Lightweight sleeping bags are a must for backpack camping. When you are looking to cut weight from your backpack it usually breaks down to eliminating weight from one of the big three heavies. They are your tent, backpack or sleeping bag. While carrying a few extra pounds in your pack for a mile or two might be acceptable you really begin to feel each extra ouce over a day long trek. For that reason alone it’s a good idea to buy a light weight sleeping bag that is warm enough for the area you are camping in, and durable enough to hold up under rugged use.
You can find light weight, or ultralight sleeping bags weighing as little as one pound. You’ll find that most bags of this weight are rated to 40 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit which is not enough for most alpine camping. You can find many models to choose from in the 3 pound range that are rated to just above freezing levels. With the addition of a stuff sack it can add an additional couple of ounce to the total. Buying a sleeping bag stuff sack isn’t a requirement, however it is helpful if you don’t want to store your bag inside your backpack, or want to help keep it dry during rainy weather.
Some of the best lightweight sleeping bags are made of down material which does an amazing job of keeping you warm. I believe down sleeping bags are the warmest, and most lightweight type of bag you can find. The down material itself is not actually the feathers but the fluffy under-plumage of ducks or geese. Since it is down and not feathers there is not prickly parts to make you uncomfortable, just soft fluffiness that really keeps you warm. I’ve used an ultra light down bag to keep me warm to just above freezing.
Down bags do require a little more care than conventional synthetic material bags. They tend to take a long time to dry out if they get damp. you may often want to hang them out to dry after a damp night. Since down collect moisture it’s a good idea to let them air out before packing them away. This can be done while you make and eat breakfast and pack up for the days hike.
Another choice for lightweight sleeping bags is synthetic material. They are usually made of a polyester type material that comes very close to being as effective as down but sacrifices the lifespan of a quality down bag. Synthetic bags usually only last approximately half to a third as long as comparable down bags. they are more bulky, and less comfortable than down bags but are usually much more inexpensive. Some other good things about synthetic bags are they are much quicker drying than down and they protect much better from rain than down bags.
As mentioned above you can find down and synthetic bags with similar warmth-to-weight ratio. The pluses with down bags are: More comfort, extra warmth, best lightweight, and better compressibility. With synthetic bags you get” More inexpensive, quicker drying, less care required, better in rainy weather. You’ll find that lightweight sleeping bags do require more care overall, as they are more fragile and made with lighter materials. However, if you take care of your bag it will last you many years of use.