For summer camping, it’s pretty easy to find a sleeping bag that will keep you toasty and warm for under $50.
Finding a budget sleeping bag for winter camping is much tougher.
In this article, I’ll be reviewing the Abco Tech – a hugely popular 4-season sleeping bag. Its price is very attractive to those on a budget, but is it really warm enough for camping in the snow?
Let’s find out…
What Is a 4-Season Sleeping Bag?
Unlike tents, sleeping bags are typically rated by temperature rather than season. For the purposes of this review, I’m defining a 4-season bag as one you can comfortably sleep in when temperatures drop below freezing (32°F/0°C) and there’s frost or snow on the ground.
By “comfortably sleep”, I mean that you should be able to spend a night in the sleeping bag without getting cold. This is different from a sleeping bag that will allow you to survive the night without getting hypothermia.
If your winter is particularly harsh or you’re sleeping in the Arctic, then you’ll probably need a 5-season sleeping bag. (Yes, I know that technically there are only four seasons in the year, but we’ll let that go this once, okay?) These are designed for serious sub-zero temperatures and will leave you sweltering in any kind of moderate climate.
4 Things to Consider Before Buying a 4-Season Sleeping Bag
As always, there are a few, uh, provisos, a couple of quid pro quos before you can run off and purchase that fluffy bag of rest.
1) How Cold Do You Sleep?
That’s a bit of a personal question, right? But it’s the first thing to consider before you buy a sleeping bag. Average temperature ratings given by manufacturers are just a guide and they’ll vary considerably from person to person.
If you radiate heat and only use a thin comforter at home in the middle of winter, then you’ll be able to get away with a lighter weight sleeping bag than someone who has to pile on the blankets and pull on their bed socks when the temperatures drop.
If, like me, you tend to go to bed cold but get warmer as the night progresses, then getting a sleeping bag that has good ventilation options will help you regulate your body temperature.
2) Do You Have to Carry Your Sleeping Bag?
If you’re car camping, then size and weight aren’t a big issue. But 4-season sleeping bags are big and bulky, and if you’re planning on hiking into the wilderness to camp, you may find your bag takes up more space in your backpack than you expected.
You can buy warm sleeping bags that pack down to a reasonable size, but they come at a price.
3) Where and When Are You Camping?
It may sound silly, but before you rush out and buy a 4-season bag, figure out if you actually need one. If you’re buying a 4-season bag this is not likely to be your only sleeping bag as you’ll find it far too hot in summer. (Unless you only camp in winter, in which case, hats off to you!)
If you usually camp near your car and you want one sleeping bag for all seasons, it may be worth getting a 3-season bag, plus a sleeping bag liner for cold nights. Pack some extra socks and a hat and read our guide on how not to freeze your ass off in a tent.
That said, if you’re a cold sleeper, you may want to buy a 4-season bag even if you have no intention of camping in the snow. My main sleeping bag is classed as a 4-season bag (though admittedly, it’s pretty old now) and I use it for 90% of the year because I would much rather be a bit too warm than a too cold at night.
4) What’s Your Budget?
High-quality 4-season sleeping bags don’t come cheap. If you’re on a budget, then you’re going to end up compromising on one or more of the following: warmth, packability, and weight.
Assuming that you need to prioritize warmth, this means you’re looking at a reasonably heavy, large synthetic sleeping bag.
If price isn’t such an issue, then it’s worth seeing if you can stretch to a decent down bag. Down sleeping bags are warmer than synthetic and pack tighter – great if you have to fit it into a backpack.
The Abco Tech Sleeping Bag
There are two ways you can look at the Abco Tech sleeping bag. You can compare its performance to what the manufacturer claims – a waterproof sleeping bag made from high-quality materials that will keep the average sleeper warm at 20°F (-7°C). Or you can look at its performance in relation to its price.
I wouldn’t expect to be able to buy a waterproof winter sleeping bag for $35. And neither should you – whatever the manufacturer claims.
What you do get with the Abco Tech sleeping bag is a comfortable, relatively lightweight synthetic bag that will keep you warm during late spring, summer and early fall. It can be fully unzipped to use as a blanket when you’re sat out around the campfire and as it’s machine washable, you don’t have to worry about getting rid of that smoky campfire smell.
For $35, this makes it exceptionally good value.
However, it’s worth being aware that it’s narrower than most sleeping bags and if you have a larger stature, you may find it confining or struggle to fully zip it up.
Size: Smaller Than Average
Usually, when I see rectangular sleeping bags, I assume they’ll be roomier than mummy shaped bags. The Abco Tech bag is a bit of an exception to this rule.
It’s 86 inches long (including the hood) so even tall people won’t have any trouble with the length but unlike most rectangular bags, which are around 32-33 inches wide, the Abco is only 29 ½ inches wide. This makes it a tight fit for larger adults.
On the plus side, the smaller size makes it a great choice for smaller adults and kids.
Fill & Fabric: Polyester Fill and Fabric
The Abco Te is a synthetic sleeping bag with a polyester fill and lining. It claims to be waterproof, but I can’t see how any fabric at this price point could be both waterproof and breathable, so I’d suggest not sleeping out in a rainstorm with it.
Some users reported issues with the zipper breaking and the fabric tearing. Bearing in mind this is a budget sleeping bag, you can’t expect super high-quality materials (whatever the manufacturer says!).
You can treat budget sleeping bags one of two ways. Either you take extra care to look after it because it’s more likely to get damaged easily, or you treat it rough and accept that you may end up having to replace it.
On a more positive note, the Abco Tech has a good level of fill to keep you warm and the polyester liner is soft and comfortable. It also feels surprisingly light for a synthetic bag.
Season: 2-3 Seasons
Although it’s rated as a 4-season bag, it doesn’t meet my definition of a 4-season bag. This doesn’t mean you can’t use it in winter – if you’re a hot sleeper then you may find it fine – but most people are likely to need some extra layers to stop them getting cold during the night.
However, it is warmer than it looks and if you’re sleeping in temperatures in the higher 30s or 40s, you shouldn’t have any problem staying warm all night.
If you want to use it all year round, then one option is to pull on a hat and some extra clothes and take a hot water bottle to bed. (Or find a human radiator to snuggle up to.)
The sleeping bag comes with a useful compression sack. It’s pretty easy to stuff the sleeping bag into the sack and the straps help reduce the size a little but as with any warm synthetic bag, it’s bulky.
If you are planning to take this hiking and it won’t fit in your backpack, I can recommend getting a waterproof compression sack to keep it dry.
Design & Practicality:
The Abco Tech sleeping bag has a basic, rectangular design with a hood that you can pull in tight using a drawstring.
It doesn’t have draft tubes around the neck and along the zipper, which surprises me considering it’s supposed to be a 4-season bag. Draft tubes help stop height leaking out of the bag and would be a nice addition.
The zip runs all the way around the feet, so you can open the bag up fully to create a blanket – useful in warmer weather or if you want to use two sleeping bags together for extra warmth.
Synthetic sleeping bags are much easier to clean than down bags. As long as you follow a few simple precautions, you should have no problems washing and drying the Abco Tech bag.
Price: Less Than $50!
For all its faults, the Abco Tech sleeping bag is fantastic value for money. If you’re looking for a budget sleeping bag for occasional camping use in mixed weather conditions then it’s a great option.
What Other Campers Are Saying
Taking into account the sizing and optimistic temperature rating, there are a lot of happy campers sleeping in the Abco Tech. Here’s what people have to say about it:
Alternative 4-Season Sleeping Bags
If you want a sleeping bag that will keep you warm in the coldest of winters, check out these alternatives to the Abco Tech sleeping bag.
86 x 30 inches
82 x 32 inches
78 x 28 inches
84 x 30 inches
For Those on a Budget… Coleman North Rim Adult Mummy Sleeping Bag
The North Rim is another budget sleeping bag only slightly more expensive than the Abco Tech. But whereas the Abco Tech is more of a 3-season bag, the North Rim is specifically designed for cold weather.
It has a mummy -shaped design (common for cold weather bags) with a full-length draft tube to prevent heat leaking out through the zipper. There’s also a neck baffle and adjustable hood to keep your head warm.
For a budget sleeping bag, it’s incredibly warm and should keep you cozy when camping in the 20-30°F temperatures. The only downside is that it’s very heavy and bulky so not great for backpacking.
For Backpackers… Hyke & Byke Eolus 0°F Ultralight Mummy Bag
This lightweight winter bag weighs just 3 lbs and packs down small enough for even ultralight backpackers. It’s filled with 800 fill power goose down which gives it an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. It has a survival rating of 0°F and a comfort rating of 30°F.
You rarely get this high a fill power on sub-$200 sleeping bags which makes the Eolus a bit of a bargain. It’s also got a water-repellent ripstop nylon outer fabric, a solid zip, and a decent hood.
Even better for those of you who aren’t ‘average’ size, it comes in three different lengths. If you want to try some winter backpacking, it’s worth paying the extra for this lightweight, warm bag.
For Tall People… Kelty Cosmic 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
If you’re tall, it can be frustrating to find a sleeping bag that’s long enough for you to stretch out in. The long version of the Kelty Cosmic 9 Degree bag is designed to fit people up to 6 ft 6 inches in height.
It’s filled with 600 fill power DriDown – down that’s been treated with a hydrophobic finish. Put simply, it helps the feathers resist water and creates a better loft (or ‘fluffiness’).
It has a lower limit rating of 5°F (-15°C) but should keep even cold sleepers warm below freezing (30°F).
I’m going to cut to the chase. The Abco Tech sleeping bag isn’t a 4-season bag unless you live in a place that has very mild winters.
But for $35 I wouldn’t expect to get a true 4-season bag.
What you do get is a sleeping bag that’s likely to keep you warm during summer and late spring/early fall. It’s relatively lightweight and you can chuck it in the washing machine if it gets dirty.
And – let me repeat this – it’s ONLY $35.
If you want a sleeping bag that’s guaranteed to keep you warm through the winter, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper into your pockets. But if you’re on a tight budget, you could do a lot worse than the Abco Tech sleeping bag.
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.