warmth with others. The bag is designed to feel more like the bedding you have at home, instead of a restricting sleeping bag. This bag is packed with comfort, style, and warmth. The homestead rings in at $90 and it’s available in regular and long length.
Related Articles: “Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bags – My Top Picks!” and “Best Sleeping Bags For Wet (Rainy) Weather – My Top Picks!“.