Most backpacking enthusiasts are well aware of the merits of down sleeping bags. Down offers the best warmth to weight ratio on the market today over synthetic insulation, depending on the fill power. Most high end sleeping bag makers like Marmot and Mountain Hardwear utilize 600 fill power premium goose down and up (mostly 800 fill power). This gives you the most loft and the best insulation for the amount of down used, thus a higher warmth to weight ratio. When each ounce counts, down sleeping bags are the way to go.
But what is the best down sleeping bag on the market today? A lot of avid backpackers are brand myopic, or in other words, they tend to stay with a brand because they liked a piece of gear from the company in the past. This is a totally normal phenomenon, but it makes it hard to nail down a true ‘best’ or ‘#1’ because everybody has their favorite brand. There also exists a few ‘intangible’ or ‘immeasurable’ qualities and features to sleeping bags, like comfort and design. Excluding these, let’s look at measurable qualities to determine what the best down sleeping bag is.
The first feature that can be measured is the overall weight of the bag. The overall weight will be largely determined by the temperature rating that the sleeping bag is targeting. For example, a zero degree sleeping bag will need to be filled with more insulation than a 45 degree sleeping bag, and will thus be heavier. It is not uncommon to find an ultralight sleeping bag in the 1 pound range for a summer sleeping bag (~40 degrees). Keep this in mind.
Another feature that can be measured is the price. This also varies with temperature ratings and brands drastically. A lightweight sleeping bag in the 1-2 pound range (~40 degrees) can be had in the $200-$300 range. Ultralight bags (around a pound) in the same temperature range can cost quite a bit more. 4 season mountaineering sleeping bags can cost as much as $1000 because they offer winter protection from the cold and are extremely lightweight for their insulation. They are also built to be durable in rugged conditions.
Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom series of sleeping bags is a great place to look for high quality, lightweight, and affordable sleeping bags. They off a range of temperature ratings, and utilize 800 fill power goose down. In the author’s opinion, this is best down sleeping bag on the market today. But there are several other makers, like Marmot, The North Face, and Kelty that compete very well. Thanks for reading!