There’s something incredibly comforting about hunkering down in a cozy sleeping bag under the stars. I often find that I sleep better outdoors than at home – something to do with being out in the fresh air, perhaps.
Like many things in life, top quality sleeping bags are expensive. But unlike tents, this is one piece of kit where you can get away with buying a cheap option, particularly if weight and pack size isn’t an issue.
We’ve rounded up a selection of the best cheap sleeping bags to help make your buying decision easier. But first, here are a few things you need to know before you start shopping.
Four Things to Know Before Buying a Cheap Sleeping Bag
1) When Should You Buy a Cheap Sleeping Bag?
If you’re a regular camper and buying a tent or another technical item of camping gear, I’d always recommend going for the highest quality you can afford. But with sleeping bags, things are a little bit different.
Your top priority when buying a sleeping bag is getting something that will keep you warm at night. Cheaper sleeping bags typically aren’t as warm as more expensive models, but unless you’re planning on camping in the Arctic, you should be able to find one that keeps you warm enough in most weather conditions.
It IS worth buying a more expensive sleeping bag if you need a bag that’s both warm and lightweight. If you’re backpacking in cold conditions, you’re unlikely to find a decent light bag for under $100.
And there’s nothing worse than being unable to sleep because you’re cold.
In my humble opinion, buying a cheap sleeping bag makes sense when you:
2) Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings
Manufacturers usually give a temperature rating for their sleeping bags.
This may either be an EN/ISO rating which is a standard you can use to compare different bags, or a manufacturer’s assessment. If different ratings are given for ‘comfort’, ‘lower limit’ and ‘extreme’ temperatures, then the bag has probably been assessed under either the EN or ISO system.
But it’s not quite as simple as that…
The temperatures given are for a “standard female” or “standard male”. As someone who gets intensely frustrated by the fact that my clothes size can vary considerably across different brands, I know just how useless that phrase can be. People are different shapes and sizes and require different levels of insulation to keep them warm.
This isn’t the manufacturer’s fault, of course. It’s just worth being aware when reading reviews that a product that keeps someone else toasty warm may not keep you warm.
A final point to note is that most temperature ratings assume the sleeper is wearing thin thermals.
In summary, your best bet is to treat the temperature ratings as a loose guide and if in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Camper's tip: To add a bit of extra warmth in cold weather, use a sleeping bag liner inside your main bag.
3) Down or Synthetic?
Most cheap sleeping bags use synthetic insulation. This will keep you warm even if it gets damp, is hypoallergenic and the only option for vegans or people who are concerned about the ethical implications of down.
Down insulation has a much higher warmth-to-weight ratio, making it the preferred option for warm, lightweight bags. It’s also more expensive, which is why you’re unlikely to find it at the budget end of the market.
4) Style of Sleeping Bag
There are three main shapes of sleeping bag:
- Semi-rectangular (a bit of hybrid of rectangular and mummy bags)
Many manufacturers also make women-specific models, which are typically shorter and narrower than the unisex versions.
Which style you go for depends largely on personal preference and how snug a fit you prefer. Here’s a great video which goes into the different styles in more detail.
Our Pick of the Ten Best Sleeping Bags Under $50
Alright, let's dive right in, shall we! Here are the 8 best sleeping bags you can grab for just a few dollars.
86 x 30 inches
3-season use, slim people
82 x 32 inches
71 x 30 inches
Warm weather, indoor sleeping, kids
87 x 32 inches
2-3 season camping, backpacking
80 x 33 inches
2-3 season camping
87 x 39 inches
People wanting a larger bag
87 x 60 inches
Double / 3-in-1
Couples, 2-3 season camping
71 x 31 inches
Ultralight backpacking, warm-weather camping
Best 3-Season Bag: Abco Tech Sleeping Bag
Abco claim this is a 4-season sleeping bag that’s good down to 20F (-7C). While I suspect most people would get pretty cold using it in those temperatures, this is a very affordable 3-season bag. The polyester fill is easy to wash in the machine and it comes with a compression stuff sack.
It’s a good choice for all year-round camping, but if you have wide shoulders or prefer some wiggle room when sleeping, this probably isn’t the bag for you.
Best Cheap Sleeping Bag for Winter: Coleman North Rim Adult Mummy Sleeping Bag
Mummy-shaped bags are typically warmer than rectangular bags and the North Rim is a sleeping bag you’ll be happy to snuggle down in when the thermometer drops.
Designed for cold weather, the North Rim’s design addresses key areas of heat loss. There’s a full-length draft tube to prevent heat leaking out through the zipper, a neck baffle, and adjustable hood. It’s rated for temperatures between 0F and 10F (-18C – -12C). I suspect this may be a ‘survival’ rating rather than ‘comfort’ rating unless you’re a very warm sleeper, but if you do a lot of camping in the 20-30F range, this is a great option.
Best Sleeping Bag for Indoor Sleeping: Revalcamp Sleeping Bag
If you want to stand out from the crowd, the Revalcamp range of sleeping bags will help you do just that. You’ve got 23 vibrant colors and designs to choose from and there are two styles: a basic rectangle (no hood) and an ‘envelope’ design which has a basic hood.
This is a great cheap sleeping bag for kids’ sleepovers, indoor use, and summer camping. It’s lightweight and packs down smaller than many of the other bags we’ve reviewed, but it’s not warm enough for cold weather use.
That said, if you want to share some body heat with your companion, you can zip two of the bags together to create a sleeping bag sized for two.
Best Cheap Backpacking Sleeping Bag: Winner Outfitters Mummy Sleeping Bag
The Winner Outfitters Mummy bag is a great choice if you need a fairly lightweight bag that packs down well. Its ‘comfort’ temperature range is stated as 35F to 40F (-1C to 4C), but it’s probably best considered as a 2-3 season sleeping bag.
A common complaint with cheap sleeping bags is the stuff sacks they come with. Winner Outfitters actually give you two with this bag – one with compression straps, one without – which is handy, particularly if one breaks. It’s also fairly lightweight for a cheap bag, at around three pounds making it a reasonable option for backpacking.
Best 2-3 Season Budget Sleeping Bag: TETON Sports Celsius Regular Sleeping Bag
This is a cozy sleeping bag design for cool weather. The 0F rating is a survival rating – the comfort rating is more like 20F to 30F, though I’d class it as a 2-3 season bag. If you do most of your camping in the summer, you may find it too hot in warm weather.
One neat feature is a small interior storage pocket – something I wish more sleeping bags had! Perfect for stashing keys, Kleenex or earbuds.
The sleeping bag does run small, so if you’re tall then it’s worth checking out the XL version which is ten inches longer and three inches wider.
Best XL Cheap Sleeping Bag: Winner Outfitters XXL Camping Sleeping Bag
Most sleeping bags aren’t designed with larger people in mind. Or, you may find you prefer a bag that’s less constricting and gives you more room to move around in. The Winner Outfitters XXL bag meets both these needs.
At 39 inches wide, it’s significantly more spacious than the other bags we’ve looked at. It’s got narrow draft tubes which will help prevent heat leaking out, but you’ll want some extra layers if camping in cold weather.
Weirdly, it also has a removable hood. Generally, I think hoods on sleeping bags are a good thing (you lose a lot of heat through your head!) but the zipper is likely to make it harder to cinch the hood in tight and may make the bag less comfortable.
Best Sleeping Bag for Two People: TETON SPORTS Cascade Double Sleeping Bag
If you miss cuddling up under the duvet with your partner when camping, then a double sleeping bag may be a worthy investment. The Teton Sports Cascade bag is designed for two adults, though if you find regular sleeping bags too constricting, you may want to sleep in it alone!
Unlike zipping together two individual bags (where you can end up lying on top of one of the zips), this is designed primarily as a double sleeping bag. The entire top section zips off, giving you the option to use the two parts of the sleeping bag as blankets or individual bags.
While this may sound like romantic bliss, you may find you don’t sleep quite as well in a double bag as you expect. You’re more constrained that with a regular duvet (not ideal if your partner fidgets a lot) and there aren’t as many options for regulating your body temperature.
Best Cheap Down Sleeping Bag: AEGISMAX Outdoor Ultra-Light Goose Down Sleeping Bag
I’ve stretched the budget slightly for this one to bring a down sleeping bag into the mix. The AEGISMAX is an ultralight sleeping bag designed for campers who prioritize weight and pack size over warmth.
The regular version weighs under a pound and compresses down to a 5x8 inch pack. Even the large version (for people up to 6’3) comes in at just over a pound. The 800 fill down insulation helps keep the weight down, as does the stitch-through baffle construction.
Usefully, there are three temperature ratings given: comfort (52F/11C), lower limit (43F/6C) and extreme (15F/-9C). Clearly, this is a bag for warm weather use, but you could combine it with a silk liner or another sleeping bag for colder weather. Several users have also recommended cleaning it with a down wash product and tumble drying (chuck a couple of tennis or drying balls in with it) to improve the loft and make it warmer.
And the Winner Is…
To be honest, there isn’t a huge amount to choose between most of the bags listed above. Personally, as I’m a cold sleeper (and get very cold feet!), I’d opt for the Coleman North Rim, but if you camp mainly in warm temperatures, you’ll find it too hot.
Don’t forget, if you buy a bag and find it doesn’t keep you as warm as you were expecting, you can use a liner for extra warmth, add a blanket on top or even layer two bags together.
So choose the bag that you feel meets your needs best, chuck a few extra warm layers in the car just in case, and get camping!
Alison spends her days writing and dreaming of adventures, and her weekends living them. Both are helped by copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea. She owns a campervan called Sadie and far too many tents.