When it comes to ultralight backpacking, the weight of every piece of gear is critical to achieving your overall goal. Many backpackers focus on the ‘Big Three’ because that is where the biggest impact on weight is usually found (backpack, shelter, sleeping bag). We will be writing a series for the big three on ‘best’ ultralight options for backpacks and shelters, so keep an eye out for those articles to come in the future. Below, we will go over the top 6 ultralight sleeping bags based on weight, price, comfort, and durability as we see the current market.
Note – these sleeping bags are rated as 3 season or summer bags, no true 4 season or winter bags are included.
#6 Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45F – $330 – 19 ounces
Coming in at an excellent 19 ounces, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45 degree sleeping bag is a top choice of Alpine climbers and ultralight backpackers alike. This lightweight summer sleeping bag is a fully featured mummy sleeping bag, complete with hood and zipper (unlike some of the bags below). The Phantom utilizes Q Shield 800 fill power down that creates nice loft, and along with the construction, features a down-filled face gasket, tight 5″ baffles, even loft spacing in hood for consistent warmth, an insulated draft tube along the zipper, and a comfort footbox. The bag can be purchased regular length or long, right or left zipper. This is a solid, proven go-to ultralight sleeping bag that is great for summer or potentially 3 season backcountry trips. One review states the following:
“This bag is great if you want to keep things super light and compact, but also value quality and performance. This bag is great, being that it is smaller than a Nalgene bottle and super light. I have also found that the temperature rating is slightly conservative by about 5-10 degrees. I have even slept in it when the temp dropped in the low 20’s, wearing only base layers and a Mont Bell ultralight down jacket inside.”
Click here to pick up your Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45 sleeping bag today.
#5 – Elightened Equipment Revelation 20F – $250 – 19.7 ounces
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is the most versatile sleeping bag/quilt on our list. There are so many different configurations (lengths, widths, temperature ratings, down fill options). At the time of this writing, the regular length, regular width 20 degree 800 fill power down quilt weighs an excellent 19.7 ounces, keeping this sleeping bag in the category of ultralight sleeping bags with a little bit better warmth than some of the other bags on the list. The sleeping bag/quilt is partially zippered and can be used as a sleeping bag or as a quilt/blanket, increasing the multi-season versatility. It is a great all-purpose, lightweight option at an affordable price (best on this list). One review reads as follows:
“Enlightened Equipment makes a really quality product for a great price! There customer service is pretty stellar. I bought my quilt long and wide to fit my 6’2″ frame. I move around a lot when I sleep, and can’t stand being confined in a mummy bag… This quilt is just what I needed.”
Visit the Enlightened Equipment webpage to see all the different options of the Revelation sleeping bag. You won’t be disappointed in this lightweight option.
#4 – Katabatic Gear Palisade 30F – $420 – 18 ounces
Katabatic Gear specializes in ultralight backpacking gear (backpacks, sleeping bags, and bivys), and the award winning Palisade is no exception. Rated to 30 degrees, this 18 ounce hoodless sleeping bag is a great option for lightweight gear seekers out there. You can choose 850 or 900 fill power down (with the 900 option trimming about .5-1 ounce off the total bag weight depending on the size you get). Outdoor Gear Lab awarded this sleeping bag a 2012 Editor’s Choice Top Pick for it’s “comfort, versatility, high warmth to weight ratio, and ultra comfy neck closure,” which we totally agree with. Other features of the Palisade are: down filled collar, trapezoidal foot box, overstuffed foot section, and a great pad attachment system (probably the best on this list). While priced on the high end of this list, you won’t be disappointed in the craftsmanship and comfort this lightweight sleeping bag provides. For more information, visit Katabatic Gear’s site.
#3 – Nunatak Arc Specialist 32F – $390 – 17 ounces
Coming in at a stunning 17 ounces, the hoodless Nunatak Arc Specialist sleeping bag makes it’s case for best ultralight sleeping bag with an array of nice features. Rated to 32 degrees, this 800 fill power down sleeping bag is a hoodless mummy sleeping bag that is open in the back from your neck down to mid-calf with adjustable pad straps that allow you to tighten it to fit your body. Nunatak has put in quite a bit of work developing their Arc series of sleeping bags, and the Specialist (as well as the equally amazing 40 degree, 11.5 ounce Arc Edge, which rivals the #1 40 degree ZPacks option). This bag is warm, lightweight, and packs to a ridiculously small size. For more on this sleeping bag, visit Nunatak USA today.
#2 – Feathered Friends Vireo UL 25F – $300 – 15.5 ounces
The Feathered Friends Vireo UL is an amazing ultralight sleeping bag. Coming it at an astounding range of 14.4 ounces to 16.7 ounces (62″-74″, 3 different options), you will certainly attain your ultralight goals using this bag. Feathered Friends trims extra weight by cutting the hood and zipper, but don’t think it isn’t easy enough to get in and out of. The lower half has more insulation (rated to 25 degrees) while the upper half has less (rated to 45 degrees). This variable fill feature allows for additional weight trimming, and the 900+ fill power goose down is as soft, lofty, and lightweight as it is insulative. On colder nights, sleep with a sweater or down jacket to match the lower half warmth rating. Here is one review from Outdoor Gear Lab that highlights the features of this bag:
“The Vireo has 900-fill down, weighs a mere 16 ounces, and packs down to the size of a grapefruit. This bag is best for sleeping in a seated position where other ultralight bags, like the Katabatic Gear Palisade, don’t cover your back and aren’t as warm. After extensive testing we now only recommend the Vireo for alpine climbs where you bring a down parka.”
This is an awesome sleeping bag – pack and use this bag and you will see why we choose it as our #2 ultralight sleeping bag option. Just don’t use this bag in the summer – the 25F rating for the lower half (which is incidentally not zippered and therefore un-vent-able) will make your warm night miserable. And remember to bring a parka for colder temperatures or your upper half will freeze. For more information, visit the Feathered Friends website.
#1 – ZPacks 30 Degree – $370 – 14 ounces
The award winning ZPacks 900 fill power down solo sleeping bags are probably the best warmth to weight ratio you will find on the market as of this writing. Here is a breakdown of their ratings and accompanying weights (all medium length, regular width): 40 degrees – 11.4 ounces (!!!), 30 degrees – 14 ounces, 20 degrees – 16.7 ounces, 10 degrees – 19.4 ounces. These weights are absurdly small for the amount of insulation you are getting. Similar to the Enlightened Equipment Revelation, this sleeping bag can be used as a quilt or blanket for added versatility. This sleeping bag features 5″ baffle spacing, a 3/4 length zipper that is positioned beneath you to get rid of the need for a draft tube, and comes with an ultralight (.9 ounce) stuff sack. Outdoor Gear Lab awarded the 20 degree version their 2013 Editors’ Choice Top Pick for its “Highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any bag tested.”
You won’t find a lighter sleeping bag out there right now. And even though this hoodless sleeping bag sits close to the top of the price range of this list, you have a lot of versatility in choosing a bag for different seasons. My favorite ultralight sleeping bag right now is the 11.4 ounce ZPacks 40 degree sleeping bag. There is just no comparison when it comes to the warmth-to-weight ratio, and even though it is mostly a summer sleeping bag, it fits my needs for getting the biggest bang for buck in the weight arena. For more information on ZPacks, visit their site today.
Backpacking Samurai Thoughts
The sweet spot for sleeping bags in the ultralight space sits right around 1 pound. If you can find a bag that is even less than that, you will be able to have more options with the other gear you pack, which is why this list put such a premium on weight. What is your favorite ultralight sleeping bag? Did we leave yours off the list? Let us know in the comment section below. As always, thank for reading and happy trails!