The Big Test: Three season sleeping bags reviewed (2019)

During spring, summer and autumn, the right 3-season sleeping bag can help make camping in the mountains an idyllic experience. Here’s our pick of the six best down and synthetic sleeping bags for 2019.

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The runners up


Mammut Kompakt MTI 3-Season (Women) £159 

Tester: Anna Humphries

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  • Lower comfort limit -10°C

  • Insulation Ajungilak MTI Pro polyester 

  • Size 205x80cm (Regular and Short available)

  • Men’s equivalent Kompakt MTI 3-Season (Regular, Large and Wide available) 

  • Packed size 21 x 30cmn 

  • Weight 1851g (inc 100g stuffsack)

This well-priced bag is warmer than other 3-season bags, with a temperature rating of -10°C, while others are -4°C, -6°C or -8.5°C. So not surprisingly, it’s also a little heavier and more bulky when in its stuffsack.

Synthetic insulation means it is less compact but does feel warm instantly, which was a welcome benefit over the down bag I tried, which took more time to become cosy.

The hood, shoulder baffle and zip are all well designed, and there are two sizes each for the women and men’s versions. The women’s option has the extra benefit of a fleece-lined foot area and a bigger hood.

So, what’s not to like? For me this bag’s pink colour with a green zip is a real turn-off. It also lacks the stretchy seams of other higher-priced bags, and is heavy, but of course it is warmer too. Oddly the stuffsack colour is a nice red and black, which doesn’t match the bag but at least the pinkness is hidden when the bag is packed inside!

PROS 

Price, warmth, fleecy foot in women’s option, two sizes each for men and for women

CONS 

Weight and packed size, no stretch baffles, pink colour for women’s version 

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Vaude Santis 800 SYN £250

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Lower comfort limit -4°C

  • Insulation Pinnero Mantle 100% recycled polyester

  • Size 220x80cm (one size)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 22x28cm

  • Weight 1292g (inc 75g stuffsack)

Like many Vaude products it’s the environmental benefits that shine through with this bag, as it’s made with 100% recycled polyester insulation and its water- repellent finish doesn’t use harmful fluorocarbons (PFC).

Stretch fibres are used in the knee area to allow more comfort, and the shoulder width and length are bigger than some. There’s also a unique additional side zipped arm hole, so you can be inside the bag with both arms out (one arm out via normal side zip, the other through the arm hole).

The weight and packed size are good although, of course, a down bag is even lighter. But also note this is rated as -4°C comfort limit, while other bags here are rated as -6°C comfort limit, so this isn’t quite as warm as the others. There are no extra size or women’s options here either, and the price tag is less friendly than this bag’s impressive environmental benefits.

PROS 

Environmental benefits, zipped arm opening, stretch panels in knee area, reasonable weight and packed size for a synthetic bag

CONS 

Price is relatively high compared to other synthetic bags, slightly lower temperature rating, no extra size options or women’s option

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%


Thermarest Hyperion 20F/-6C £400-£420 

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation Nikwax Hydrophobic 900 fill power goose down

  • Size 216x74cm (Long, Small and Regular available)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 16x20cm

  • Weight 688g (inc 50g stuffsack)

New for 2019, this bag is exceptionally lightweight and compact when compressed into its stuffsack. It still carries a temperature rating of -6°C and the weight-saving comes from a numbers of areas. Firstly it uses top quality 900 fill down, so you just need less of it to stay warm, and the shell fabric is very thin 10 denier ripstop nylon.

The side zip only extends to the hip, rather than the foot or calf area, and the zip itself is a lighter-weight design that seems to snag a little easier than others, and tends to open on its own if I didn’t secure the press stud at the top of the zip. There is no shoulder baffle either.

Finally you don’t get the stretch baffles of other sleeping bags. It comes with a pair of thin webbing straps that can be wrapped around a Thermarest sleeping mat for ‘optimal efficiency’, but I didn’t find this of much benefit and felt if I turned over too roughly I may have ripped out the straps.

PROS 

Weight and packed size. Attachment webbing to sleeping mat may be of benefit to some, but I wasn’t convinced as I tend to sleep on my side and move around too much

CONS 

Price, short side zip, no shoulder baffle, no stretch in bag size, no women’s specific design

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%


 
 

The top three


Deuter Exosphere -6° £170 

Tester: Graham Thompson

Is this synthetic insulated bag so good, there’s no need to spend extra on down insulation?

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation Thermo Proloft synthetic 

  • Size (Length x shoulder width) 205x68cm (Regular and Large available) 

  • Women’s equivalentDeuter Exosphere -6° SL (one size)

  • Packed size 20x23cm

  • Weight 1319g (inc 88g stuffsack)

It’s good

This sleeping bag uses synthetic insulation, so is available at a much lower price than an equivalent down insulated bag. But the weight, packed size and temperature rating are exceptionally impressive, even compared to down-filled bags.

Elasticated construction allows the whole bag to expand in width by 25%. The elastication also holds the insulation closer to the body, resulting in increased efficiency as there are less cold air pockets, so the bag warms up faster and needs less insulation.

In addition the foot and head have been treated to keep moisture at bay, such as when condensation gathers in a tent. You also get a shoulder baffle, a great hood and a side zip with a good anti-snag design.

I found this bag outstandingly comfortable and warm, and perfect for camping without the cost of a down bag. What’s even better is it comes in both regular and large sizes, as well as a women’s option, and as it is stretchy this bag should fit a wider range of people than most bags.

The compression sack has four webbing buckles to crush the contents, making it easy to create a good packed size.

However

This bag is rated as -6°C comfort, but a similar weight down bag is rated as -8.5°C. And if you have the cash, a top quality -6°C rated down bag is just 866g, so down is going to be lighter if you compare temperature ratings carefully.

If you’re really picky then this bag could be lighter, with a skimpier stuffsack that vacuum- packs the bag more efficiently. Some grams could also be shaved off by using thinner shell materials, while you could strip out the shoulder baffle and dryzones to save cash too.

There is a chance you may not like the stretchy, body-hugging design. I love it, but some people may want the more spacious feel of a wider bag that doesn’t hug you as closely as this. Finally, some other synthetic bags use more recycled content.

Verdict

An excellent synthetic-insulated bag that would suit the needs of most backpackers and mountain campers. But pay more and you can have a lighter bag, and if you can live with less features you can pay less or reduce weight.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Rab Ascent 700 (Women’s) £260 

Tester: Anna Humphries

This mid-priced down bag offers lots of benefits over synthetic, but is it worth the cash?

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  • Lower comfort limit -8.5°C

  • Insulation Nikwax Hydrophobic 650 fill power European duck down

  • Size 205x70cm (one size, women’s)n 

  • Men’s equivalent Rab Ascent 700 (Regular and Extra Long available)

  • Packed size 24x18cm

  • Weight 1325g (inc 66g stuffsack)

It’s good

This is relatively well-priced for a down insulated bag. It uses 650 fill power down (rather than 800 fill power down) to reduce costs, but still has a very reasonable packed size and weight. It also gives you a few extra degrees of warmth compared to some bags, which makes it more suitable for women, who on average feel the cold more than men.

This spacious bag had plenty of room for my hips and legs without feeling tight when I turned over. The side zip extends a good way down to the foot for venting, and there’s also a shoulder baffle to trap air inside.

Hydrophobic down (certified by the Responsible Down Standard to safeguard bird welfare) is used to improve the performance a little more, and is treated with Nikwax to resist moisture. I found the bag did take a little longer to warm up than the synthetic option, but once warm I was extremely cosy and comfortable.

The stuffsack is particularly good, as it allowed me to very easily vacuum-pack the bag down to a very small size.

However

It is heavier than a bag using down insulation with higher fill power, but of course that is why its price is more competitive. This bag is only available in one size for women too, so if you’re a tall woman you may find you need to look at the longer men’s version.

Some bags have stretch linings to make them even more comfortable and efficient, but that isn’t on offer here. As with any down insulated bag, if it does get damp then its performance drops off rapidly compared to a synthetic bag, although at least here we do have Nikwax-treated down, so this is less of an issue. Of course, while the price is good for a down-insulated bag, if you find the performance of a synthetic bag acceptable you can save a lot of cash by choosing synthetic insulation instead of opting for feathers.

Verdict 

Mid-priced down insulated bag that compares well to costlier down bags. It has most of the key features many mountain campers will need, but pay more and you get a lighter bag, while synthetic options save money.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%


Mountain Equipment Firelite £440

Tester: Tim Butcher

A top-quality down insulated bag with all the features you need, but does it justify the outlay?

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation 800 fill power Russian goose down 

  • Size 215x65cm (Regular and Long available)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 21 x 21cm (size Long)

  • Weight 866g (Long, inc 59g stuffsack)

It's Good 

Designed for ultra- light backpacking and high mountain use, this bag certainly meets its brief. At just 866g and a tiny packed size, this was a doddle to pack into my rucksack and it left plenty of space for other camping equipment.

The bag comes in two sizes, and I tested the Long version given my 198cm height. The width is closer fitting than other bags, but this bag features stretch baffles, so it can expand with your body, but also more loft space is created for the insulation when the lining hugs your body, thereby keeping you warmer.

The insulation is a top-quality down, and the shell material is extremely thin and lightweight. You also get an easy-to-adjust hood and the side zip has a good design that didn’t snag easily. A neck baffle helps prevent warm air from escaping if the hood is not fully tightened. Together this all adds up to a very comfortable bag that was slightly tight across the thigh area but otherwise unrestrictive and warm.

Insulation comes from an audited supply chain called the Down Codex, to ensure welfare standards and quality are high.

However

To make the bag match my height, sections have been added at the foot, which did mean the side zip doesn’t extend as close to the foot as other bags. So you might get overly warm feet. The bag is narrower than others too, and while it isn’t generally restrictive, a little more thigh space would have been beneficial.

Any bag with down insulation needs to be kept dry, as the insulation will not trap warm air very effectively if it gets damp, so more care is needed here to keep the bag dry compared to a synthetic insulation bag.

This is pretty much a no- compromises bag, and the result is a hefty price-tag that may cause you to, ahem, lose sleep. But for regular backpacking when all- round performance is your need then this is an acceptable price when compared to other options.

Verdict 

Top-quality backpacking bag if you want optimum performance and are prepared to stretch your budget. But the price is quite eye-watering, and synthetic bags perform better if damp.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Deuter Exosphere -4 2011

Some serious thought has gone into the Deuter Exosphere -4. It immediately feels warm and cosy, thanks to the elasticated design, which brings the insulation close to your body and eliminates cold spots. It also has extra insulation around the foot area. This means the bag feels warmer than the temperature ratings might suggest, but a good two-way zip (with decent baffle) makes it easy to ventilate. The hood is excellent and well-cut, pulling in easily and neatly, and the same goes for the shoulder baffle. The lining feels like silk. You also get water-resistant panels at the head and foot where they come into contact with tent condensation, plus an excellent compression sack. Furthermore, it comes in large, regular or women’s fit. And on top of all of that, it’s light!  But the zip snags more than others here and it’s at the higher end of the price scale. Also, the regular version of the Deuter Exosphere -4 was only just long enough for my 6ft frame.

Size 206x61x27cm
Outer fabric 44D nylon Tactel diamond ripstop and 70D nylon diamond ripstop
Inner fabric Deuter Poly-Lite Soft
Construction shingle
Insulation Deuter Thermo ProLoft
Minimum comfort temperature rating -4 deg C
Packed size 40x20x64cm; 24x21x67cm compressed
Weight 1380g (bag); 1478g with stuffsack
Made in Vietnam
Stores in the UK 10

The Deuter Exosphere -4 is a great bag, which is warmer than expected, light, compresses well and has a host of well-thought-out features. More expensive than some, but you get what you pay for. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Ben Winston
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2011

 


Deuter Sphere 1050

This is a top quality synthetic sleeping bag using Polarguard Delta, which is why it is relatively light in weight as this is a very efficient insulator. It comes in a compression stuffsack. The bag has a good size zip that does not easily snag, and behind this there is a baffle. Get in the bag and the stretchy fleece panels inside improve comfort by allowing the bag to hug your body at the shoulders, which is an excellent feature as it improves warmth. There is also extra insulation in the foot, where most people need it. The shoulder baffle is quite wide and can be easily adjusted to trap air inside the bag. Pull the hood drawcords and you get a reasonably neat fit around the head. But the bag is only rated as -7 deg C, but the Leeds Uni test found it to be warmer at -11 deg C. The zip baffle is relatively small than most so you might find the zip area colder than other bags. Also, the bag felt more restrictive than others.

 

Size: 205x75x50cm
Shell: 260T nylon diamond ripstop
Inner: Deuter Soft-Micro
Construction: 3-layer shingle
Insulation: Polarguard Delta
Packed size: 23x45cm; 23x36cm compressed
Weight: 1742g bag; 1910g with stuffsack
Made in China
Stores: no info provided
Comfort ratings deg C:
Claimed -7
Tested -11

Verdict: Buy it if you want smaller or closer-fitting bag, or you are size small to medium in clothing terms.


Deuter Orbit 800

The low price tag of this 3-season synthetic sleeping bag makes it ideal for those on a tighter budget. It is rated as having a  -1 deg C comfort limit but it feels warmer than other bags with this rating, so is fine for 3-season use. You get a substantial shoulder baffle and a substantial zip baffle to trap the warm air inside the bag. The side zip did not snag easily either. The zip extends closer to the foot of the bag than most, which some users may prefer. The hood draws in quite well and is well-contoured to fit the head. You get exceptional water resistance to ensure the insulation stays dry, so this is a reasonably warm, very comfortable, well-designed, low-priced bag. But other bags are warmer and also many have shingle construction, which is better at protecting cold spots compared to the two-layer construction used in this bag. This bag is also shorter and narrower than some bags, so it is not the best for larger people.

 

Size: 210x75x50cm
Shell: 210T nylon ripstop
Inner: Deuter soft micro
Construction: 2-layer
Insulation: high loft Hollowfibre
Packed size: 41x21cm; 30x21cm compressed
Weight: 1560g (bag only); 1700g with stuffsack
Made in China
Stores in UK: England 15; Wales 4; Scotland 4; Ireland 3

Verdict: Buy it if you want a low-priced bag that is slightly smaller than most as this is a bargain.