Choosing the right sleeping bag is key to ensuring a good night’s sleep during your visit to the Enchantments. Here are some tips on how to select the right bag for you.
The most important factor when choosing a sleeping bag is the bag’s temperature rating. This will determine how comfortable you are at night. You want a bag that’s about right for the conditions you expect to camp in—too warm or too cold are both recipes for a bad night’s sleep.
In the Enchantments, the average nighttime temperatures range from around 25°F to 45°F during the permit season. The high-elevation Core Zone tends to be about 5°F colder than the lower zones.
|Month||Low (°F) in Core Zone||Low (°F) in lower zones|
Our advice: choose a bag with a comfort rating of either 20°F or 30°F.
A 30°F bag will be warm enough for you if you’re visiting in the warmest part of the year (July/August) and if you’re a warm sleeper. It’ll also be suitable for other summertime backpacking trips, and possibly also shoulder season backpacking at lower elevations.
A 20°F bag may be a better choice if you’re visiting during the shoulder season, or if you’re a cold sleeper. Statistically, women tend to be colder sleepers than men, but everybody is different. A 20°F bag will also be warm enough for some shoulder-season alpine backpacking trips, if that interests you.
When choosing a bag, ignore the number in the product name and instead look in the technical specs for an EN or ISO rating. This is a standardized, scientific test that measures how warm a bag is. You should focus mostly on the “comfort rating"—as the name suggests, you probably won’t be very comfortable when using the bag at the "lower limit” temperature.
Down vs synthetic insulation
Sleeping bags are filled either with down (which comes from geese or ducks) or with synthetic insulation made of tiny plastic fibers.
Down is warmer for the same weight (or lighter for the same warmth) and more compressible, which makes it easier to pack. However, down bags are usually more expensive than synthetic ones. Down also loses most of its insulating properties when it’s wet, so it’s very important to keep your down sleeping bag away from moisture (including any condensation that forms in your tent). On long trips, backpackers sometimes take advantage of sunny weather to lay out their down sleeping bags to dry, so that they can sleep warmer at night.
Choose a bag that’s sized to your height. If your bag is too big for you, it won’t keep you as warm.
Women may find a bag designed specifically for them to be more comfortable. These bags tend to be sized smaller, are cut wider around the hips, and have more insulation in the torso and footbox. Be aware that many manufacturers advertise women’s bags using the comfort rating (in contrast to men’s bags, which are usually advertised using the lower limit rating). The actual EN/ISO testing procedure is the same for all bags.
We’ve got recommendations for sleeping bags at several price points. A sleeping bag will likely be one of your more expensive purchases, but it’s also something that you might want to invest in if you can. Unlike a tent or a backpack, a sleeping bag sees relatively little wear and tear. If you treat it right, it can be with you on your adventures for decades.
All of our recommended bags use down insulation. We think that it’s warmth-to-weight ratio and packability make it the best choice for most backpackers, though it will take some extra care to keep it dry in drizzly Pacific Northwest conditions.
These options are heavier than the midrange and premium ones, but they’ll keep you warm enough for most conditions you’re likely to encounter in the Enchantments.
Kelty Cosmic Down 20
In the $300 to $400 range, REI makes some great sleeping bags using high fill-power down. This gives them excellent warmth-to-weight ratios.
REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30 (Unisex)
- Temp. rating:
- unavailable (estimated: 30°F comfort)
- 19 oz
REI Co-op Magma 30
REI Co-op Magma 15
If you’re willing to spend more, you can’t go wrong with a bag from Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends. These companies make some of the best bags in the world, trusted by hardcore mountaineers and arctic researchers.