Mom Goes Camping

Best Vegan Sleeping Bags for Cold-Weather Camping

best vegan sleeping bags

For a long time, vegans who wanted to go camping in colder weather were stuck with heavy, bulky sleeping bags.  Synthetics simply couldn’t match down’s insulating capabilities. However, technology has advanced a lot in recent years. Here are the best vegan sleeping bags that can actually keep you warm on cold nights.

 

Best Overall: Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 0

Why? It’s comfort rated to 15F (low 2.3F), is lightweight for its class, and is made from 96% recycled materials so there’s no moral issue with buying this vegan sleeping bag!  Oh, and it’s pretty damn affordable too.  Get it here on REI.

 

Comparison of the Best Vegan Sleeping Bags

Sleeping BagTemperature (F)WeightPrice
Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20Low: 21.6
Comfort: 32.2
2lbs 6ozCheck on REI
Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 0Low: 2.3
Comfort: 15.6
3lbs 8ozCheck on REI
North Face Aleutian 20Low: 15
Comfort: 30
3lbs 10ozCheck on REI
Eberlestock Reveille G-Loft 5Comfort: 54lbsCheck on Amazon
Therm-a-Rest Centari 5Low: 5
Comfort: 18
4lbs 2ozCheck on Amazon
Big Agnes Elk Park -20Low: -20
Comfort: N/G
7lbs 4ozCheck on REI

 

Click here to skip to the full reviews

 


Don’t need a sleeping bag for cold weather? There are plenty of synthetic sleeping bags for 2 and 3-season use.  Check them out here at REI.  Just make sure you check the product description to make sure they are 100% synthetic.


 

Vegan Sleeping Bags – Can They Really Be As Good as Down?

I’m assuming that you already know about the cruel practices that go into harvesting down, so I won’t get into that here (if you don’t, here’s a good primer on the issue).

Regardless of the ethical issues around down, you can’t deny that it is a superior insulating material.  After all, nature made down to keep geese warm without weighing them down.

We humans haven’t quite managed to replicate what millions of years of evolution did to create down feathers.  While synthetics do have their benefits compared to down (like handling wet conditions better), synthetics simply don’t insulate as well.  A down sleeping bag is going to be warmer, lighter, and more compact than a synthetic vegan sleeping bag.

Instead of harping on the benefits of synthetics, I want to talk about some of the downsides of synthetics.  Then you will be able to address these issues before your vegan sleeping bag causes you issues on a frigid cold night camping!

 

Issue #1: Synthetic Sleeping Bags Lose Insulating Properties Over Time

Synthetic fibers aren’t as durable as down feathers.  Over time, the fibers in your vegan sleeping bag will start to break down.  Some of the fibers will also get compressed.  This results in loss of loftiness, which means the fibers won’t be as warm as when you first got it.

I’ve seen estimates that synthetics lose 40 to 50% of their insulating ability in as little as 3.5 weeks of use! (Source)

Today’s synthetics tend to be of a better quality (assuming that you aren’t buying some cheap vegan sleeping bag for under $35…), so the insulation will probably last a bit longer.  Still, you can expect the insulation value to drop around 20% or more over time!

Suddenly, your 30 degree sleeping bag just became a 50 degree bag. :/

This is one of the reasons that people like down so much more (again, not justifying this morally).  They can buy just one expensive down sleeping bag and have it for years.  By contrast, you’ll have to get a new vegan sleeping bag at least every few years if you want to stay warm.

The moral issues of buying multiple synthetic bags (and the pollution caused by producing them) versus one down bag is hard to weight.

How to make your vegan sleeping bag last longer?

  • STORE YOUR SYNTHETIC BAG UNCOMPRESSED!!! Compressing synthetics cause the fibers to break down. Obviously you need to compress it while backpacking, but take it out of the stuff sack as soon as you get back home.
  • WASH INFREQUENTLY. Washing will also damage the synthetic fibers.  So wash it as little as possible.  Yes, it might stink a bit. 🙂

 

Issue #2: Synthetic Sleeping Bags Are Heavier

The technology hasn’t gotten to the point where synthetics can be as warm as down for the same weight.

You will likely be carrying at least twice the weight for the same level of warmth that a down bag would offer.  But, if you aren’t prepared to carry an extra pound or two, then you probably aren’t that dedicated to being vegan anyway. 😉

If weight is an issue (which, as a mom who carries pretty much all of my daughter’s backpacking gear, is totally an issue for me!), then you can try to cut weight in other ways.

One of the biggest ways to cut weight from your pack is to rethink your food.  Get hardcore about planning your meals with a spreadsheet down to the calorie.  I also recommend buying a dehydrator and making your own meals.

Guess what?  I’ve got an entire ebook on how to make vegan backpacking meals!  It has over 50 vegan trail recipes plus tons of info on how to plan meals.  Get it here.

dehydrator backpacking recipes

 

Issue #3: Moral Issues of Using Synthetics

Being vegan isn’t just about saying “No” to animal products.  It is about taking a holistic look at your actions and choosing the path of least harm.  This is not always a simple decision – especially considering all of the fossil fuels that go into making synthetic camping gear.

If you go camping in cold weather often, it might make sense to buy a used down bag instead of a new synthetic bag (and then having to buy another new synthetic bag a year or two later).

Buying a down bag secondhand means you didn’t contribute financially to the production of an animal product.  Repurposing has a lower environmental impact.  Since down lasts for years, the impact is much lower than getting multiple vegan synthetic bags.

There is also the option of eider down which is considered “ethical” because it’s hand-collected from the bird’s nests instead of killing/plucking the birds (the birds are protected and thus their feathers must be hand-collected from nests).

I currently don’t know of any down sleeping bags made from eider.  There are a couple of cheap sleeping bags on Amazon that claim they are from eider, but there’s no way that it’s real eider. True eider costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

*The ethical issue around synthetics is one more reason the Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 0 is the top pick for best vegan sleeping bag.  It’s made from 96% recycled materials.

 

Types of Vegan Synthetic Insulation

Synthetic insulation consists of fibers that interlink to form pockets of air that can trap heat. There are dozens of different synthetic insulation for vegan sleeping bags.  They can be broken down into three main types:

  • Cluster Fiber Insulation: This uses short bunches of fiber to resemble down. One popular choice is ThermoBall.
  • Short Staple: These are short little bunches of fibers. The fibers bunches can move independently of each other.  Options include Thinsulate, PrimaLoft, and Omni-Heat.
  • Continuous Filament: This insulation is made of long fibers that link with each other rather than little tufts or balls. Climashield is a popular option.

For jackets, cluster-fiber and short-staple insulation are usually preferred because they are more flexible. However, for sleeping bags, continuous filament is usually preferred because it is more durable. (Sources: 2, 3)

 

Review of Cold-Weather Vegan Sleeping Bags

Here are more detailed reviews of the best vegan sleeping bags for 3 or 4 seasons.   These are all good quality sleeping bags but, since they are made from synthetics, they don’t cost a fortune.  However, the warmer bags will definitely weigh your pack down.  There’s no avoiding that if you want to be ethical in your buying choices!

 

Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20

marmot trestles eco elite 20

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 2lbs 6oz
  • Temperature Rating (Low): 21.6F
  • Comfort Rating: 32.2F
  • Compressed size: 9.5×19”
  • Hood and footbox
  • Draft tube
  • Made with 96% recycled materials
  • HL-ElixR synthetic fibers
  • Hang loops
  • Long and regular sizes available
  • Buy at REI

This sleeping bag combines three different types of synthetic fibers to create loftiness while retaining some durability and compressibility.

It has some really nice features like a pocket inside the sleeping bag, a roomy footbox, and a drawstring hood for keeping your head warm.  You’ll probably also like that it is mostly made from recycled materials, hence the word “Eco” in the name.

Another cool feature is that there are two zippers.  One zipper is full length.  The other is short and lets you unzip just the front of the sleeping bag so you can get your arms out (for reading or whatever) without having to unzip the side. The extra zipper also makes this bag more versatile for warmer weather because it allows you to ventilate the bag by unzipping a bit.

As for warmth, it’s definitely not the warmest vegan sleeping bag on the list.  It does have a draft tube and a mummy design which allows it to keep you warmer without all the extra weight.  However, the mummy shape is very roomy.  The extra room means that some cold air will get into the bag.  On the flip side though, the roominess means that this is a very comfortable bag to sleep in.

Marmot is a well-known trusted brand and they use the EN system of testing.  So, the temperature rating is pretty spot-on.


 

The North Face Aleutian 20

North Face vegan sleeping bag

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 3lbs 10oz
  • Temperature Rating (Low): 15F
  • Comfort Rating: 30F
  • Compressed size: 11.3 liters
  • Unzips into blanket
  • Cinchable hood
  • Full and half-length zippers
  • Draft collar and tube
  • Heatseeker Eco insulation
  • Made of 30% recycled material
  • Hang loops
  • Long and regular sizes available
  • Buy at REI

This is a really popular sleeping bag (with vegans and non alike).  It has a lower-limit rating of 15F and is comfort rated for 30F.  It is definitely fluffy and warm.  To save weight, extra insulation is put in the most-needed places

A cool feature is that the sleeping bag has a zipper which goes all the way around, so you can unzip it into a quilt.  There are also a half-length zipper so you can just open the front of the bag and get your hands out.

Compared to other sleeping bags, this one is very roomy.  The extra space isn’t ideal if you are a small person – you’ll use more body heat to warm up the bag.  However, it’s great if you typically feel claustrophobic in sleeping bags.


 

Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 0

marmot trestles elite eco 0

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 3lbs 8oz
  • Temperature Rating (Low): 2.3F
  • Comfort Rating: 15.6F
  • Hood and footbox
  • Integrated collar
  • Draft tube
  • Made with recycled materials
  • SpiraFil LT insulation
  • Hang loops
  • Long and regular sizes available
  • Buy at REI

The Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 0 sleeping bag is virtually identical in terms of features to the Elite Eco 20 version. So, I won’t harp on the features again.

The big difference between the two versions of the bags is the type and amount of insulation used.  That means this sleeping bag can be used down to 15.6F and still be comfortable.  With lots of layers (and grit), you’d be fine in it down to much colder weather too – just not necessarily comfortable.

Extra warmth comes at the cost of an extra pound of weight.  At 3lbs 8oz, this is very heavy for backpacking.  However, it’s still lighter than a lot of its synthetic counterparts and is very affordable.


 

Eberlestock Reveille G-Loft 5

eberlestock synthetic sleeping bag

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 4lbs
  • Temperature Rating (Low): -36F
  • Comfort Rating: 5F
  • Compressed size: 12x9x9
  • Cinchable face hole
  • Draft tube
  • Carinthia G-Loft insulation
  • Buy at Amazon

Eberlestock is a brand mostly known for its hunting backpacks and tactical gear.  Their gear definitely isn’t made for ultralight backpacking, but it is great for very cold nights camping.

Compared to other synthetic bags, it is actually fairly lightweight at only 4lbs.  Yes, 4lbs is far from light – but the Reveille sleeping bag is comfort rated to 5F.   What about the -36F low rating?  It’s kind of deceiving in the description. You only get this rating is when you use the bag with the Eberlestock ultralight sleeping bag.

Their ultralight bag isn’t actually light though at 2.5lbs.  So, I wouldn’t say it’s worth getting the combo (especially since the lighter bag is pricy).  However, if you need to be comfortable in weather in the low teens or below, this is one of the lightest synthetic sleeping bags you’ll find.  It also compresses down very small.

Note that the zipper is in the middle of the sleeping bag, so this is best for back-sleepers.  However, there is a draft tube that covers the zipper so it isn’t uncomfortable to sleep on if you roll onto your side.  The face hole looks claustrophobic but can be opened.


 

Therm-a-Rest Centari 5F

thermarest centari

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 4lbs 2oz
  • Temperature Rating (Low): 5F
  • Comfort Rating: 18F
  • Compressed size: 11×18”
  • Cinchable hood
  • Draft tube
  • eraLoft insulation
  • Sleeping pad attachments
  • Small, long and regular sizes available
  • Buy at Amazon

The Centari is a serious synthetic sleeping bag.  It’s got features that translate into real-world use, like the two zippers.  One zipper goes full length and the other is a partial-length zip so you can ventilate the bag or partially open it for using your hands.   It’s also got attachments for your sleeping pad, which means you won’t roll off the pad and end up freezing.

The mummy shape of the Centari is very generous, which is good if you are a larger size person or just want some extra room.  However, it does mean that you will use more body heat for warming up the bag.  The feet area is quite large too, so your feet could end up getting cold.  You’ll want to stuff some extra clothes into the bottom of the bag on very frigid nights camping!

The insulation of the Centari is made in a way that allows them to save weight but still provide warmth.  It’s put in zones, focusing on the torso area.  Again, if you are prone to cold feet, you’ll need to put something in the bottom of the bag to keep your toes warm!

It’s nice that this sleeping bag comes in three different sizes.  So, if you have children and need a bag for them, this is a good choice.


 

Big Agnes Elk Park -20

big agnes elks park sleeping bag

Quick Stats:

  • Weight: 7lbs 4oz
  • Temperature Rating (Low): -20F
  • Comfort Rating: N/G
  • Compressed size: About 24×12”
  • Cinchable hood
  • Double zippers
  • Opens into quilt
  • No draft tube
  • Integrated sleeping pad sleeve
  • Thermolite Extra insulation
  • Buy at REI

This sleeping bag is a very different than the others. It is designed so that it can be opened up and turned into a quilt.  Bear in mind that camping in a quilt requires a bit more skill than a standard sleeping bag.  Also, because there aren’t any draft tubes and it’s rectangular when zipped, it won’t be as warm as a mummy bag.

People absolutely love the bag for how roomy it is.  Even really tall and big people can move around in the bag.  Unfortunately, Big Agnes doesn’t give a comfort temperature rating for the bag. However, users say it kept them warm in the low teens without a problem.

The main issue with the sleeping bag is that it is huge and heavy.  It barely fits in the stuff sack which measures about two feet long and one foot wide!  It weighs in at over 7lbs.  Definitely for car camping only!

However, if you want something more versatile – such as if you need a quilt to go over your normal sleeping bag or for sleeping in your car – this is a good option.

 

Don’t forget about my ebook.  It’s got 50+ vegan backpacking recipes, plus lots of info about how to plan delicious, healthy meals while camping out.  I’ll even give you 50% off because you are vegan. 😀

Get the book for 50% off here 

dehydrator backpacking recipes


Image credit: “Tips for Winter Camping.” (CC BY 2.0) by vastateparksstaff
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About the author /


Diane Vukovic is an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast and couchsurfer. She loves finding ways to explain complex topics to her 9-year old daughter and hunting beetles with her 1-year old. Follow MomGoesCamping on Facebook and Twitter @MomGoesCamping to stay in touch!

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