Backpackers are notorious ounce counters, which means I have heard the question “how much should a backpacking sleeping bag weigh,” more times than I can count.
Choosing the right sleeping bag can be tricky for first-time backpackers. The material used, the style, shape, and the warmth of the bag, all of these things factor into the weight of the bag and can overwhelm a person.
The general rule of thumb, however, is that backpackers should take sleeping bags that weigh less than 40 ounces. The lightest sleeping bag weighs as little as 4.5 ounces while the heaviest sleeping bags can go over 100 ounces. I strongly recommend first-timers not use the 100-ounce backpack.
In this guide, I will help you understand all the reasons and factors that contribute to the weight of your bag. I will also recommend how heavy your backpack sleeping bag should be.
As an avid camper, hiker, and backpacker, I have used various types of bags and my extensive experience has taught me what type of sleep system is best for taking on a trip.
How to Determine Your Backpacking Sleeping Bag Weight?
Backpacking is a great hobby as it gives you the freedom to explore new cultures and trails and allows you to camp anywhere. Since your backpack will carry all your gear and supplies, it is important that your sleeping bag is as light as possible so that you do not experience body aches or fatigue.
If you want to reduce the weight of the backpack, the first things you want to start with are heavier items. Your camping tent, sleeping bag, and backpack itself are the three heaviest items you will be carrying. By ensuring the weight of these three items is reduced, you can significantly lower the weight on your shoulder.
Personally, I like my sleeping bag, backpack, and tent to weigh less than 9 pounds altogether. Deciding what other items to include or exclude becomes easier once you figure out the weight of these three items.
Factors That Make Your Backpacking Sleeping Bag Heavy
Some people do not pay a lot of attention to the gears and supplies that they pack. However, the weight of your sleeping bag is an important consideration since it will have to be light enough to easily carry around.
There are several factors that can affect the weight of your sleeping bag:
The shape of the Bag
This might seem a bit strange but the shape of your sleeping bag also determines how heavy it is. A bag that has a snug and sleek fit will be lighter than a bag that is loose, open, and roomy. Typically, sleeping bags come in three different shapes:
Mummy Sleeping Bag: The mummy sleeping bag has a close fit and is designed to conserve your body heat. They come with a hood that can be placed around your head and cinched tight. These bags are very comfy and snug. If you need to turn over, they will roll over with you.
Mummy sleeping bags have lighter weight and are often less than 1 lb in weight.
Barrel Sleeping Bag: These bags are not as close-fitting as the mummy sleeping bag and come in various shapes. All of these bags are quite warm but also have some room to move in.
Rectangular Sleeping Bags: A lot of backpacking sleeping bags you see are rectangular. These bags have a lot of space and are very comfortable which is why many campers prefer them. Depending on the material they are made from and the insulation they are filled with, they can be relatively heavy. Even so, there are many lightweight varieties available in the market that are much less than 40 ounces.
In addition, the shape of a sleeping bag also determines how warm it will be. A snug and close-fitting sleeping bag will retain your body heat more efficiently, while bigger, roomier bags will not be as warm.
The thicker the inner or outer shell of the sleeping bag, the heavier it will be. Sleeping bags are made from a variety of different materials. Some of the most common types of materials used to clad the interior of sleeping bags are polyester, nylon, or a mixture of both. These are very lightweight materials and are not expensive either.
A popular material used on the exterior of the sleeping bag is ripstop. This is a highly durable and reinforced nylon fabric that ensures breathability, preventing your sleeping bag from becoming stuffy.
You may also buy bags that are lined with waterproof lining. These options are quite expensive as you will be getting durability as well as water resistance in one single bag.
The weight of the sleeping bag also depends on the type of filling in the bag. Personally, down insulation is my favorite and you will find that most backpackers favor this as well. Down insulation is very lightweight which is the reason why most bags filled with down are on the lighter side. They are also easier to compress and fold which can be a big bonus since they will allow you to carry a smaller pack.
However, down bags are also more expensive than synthetic insulation bags. In addition, if the insulation gets wet, they lose its loft and will become much heavier and cumbersome to carry.
If you do not mind carrying an extra pound or two of weight, synthetic insulation is also not a bad choice. However, they won’t fold as compactly as down insulation. On the other hand, they will insulate you better when wet.
But if you can afford the higher price, then down insulation, in my opinion, is a better option for cutting down weight.
A good sleeping bag will keep you warm in all conditions. So, the first thing you need to do is to determine the weather conditions you will be packing your sleeping bag. A 35-degree sleeping bag will be much lighter than a sleeping bag made for sub-zero conditions. You can’t determine the weight of the bag until you understand your actual temperature needs.
Personally, I prefer to keep my sleeping system no more than 3 lbs. It is even better, though, if you can find a bag that weighs just 2 lbs. However, if you are budget conscious, then it can be quite hard to find a very lightweight bag that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars.
If you like three-season camping, then I suggest you buy a sleeping bag that is rated for 20 degrees. If you suspect the temperature is going to drop, it is a good idea to buy an insulation liner rather than buy an entirely new bag for winter camping.
As we mentioned before, the weight of the sleeping bag is also determined by how warm it keeps you. Hence, as a general rule, winter sleeping bags are much heavier than summer bags. This is because they are filled with insulation material and made of thicker fabric, which retains body heat and keeps you warm.
In addition to staying warm or cool, you will also need to figure out the type and rating of the bag that will work for the climate you will be camping in. After that, you can decide whether it is in your best interest to pack lightweight or heavier sleeping bags.
Aside from winter conditions, you also need to consider when you will be sleeping in sweltering hot conditions. If you are backpacking in June, July, or August in Nevada, for example, you might find that it is too hot to curl up in a mummy sleeping bag. That is why if you are a person who likes to backpack in extreme conditions, I highly recommend buying two different sleeping bags for winter and summer. It will cost you more, but it is the only way to stay safe and comfortable during the night.
Just remember that summer sleeping bags will be much more lightweight than winter sleeping bags which have insulation.
Rain is a condition that affects backpackers in every part of the world. Therefore, if you are looking to buy a sleeping bag, it is a good idea to buy waterproof or breathable sleeping bags, preferably one that consists of a Gore-tex lining. However, these sleeping bags are heavier than regular lightweight bags.
A Gore-tex lining will protect your sleeping bags from getting soaked in the rain and also offer important insulation. However, the downside to these sleeping bags is that they will be that much hotter in the summer season. Hence, these sleeping bags are not a good choice for summer backpacking since they are heavy as well as can become oppressively hot.
Higher-Priced Sleeping Bags
When shopping for sleeping bags, you will find that lightweight backs are often more expensive. One of the best brands for sleeping bags is Western Mountaineering which sells very light sleeping bags. However, these bags normally cost over $400. If you want the lower-priced option, then Therm-a-Rest, Montbell, and Kelty are also great choices.
If you want a really lightweight bag, you will need to shell out a significant amount of money for it. However, keep in mind that it will be a long-term investment. Sleeping bags are designed to last you for over 10 years if you use and store them properly. So it is not a bad idea to splurge on a good brand so that you can get the most value from it for years to come.
Sleeping Bag Weight Consideration for Various Types of Camping
The weight of your sleeping bag is also determined by the type of backpacking you are doing,
Outdoor Overnight Camping
If you are interested in overnight camping, then you will need to consider the weather forecast and the camping location to determine the type of sleeping bag you will need. As we mentioned before, a heavier sleeping bag will serve you much better in the winter season. For summer, a lightweight sleeping bag made with breathable fabric is a good option. For the rainy season, we recommend a Gore-Tex-lined sleeping back which is heavier, though waterproof.
Extended Backpacking Trips
Choosing the right weight sleeping bag is even more important during longer backpacking trips because you can’t quickly go to a store if something is missing. That means you will need to pay lots of attention to what gear and supply you will pack and that includes your sleeping bag as well.
If you are unable to accommodate a heavy sleeping bag that will keep you cozy and comfortable during colder nights, we recommend you get a lighter 3-season bag and add a lining to it. You should also consider wearing an extra layer of clothing to keep warm.
What are Some Lightweight Alternatives to a Backpacking Sleeping Bag?
If you want a super-light backpacking sleeping bag, you should consider a lightweight quilt instead. There are several quilts that weigh just about 15 ounces and are comfier than regular sleeping bags. In fact, if you are thinking of camping in warm weather conditions, then you should consider a quilt along with a sleeping bag liner, which will be much lighter than a standard sleeping bag.
Quilts are a good alternative to sleeping bags because they are insulated at the top. The insulation in the back is compressed and does not offer a lot of warmth, so they are perfect for camping in warmer weather. You can pair a quilt with a lightweight sleeping pad to make sure your back is not exposed to the chilly night air.
Many backpackers prefer quilts since they are easier to get into and are not weighty or have zippers.
If you want your quilts to be warmer, you can buy 950 down quilts that are very warm but still do not have a lot of weight.
When you pair this quilt with a sleeping pad, the total weight of this sleeping system will be less than the total weight of a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad.
If you are backpacking in very warm weather, then another great option for you is to pack a sleeping liner. This will let you put on or remove layers of clothing to add extra warmth.
For warmer climates, a hammock is also a great option while camping. These are very lightweight and quite comfortable. You can easily find hammocks as light as 6 ounces with straps that weigh just 2 ounces, making them super-light. However, if you want to try this option, you need to make sure that nights are not going to be chilly on the trail.
Another excellent benefit that a hammock offers is that it serves as not just a bed but as a shelter too, so you won’t need to bring your tent along with you. However, in some cases, you will need to bring along a tarp, a mosquito net, or a blanket and these things can add up the weight of your back.
So if you do decide to bring a hammock, you will need to factor in these items as well and in some cases, you will see that it is better to just bring a standard tent and a sleeping bag if the weight is getting too much.
Why Does the Weight of the Sleeping Bag Matter to a Backpacker?
The weight of a sleeping bag should matter to you for obvious reasons. However, in some cases, depending on your situation, it should not be made a priority.
For example, if you are simply going on a casual trip with friends and have an established campsite, which can be easily accessed by a car, then it is not important to prioritize a light sleeping bag. Instead, a better priority would be to bring a roomy and spacious sleeping bag so that you can sleep more comfortably at night.
On the other hand, if your trip involves a lot of walking and backpacking, then it is better to invest in a much lighter sleeping bag. It is possible that you will be willing to sacrifice a modicum of comfort so that you won’t have to carry as much weight on your shoulders.
Knowing what type of trip you are going on is important to determine the weight of your backpack. You want to get a good night’s sleep but you also do not want to exert yourself carrying a sleeping bag that weighs several pounds.
What is an Acceptable Backpacking Sleeping Bag’s Weight?
Again, there is no exact answer to this question. Everything depends on your unique situation but we can still give you some general ideas on the ideal weight of your sleeping bag.
The best sleeping bag is one that has a weight that you can easily shoulder, which allows you to sleep at night comfortably, and which comes in an acceptable price range.
If you can access your camp with a car, then having a small and lightweight sleeping bag shouldn’t be high on your list of priorities and the weight can range from anywhere between 3 lbs to 7 lbs for sub-zero temperatures. These types of sleeping bags are usually rectangular and roomy, are made of heavier fabric, and take up a lot of space.
On the other hand, if weight and space are an issue, then you should opt for lightweight and compact sleeping bags, which are usually more expensive as well. As a serious backpacker, you should try your level best to get a sleeping bag that has a weight under 2 lbs. This can be quite tough to do if you are operating under a budget, but by spending a few hundred dollars, you will get more value from your backpack.
If your budget does not allow it, though, you can opt for sleeping bags that are no heavier than 3 lbs. The good news is that you can find a variety of great options for this category of sleeping bags in the market.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks