Best Survival Sleeping Bag: What I Use and Top Picks

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By Dennis Howard •  15 min read

A sleeping bag can be used while on an outdoor adventure with friends and family. However, if the worst should happen, it can be thought of as an “emergency sleeping bag.”

Best Survival Sleeping Bag in the market

You will want everyone in your group to have quality sleeping bags because when cold weather sets in, you need an effective way of retaining body heat in addition to having an emergency shelter.

Keep in mind that heat retention isn’t just for harsh weather conditions, as a person can become hypothermic at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

For this reason, climate is one of the most important factors when deciding on a sleeping bag. Additionally, you’ll need to keep in mind the following:

In this article, I will cover what I believe are the 3 best survival sleeping bags according to all these metrics.

Quality sleeping bags can be rather expensive, so there will be a fourth option that is budget-friendly. But before we get into the list…

In a hurry? Check out my top picks:

Last update on 2022-12-07 at 13:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What do I use?

My choice is the U.S. Military 3-piece sleep system. This system is made up of two sleeping bags, a lightweight patrol sleeping bag, an intermediate cold sleeping bag, and a Gore-Tex Bivy cover.  This system offers me a wide range of options and possibilities.

Lightweight Patrol Bag

The lightweight patrol bag is a summer weight mummy-style sleeping bag that is rated to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  It’s lightweight, packs down to an extremely small size, and is great for late spring through early fall, especially when combined with the Bivy cover for extra environmental protection.

Intermediate Bag

The intermediate bag of the U.S. Military sleep system provides cold weather protection down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  In all but the most extreme conditions, this one makes sleeping comfortable.

Combined Bags

The two bags are designed to snap together to provide warmth down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  When the Bivy cover is also used, the combined bags create an extreme weather sleep system that will take you almost anywhere in the continental U.S. and protect you against cold temperatures.

The Bivy Bag

I consider the Bivy bag to almost be a shelter, not just a part of the sleep system. It’s made of Gore-Tex, which provides elemental protection yet allows the interior sleeping bags to breathe for maximum comfort. It can also can be used with any of the other parts of the sleep system, individually or combined.

My Experience with the U.S. Military 3-Piece Sleep System

mountain climates best suited for warmer sleeping bag

I have used this system from the extremes of West Texas summers to the cold of the Rocky Mountains’ alpine conditions. The complete system is not a lightweight sleeping bag, but the added benefits of a customizable system that can be used in any climate makes this a pick for me.

I also like the Bivy cover that is included with this system.  I have slept comfortably in almost all conditions with just the bag and the Bivy cover.


My Picks of the Best Survival Sleeping Bags

1. Best Down Filled Survival Sleeping Bag – ZPACKS Solo Quilt Review

emergency sleeping bag

Down is the choice of filler when considering sleeping bags.  It is lighter and offers better insulation than synthetic fillers.  On the other hand, if you anticipate lots of water in your survival future, down may not be a good choice.  Once wet, down loses all its insulating ability and becomes one heavy flat dead weight.

However, if you want the lightweight and superior insulating properties of down in a survival bag, my choice is the ZPACKS Solo Quilt style bag.  ZPACK offers these bags in sizes that will fit all but the tallest of individuals and in a range of temperature options.  The features list is impressive as well

Pros

Cons

2. Best Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bag – Big Agnes Pin Ears SL 20 Degree Review

quick drying and tear resistant emergency sleeping bag

If down isn’t in your budget or you are anticipating having to deal with lots of rain or possible wet situations, a synthetic bag may be a better choice.  Synthetic fill dries quicker than down and still retain some insulating qualities even when wet.  The trade-off is a bit more weight and less insulation for the same amount of fill.

The Big Agness Pin Ears 20 Degree bag offers some of the best performance and quality of any survival style sleeping bag on the market.  If you aren’t expecting to have to deal with Everest like conditions, the Big Agnes bag should serve you well.   The features you get with this bag are impressive.

Pros

Cons

Last update on 2022-12-07 at 13:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Best Over-Sized Sleeping Bag – Teton Sports LEEF Mummy Sleeping Bag Review

TETON best emergency bags

I have a son-in-law who stands 6’ 4”.  Finding a sleeping bag of reasonable quality that didn’t weight 12 lbs. was a challenge until I found the Teton Sports LEEF Mummy bag.  This high-quality bag uses Polarlite Micro Insulation and a P5 poly liner to ensure comfort down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you are looking for a mummy-style bag that doesn’t break your budget yet provides all the features you need in a survival bag, including lightweight and a small package, you should consider this bag.  Looking at the features reveals an impressive list.

Pros

Cons

TETON Sports LEEF Ultralight Mummy Sleeping Bag Perfect for Backpacking,...
  • ULTRALIGHT AND ULTRAWARM: With body-mapping technology--bag is designed with added insulation where...
  • EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS: Three-piece hood contours your face to keep your whole head warm; Vaulted foot...

Last update on 2022-12-07 at 14:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Budget Survival Sleeping Bag – Coleman North Rim Mummy Bag Review

Coleman easy carry bag with wind blocker

Budget can be a big restraint for many of us when we start putting together our kits.  Fortunately, there are some good reasonably priced sleeping bags on the market.  There are some trade-offs when you start looking at lower-priced sleeping bags. Finding the balance between budget and the right features can be a challenge.

Coleman has stepped up with an answer to this challenge.  The Coleman North Rim mummy bag is a great balance of features and price.  You can get into a decent mummy-style survival sleeping bag for less than $50 with this bag.  The low price doesn’t mean you have to go without the more important features of a survival sleeping bag.

Pros

Cons

Last update on 2022-12-07 at 13:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Emergency Sleeping Bags

man in water repellant jacket

In an emergency situation, you need three essentials. Water and food as the first two are obvious. Anyone who has given even a minute’s thought to a survival situation knows that food and water are essential.

What many people fail to consider is the shelter aspect.  For me, shelter goes beyond a tent.  Shelter, for me, is the means to keep warm, dry, and well-rested.


The Issue of Staying Healthy

man sleeping with blanket for additional warmth

You cannot survive if you can’t keep yourself healthy, and a large part of staying healthy in any stressful situation is the means to rest. 

Being able to sleep comfortably and adequately is an often-overlooked part of any survival situation.  Lack of sleep, or being deprived of it, quickly begins to take both a mental and a physical toll on your body.  In a survival situation, this can begin to reduce your survival chances in a matter of just a few hours.


Planning for Rest

Making rest a part of your survival plan is a good idea.  Part of that planning is making sure that you have the proper kit to ensure that you can rest.  This is where a shelter kit becomes important. At a minimum, your shelter kit should include:

Things To Consider With An Emergency Sleeping Bag

My focus in this article was the second item in the above list, sleeping bags.  There are several things to consider when you start choosing a sleeping bag for survival situations.  Briefly, the most important of those things are:

1. The climate you anticipate.

man sleeping in low temperatures

Obviously, someone planning a survival kit for the Arizona desert has different conditions to deal with than someone who anticipates having to bug out into the conditions that might occur in the Rocky Mountains in winter. Every environment will have its own extreme circumstances. Carefully consider what you may be facing as far as weather and conditions. Staying warm is always a primary concern.

2. Weight

man holding several emergency sleeping bags

If you are planning on moving on foot for any length of time, weight becomes a critical consideration.  If your plan is to bugout by vehicle, weight may not be as big an issue, but size certainly does figure into the equation. Sleeping bags vary in their weight, so keep that in mind when comparing different sleeping bags

3. Quality

Remember that just like the other pieces of essential gear that you may be depending on to stay alive, your sleeping bag deserves that same consideration.  Your overall health depends on how well you can sleep and rest. A poor-quality sleeping bag won’t allow you to get the rest you need.

4. Comfort
Just like your boots, your sleeping bag needs to fit.   If you are 6’ 4” and your sleeping bag only accommodates someone 6’, you are not going to get any rest.  Quality sleeping bags can be fitted almost like clothing.  Find a bag that fits you.


General Pros and Cons of Sleeping Bags

Pros

Cons

FAQ’s

Picking the right sleeping bag for your needs is essential. Here’s a few of the most commonly asked questions, as well as our best advice:

Do I need two bags, one for summer and one for winter?

tear resistant emergency sleeping bags

That depends a lot on the climate you anticipate experiencing where you may have to survive.  In most of the United States, a good sleeping bag designed to operate down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit should perform for you year-round.  Remember that when sleeping, cold is your enemy not heat, so you need to be warm.

Which is better, a mummy-style bag or a rectangular bag?

best emergency sleeping bags

If your concern is a survival style sleeping bag, the overriding issues are weight and size, especially if you may have to depend on your feet and legs for transportation. 

If you are carrying everything you need to survive, weight and size matter.  Mummy bags tend to be more efficient on both weights and packed size than traditional rectangular bags. This makes mummy-style bags the definitive choice in my book.

Can’t I just depend on my blanket and clothing?

Man creating shelter out of branches

If you are a real bushcrafter, you can rest quite comfortably with a blanket and a prepared bed made from local materials. 

However, this takes skill and lots of practice to perfect, and it still may not offer you the comfort and protection you need to stay warm if the weather turns extreme.  For your survivability, the addition of a good mummy-style bag to your kit could make the difference.

I read that my sleeping bag should not be stored in the stuff sack.  Is this true?

tear resistant carry bag for sleeping bag

Yes, it is!  Storing down insulation or synthetic fill will cause the fill material to eventually lose its insulating properties.  The longer the fill stays compressed, the less it will fluff back up when it is unrolled. 

This will eventually turn your sleeping bag into a mass of lumpy non-insulating junk that won’t trap heat. Your bag will last much longer and provide better service if it is hung by the attached straps or loops in a closet.


Getting the Best Night’s Rest

The main goal of picking one of these systems is to find the one that allows you to get the best night’s rest possible, despite the conditions outside your shelter. Comfort is the key. 

I hope that this short article helps you find the right mix of features to make the decision of which sleeping bag is right for you. If you have any comments, experiences, or suggestions, please add them to the comments section below.

Your knowledge is important to help others make these critical decisions.  Join our community and help others who can benefit from your experience.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.