Searching for the best budget sleeping bag can be confusing, especially if you’re new to camping. For a start, what exactly does ‘budget‘ sleeping bag mean? What are the price cutoffs for budget, mid-range and expensive?
Let’s answer that question straight away: we’ve set the budget bar at eighty dollars. And we’ve looked at all the top-selling sleeping bags in the world for up to that price, including some great lightweight and ultralight bags.
Ultimately, we’ve chosen nine sleeping bags that we think you should take a look at, which are all reviewed below.
What to Look For in a Budget Sleeping Bag
There are some important things to consider when choosing your ideal sleeping bag. If you’ve already got a good idea of what to look for, then you can jump straight to our reviews. However, if you’ve never bought a sleeping bag before, here are a few pointers to help you make a more informed decision.
There are three temperature ratings that manufacturers generally use: the comfort rating (T Comfort), the lower limit (T Limit) and the extreme limit (T Extreme). We’re not going to worry about the last one, because it’s basically to do with survival in sub-zero temperatures — and if you’re regularly camping in weather like that then this guide is not for you!
T Comfort is the lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag will provide a comfortable night’s sleep. It’s based on a ‘standard’ adult woman wearing one layer of clothing and laying in a relaxed position.
T Limit is the lowest temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult man is able to receive a comfortable night’s sleep. The man is also wearing one clothing layer, but sleeps in a curled position to keep warm.
So if the T Comfort figure is 5°C, then you’ll stay warm and comfy as long as the outside temperature stays above 5°C. If T Limit is -6°C, then you’ll be relatively comfortable as long as the outside temperature doesn’t fall below -6°C.
There is a European Standard for all these ratings (it’s number EN13537, in case you were wondering), but not all manufacturers have signed up to this, so sometimes their quoted temperature rating is a bit too generous. That being said, the figures give a good guideline of how effective a bag is, so you should still take note of them when making a decision.
All our descriptions include phrases like ‘three-season bag’ or ‘season 1 bag’. Although the marketing people would have you believe that three is ‘better’ than one, that’s not really true. Here’s what the seasonal ratings really mean:
- Season one: Ideal for warm summer nights, temperatures of 5°C or above.
- Season two: For cooler evenings in spring/summer, temperatures of 0°C to 5°C.
- Season three: For cold nights but with no frost, temperatures from -5°C up to 0°C
- Season four: Best for winter months, temperatures -10°C and higher
There are also bags with a season 5 rating, but they’re aimed at mountaineering, extreme hiking and people on full-blown winter expeditions, so we don’t need to worry about those here.
Down or Synthetic Insulation?
Down, as you may already know, is a filling made of duck or goose feathers. It’s nature’s ultimate insulator, offering a warmth-to-weight ratio that synthetic insulation just can’t beat. If you’re planning a lot of backpacking, the lighter weight and better packability will be an important consideration.
Down has it’s own special rating, which is called fill power. The higher the fill power rating, the better the down is at trapping heat — meaning the sleeping bag will be lighter. A rating of over 600 is considered good, and 800 or over is considered excellent. And so it follows, of course, that a higher fill power rating also makes a bag more expensive.
Man-made synthetic insulation is a lot cheaper, which is why most budget bags use a synthetic polyester filling. A major advantage is that synthetics will continue to keep you warm in the rain, unlike down feathers which lose all their insulating properties once wet.
Most down bag manufacturers have signed to a voluntary global body called the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). This has been set up to ensure that all down and feathers come from ducks and geese that have not been subjected to unnecessary harm. Crucially, the RDS “forbids the removal of down and feathers from live birds” — a practice known as ‘live plucking’. RDS members are subject to independent audits, so you can be sure that all down has been collected and processed ethically and humanely.
Rectangular or Mummy Shape?
Thee are basically two shape types for camping bags. Rectangular bags offer plenty of room to roll around — which is great for side-sleepers, whereas mummy designs are sarcophagus-shaped (hence the term ‘mummy bag’). These are warmer and lighter than rectangular bags, but also more restrictive because they follow the contours of your body.
Some manufacturers also offer semi-rectangular bags — sometimes called hybrids — which are a sort of cross between the two basic designs. (One of our review choices is a hybrid, so there’s more info on those later on.)
For car camping, a rectangular bag is usually favourite. The extra weight doesn’t make any difference if you’re carrying the bag in a car, and the shape is very versatile — you can usually unzip the bag on two sides and use it as a large blanket for two. This is not possible with mummy bags, which are contoured to follow body shape.
A mummy bag’s tapered design offers less space for cold air pockets to creep in, which is why they’re warmer than traditional rectangular bags. Additionally, most mummy bags have some sort of internal pillow and a drawstring system to keep your entire head warm, as well as a footbox to keep your feet nice and toasty.
Sleeping Pads (aka Insulation Mats or Camping Mattresses)
Although we’re not reviewing these today, a decent sleeping pad is just as important as a sleeping bag. Wherever you decide to lay your bag, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up sleeping on at least a few stones during the night. This can be a real pain in the neck — literally!
This is where a sleeping pad comes in. It gives you an even surface to sleep on, and adds an extra layer of insulation between you and the ground. It also protects your sleeping bag from sharp stones, pointed branches and moist soil: all of which could cause problems for the bag’s exterior (even the bags with ‘RipStop’ outer skins).
The classic insulation mat is usually made of closed-cell foam, offering insulation by trapping air inside the foam cells. These are the cheapest but also the bulkiest, as they can’t be compressed in any way.
Inflatable sleeping pads are a lot easier to store and carry but will require a separate pump. The most convenient insulation mats are the self-inflating models, which are also the most expensive.
For an idea of price, head to Amazon’s Featured Camping Mattress page which includes a wide range of models to suit all budgets.
Best Budget Sleeping Bags: Our 9 Best Picks (Updated November 2020)
Outwell Contour Lux (2020)
Size: 225 x 90 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 3 | T Comfort: 3°C | T Limit: -3°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 47 x 30 cm | Weight: 2.2 kg
This is a great way to start off our list of budget sleeping bags. Outwell have been serving campers with versatile gear for over twenty years, and for 2020 they’ve updated their already-popular Contour range.
The new Contour Lux retains the classic rectangular shape, but there are some very clever and unique features which set it apart. The most noticeable change is that Outwell have put different insulation fills on either side of the bag, meaning you can now switch between ratings depending on the outside ambient temperature.
One side has a single layer of insulation, the other has two. The single layer is perfect for warm nights, but by simply flipping the whole bag over you get double-layer insulation with a T Comfort of 2 °C — ideal for the UK’s changeable weather!
For even more warmth, there’s a detachable hood which is easy to zip in — even with cold hands. And if you get too toasty then you can open the two-way zips at the top or bottom ends for increased airflow.
When ordering your Contour Lux you can specify either an RH or LH zip. Not only does this cater to left-handed users, but it also means two sleeping bags (with opposite-sided zips) will join together perfectly to create a double-sized bag. Alternatively, one bag can be totally unzipped to form a warm and versatile duvet.
A great 3-season bag from one of the best manufacturers in the field of outdoor pursuits. A little heavy for backpacking, but ideal for car camping. The switchable insulation system is a stroke of genius, and we can see this being ideal for all but the coldest of camping trips.
- Instantly-switchable insulation
- Zip-off hood
- Built-in pillow
- Opens fully as a duvet
- Cap compression sack
- Two singles zip together into a double bag
Highlander Echo 350
Size: 215 x 70 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 3 | T Comfort: -4°C | T Limit: -12°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 47 x 30 cm | Weight: 2.28 kg
Designed in Scotland to withstand the challenges of the Scottish Highlands, the Echo 350 is an excellent example of a three-season mummy bag. This is chiefly due to Highlander’s QFX 3D Hollowfibre filling, which uses a clever spiral system to trap more air making it lighter than ordinary solid fibre fillings.
As with all of the Echo rage, Highlander has fitted a very comfortable ultra-soft microfibre lining; meaning you won’t have to shell out for a separate inner lining. The outer shell is made with a water-resistant Ripstop polyester, which is surprisingly durable at this price point (and it really is water-resistant!)
With a T Comfort of -4°C, this bag will keep you warm even in sub-zero conditions. This is ideal for wild camping in the Scottish Highlands, although the overall weight makes this a car campers’ bag rather than one for a backpack.
If you want even more protection, Highlander also offer the Echo 400, which is rated at an excellent -7°C (TC) and -14°C (TL). The difference in price is less than a fiver — the only reason we haven’t included it here is it can be too warm for Season 1 and 2 use.
Additionally, all the Echo range bags have a 3D neck and shoulder baffle. When combined with the thermal cowl hood, these three features create a solid barrier between your face and the elements. At the opposite end is a foot box, and there’s a very useful internal security pocket which is great for your phone or wallet (or an emergency Mars Bar!).
The only problem we could find is with the zip, which despite being a two-way anti-snag design is still susceptible to sticking. However, at this price it’s a minor annoyance, rather than a major drawback.
This is one of the heaviest mummy bags in our review, but the increase in warmth, comfort and operating range totally justifies the extra weight. If you only ever want to buy one bag, this should be on your shortlist.
- True 3-4 season bag
- Excellent comfort rating
- Thermal hood with drawcord
- Ultra-soft breathable Microfibre lining
- 3D Shoulder and neck baffle
- Foot box
- Inner security pocket
Marmot Nanowave 50° Semi Rec
Size: 213 x 112 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 2 | T Comfort: 13°C | T Limit: 10°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 32 x 16 cm | Weight: 0.98 kg
It’s almost impossible to not include a bag from Marmot, who have been at the top of the outdoor pursuits industry for well over 40 years. Their most famous bag is the ‘Marmot Trestles’, but that’s just out of our price range (although you can still read about it here). Luckily, they’ve applied all their know-how to their budget bags, which is why we’ve included the Nanowave 50 Semi Rec.
This season 2 mummy design weighs in at (just) under 1 kilogram, which puts it squarely in the ‘lightweight’ category. This is largely due to Marmot’s Spirafil 60 insulation, an ultra-light material which packs down to an impressively small size.
Marmot Nanowave 50° have included their anatomically-shaped 3D hood, which adjusts with drawstrings to ensure your head and neck benefit from the warmth. They’ve also constructed the footbox area to mimic how your feet are positioned when you sleep, with extra fabric above the footbox to make your legs more comfortable.
Running the whole length of the bag and around the footbox is a single J-shaped zip. This allows you to unzip the bag and use it as a blanket, which is ideal for warmer nights or just to curl up with by a campfire. The zipper itself is a fully-lockable YKK model which operates in both directions, so you can unzip just around the footbox for extra airflow if required.
As with all Marmot products, the Nanowave is a well-constructed and technically advanced bag. The high-quality insulation keeps this mummy design both warm and light, making it a great choice for summer camping, trekking or backpacking.
- Less than 1 kg to carry
- Highly Compressible
- Locking two-way zip by YKK
- Can fold out to a double-width blanket
- Compression stuff sack
Vango Nitestar Alpha 350
Size: 210 x 83 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 3 | T Comfort: -1°C | T Limit: -7°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 30 x 22 cm | Weight: 2.0 kg
The Vango Nitestar is one of the few bags that has been approved for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Recently updated with Vango’s new alpha-type insulation, the Nitestar 350 combines excellent warmth with much-improved compressibility. So basically, it’s smaller and lighter than before, which is always a good thing.
The diamond-embossed Polair outer skin uses an off-set double-layer construction, which all but eliminates cold spots at the stitch lines. Internally, the polyester microfibre lining is slightly brushed, making it soft to touch but still very breathable. And it’s also very snug and cosy: neither of which are technical terms but we’re sure you know what we mean!
The zip is of the two-way auto-lock variety, and is fitted with a zip guard with anti-catch piping. The two-way design means you can open the bag at either end for adjustable ventilation, whilst the auto-lock feature ensures that the bag won’t open unexpectedly.
Other features include an insulated adjustable shoulder baffle which helps to retain heat, and an internal pocket which is ideal for storing valuables. The bag packs down to an improved size of less than 30 square centimetres, and the stuff sack has four straps for maximum compression.
This is a no-frills, reliable budget bag from a renowned manufacturer, and we’re pleased to see all the improvements that have been made to weight and pack-down size. We’re happy to recommend this bag as a good 3-season all-rounder — the DofE endorsement is the just the icing on the cake.
- Endorsed for Duke of Edinburgh Award
- Alpha Insulation offers improved warmth
- Off-set Double Layer Construction
- Two-way Auto-Lock Zip
- 4-Strap Compression Stuffsack
- Insulated Adjustable Shoulder Baffle
Active Era Ultralight (Model E100)
Size: 190 x 75 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 1 | T Comfort: 20°C | T Limit: 15°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 30 x 16 cm | Weight: 0.75 kg
One of Europe’s fastest-growing brands, Active Era Ultralight is a UK-based company with a great reputation for airbeds and sleeping bags. This envelope-style bag is the lightest in their range, and uses a 100 gsm polyester filling which is perfect for summer camping and indoor use.
Designed specifically for warmer weather, this bag is quite thin and would benefit from a sleep pad to provide an extra layer of insulation between you and the ground. At the time of writing, Amazon is offering a package discount on an Active Era self-inflating camping pad, which is ideal.
Both the shell and the liner are made from 190T Ripstop Polyester, which is water-resistant and remarkably durable. The zip will open the bag completely, so you can use it as a lightweight festival blanket or even a makeshift groundsheet. But the standout feature of this bag is the weight, which at only 750g makes this a true ultralight.
It’s also very easy to carry around, as it packs down to an extremely manageable 30 x 16 cm, with four compression straps on the stuff sack helping to pull in the last few centimetres.
At such a cheap price point, you’d expect some drawbacks. The first thing we noticed is the length, which at 190 cm is quite a bit shorter than the other adult bags reviewed here. That being said, anyone under six foot should have no problems.
We’ve also seen first-hand reports that the zipper sometimes snags on the outer shell, and sometimes on the washing instructions label. This is due to the absence of any zip guard, so the solution is to always move the zip slowly.
This bag won’t keep you particularly warm, but it does offer the ideal cover for summer camping or indoor use. With such a small and light pack-down size you can leave this at the bottom of your rucksack and forget it’s there — until you need it!
- Weighs only 750 grams
- Perfect for warm-weather camping or indoor use
- Tear and water-resistant 190T ripstop polyester
- Folds out to a festival-style blanket
- Included carry bag with 4 compression straps
Coleman Hampton Double
Size: 220 x 150 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 2 | T Comfort: 6°C | T Limit: 1°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 48 x 24 cm | Weight: 4.55 kg
The couple that camps together stays together, so why not invest in a double bag?
Coleman, one of the most trusted names in camping, have been making customers comfortable since 1900. Their range includes some great mummy bags, but today we’re looking at the double version of the Coleman Hampton, which sneaks into the budget category with a price of just under $80.
The Hampton Double features two zippers — one on either side — which allows one person to get in and out of the bag without disturbing the other’s sleep. Staying with the zippers, we get full-length Thermlock baffles to reduce heat loss, and patented ZipPlow technology which ‘ploughs’ fabric away from the zipper to prevent snags and damaged teeth.
Turning to the fabric, we have a 100% cotton shell which is cool to the touch in warm temperatures, and vice versa. The lining is also 100% cotton, but with a super-soft flannel finish which makes you feel like you’re sleeping in a real bed. Additionally, Comfort Cuff returns the brushed flannel lining back over the shell to provide softness next to your face.
The 300 gsm insulation is Coleman’s high-performance synthetic Coletherm which is designed to be very light and compressible. It offers a great heat-to-weight ratio and, as it’s a bonded insulation, it has reduced fibre migration which helps to eliminate cold spots.
Other nice touches include zippers that open fully — so you can use the bag as an oversized duvet — and a secure internal pocket for your valuables. Lastly, the large polyester stuff sack makes it fairly easy to pack down, which is often a chore with some other double bags.
Coleman have over 100 years of working with high-quality materials, and the soft and comfortable Hampton Double is a fine example. It’s certainly a heavy bag, but most of that is down to warmth and comfort. If you’re looking for a great solution to last-minute house guests, or you plan to spend a few warm romantic nights under the stars, this might just be the bag for you.
- Oversized double bag
- 100% cotton shell
- 100% cotton super-soft flannel lining
- Comfort Cuff
- 300 gsm Coletherm bonded insulation
- Thermlock zip baffle and ZipPlow zipper
Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Size: 198 x 74 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 3 | T Comfort: 5°C (not quoted, our estimate) | T Limit: -7°C | Filling: 600 fill power DriDown | Pack Size: 40 x 20 cm | Weight: 1.09 kg
Ok, we’re breaking our own $80 budget rule, because we wanted to include at least one down-filled bag in this review. But, apart from a few ‘no-name’ bags, it’s nigh on impossible to find a cheaper down sleeping bag than the Cosmic Down 20, which is considered the entry-level bag for real down filling.
Kelty have used down with a fill power rating of 600, which is at the bottom end of ‘good’ (as a reminder: the higher the fill power rating, the better the down is at trapping heat). To help keep the down dry, an in-house polymer process adds a water-resistant (hydrophobic) finish to each plume. The result is DriDown: an insulation that stays dry for longer, and dries faster after use. Importantly, Kelty only use ethically-sourced down, and none of their DriDown processes are harmful to the environment.
Moving to the outside of the bag, we get a durable 20-denier nylon taffeta shell. The 20D rating means it’s quite rough to the touch, but it also means it stands up well to hard ground surfaces. The inside, thankfully, is fitted with a silky-smooth 50-denier polyester.
The 60″ two-way locking zipper is perhaps a little flimsy, but the anti-snag system works well enough. Behind the zip is a full-length insulated draft tube to lock in the warm air, and prevent the cold air from getting in. At the base of the sleeping bag is a naturally shaped footbox which ensures your feet are comfortably warm, and a clever one-handed hood adjustment keeps your head and face shielded from the elements.
All of the above refers to the regular-sized bag, which is designed for an average man. Kelty also offer short and long versions, so make sure to get the length that suits you. Additionally, there’s a woman-specific version, which is a warmer, heavier, and shorter bag overall.
The mummy-style design of the Cosmic 20 does a good job of locking in heat while still offering plenty of wriggle-room. And though it’s heavy for a down bag, it still beats most synthetic bags for weight. Although the price is a bit above our self-imposed limit, the genuine down insulation allows us to recommend the Cosmic 20 as one of the best budget sleeping bags available.
- Ethically-sourced 600 fill DriDown
- Satin-feel 50D Polyester taffeta lining
- Neck baffle, draft collar and one-hand-adjustable hood
- 60″ two-way locking zipper with anti-snag design
Andes Palermo 250
Size: 190 x 75 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 1-2 | T Comfort: 9°C | T Limit: 5°C | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 35 x 20 cm | Weight: 1.1 kg
The main reason we’re including the Andes Palermo 250 bag is the incredible price: it’s under a tenner. This is the type of bag you can take to a festival and not be too upset when it gets ruined with alcohol and cigarette burns. But, we pride ourselves on detailed reviews, so let’s take a look at what you get for your ten pounds.
Andes is a British company, based in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, who specialise in budget outdoor gear. Their Palermo 250 is a rectangular-shape bag with a 2 season rating, although with a TC of 9°C it’s really more of a lightweight sleeping bag for warmer nights. Alternatively, you could unzip it completely for use as a duvet, which on summer evenings should be warm enough when you’re huddling around a campfire.
The outer shell is made from 190T water-repellent polyester, which is known for having great thermal isolation properties — it’s actually a surprise to see it being used on such a cheap bag. Unfortunately, the same material is used for the lining: it’s not as soft as the microfibre linings on other bags, but you’ll be comfy enough.
The filling is a 250 gsm hollow fibre synthetic, which isn’t the warmest of insulations but its light distribution helps to keep the weight down. It’s also very compressible, which is why the packed size is so small (once you’ve pulled the straps on the included compression sack).
Let’s face it: most people who order this bag will only be planning on using it once — probably at a festival or on a beach. But it’s machine-washable and, because of the water-repellant construction, it dries very quickly. So if you’re a keen festival-goer, this is a no-brainer purchase: every time you use it after the first will save you a tenner, which is roughly the price of two beers at Glastonbury…
- Highly-rated 190T polyester shell
- Compression sack included
- Unzips to a double-size duvet
- Incredibly cheap!
Coleman Big Basin 15 Big & Tall
Size: 233 x 90 cm (LxW) | Seasons: 2 | T Comfort: 7°C | T Limit: not quoted | Filling: Synthetic | Pack Size: 52 x 32 cm | Weight: 3.0 kg
There’s no rule that says you can only get a rectangular or mummy-style bag, and there are some innovative hybrid designs out there that are worth a look. Coleman’s Big Basin sleeping bag combines the warmth of a mummy with the extra space of a rectangular bag, and let’s just say right now that this is a very warm bag!
There is one proviso: the Big Basin, as you’ll see by its full name, is designed primarily for the big and tall. The specified height is 5 feet 11 inches, but in reality it can easily accommodate people up to 6 feet 6 inches tall. In fact, if you’re less than six feet then this bag may under-perform, as there will be a lot of empty space that your body temperature can’t warm quickly.
Keeping you toasty is 2 kilograms of Coletherm insulation split into two separate layers of 220 gsm, giving you a lot of high-performing insulation. That’s the reason this bag is so warm, and also why it weighs so much —in fact it’s the heaviest single bag in our review.
Both the shell and lining are made of 100 per cent polyester: the toughened, ripstop-reinforced cover is designed to resist tears, and the quilting construction inside and out does a good job at reducing cold spots. Other heat conservation features include an insulated chest baffle, a fleece-lined foot box and a Thermo Collar which provides extra warmth near the drawstring hood.
If you’re one of the tall and mighty, then there’s no need to look any further — this is the best budget sleeping bag for you. It’s spacious, warm and very comfortable, and it’s aimed squarely at well-built, taller people. Admittedly it’s quite bulky, but that’s due to the generous amount of insulation providing all that warmth. Overall, we rate the Colman Big Basin as an excellent car-camping sleeping bag, and an ideal solution for six-footers.
- Accommodates adults up to 6 ft 6 in
- Double-layered Coletherm provides incredible warmth
- Thermolock draft tube
- Carry bag included
Wrapping it all up…
As we said right at the top of this article, searching for the best budget sleeping bag can be confusing. If we could boil all our advice down to one set of bullet points, it would be this:
- Set a budget and stick to it – there will be a good sleeping bag in your price range.
- If you’ve got a shortlist of two, buy the warmer one – one day you’ll thank yourself (and maybe us as well!)
- If all else is equal, go for the named brand – quality wins out every time.
- Read the customer reviews on Amazon before you buy (and not just the negative ones).
Here are the answers to some of the most-asked questions regarding budget sleeping bags.
What is the best cheap sleeping bag?
For the best warmth-to-weight performance, natural down will beat man-made synthetics every time, so the overall best cheap sleeping bag has to be the Kelty Cosmic Down 20. It’s a great 3-season performer, with a useful temperature rating and the warmth that only real down can provide.
Of course if you mean best as in cheapest, then the Andes Palermo 250 is so cheap it’s almost disposable. It’s not a great performing bag, and it’s not particularly warm. But for less than ten pounds, maybe none of that really matters!
How much should you spend on a sleeping bag?
For a budget sleeping bag, expect to pay $80 or less. The next price point is about $140, where the named brands start to introduce duck and goose down bags. From that point onwards, the price you pay will mainly depend on the fill power of the down.
Once you start seeing price tags of $280 or more, the bags start becoming a lot more technically designed. Some bags will have specialist features for extreme temperatures, whilst others will focus on shaving off a few grams from the overall weight.
What’s the best sleeping bag for cold weather?
The best sleeping bag for cold weather needs to be a 4-season bag, although for sub-zero temperatures you should really consider a 5-season bag. Most of the major manufacturers produce 5-season bags, with prices starting from about $200. 3 Comfort Temperature ratings of -15°C or lower.
One good example, from a manufacturer we haven’t covered yet, is the Hyke & Byke Eolus. It’s a 5-season bag filled with 800 fill power hydrophobic goose down, it weighs only 1.13 kilograms and has a temperature rating of -15°C. With such a great specification, the price (from about $200 and up) is remarkable.