Together with a sleeping pad, a tent, and a comfy rucksack, a decent sleeping bag is a cornerstone of your camping load-out. And the best budget down sleeping bags are light and warm without breaking the bank.
Given a choice, most campers would pick a down sleeping bag over a synthetic one. Down bags are more environmentally friendly, tend to last longer, and offer better warmth for weight.
However, there’s the cost to consider too.
Time was, if you wanted to go budget, you had to opt for synthetic insulation — and those ultra-cheap $20 gas station bags will still be loaded with low-grade plastic fiber wadding.
But down bags have been getting cheaper for a long time now.
These days you can pick up a seriously decent down bag for a couple hundred dollars. Often, these come from the exact same manufacturers who make those high-end expedition bags — only they’ve realized it’s also worth catering to the entry-level camper who doesn’t mind sacrificing a little warmth or weight if it slices 60% off the purchase price.
Behold! We’ve analyzed the budget lines from five different manufacturers to see what’s good and bad about ‘em.
Sierra Designs “Get Down” Series – The Best Budget Down Sleeping Bags
The Get Down 20 has a recommended temperature range of 17–29°F, and weighs in at a respectable 2lb 3oz.
Its more packable cousin, the Get Down 35, is significantly lighter at 1lb 12oz, but this comes with some sacrifices in warmth. The Get Down 35 has a comfort rating of 36°F and a lower limit of 26°F for warm sleepers.
Both models use 550 fill-power “Dridown” — which has been treated with a hydrophobic polymer coating. According to the manufacturer, this stays dry ten times longer and dries 33% faster than untreated fibers. The 20D polyester shell also features a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating for added moisture resistance.
The Get Down series has a relatively roomy mummy shape, and is available in regular or long sizes for campers up to 6’5″.
It’s not always true that you get what you pay for. In the case of the Get Down series, for example, you actually get quite a lot more.
At this budget price point, you wouldn’t expect much in the way of waterproofing, yet the Get Down bags come with both a water-repellent shell and hydrophobic down.
Moisture is the big Achilles heel of down products, so this level of water-resistance is a huge bonus.
They’re also pretty lightweight bags, and reviewers have noted how well they compress down for backpacking. Depending on where you live, the Get Down 20 could easily be a solid three-season bag, perhaps even stretching into milder winter conditions if you sleep warm.
Apart from anything else, it’s nice to see a manufacturer that doesn’t try to oversell their temperature ranges. Many gear companies would try to market the Get Down 35 on its lower limit of 26°F, but Sierra Designs resists this, essentially promoting it as the summer version in the series.
It’s a thumbs-up from us. Great value, lightweight backpacking bags with impressive water-resistance. Perfect for long-distance hikers on a budget.
Mountain Hardwear “Bishop Pass” Series
The Bishop Pass series from Mountain Hardwear comes in three different temperature ratings — 30°F, 15°F, and 0°F. They offer ranges for both men and women, with some important differences.
To start with, the women’s models have shorter lengths and more insulation for the same temperature rating, making them slightly heavier — for example, the 15°F version weighs in at 2.5oz more than the men’s one.
Then there are the temperature ratings themselves. As is often the case with sleeping bags, the men’s range is marketed on each bag’s lower limit, while the women’s versions use the comfort rating — so the Bishop Pass 30°F has a recommended range of 30–40°F for men and 19–30°F for women.
This means that the women’s bags are actually a lot warmer.
All models feature 650 fill-power down and are relatively lightweight — the men’s models weigh in at 3lb 5oz (0°F), 2lb 7.9oz (15°F), and 2lb 0.7oz (30°F). The down itself isn’t hydrophobic, but the shell fabric has a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish.
All bags in the Bishop Pass range feature a full-length draft tube along the zipper, while the 15 and 0-degree versions come with a meaty internal draft collar to help keep the heat in.
A shaped footbox also makes for warmer feet in the field, and the fit is relatively roomy for such a packable bag. There’s also an internal stash pocket and an anti-snag “plow” zipper with a glow-in-the-dark pull.
Bishop Pass bags come in regular and long lengths. Maximum heights for women are 5’6 (regular) and 6′ (long), while for men they’re 6′ (regular) and 6’5″ (long).
While the Bishop Pass series is as close as Mountain Hardwear gets to a “budget” line, the build quality and the higher fill-power down mean that the price is edging into mid-range territory.
But if your wallet will stretch that far, then you’re kinda getting a bargain. These bags boast the kind of performance you’d normally find in much more expensive bags.
They’re warm, lightweight, and compact — making them a great entry-level choice for backpackers — and the 15°F model in particular could become a dependable 3-season favorite if you pair it with a decent sleeping pad.
Reviewers have praised the warmth-to-weight ratio, and there’s also a lot of love for the anti-snag plow-style zipper — a little thing that can make a big difference when you’re struggling in the dark confines of a pup tent with a stuck zipper.
Our only slight bugbear is that temperature ranges for each model are hard to find online, and so it’s difficult to make an informed choice about which of the twelve (!) possible options to invest in.
See our buyer’s guide below for more details about temperature ranges, and why a single temperature rating is often misleading.
If you can afford to spend slightly more, the Bishop Pass range is a great choice for the entry-level backpacker. Lightweight and warm, with a large — if slightly confusing — range of temperature and length options.
Marmot “Always Summer” / “Never Winter” Series
Weighing in at 1lb 12.6oz, the Marmot Always Summer bag has a comfort rating of 46°F and a lower limit of 37°F. Its warmer cousin, the Never Winter, is 2oz heavier but has a slightly lower temperature range of 32–41°F.
Both bags utilize 650 fill-power duck down insulation, treated with an eco-friendly “Down Defender” coating. This improves water-resistance, meaning the down insulates better when damp, and accelerates drying times by 30%.
It’s the zipper systems that set these Marmot bags apart.
Rather than the traditional full-length zipper down one side, they’ve got half-length zippers on each side — with extended flaps on the inside so that the open part of the bag can be used similarly to a blanket in warm weather. There’s also a long zipper on the footbox.
Plus, the shell and lining fabrics are both recycled, and there’s a handy interior stash pocket for your cellphone or flashlight.
The 650 fill-power water-resistant down in these two bags from Marmot is better than you’d normally get at this price point, and they’re appealingly lightweight.
Of course, that’s also because they really are summer bags — the temperature ranges don’t have enough play in them at the lower end to use them outside of warm weather.
As dedicated summer bags, though, we think they’re a great pick — partly on account of the unusual zipper system. You can pretty much detach the top half of the bag and use it as a comforter, with a second zipper right down the center of the foot box.
This all adds up to some serious ventilation, and makes the Always Summer / Never Winter feel much looser and less restrictive than traditional mummy bags.
These budget summer bags are best suited to warm-weather trips where you can take full advantage of the fantastic ventilation options.
Ideal for backpackers, but that unusual “bed-like” top flap would also make them great choices for van-lifers and car-campers too.
Kelty “Cosmic Down” Series
With comfort ratings of 48°F, 32°F, and 17°F, the Cosmic Down series offers seriously warm down bags at unbeatable prices.
The downside is the weight and bulk. For example, the warmest model (Cosmic Down 0) has a packed size of 19″ x 10″ and weighs in at a whopping 4lb 9oz.
That’s nearly twice the weight of a high-end equivalent.
All three models use 550-fill duck down, and, while the down itself doesn’t have any form of hydrophobic treatment, there’s a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating on the outer shell.
Kelty claims that their trapezoidal baffle system is more efficient for retaining warmth, and they’ve also included a draft tube along the zipper. At the bottom end of the bag, a roomy foot-box gives your feet more room to breathe and also helps eliminate cold spots.
The full range comes in regular and long sizes — for campers up to 6′ and 6’6″ respectively — while the most versatile Cosmic Down 20 is also available in a short length for campers under 5’6″.
The undisputed champion of cheap down bags, Kelty offers serious warmth at phenomenally low prices.
And these aren’t second-rate bags drop-shipped in from God-knows-where, cobbled together out of cheap materials and low-welfare down from unlucky ducks.
The quality is great for the price, and the 550-fill duck down is Responsible Down Scheme (RDS) certified — like all the bags on this list.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the weight. The warmer versions are hellasuper bulky — even compared to other budget ranges — and will be better suited to car campers than backpackers.
Having said that, don’t forget about the lightest model, the Cosmic Down 40. With a temperature range of 40–48°F depending how warm you sleep, this is strictly a summer bag — but the 1lb 12oz weight makes it a viable option for the budget backpacker.
With the Cosmic Down series, Kelty serves up outstanding warmth and quality for the price — but at a weight better suited to car campers than pack-rats.
The exception is the lighter-weight Cosmic Down 40, which could make a great entry-level bag for summer thru-hiking.
Nemo “Disco” Series
The Nemo Disco is a feature-packed bag with an unusual “spoon” shape that’s supposedly better for side sleepers than the classic mummy style sleeping bag.
Slightly pricier than some of the other bags on this list, it comes in two variants — the Disco 15 (with a temperature range of 15–25°F in the men’s model) and the Disco 30 (30–41°F).
The stuffing is 650 fill-power hydrophobic down, which offers decent warmth for weight. The men’s Disco 30, for instance, tips the scales at a backpack-friendly 1lb 15oz.
Futuristic-looking “Thermo-Gills” allow you to vent heat easily in the night, while the oversized draft collar can be folded out or in for blanket-like comfort. They’ve also waterproofed the foot-box and added an anti-snag plow zipper.
The Disco 15 and 30 are available in both men’s and women’s versions — with the zippers on opposite sides so you can couple them up into a double.
The women’s bags are shorter and contain more insulation — reflecting the fact that women often sleep colder than men. This also means they’re slightly heavier.
The Disco comes in regular and long sizes for campers up to 6′ and 6’6″ (men) or 5’6″ and 6′ (women).
Alright, so the Disco series is nudging mid-range, but only just — and it makes for an unconventional addition to the list.
Nemo claims that their spoon-shaped bags are more comfortable for side-sleepers. And given that an estimated 60% of us get our Zs that way, it’s a factor worth considering. Ditto to those zippered “Thermo-Gills” that give the Disco more versatility in warmer conditions.
Taller campers (like some of us at Effortless Outdoors) may also have suffered wet feet when the end of your down sleeping bag touches the tent wall, so we’re particularly delighted by the addition of a water-resistant foot-box.
Fundamentally, though, these are decent backpacking bags at a very reasonable price point. The weight’s light, the hydrophobic down is a nice bonus, and between the men’s and women’s models you’ve got a great range of length and warmth options.
Lightweight and water-resistant, these innovative bags are specially designed for side sleepers. They’re a great choice for backpackers, but their roomy fit would make them a good pick for car campers too.
How to Choose the Best Budget Down Sleeping Bag
The single most important factor to understand when you’re trying to shortlist the best budget down sleeping bags is the temperature rating.
You might think the clue would be in the product name — if the bag is called a “Snugglebug 15” then it’ll be warm enough to keep you comfortable at 15°F, right?
These days, most manufacturers use the ISO rating system to express the recommended temperature ranges of their bags. This is assessed through a standardized testing process, meaning that you can compare different brands like-for-like.
Because some people sleep a lot “warmer” than others (meaning that they feel the cold less), the ISO rating system expresses the recommended temperature of sleeping bags as a range rather than a single figure.
At the top end of this range is the comfort rating. This is the temperature at which a cold sleeper would feel comfortable in the bag.
At the other end of the range is the lower limit. Below this limit, even a warm sleeper will probably start to feel cold.
Tech specs may also include an extreme rating, at which the bag will probably keep you alive in an emergency, though you shouldn’t try testing it.
The temperature bracket between the comfort rating and the lower limit is often called the “comfort range.” Where along this scale you start to feel uncomfortable will depend on how warm or cold you sleep, and how good your sleeping pad is.
The confusion begins because gear manufacturers usually market men’s and unisex bags based on the lower limit. So that Snugglebug 15 of yours might have a comfort range of 15–24°F, meaning that only the warmest sleepers will actually be comfortable using it at 15°F.
Women’s sleeping bags, on the other hand, are usually sold on their comfort rating. Meaning that exact same bag would instead be a Snugglebug 24 if they were marketing it towards them (perhaps with a pop of pink or “lady purple” in the color scheme).
Women do generally sleep colder than men, but obviously it totally depends on the person.
Whatever the case, it’s always smarter to make your purchase based on the actual temperature ratings rather than the name — and remember, if in doubt, it’s usually better to go warmer.
If your sleeping bag is destined to be used for car camping, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a little on the heavy side. But if you’re planning on taking it backpacking, weight becomes much more of an issue.
Most bags designed for trail use will be somewhere around the 2lb mark. Anything over 3lb is starting to be on the bulky side.
Weight is often where budget bags fall down — because the easiest way for manufacturers to make those vital cost savings without compromising on build quality is to use lower fill-power down.
The upshot is that even the best budget down sleeping bags are likely to carry a significant weight penalty.
Fill power indicates the quality — and thus the cost — of the down insulation. Specifically, it tells you how many cubic inches a single ounce of down will expand to fill.
For example, one ounce of 700 fill-power down will take up 700 cubic inches of space.
This is important because higher fill-power down insulation provides more warmth for the same weight, and you just won’t find top-grade down in a budget bag.
If a cheap bag is light, it’s probably not very warm.
Look at the products we’ve reviewed above, and you’ll notice that the fill power is mostly 550 while the very best budget down sleeping bags are more likely to be 650. Compare this to the lighter-weight models on our Best 0 Degree Sleeping Bag list, and you’ll see that some of those are using 850 fill-power down.
Though this does mean that they cost more than double the price.
In many ways, down is a miracle material, but it has one Bigfoot-sized Achilles heel.
Get it wet, and its insulating qualities are drastically reduced. Not only that, but down sleeping bags also take an age to dry, and it can be really hard to deal with a wet bag on the trail.
Unsurprising, then, that manufacturers have put in some serious R&D looking for a solution.
In some cases, they’ve focused on making the shell fabric waterproof, but they’ve also developed a range of treatments for the down insulation itself. Some of these are so good that the treated down performs almost as well in wet conditions as synthetic bags.
You’d think that this level of water-resistance would be reserved for the most expensive down sleeping bags, but strangely enough that’s not that case — the best budget down sleeping bags (including several bags on this list) feature water-repellent treatments either on the down or the shell fabric.
It’s also worth pointing out that a down sleeping bag without any waterproofing isn’t automatically a dud — you just have to be more careful to keep it dry.
Cost and Compromise
So here’s the thing. A budget down sleeping bag will pretty much always come with some sort of compromise.
In the case of decent manufacturers like those listed above, that compromise will usually be due to the lower quality of the down fill.
With lower fill-power down insulation, the bag can be warm or light, but not both. And, depending on your intended use, that may not be a problem.
If you’re car camping, it doesn’t matter how bulky your bag is, while if you’re only using it for summer backpacking, you won’t need a comfort rating of 20°F.
However, if you’re looking to carry all your gear and push your adventures into the colder seasons, you may have to pay a little more for a bag with a better warmth-to-weight ratio.
Remember that you can also boost the warmth of your bag by using a sleeping bag liner and a sleeping pad with a high R-value.
How Much Should a Good Budget Down Sleeping Bag Cost?
Generally, you can get a decent “budget” down sleeping bag for $200–300, though some manufacturers have managed to produce them even cheaper.
What is the Comfort Rating on Budget Down Sleeping Bags?
The “comfort rating” is the lowest temperature at which a cold sleeper is likely to feel comfortable in the bag.
Should I Get a 15 or 30 Degree Down Sleeping Bag?
It’s always best to look at the actual night-time temperatures that you’re going to be using the bag in, and make your decision based on that. If in doubt, it’s usually best to go warmer.
What is a Three-Season Down Sleeping Bag?
“3-seaon” is supposed to mean a sleeping bag that’ll see you from spring through fall. However, it’s an unhelpfully vague term because shoulder season temperatures can vary hugely depending on where you are.